A Seventh Day Adventist member has forked out a fortune to renovate the Catholic Church building in Chishawasha mission.

Speaking ahead of the official opening of the renovated church building recently Mission Superior and parish priest for Chishawasha, Fr Fidelis Mukonori SJ, described the benefactor who fears God.

Fr Mukonori, who described their benefactor as “a person who really knows God and how to serve him”, expressed his gratitude also to his parishioners who also played their part in renovating the Church, especially through painting the now beautiful monument.

The renovations were necessitated by the age of the building. Fr Mukonori said, “The building is 114 years old. It was the first of its kind in Southern Africa, constructed in 1898 to serve the Church within 1500 miles radius. It was for the Church here in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi during the federation days.”

“A building as old as this would definitely need touch ups here and there. We were forced to undertake these major renovations because part of the building had begun to leak when it rains, some corners were almost crumbling, you would see that the building would give in at some point and I did not want us to experience the next rainy season without the building being renovated.

“In renovating the building, we did not temper with the structural make-up of the building because that is not allowed under the law. The building, because of its historical significance, has been classified as a national monument and is protected as such.”

Fr Mukonori went on to explain the historical significance of Chishawasha Mission and the Church building. “This is the oldest mission building in what was called the Zambezi mission, in Jesuit vernacular, which covered Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. The missionaries arrived here in 1891. Fr 10 days Fr Prestage SJ wondered around this area until he identified the land on which they built the Church.

“There were no people here because it was a contested zone between Chief Seke and Chief Chinamhora. They had left the land with no one staying on it as a cease fire package and the Jesuits arrived. People came to live here after the Jesuits had settled, because they wanted to be protected by the Jesuit Fathers who were here, if ever the chiefs were to fight again.

“The Jesuits accepted the families to come and stay on the condition that the families would allow their children to be educated and later on catechised by the Jesuit Fathers.

“So Father Beieler SJ, who was an educationist, started there and then to conduct classes even in the bedroom where he was sleeping. The Church was only built in 1898, eight years after the arrival of the first Jesuits. For a long time, it was the only building of its kind between Lusaka and Pretoria.

The official opening of the building by the Jesuit provincial, Fr Buckland on 7 September 2013, promises to be a moment of joy for the parishioners and pensioners from the mission in its previous 114 years.

“We have invited the living friends who have worked here before, be they Jesuits or not.  All the Major Superiors of Religious Congregations and their members especially the senior citizens are also invited. We also invited all the graduates from our school here. We want to launch an alumni association through which they should support this mission.”