The Marist Brothers (Marist Brothers of the Schools) is an international religious community of more than 4,000 Roman Catholic Brothers dedicated to the education of young people, especially those most neglected. The order was founded in 1817 by Saint Marcellin Champagnat, a young French priest as a way of combating illiteracy and spiritual poverty in post-revolutionary France.
The Marist Brothers arrived in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) in 1939 at the request of Bishop A. Chichester S.J to assume responsibility for education at Kutama Mission. In addition to Kutama, the Marist also presently operate Nyanga High School, Marist Brothers (Marist Nyanga), in Nyanga District, Manicaland and Marist Brothers Secondary School, Dete (Marist Dete) in the Hwange District, Matabeleland North.
Today, the Marist Brothers are involved in educational work throughout the world. They run primary and secondary schools, academies, orphanages and retreat house in 81 countries, including in Africa.
Jesuit Jean-Baptiste (John) Loubiere, with his assistant Joseph Dambaza, are credited with the founding of Kutama Mission, located near Norton, approximately 80 km southwest of Salisbury (Harare). Father Loubiere named it Kutama after his first convert the chief.
The mission began as an outstation of Chishawasha Mission. Cassiano Ushewokunze, who was trained at Chishawasha, was posted as the first teacher-catechist at Kutama in 1913. Fr Loubiere became the first resident priest in September 1914 (the date generally given as the mission’s founding date) and through his efforts, Kutama became a fully-fledged mission independent of Chishawasha.
Fr. Loubiere’s initial focus was on evangelism, but realizing that educational development was needed as well, he began primary education. By 1926, the Jesuits had established a two-year Teacher Training course for primary school teachers, which would become St. Francis Xavier (Kutama) College. After the death of Fr. Loubiere in 1930, Father Jerome O’Hea arrived in 1931 to become the school’s headmaster.
Fr. O’Hea established a hospital on the mission site using his family’s resources after a request for government funding was turned down. The hospital was later named Fr O’Hea Memorial Mission Hospital (Kutama Hospital) in his honor.
The Jesuit were challenged to both perform pastoral work and run the school, so in 1939 Bishop A. Chichester S.J invited the Marist Brothers to come to Kutama and assume responsibility for education. Under their leadership, Kutama was one of the first missions in Southern Rhodesia to offer secondary (high school) education to Africans.
President Mugabe was born in the village of Kutama and educated at Kutama College.
Fr O’Hea Memorial Mission Hospital (Kutama Hospital)
Ona M. Parmenter was born March 20, 1889 in Clark, South Dakota, daughter of Edward and Elizabeth Parmenter. She was one of the first nurses to be graduated from McKennan Hospital Training School (now Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center) in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in 1914. After a period of private nursing, she went to Africa in 1920 with the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society (WFMS), where she was the first to begin medical work at the Methodist Episcopal Church’s Mutambara Mission in Southern Rhodesia.
Nurse Parmenter transferred to Nyadire Mission in 1926 and assumed responsibility for all medical work at the mission when Dr. Montgomery left the following year. She continued at Nyadire until 1931, taking care of in-patients and helping to train African girls in practical nursing. As of 1936, she was at Umtali in charge of the Girl’s Hostel. She was later at Old Umtali Mission.
Nurse Parmenter had retired by 1953, and returned to the United States living in Los Angeles, California. She died March 3, 1977 in Los Angeles.
Victor Vaessen, with the Catholic Montfort Missionaries, established Mpiri Mission in the Manchinga District of Nyasaland (Malawi) in 1935. He had arrived in Nyasaland in 1927 and returned to The Netherlands in 1936. Montfortian Father Tarcisio Betti was at Mpiri as of approximately 1958. Fr. Frandesco Valdameri served at Mpiri sometime after 1958.
The mission, which also is known as Mission of St. Louis Montfort of Mpiri (or St. Louis de Montfort Mpiri parish), is part of the Diocese of Mangochi. It is the site of the Mpiri Catholic church, Mpiri Primary School and Mpiri Health Center (hospital), which provides medical services to a large area of Manchinga District. The Health Center was substantially renovated in 2010 and a well was dug to address the lack of drinking water that threatened to close the mission.
A Theological School was begun at Old Umtali Mission in 1927 to train African pastors. Initially it was a department of the Hartzell Training School under the supervision of Reverend M. J. Murphree. As of 1931, five of the seven students were ready to complete the three-year course. Class work was augmented by practical experience gained in “camp-meetings” that were being held. A. L. Mansure was in charge of the school as of 1951, assisted by his wife, Reverend E. J. Asechliman (who later became Director of the school) and J. M. Chimbadzwa. A notable alumnus of the school during that time was Bishop Abel Muzorewa, who was briefly Prime Minister of Rhodesia, 1979-1980.
As of 1953, the school was known as “Old Umtali Theological Seminary” (also referred to as the Hartzell Theological Seminary). Dr. Maurice E. Culver was a teacher and Principal, 1953-1957. Beginning 1958, the school became known as “Old Umtali Biblical Institute.” Dr. Culver continued as Principal of the institute until 1961. He was succeeded by Reverend Hunter D. Griffen. Other faculty included Henry I. James and Mr. and Mrs. A. Reid. There were no approved candidates in 1965 and existing students were transferred to Epworth Theological College in Salisbury (Harare). The school was closed sometime thereafter.
Journals of the Methodists Rhodesia Annual Conference
Robert C. (R. C.) Gates was born November 1892 in Renova, Pennsylvania to William and Gertrude (Rhoads) Gates. He graduated from Dickinson College in 1915 and married his wife, Mildred Colcord. The Gates came to Southern Rhodesia in 1922 as part of the Methodist Episcopal Church’s Rhodesia Mission Conference. He was ordained a deacon in 1923.
During his first ten years of missionary service in Southern Rhodesia, Reverend Gates was at Old Umtali Mission serving as pastor, superintendent, and Principal of the Hartzell Training School. In the following years, he served as superintendent of the Nyadiri Mission, and Mrewa Mission, Umtali-Rusape and Marange Districts. He was also the mission and Conference Treasurer and pastor of St. Andrews Church in Umtali (Mutare). Mrs. Gates supervised women’s work in the various districts in which they were stationed.
After forty-one years of missionary service, the Gates retired in 1963 and returned to Pennsylvania where Rev. Gates was granted an honorary Doctor of Divinity by Dickson College. He died in October 1964. His wife, Mildred, died in April 1970.
Namwianga Mission was founded near Kaloma, Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) by Churches of Christ missionaries Dow and Helen (Alice) Merritt in 1932 (the Merritt’s first arrived in 1926). Encompassing 6,000 acres, the mission originally consisted of three separate farms that were consolidated during the 1940s and 1950s.
The mission began primary schools in the 1930s to promote the Christian faith and to teach students to read the Bible. In the 1960s, Dr. George Benson, along with Dow Merritt, raised enough money to build a high school, currently the Namwianga Christian Secondary School. In the early 1990s, Namwianga Mission partnered with the University of Zambia to establish George Benson Christian College (named in Dr. Benson’s honor), which is a three-year college that trains students to teach at the secondary level.
Other facilities include the Namwianga Mission Hospital (formerly Namwianga Zonal Health Center) treating more than 10,000 patients per year, farm, radio station, and “The Haven” in-home orphan care. The orphanage operates four homes that support infants, toddlers, children with special needs and the fourth home, named “Eric’s House, for older boys.
In addition to the Merritt’s, early missionaries at Namwianga include Mrs. Ray Lawyer, Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Shewmaker, Mr. and Mrs. Alvin Hobby, Myrtle Rowe, and Alva and Margaret Rees. Dow Merritt’s son, Roy, together with his wife Kathi, returned to Namwianga Mission sometime in 1968-69 to teach at the high school and have continued to serve at the mission over many years.
Namwianga Mission is currently operated by Zambia Christian College, which goes by the name Zambia Mission Fund. The mission has been supported as a “permanently funded work” of the Prescott Church of Christ church in Texas, since 2006.