On November 12th, our Vice President Patrick Ebhojie was in Tanzania to establish the first Central Council which already has 15 active Conferences
Thanks be to God for the committed service of the members of the SSVP’s International Structure in Africa, and for the collaboration of the Catholic Church and the Vincentian Family, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul has been re-established in Tanzania.
On November 14th, the Central Council was founded in Dar-Es-Salaam, the largest city and the former capital of the country. This Council has 15 active Conferences. With this good news, the SSVP is now present in 152 territories around the world. Something to celebrate!
A little bit of history
The SSVP was first founded in Tanzania in 1933, and had over 100 Conferences in the 1990s; but, for various reasons, it disappeared completely from the country.
The desire to see the flag of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul waving once again in Tanzania is not new. It was a dream pursued by all Presidents General, especially by Renato Lima de Oliveira, since his election in 2016, and now, thanks be to God, it has been fulfilled.
In 2017, the “SSVP Plus” project was launched, which aimed at establishing the SSVP in countries where it was not present yet. Tanzania was on this list, among other African nations. Since the project began, the SSVP has succeeded in reaching six countries: Cayman Islands, Vatican City, Liberia, Albania, Cyprus and now Tanzania.
Mission of the Council General
In 2018, the Council General International undertook this task with enthusiasm. In February of that year, a committee, made up of members of the SSVP’s International Structure and led by the Territorial Vice President for SSVP Africa 1, Patrick Ebhojie, went to Dar-Es-Salaam for a first meeting with the country’s Bishops’ Conference.
After this gathering, a second trip was planned for November 2019. Once again, a group of Vincentians from the International Structure went to the country for a meeting with the Secretary General of the Tanzania Bishops’ Conference, at that time Reverend Father Ubaldus Kidavuri.
After this second trip and with invaluable help with translation in Swahili from Negro Mapunda, a former member of SSVP Tanzania, three Conferences were founded, and there were some positive signs for establishing the SSVP in other parishes.
With these first steps bearing fruit, and in the hope that the Vincentian charism would be spreading through the city of Dar-Es-Salaam, the progress of the Conferences already founded was closely observed. In fact, in order to support the new Vincentians, a third journey was made to Tanzania in November 2020, with very positive results.
On this last trip, Vice President Patrick Ebhojie was able to meet representatives of the 15 Conferences already operating in Dar-Es-Salaam, and ensure that a Central Council was already operational in the city, with the following members in the main service roles: Vincent Kasambala (president), Paulina Pius Kalua (secretary) and Esther Mhere Mgoyo (treasurer).
Patrick Ebhojie also visited the Archdiocese of Arusha, where several people from Sacred Heart parish are creating a new Conference and inviting other parishioners to play an active part in the SSVP, with the aim of starting new groups. The next step is to broaden the formation available to new members.
“Tanzania is an example we have with regard to the manner in which we ought to evangelise, and communicate our message of fraternity and love, which with God’s help, will be heard. And so we are continuing to build the universal network of charity, which Antoine-Frédéric Ozanam and his companions dreamed of”, observed Patrick Ebhojie.
“I want to offer a huge thank you to all members of Council General who have worked with such dedication to bring the SSVP to Tanzania, especially during this health crisis that has established so many travel restrictions. It is a real miracle from Ozanam, during this period of pandemic, that the SSVP has been founded in Tanzania. So I am delighted to report that Tanzania is now the 152nd territory of our Confederation, and that it is now under the responsibility of the Territorial Vice Presidency for Africa 1,” announced our 16th President General, Renato Lima de Oliveira.
Tanzania is a large country in East Africa, known for its luxuriant landscape and rich fauna. It has a population of 57 million people, of which 80% live in rural areas. The capital is Dodoma, but the SSVP is based in Dar-Es-Salaam, the largest city in the country and the commercial capital.
The Catholic population is estimated to be 15%. The Catholic Church in Tanzania consists of seven archdioceses, 27 dioceses and 1,150 parishes. Pope St John Paul II visited this country in 1990.
“Like any developing country, Tanzania suffers from social problems, terrorism, and poverty affecting a large part of its population. There are still problems with religious persecution in many parts of the country, including the burning of Catholic churches. The arrival of the SSVP in Tanzania will help to relieve the suffering of many vulnerable people. We thank God for the privilege of being able to help those suffering in Tanzania. The countries in our Confederation with more developed economies can deploy their generosity by twinning with this region”, stressed Renato Lima.
With the SSVP being back to Tanzania, Africa is the continent with the greatest presence of the Society, with 41 out of the 152 territories (27%), followed by America (24%) and Asia (22%).