Irish Jesuit Mission to Zambia (1946-1969) Papers: Irish Jesuit Archives, Dublin, Ireland

A typical Chikuni snake! Group photograph including Jesuits Louis Meagher and Walter O’Connor, 17 December 1950.

This week’s #HiddenCatholicCollections features the Jesuit mission to Zambia, undertaken by the Irish Province of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), from 1946-1969. Zambia (Northern Rhodesia) was the third overseas mission for Irish Jesuits, after Australia (1865) and Hong Kong (1926), and was initially called the Chikuni Mission.

Housed at the Irish Jesuit Archives, 36 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin, the Zambian mission material contains papers, slides, and photographs, sent back to Ireland by over a hundred Irish Jesuits who worked in Zambia. The ten archival boxes illustrate the areas of work that they laboured in: parish work, education and development. The archival catalogue can be found at jesuitarchives.ie/zambian-mission.

The Irish Jesuits’ work in Zambia was complemented by other Jesuit Provinces (Canada, Croatia, Oregon, Poland and Slovenia). Initially, two Irish Jesuits, Patrick J Walsh (1911-1975) and Patrick J O’Brien (1910-1991) were sent to Northern Rhodesia in 1946.  Walsh in particular, formed a strong bond with Kenneth Kaunda (1924-2021) (who became the first president of Zambia), often visiting him in prison.

Writing from Lusaka, Northern Rhodesia to his Irish Fr Provincial, Walsh refers to the Mau Mau in Kenya and remarks “it is likely that in the next few years we shall see similar developments in central Africa. There is a great spirit of unrest and dissatisfaction among the Africans here and there is quite a bit of Communist propaganda going on – especially through the African Congress” (29 November 1952, 1p).


Contact

Damien Burke
Province Archivist

Irish Jesuit Archives
36 Lower Leeson Street
Dublin, Ireland

E-mail: archivessj@gmail.com


Photos

Hand drawn map of Northern Rhodesia depicting the Jesuit Mission stations, 1951.
Nativity scene from Chikuni Mission, Northern Rhodesia, 1953.

“Woman pass by church – children are usually carried on their mothers backs.” The pillar on the right is the building where the Irish scholastics stayed. The main church is the parish church in Chikuni. Shows rear entrance (sacristy door) to original Chikuni church. Picture taken from veranda of 4-bed-roomed dwelling for Chikuni community members [1959], demolished in 1962.
Fr Joseph Conway SJ introducing the Irish sport of hurling to students in Northern Rhodesia [1960].
 

Opening of Canisius College Chapel, Zambia, 27 September 1964. Prime Minister Dr Kenneth Kaunda with Fr Tom McGivern SJ (in uniform) inspects the Cadet Guard of Honour. The cadet nearest the camera is Dr Kaunda’s son. McGivern was in charge of the cadets leading the Zambian Prime Minister (from 24th October, President) Kenneth Kaunda on an inspection of a cadets guard of honour.

Photograph of Fr Patrick J. Walsh SJ receiving the insignia of Officer of the Companion Order of Freedom from His Excellency, the President of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda, 25 May 1967.
Letter from Fr Patrick J. Walsh SJ, Lusaka, Northern Rhodesia to Irish Fr Provincial informing him that the building of the residence at the regiment Church has begun. Refers to Mau Mau in Kenya and remarks ‘It is likely that in the next few years we shall see similar developments in central Africa. There is a great spirit of unrest and dissatisfaction among the Africans here and there is quite a bit of Communist propaganda going on – especially through the African Congress’ (29 November 1952, 1p).