Mill Hill South Africa 150th Jubilee Celebrations

Mill Hill South Africa 150th Jubilee Celebrations

Parys, Diocese of Kroonstad

This year 2016, St Joseph’s Missionary Society, commonly known as the Mill Hill Missionaries, is celebrating a century and a half of bringing the love of Christ to the four corners of the World. According to the General Superior of the Mill Hill Missionaries, Father Michael Corcoran MHM, this is a significant jubilee, a significant milestone in the life of St Joseph’s Missionary Society as “it marks a substantial contribution to the Church for over 150 years. Through Cardinal Vaughan’s vision and the growth of our own society, I’m aware that so many other missionary societies of women and men have flourished in the UK due to the scope and reach of the Mill Hill Missionaries. All these friends of ours are invited to celebrate with us this year and as we collaborate in the future to nurture the vocation of all our people today for a life on mission, whether women, men, lay or religious”.

Early beginnings

On 1st March 1866, Father Herbert Vaughan (1832-1903) a priest of the Diocese of Westminster, the founder settled with one student at Holcombe House, Mill Hill, in North West London. There he intended to begin to fulfil the Christ’s missionary mandate (Mathew 28:19) incumbant on the Catholic English-speaking world. In 1866, this obligation was felt to be more of a burden than a benefit. Vaughan approached the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster and suggested that he might establish an English missionary college. As a newly appointed bishop, Cardinal Wiseman had been tortured with doubts and uncertainties. In his distress he sought the advice of Father Vincent Pallotti the founder of the Pallotines. This venerable old priest advised him: “The Church in England will not flourish until it send priests to the foreign missions”. Vaughan sought recruits not only in England, Ireland, Scotland and North America, but also in Flanders, the Netherlands and Tyrol.

St. Joseph’s College

Despite early difficulties, the number of students grew. In 1869, Vaughan realized that Holcombe House would soon by far too small.. He decided, therefore, to begin the new, permanent college buildings. On the feast of SS Peter and Paul, 29 June 1869, a quiet ceremony was performed by Archbishop Manning and the community. The foundation stone of the college was laid. By the end of February 1871, the college, though not complete, was ready to be occupied. The community moved in on 28 February. On Sunday, 19 March, the laying of the foundation stone of the Chapel took place. The first Mass was celebrated in the church on the feast of St. Francis Xavier, 3 December 1873. The official opening was celebrated on the feast of St. Joseph, 1873. On 31 March, 1874 the chapel was consecrated. By special indult of Pope Pius IX, Cardinal Manning was permitted to crown the statue of St. Joseph. This ceremony was performed in the presence of the hierarchy of England and Wales on 13 April 1874. This college has produced thousands of missionaries who have worked in different parts of the World.

Where Mill Hill Missionaries work

Mill Hill Missionaries are found in almost every continent of the world but more specifically in West and East Africa, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, North and South America and New Zealand as well the United Kingdom, The Netheralands and the Italian and Austrian Tyrol. Traditionally, members originated from European countries that formed part of the Home Regions; Great Britain, Ireland, and the Netherlands and from the German speaking areas of Northern Italy and Austria. Members also came from North American. After training in centres in England, Scotland, Ireland The Netherlands and Tyrol, these Mill Hill missionaries were sent to countries in Africa; Cameroon, Sudan, Uganda and Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and in more recent years to South Africa, as well as to countries in Asia; Pakistan, India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, New Zealand and China. Today the Mill Hill Missionary Society has missionaary formation centres in Cameroon, Kenya and Uganda, the Philippines and India. Our Vocation Directors bring news of growing interest in young people discerning God’s call to follow the missionary way of life.

The South African Story of Mill Hill Missionaries

The mission and work of the Mill Hill Missionaries expresses itself in Primary Evangelization, Justice and Peace & integrity of Creation, Mission Animation, Social Work and Development and Inter-religious Dialogue, and mission at the heart of the of St Joseph’s Missionary Society, members are responding appropriately to the challenges of secularization and globalization in the local churches where they serve. In more recent years, Mill Hill Missionaries were assigned to South Africa in response to the request by late Bishop J.L Brenninkmeijer, OP, Kroonstad. He invited the Mill Hill Missionaries to work in Post-Apartheid for reconciliation in the Diocese of Kroonstad, through engagement work of migrant workers, peoples of different tribes through community building and reconciliation in the townships of the Northern Free State.


Sylvester Mbiydezenyuy, Emmanuel Omollo, Stephen Giles, Ephraim Odhiambo, John Doran, Gabriel Barasa, Anthony Ndichia

In 1998, the first official group of Mill Hill Missionaries to arrive South Africa comprised Fathers Kevin O’Donovan (Ireland), Andrew Mukulu (Uganda), and Ephraim Odhiambo (Kenya), followed later by Fathers Anthony Chantry (England), James Juma (Kenya), John Melluish (England), Stephen Giles (England/Australia), Emmanuel Omollo, (Uganda), John Doran, (England), Emmanuel Mbeh, (Cameroon). Latterly, these missionaries were followed by Fathers Sylvester Ponje (Cameroon), Anthony Ndichia, (Cameroon) and Gabriel Baraza, (Kenya). In the past years the Mill Hill Missionaries have extended their presence to the Diocese of Rustenburg. In the Diocese of Kroonstad seven Mill Hill Missionaries cover 16 parishes. The Mill Hill Missionaries are involved in pastoral activities such as Peace building and reconciliation, town-township apostolate, lay formation, administration in the diocese, education, justice and peace, prison ministry, vocation promotions, inter-racial ministry, conflict resolution, family ministry, counselling, pastoral care for the sick, orphans and the elderly, and youth development. On the 150th Anniversary of the Mill Hill Missionaries, the Missionaries will be encouraged to go where need is greatest seeking to build up the local church in the new South Africa by endeavoring to mend relationships between South African Blacks, Whites and Coloured and with foreigners from the world over.

On the 19th March 2016, the Mill Hill Missionaries celebrated their 150 years of love and service with a Mass of Thanksgiving in Westminster Cathedral, London. In South Africa, the Mill Hill Missionaries also gathered in Parys, Free State to celebrate the Feast of St Joseph and will celebrate 150 years of theirs on Sunday the 19th June (the anniversary of the death of Cardinal Vaughan) in Sasolburg with a Mass of Thanksgiving for all that God has accomplished through St Joseph’s Missionary Society of Mill Hill, and to pray that the journey into the unknown began in 1866 in Mill Hill, London under that patronage of Saint Joseph who lifelong ventured trustfully into the unkown, will continue to go out into the whole world and make disiples of all nations.

Fr Anthony Ndang Ndichia mhm, from Cameroon is a Mill Hill Missionary working in the diocese of Kroonstad South Africa.

Mill Hill Missionaries in South Africa Celebrate the Feast of St Joseph

On the 17th of March, the Feast of St Patrick, Patron Saint of the Diocese of Kroonstad, the Mill Hill Missionaries gathered in Parys, to celebrate the anticipated feast of St Joseph (19th March) Patron Saint of the congregation of Mill Hill Missionaries. The celebration started with a Mass presided by Bishop Peter Holiday of the Diocese of Kroonstad. The missionaries were full of song and dance as they gathered to honour their Patron Saint. Fr Ephraim Odhiambo, MHM, a pioneer of the Mill Hill Missionaries in South Africa, reflected in his insightful and humorous homily on the uniqueness of each missionary in living out mission to the ad-gentes. One beautiful thing in the society is to see that members are unique with different personality types but all have a common vision of love and service. Looking at the life of Cardinal Vaughan and the beginnings of the Mill Hill Missionaries, Fr Ephraim said with the shortage of Missionaries to be sent out on mission, Mill Hill has always had the desire to share the little they have, the few in number. “The task of the Mill Hill Missionaries is to build and establish the local church, and once that is done, the missionaries move on to where need is greatest”. He called on our members to continue the work of Post-apartheid reconciliation and inter-tribal reconciliation in order avoid what he calls “the sadness of Christ” as long as peoples, Blacks, Whites and Coloured leave apart from each other.

The Society Representative of Mill Hill South Africa, Fr Stephen Giles, MHM thanked the bishop for presiding the Mass on the feast of St Joseph. Reflecting on the life of Cardinal Vaughan on the occasion of the 150th Anniversary, Fr Stephen said Vaughan, a visionary had set a very good foundation in the proclamation of the gospel of Christ. He concluded in saying that although perhaps deserving, Mill Hill doesn’t pursue the path of canonization of Vaughan but chooses rather to invest the money in the mission of Christ.

Bishop Peter Holiday thanked St Joseph’s Missionary Society for the great work of evangelization in the diocese and contributing to the growth of the church in the diocese. The bishop promised his prayers to the St Joseph’s Missionary Society as they celebrate 150 years. After mass and joined by three invited diocesan seminarians, the Mill Hill Missionaries had a festive meal by the Vaal River to celebrate the feast of St Joseph. Mill Hill South Africa is looking forward to the 150 year Jubilee celebration on the 19th June 2016.

Anthony Ndang Ndichia mhm

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