Roman Catholic Church: St. Anthony’s Mission

Roman Catholic Church

St. Anthony’s Mission

Fr. Joseph Winterhaler of the Bethlehem Mission Society (SMB – or Swiss Bethlehem Fathers) established St. Anthony’s Mission in Zaka, Southern Rhodesia in 1948-49.  Zaka is located approximately 50 miles southeast of Masvingo (formerly Fort Victoria) in the Ndanga Communal Land, which is populated by the Karanga peoples.  Situated in a low lying area, the name of the village is derived from the Shona phrase “where it is going down.”

Prior to 1947, there were no Catholic missions in the province. This changed with the arrival of the Swiss Bethlehem Fathers who prioritized developing this area following the conclusion of World War II.  St. Anthony’s Mission in Zaka was their first effort.  “Communications were poor, the heat in the Low Veld oppressive, and certainly staffing difficulties were great,” but in time St. Anthony’s became firmly established and remains an important Catholic mission station.

Under the auspices of the of Masvingo Diocese (formerly Gweru Diocese), the mission includes a church, central primary school, a secondary school (St. Anthony’s High School), the Musiso Mission hospital, an orphanage and, as of 1979, twenty-five outschools.  St. Anthony’s (Musiso) High School was the first school to offer advanced level education in the district beginning in 1985.

Musiso Mission Hospital, with 250 beds, was opened in 1964 and initially run by the Mary Ward Sisters. The mission is now home to Sisters of the Infant Jesus (SJI or Sorores A Jesu Infante).


  • Mark Loomis