A Short History of our South African Mission
In 1954 the Sisters of St. Paul were invited by Archbishop Garner of Pretoria to send Sisters to work in the Rustenburg area of what was called the Transvaal, now the North West Province of South Africa. This was the result of a request from the Redemptorists priests already working there. The first group of Sisters arrived in the Autumn and a second group followed at the end of the year. The two groups celebrated Christmas together in the first branch house in South Africa, St. Mary’s, Zeerust, where a school was established. The Sisters also helped with pastoral work in the surrounding area. This work continued until 1970, when the school closed.
Immediately after that first Christmas, on 30th December 1954, some of the Sisters travelled to open the second house at “Modimong”, which means “God’s own place”. This was a Redemptorist Mission in the Bushveld beyond Boshoek, near a village named Bapong, where the Redemptorist priest worked among the African people. The Sisters were to establish a Primary School and a Girls’ High School, St. Anne’s, where most of the students were boarders. The mission had been founded on land given to the Church by a very generous benefactor, Mrs. Christina Vermaas. She later lived on the Mission.
In 1957 a hospital in Modimong was opened with seven male T.B. patients. This grew and a new block for female patients was built. Eventually the hospital was allowed to take general patients, which included Maternity beds. In 1973 a School of Nursing was established and, later, clinics set up in the surrounding villages. The hospital was taken over by the Bophutatswana government in 1977 and is now closed.
Another important development at Modimong was the founding of a new Congregation of African Sisters, the Sisters of St. Brigid. Archbishop Garner requested that the Sisters of St. Paul train these Sisters until such time as they could become independent. The Archbishop chose as their patron, St. Brigid of Ireland. The Sisters of St. Brigid took over the Primary School until its closure and undertook teaching and health care work. They became an autonomous Congregation in 1987. In 1994 the Sisters of St. Paul withdrew from Modimong and the Sisters undertook the running of St. Anne’s High School. The Mother House of the Sisters of St. Brigid is still at Modimong.