Our Scholasticate in Pietermaritzburg (South Africa) started officially on the 14th of September 2002 and it was dedicated to St. Daniel Comboni. Since its beginning, it seemed an adequate answer to the explicit request of the XV General Council, of establishing houses of formation in the southern hemisphere (CA ’97: 165), following the criteria of the Chapter (CA’97:147, 159, 165).
The community is situated within a pastoral environment, close to the people, and with simplicity of life.
The premises of the community are within the parish of St. Joan of Arc, a Zulu speaking parish, which has been entrusted to us. It neighbours an informal settlement of poor people who challenge our missionary thrust and charism.
The location of the Scholasticate within the perimeter of town offers the scholastics possibilities of free movement, easy access to the places of apostolate, and the chance to come to the encounter of other cultures and religions. Close to the University of Natal, they can participate in cultural events organized there, and come to know other parishes and Christian denominations of the area.
Pietermaritzburg is the capital city of the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal. It is the traditional homeland of the Zulu people. The presence of descendants of English settlers and Hindi workers is very noticeable. Though the city was founded by Boers out of the historical “Great Trek” towards inland, their descendants are reduced in number. Awareness of these historical components is important to understand the region after the Apartheid years. In the new democratic South Africa any person is free to move and to live in any area of the city. Nonetheless, neighbourhoods are strongly marked by the ethnicity of their residents. Today peoples wealth makes the true differentiation, which is related to their race, education and position in politics. Poverty is felt among all races, but the blacks are the most affected by it, and by the suffering arising from the great inequality of the country: unemployment, HIV-AIDS, disoriented youth and crime. Those four elements together with corruption, home violence and the loss of social values remain the greatest threats to the welfare of society.
Churches and a number of NGO’s try to fight HIV/AIDS, but habits of sexual relations are very promiscuous. Churches have started to organize themselves to uplift this society and recover moral values; however, they lack the stamina and collaboration shown in their struggle against Apartheid.
The youths are highly influenced by western values and media, mesmerized by the search of pleasure and riches. The loss of traditional values (African and Christian) is felt in the violence of this society and in the corruption of politics. Everywhere in the country one must be security conscious, especially in the cities and their surroundings.
The South African society is very religious. Proof to that is the rate of Sunday attendance, the existence of many different kinds of churches, both historical and African, the frequent mentioning of God in public events and the respect for the ancestors. Most of the population of Pietermaritzburg (PMB) is Christian. The Catholic parishes are ten. There are mosques and Hindu temples as well, frequented by people of Asian descent.