1842 – 1907
Father Peter Prestage was born in London, England in 1842. He was educated at Mount St. Mary’s College, the College at Liege and Stonyhurst College. In 1860, he “took steps towards missionary work when he entered the Noviceship of the Society of Jesus at Beaumont.” He completed his theological studies at St. Bueno’s College and was ordained in 1875.
Following ordination, Fr. Prestage joined the missionary work of the Jesuits in Africa, traveling to South Africa in 1877. He taught at St. Aidan’s College in Grahamstown for five years, before joining the staff of the Zambezi Mission, first at Tati and then moving to Bulawayo in 1884. He is credited with opening Empandeni Mission in 1887 – the oldest surviving Catholic mission in Zimbabwe.
Fr. Prestage was forced to withdraw from Zimbabwe due to lack of converts and political developments, but returned in 1890 as a part of the “Pioneer Column.” He advocated for the overthrow of the Ndebele State, which he felt necessary to pave the way for Christianity. The Ndebele kingdom was defeated (First Matabele War) in 1894, and Fr. Prestage returned to Empandeni Mission in 1896. He would remain there until his death in April 1907.
- Mark Loomis