Joy As Pioneering Nun, Sister Sola Schaumann Turns 100!
By Sydney Duval – At the centre of liturgical and community life in Holy Trinity church at Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal, was Franciscan Nardini Sister Sola Schaumann celebrating her 100th birthday.
Sr Sola’s Nardini companions, the hierarchy, priests, religious and parishioners gathered at the church, which shone like “shook foil” with spirited music, words, deeds and dance. It was a moment in a life of faith, service and mission that showed “how God can use an ordinary woman to do extraordinary things for others”.
Known affectionately as Magogo today, Sr Sola arrived in South Africa from Germany in 1955 to commit herself wholeheartedly to healing the sick and alleviating poverty—work that has been honoured with special awards by Pope Francis and the German government.
Among her treasured gifts was a photograph of her on which Pope Francis had written: “For Sr Sola with my blessing. Please pray for me. Francis.”
Mass for Sr Sola
Bishop Xolelo Kumalo of Eshowe—concelebrating with Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, Bishop Vincent Zungu of Port Elizabeth and Bishop Siegfried Jwara of Ingwavuma—said: “Congratulations, Sr Sola, for being chosen by God to so well represent the courageous pioneers of your congregation when you left your homes and countries inspired by love of Christ.
“Your many years of life in the world, together with your Nardini Sisters, have been a total dedication of life to God in the service of his people.”
Present from the Franciscan Nardini motherhouse in Mallersdorf, Germany, were superior-general Sr Jakobe Schmid and counsellor Sr Catherine Brucker.
Sr Jakobe had these words for Sr Sola: “It is a consolation we all experience in life—whether joy, sorrow or pain—that all our work is never lost. All that remains is taken up into God’s eternity to bear rich fruit and great reward. For this we thank God together with you.
“We also thank you for your beneficial mission work in South Africa… for your courage and the efforts you invested in alleviating the troubled people and their suffering in their various life situations. In this way you laid the foundation on which Sizanani Centre could build,” Sr Jakobe said, referring to the outreach programme established by the Nardini Sisters.
Mayors Pay Tribute
Several local VIP guests paid tribute to Sr Sola, including local mayor Thamsanqa Ntuli, and his predecessor, Zwelabo Zulu, both educationists.
Mr Ntuli said Sr Sola was a selfless servant who had changed the life of Nkandla’s very poor people by imparting skills to ordinary housewives and children based on self-help and self-reliance.
“Providing clothes to destitute families benefited me personally. My mother was handed a pair of grey trousers which I used at high school,” Mr Ntuli said.
“I have seen the real evolution of our community from a volatile to an enlightened society. Many students who attended school with support by the Nardini mission are now working and contributing nationwide.”
Mr Zulu, speaking on behalf of Inkosi Bhekizwe Biyela of the Mahlayizeni Traditional Authority, noted Sr Sola’s work in socio-economic development, education, and expression of the divine commission.
Caring for Women
Expecting mothers were educated to care for and feed their infants. This had saved many lives.
Poverty-stricken and widowed women were trained in many skills and given materials to undertake self-help projects, enabling them to care for their families and enhance their socio-economic situation.
“Schools are evidence of her contribution to education. Many people emerged to change their lives,” Mr Zuklu noted.
“[Sr Sola] integrated religious calling, education and socio-economic development so that she became true light and salt as used by Jesus on the mountain (Mt 5:13-14). She founded Sizanani Centre to coordinate projects that also created employment for social workers, community caregivers and peer educators who are living her legacy. She has brought hope where none existed.”
The entertainment included dancing by Sizanani Child and Youth Care Centre; harmonising by Nkosinathi Biyela and Sanele Khanyile; and Fr Sibonelo Mbanjwa OMI singing “Ave Maria” and “Panis Angelicus”.