A Lay Missionary in Lushoto by Nora Hawkes


Having accomplished my mission in Askeaton and having ensured that St.Mary’s Secondary School was in the hands of very capable people, I set out to accomplish my second mission, my schoolgirl’s dream of going to Africa to “convert the black babies.”
One Sunday in 1993 two lay missionaries from a group called the Volunteer
Missionaries or VMM visited my parish church in Cappagh. They spoke
about their foundress Edwina Gateley, who in 1969, in response to Vatican
11’s exhortation to the laity, to get more involved in the work of the church,
set up the VMM’s, to train volunteers for the African mission. Already, they
have sent out over 1500 laymen and women, doctors, nurses, teachers,
carpenters, technicians etc. to work with and train our brothers and sisters in the third world. They are now working in every part of Africa and in Central America. The two ladies stressed the great need there was for personnel in every field of endeavour on the mission fields.
Despite my mature years, at 74, I answered the call. Having completed a 5 weeks training course in Sunningdale, outside London, I was allocated a teaching post with the Rosminian Order in Lushoto, East Africa. On the campus was a training school for priests, a Postulancy and a Novitiate and also a co-educational second-level school where students were trained to be mechanics.
I taught English to the novices, postulants and to the trainee mechanics
My abiding memory of my arrival in Dar-es- Salaam was the intense heat that assailed me from the ground upwards as I got off the plane. Two members of the Rosminian Order, Frs. Flynn(who became The Father General of the order, world-wide) and Fr Tony Mitchell, who became Principal of the Boarding and lay Secondary School in Tanga, met me and since my plane journey was a long one—12 hours or more, we stayed that night at The Benedictine monastery in Dar. Next morning we set out by jeep for Lushoto. En route, the poverty and sheer misery of the people became apparent. The tin-covered shacks around which barefoot emaciated children were playing contrasted very starkly with our own well-fed well-dressed children, in Ireland.. In the plots around the dwellings the women were busily clearing the ground with their jembes(like our hoes), for planting whatever crop was seasonal; other women and young children were carrying buckets of water, bundles of sticks etc on their heads. Where were the men I wondered,? probably drinking beer, of their own making in the Sheebens!

It was late evening when I arrived at my destination and since I was now in the Tropics, I had to accustom myself to night falling very suddenly at 6.30 or 7p.m. My flat was shown to me and after a cup of tea, I unpacked and went to bed. I was up bright and early 5.30 a.m. and went to the far side of the campus for Mass at 6.30 a.m., after which I returned to my little house, had breakfast and went to the school, where I met the students who were preparing to be Mechanics. The Manager, Kevin Shannon, gave me my timetable and on that day and for the following four years, I taught English to some of the most dedicated students I had ever met. They were thirsting for knowledge and were keenly interested in the English language, because all of the exam papers with the exception of Kiswahili, their native language, were in English. They ranged in age from 17 to 25. Boys were in the majority, we had just two girls in my first year, and one of the girls became a wonderful mechanic, far better than the boys, and has now secured an excellent position in one of the leading garages. I encouraged the manager to take in more girls, because females, in general, are considered second-class citizens in Africa, but by the time I left that inequality was being addressed.


I also taught English to the Postulants and Novices and helped with the choir, the English Hymns I taught them are still being sung, as I discovered when I paid a return visit to Lushoto and revisited old haunts and renewed old acquaintances.
My old school, now Colaiste Mhuire, takes a special interest in “My Mission” as they call it and each year, since I returned, thanks to their fundraising I send a sizable cheque to the school, in Lushoto, where Kevin Shannon is still principal but will be retiring in 2007 , after having spent years dealing with the garage and the trade school there. Two of my past students have been trained as teachers, and are now teaching in the school in Lushoto thanks to the generosity of The Principal, Mary Garvey and the teachers and students from Colaiste Mhuire Askeaton. Hospitals have also been assisted.  A generator has been supplied to a hospital in Quai, a student in that area has been helped to continue her secondary education. We also paid the fees for another student in the Secondary Boarding School in Tanga, where Fr Tony Mitchell, an Irish Rosminian was Principal. Much good has come from what most people thought was a crazy idea of mine when I set out on a voyage of adventure at the age of 74!!! Nobody is ever too old, and if we think we have something to offer to those in need why not get going? I keep in touch with the school, the pupils the teachers and the priests and correspond with them regularly.
The importance of these donations is that natives are being trained to help their own people and with education, progress will be made and by degrees the foreigners can withdraw and, hopefully, the natives can carry on and allow their country to be, as it should be, one of the leading countries of the world.

It was late evening when I arrived at my destination and since I was now in
the Tropics, I had to accustom myself to night falling very suddenly at 6.30 or 7p.m. My flat was shown to me and after a cup of tea , I unpacked and went to bed. I was up bright and early 5.30 a.m. and went to the far side of the
campus for Mass at 6.30 a.m., after which I returned to my little house, had
breakfast and went to the school, where I met the students who were preparing to be Mechanics. The Manager, Kevin Shannon, gave me my timetable and on that day and for the following four years, I taught English to some of the
most dedicated students I had ever met. They were thirsting for knowledge
and were keenly interested in the English language, because all of the exam
papers with the exception of Kiswahili, their native language, were in English. They ranged in age from 17 to 25. Boys were in the majority, we had just two girls in my first year, and one of the girls became a wonderful mechanic, far better than the boys, and has now secured an excellent position in one of the leading garages. I encouraged the manager to take in more girls, because
females, in general, are considered second=class citizens in Africa, but by the time I left that inequality was being addressed.
I also taught English to the Postulants and Novices and helped with the choir, the English Hymns I taught them are still being sung, as I discovered when I paid a return visit to Lushoto last January and revisited old haunts and
renewed old acquaintainaces.
My old school, now Colaiste Mhuire, takes a special interest in “My Mission” as they call it and each year, since I returned, I send a sizable cheque to the
school, in Lushoto, where Kevin Shannon is still principal but will be retiring in 2007 , after having spent years dealing with the garage and the trade
school.there. Two of my past students have been trained as teachers, and are now teaching in the school in Lushoto thanks to the generosity of The
Principal, Mary Garvey and the teachers and students from Colaiste Mhuire Askeaton. Hospitals have also been assisted../ A generator has been supplied to a hospital in Quai, a student in that area has been helped to continue her
secondary education. We also paid the fees for another student in the
Secondary Boarding School in Tanga, where Fr Tony Mitchell, an Irish
Rosminian is Principal. Much good has come from what most people thought was a crazy idea of mine when I set out on a voyage of adventure at the age of 74!!! Nobody is ever too old, and if we think we have something to offer to those in need why not get going ? I keep in touch with the school , the pupils the teachers and the priests and correspond with them regularly.
The importance of these donations is that natives are being trained to help
their own people and with education, progress will be made and by degrees
the foreigners can withdraw and, hopefully, the natives can carry on and allow their country to be, as it should be, one of the leading countries of the world..