Going Where No One Else Will Go

Dedicated German Swiss Catholic Nuns established a School for the Deaf at Loreto Mission 60 miles from Que Que

Dedicated German Swiss Catholic Nuns established a School for the Deaf at Loreto Mission 60 miles from Que Que

Going Where No One Else Will Go

Catholic Missions can be found in the most isolated of places, where no one else will go.  German Swiss nuns established a school at Loreto Mission, sixty long miles from Que Que, beyond the native commissioners office at Gokwe over a rutted and dusty road.

Going Where No One Else Will Go

The school took in African children from miles around.  All were boarders and paid whatever fees they could.  In addition to the normal curriculum, the boys were taught carpentry and the girls sewing and typing.  English was the medium, for youngsters came from both Ndebele and Shona speaking homes, languages quite different.  After school hours, groups took their turns in the citrus orchard or the extensive vegetable gardens.  There were a few dairy cows and a plethora of fowls and numerous ducks.  Paraffin lanterns were replaced by their own battery operated generator.

They set up a separate School for the Deaf   The nuns in charge, a selfless and dedicated group of women, were specially trained in Germany.  Four-year-olds were accepted, because the younger the children the more chance there was to teach them to speak, before their vocal chords shriveled up.   Word spread.  Soon there were over two hundred boys and girls in the school.

The Guiding movement was strong as it brought a touch of the outside world to the Guides and nuns alike.   Training sessions with the nuns were highlights in their world.  The feeling was mutual.  Various Guiding dignitaries, including the Chief Commissioner, Mrs. Mostert, travelled all the way out.  Brother John Wilcott too visited the mission twice to help with the Mission’s Scouting and Guiding.

Following Mom’s experience with Self Help and the Jairos Jiri Center in Gwelo Mom approached Sister Assumpta, “How about a long week-end camp?”

“Oh, vonderful, vonderful!”

“If it can be arranged we might ask the deaf and blind children from Gwelo to join us.  Your deaf girls could teach them so much.  Their teachers do not have the benefit of your German training.  These youngsters are not in Guiding.  They all live in such a closed world…”

“Oh, vonderful, vonderful! But Mother Superior?  And wot about the money?”

Why would anyone buy into such a fantastically impractical notion with so few qualified to take responsibility?






  • betty goolsby

    Reply Reply October 26, 2011

    I would love to know what happened to all the children in training at the deaf school….do you know what became of any of the individuals? How long were the nuns stationed there, and do they still have a school there today? Catholics often get a bad rap, but the nuns did so much good too! They were tireless in hospitals in early Houston, many from Ireland…..Sorry I have been out of the loop. We have been to see all the Civil War Battle sites of the Deep South, and have fallen in love with shrimp and grits….to die for!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply October 28, 2011

      Betty, I don’t know what happened to the children of the school. As Black Nationalism grew, so did white fears for their survival. In 1962 the moderate white government was defeated and replaced by the right, reversing advancements for the blacks vowing “never in a thousand years would there be Black rule.” The terrorist war was on. In the 1970’s the Guide camps all over the country ceased.

      Two Loreto nuns were attacked by a few of their own big male students. Terrorists repeatedly attacked the mission, slaughtering cattle and burning huts to intimidate the Africans. The Army advised the mission they were too thinly spread out to offer them protection. They advised putting in an electric fence and search lights as all the farmers and small workers (mines) in the country were doing. The did not. The cross in the night sky was extinguished.

      • Alfred

        Reply Reply March 20, 2012

        Diana, A little geographic correction – Loretto mission was located close to the banks of the Gwelo river (the mission had a small dam on the river and extracted its irrigation water from the dam). It was situated a kilometer or two south of the Silobela police station, just south of the junction of the lower Gwelo and Nkai roads. Besides running the deaf & dumb school, the nuns also ran the local hospital until it was taken over by the government, possibly in the late 60’s. In the latter stages of the bush war, late 70’s, the nuns were paid a visit one night and were given one or two days to pack up and leave. They did this, and i remember one of the nuns telling me how the church was desecrated in the process. Thereby, a great community service came to an end. I understand that some years later, the current government tried to revive the institution. I do not know it there was further involvement by the nuns.
        Whilst on the subject of the nuns and Loretto, i seem to recall that the establishment of the mission station was the product of a challenge by the bishop of Salisbury to the nuns. The nuns rose to this challenge in a magnificent way, albeit with the help of the occasional male mission helper sent out from Germany.
        These are recollections from conversations between my parents and the nuns who regularly stopped over at our farm on their trips to and from Salisbury. My parents were German speakers (great uncle by marriage came out with the pioneer column, father emigrated pre-WW2, mother post -WW2.)

        • Diana

          Reply Reply March 21, 2012

          Alfred, Thanks for the correction on the location of Loretto Mission. The nuns did persevere under the most isolated of circumstances and brought the then state of the art technology and teaching to the deaf. Besides the regular school and the hospital they were very enthusiastic about Guiding as a way to build moral character, self sufficiency and team spirit. This is how my mother got involved. It is too sad to think it all came to an end when the need was so great. So glad you are reading.

  • Emmaculata Mamutse

    Reply Reply January 16, 2020

    The Nuns who started Loreto Mission had a big heart and courage like Mother Theresa. I attended primary school at Loreto Mission until 1978 when it was forced to close temporarily during the Zimbabwe liberation war. I would like to get in touch with anyone who has that “Going where No one wants to go” spirit

    • Diana Polisensky

      Reply Reply January 22, 2020

      Yes, the Nuns of Loreto were saints. The Catholic Church still ventures to places where No One Else Will Go. They are probably the best source with an intact organization to offer assistance in Zimbabwe.

    • Isabel Stuart

      Reply Reply June 26, 2020

      Emmaculata, it is so fascinating and inspiring to hear about the Nuns who started Loreto Mission. I am currently researching Catholic Missionary schools during the 1970’s for an upcoming novel which is set in that time period. Would you be interested in talking to me about your experiences? I would be so fantastic to listen to your first hand account of what it was like for you. My email is ikstuart1@gmail.com – please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

      • Diana Polisensky

        Reply Reply June 26, 2020

        Isabel, All the best in your project. Let me know when your novel comes out.

  • Brian Mulvany

    Reply Reply February 8, 2021

    This is interesting. My aunt Dorothy was a nun with the Loreto order from Ireland. My mother recently told me how Auntie Dot taught at a school in Southern Rhodesia and had to suddenly leave. She was told to pack what she could and go. She took a couple of small carved wooden sculptures that my mom has had in her house for decades. She told me this story and gave me the sculptures. I wonder if this is the same school. Sister Dorothy Kenny passed about 10 years ago back home in Kilkenny Ireland. Such a wonderful and kind person.

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