GUESTHOUSE

Benedictine monasteries are never without guests, and the guesthouse at Mariya uMama weThemba Monastery continues a Benedictine tradition centuries old of offering hospitality to both individuals and groups. We can sleep 24 people in 17 rooms contained in three different buildings ...

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Love must act as light must shine and fire must burn
- Fr. James Otis Sargent Huntington, founder of the Order of the Holy Cross

 
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The Blessing and Dedication of Holy Cross School

The Blessing and Dedication of Holy Cross School took place on Saturday the 4th of February. It was a wonderful and moving event attended by about 280 people. One of those present was the Superior of the Order of the Holy Cross, Br. Robert Sevensky, OHC, and he provides a description of the occasion that could hardly have been said better:

'It's very difficult to capture the spirit and the pure joy of the day, the sense of accomplishment and of future possibility that was part of the whole celebration. I told the community here that in my 26 years in the Order, I don't believe that I have ever experienced a more wonderful day.

'We had been having days of rain leading up to the blessing. And on Saturday it also rained. The Africans say it is a sign of God's blessing ... we were thinking maybe too much blessing. The newly leveled ground in front the school was a sea of mud. A huge marquee (tent) was set up next to the school in the playground to accommodate about 300 people. And by the end it was pretty much filled.

'Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town presided and the diocesan Bishop Ebenezer Ntlali assisted and shared the honors and duties. The school children led the procession into the tent singing songs they had composed for the event. A choir of almost 50 voices from the Diocesan School for Girls led the singing, especially during the portion of the service when the bishops and brothers went to bless the school. It was a mighty sound coming from that tent for about 20 minutes. Every square inch of the building from bell to bathrooms to office and classrooms was sprinkled with holy water and censed! A group of young men from the prestigious St. Andrew's School for Boys who had helped in some landscape work also assisted in the singing. Both schools have been eager to support and even "adopt" our little Holy Cross School.

'I preached (the text of my sermon is available here) and Br. Timothy gave the thanks after Communion, and then Bp. Ntlali put forward a clarion call for educational reform in South Africa, and the whole thing lasted about three hours ... short by African standards. In his thanksgiving, Timothy read three e-mails of congratulations: one from our Br. James Dowd who spoke of how his own life had been profoundly shaped by the Sisters of Mercy and their educational work, one from our Deputy Bishop Visitor Stacy Sauls sending not only his kind words of support and greeting but also those of the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, and one from Rowan, Archbishop of Canterbury, which just about took our collective breath away.

'All sorts of folk attended: local clergy and religious (including five Roman Catholic Assumption sisters), many friends, supporters, local educational and school leaders, and civic officials. It was clear that Holy Cross School is being looked at as an extraordinarily creative step and possible model for new directions in education in the Eastern Cape, which remains one of the poorest regions of South Africa and one where the education system is quite fragile, to say the least. What we are doing here can and will have an impact far beyond the lives of these local students.

'Others in attendance included Br. Timothy's brother Gus and friends from Santa Fe, NM; Br. Andrew's cousin Esther from Scotland and Br. Roger's sister Joanne from Jo'burg. Br. Andrew of course was here as well, representing the Holy Cross School Committee.

'Meanwhile, outside, in the rains, the mothers of the students were cooking. They built a huge fire and with giant pots over it cooked many sheep along with chicken legs and various vegetables and rice. After the service, and a break in the rains, everyone ate and drank and visited and admired the new school. It was like a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. I can now understand a bit more why those OHC brothers who had lived and ministered in West Africa kept such a special place in their hearts for it. It seems that there is a way of communal celebration that we westerners know little or nothing about. All the mamas dressed in their finest clothes and painted their faces with traditional Xhosa designs, and for all their work seemed to be having as a good a time of it as we were. There was singing and drumming ... but alas no dancing. I think it was just too wet.

'I don't want to over-romanticize yesterday and what we are doing in South Africa. But I am convinced, or as they used to say in some circles, convicted that this is indeed where OHC needs to be now, doing what OHC can do so well.

'So much thanks is owed to and goes to the brothers here: first to Timothy for his guiding vision and oversight of the project, but also to the whole household whose hard work and care made yesterday a reality ... to Daniel and John and Josias and Roger, and a special thanks to Robert James, who serves as Principal of the School and who coordinated the very fine liturgy. Kudos to all!

'OHC is held in very high esteem here, both in the churches and in the educational community. We now need to work faithfully and steadfastly to retain and even increase the esteem that has been awarded us. As Br. John reminded us in his sermon this morning: for Jesus as for us, it's back to work.

'But oh, how I wish you all could have been here.'


A gallery of images from
the school blessing


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