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Maekane, Patrick Umzimkhulu
1902 to 1985
Church of the Province of Southern Africa (Anglican)
South Africa [1] / Lesotho [2]

Patrick Maekane, born on December 25, 1902, grew up in a devout Christian family. Both his father, Mphenkola Raphael Maekane and his mother, Mamzimkhulu Bertha Maekane, were staunch members of the Anglican Church at Leralleng, a small village in the parish of Masite in Basutoland. [3]

In order to continue his higher primary school education, he had to relocate to a bigger centre, Teyateyaneng (TY) to live with his father's cousin, Mr. Nathan Moleka, a school teacher. There at the St. Agnes Mission school he made his first acquaintance with the Society for the Sacred Mission (SSM), a religious community of the Anglican church which was responsible for mission work in the diocese of Bloemfontein, which, at that time, also included Basutoland. Later in 1920 he went to live with Fr. Wrenford, SSM, at TY. Wrenford took Maekane and the other boys along with him when he visited the SSM priory at Modderpoort in the Orange Free State. In 1922 Maekane was sent to Roma in Basutoland to further his education. Here he trained with Catholic students and it is possible that his interest in being a member of a religious order grew. In 1925 he left for Masite where he met Fr. Woodward who also influenced him to take up the life of a monk. [4]

In 1926 he was sent to Modderpoort to test his vocation with the SSM, under Fr. Joseph White. Three years later he was received as a postulant, and in 1929 he was made a novice for the Mokhatlo wa Bahlanka ba Kreste (MBK) which, in English, was referred to as the Society of the Servants of Christ. This was an African offshoot of the SSM established as a result of fierce opposition by some SSM members to the admission of African members.[5] In 1931 Maekane entered college at Modderpoort to train for the priesthood. In 1932 he was made deacon and in December 1932 he was ordained to the priesthood.[6]

Maekane's first mission station was at Heilbron in the northern part of the Orange Free state. In 1936 he was transferred to St. Luke's Ficksburg, also in the Orange Free State. Maekane then asked to be taken to a place where he and a growing number of young men who were thinking of joining the MBK could live off the land. As a result, he was taken to Masite in Basutoland in 1940. Although a number of postulants came, the community could not survive because it had no external resources (as was the case with SSM). In 1942 Maekane and one other MBK member known only as Benedict took their final vows. It is stated that Benedict later left the community and Maekane was left as the sole member. As a result of the loss of members, the SSM provincial, together with the bishop, disbanded the community in 1944. However, Maekane was allowed to continue in his vocation as a member of the MBK. [7]

In spite of disappointment at the MBK's failure to grow, Maekane became involved in the establishment of a community of nuns. While at Masite, he had gathered around him a group of women who were called the Handmaids of Mary, Mother of Mercy. After a time, their number grew up to forty. Maekane arranged for them to be trained for community life with the Community of St. Michael and All Angels, a community of white nuns who at that time had a house in Hlotse in Basutoland. However problems ensued when some handicapped women were sent back, and the Basotho women were segregated from the white sisters. They came back and asked Maekane to help them set up their own community. Although the bishop initially agreed to the move, he later withdrew his consent because the white communities objected to Maekane's leadership of the venture. In the meantime Maekane contacted the Society of the Precious Blood in Burnham Abbey in England and asked them to come and help train the Basotho women. This community came to Basutoland in 1957 to embark on this training mission. Unfortunately Maekane was prevented from having any leadership role in this organization. It was agreed that he should be transferred to Masapong, a parish far away from Masite. The Society of the Precious Blood was established in Masite and has been independent of European control for many years.

In 1950 the diocese of Bloemfontein was divided into two separate dioceses when the diocese of Basutoland was created. In 1952 Maekane was made a canon for the diocese of Basutoland. He continued in that capacity up to 1968. [8] He stayed at Masite until 1956 when he was sent to Masapong. It is a measure of his perseverance that instead of dwelling on the fact that he was being separated from a community that he had fought so hard to establish, he found yet another venture through which he lived out his vocation. In 1967 he left the stipendiary ministry in order to start an orphanage for homeless boys, which he named Tholoana ya Lerato (Fruit of Love). This orphanage was later taken over by the Save the Children Fund in 1977. [9]

The last project that Maekane undertook at the age of seventy-five was that of building a home for unwanted girls at a place called Matsase. He stayed there with them from 1978 until his death in 1985. [10]

In most interviews with people who knew him, there is one common statement in their opinion of him: that he was a faithful servant and that he was full of the spirit of perseverance. They all point to his intense devotion to Mary, the mother of our Lord. It is reported that whenever he faced difficulties, he always placed his confidence in Mary. [11]

Patrick Maekane has the distinction of being the first African to be accepted as a religious priest in the Anglican Church in Southern Africa. He is also the only African clergyman in the diocese of Lesotho who has had a biography written about him. The book, Fr. Patrick Maekane, MBK, was written by Sr. Theresia Mary of the Society of the Precious Blood. She wrote the book as a tribute to a priest who was responsible for the establishment of this community of nuns in Basutoland. Most of the information in this article has been obtained from that book.

Abraham Lieta



Notes:

1. Specifically the Orange Free State. Please note that since 1994 this province has changed its name from "Orange Free State" to "Free State."
2. Please note that this country used to be called Basutoland before its independence from Britain in 1966.
3. Sr. Theresia Mary, SPB, Father Patrick Maekane, MBK (CPSA Publication Committee: Marshalltown, 1990), p.1.
4. Sr. Theresia Mary, SPB, Patrick Maekane MBK., p.3.
5. See Ralph Martin, "Patrick Maekane, MBK: A Sign of Contradiction" in the SSM Quarterly Paper, November 1988, page 4.
6. Alistair Mason, SSM: History of the Society of the Sacred Mission (Norwich: The Canterbury Press, 1993), p. 209-10.
7. Sr. Theresia Mary, SPB, Father Patrick Maekane, p.7-10.
8. From the Crockford Clerical Directory, 1971 ed., page 805.
9. Sr. Theresia Mary, p.45.
10. Sr. Theresia Mary, p. 48.
11. From a group interview with a number of priests of the diocese of Bloemfontein at Modderpoort , October 24, 2002.



This story, submitted in January 2004, was written by Fr. Abraham Mojalefa Lieta of the School of Theology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, while researching the role of the African clergy in the Anglican diocese of Bloemfontein (1884-1963). Dr. Philippe Denis, professor of the History of Christianity at the University of KwaZulu-Natal is the DACB liaison coordinator and writing supervisor.