At Home in Zimbabwe

0_maryellenhowad-150For Sr. Mary Ellen Howard, a veteran missionary of 30 years, the opportunity to serve for part of this year in Zimbabwe has been a delightful coming home. Her assignment was to be a companion for Sr. Jannet Tambu, visit the sick and give them Holy Communion and take part in the bible studies and prayer groups.

In this report, Sister shares about Embakwe School and the enduring influence it has had on so many. Sisters of Notre Dame were the first teachers at this school that started in 1902 and continued there for over half a century. In the 1950s, headmistress Sr. Mare Nugent, SND, was seen as “ahead of her time” introducing sex education and social and life skills.

Sr. Mary Ellen writes about these Embakwe alumni encounters.


As I began giving Holy Communion to the sick, I started to meet former students of Embakwe School. Vicky who is HIV+ said that her time at Embakwe gave her a strong Catholic faith which has helped her to live with her disease with dignity and peace. Violet who has cancer said that the Sisters helped her practically so that even though she has so little, she can still manage to live simply and happily. Fifty-one-year old Fatima, who is developmentally disabled, lives with her mother Julie, a former Embakwe student. Julie shares that the Sisters at Embakwe gave her a strong Catholic faith which has helped her appreciate everything that God has given her. Those who know Fatima and her mother are always inspired by the love they have for one another.

While attending a funeral luncheon I met a man whose grandmother (as a child) was picked up by the side of the road by a missionary. She was taken to Embakwe Mission to receive an education from the Sisters of Notre Dame.  All of her family know the story and are grateful for their faith that came from their grandmother and to the missionary who helped her get to Embakwe.

Many members of the bible study group and mother’s prayer group, also went to  Embakwe and are most thankful for the way the Sisters gave them a chance to live their lives in the best way possible – learning practically as well as academically.

I am most grateful to the people in Braeside for the chance to share their lives and am most grateful to the Sisters who first came to Southern Africa from England and suffered many hardships and challenges to help those mostly poor and abandoned children. They would be very proud of the way these women have lived such wonderful and productive lives.