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Domesticating a Religious Import

The Jesuits and the Inculturation of the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe, 1879-1980

Nicholas M. Creary

Publication Year: 2011

Catholic theologians have developed the relatively new term inculturationto discuss the old problem of adapting the church universal to specific local cultures. Europeans needed a thousand years to inculturate Christianity from its Judaic roots. Africans' efforts to make the church their own followed a similar process but in less than a century. Until now, there has been no book-length examination of the Catholic church's pastoral mission in Zimbabwe or of African Christians' efforts to inculturate the church.Ranging over the century after Jesuit missionaries first settled in what is now Zimbabwe, this enlightening book reveals two simultaneous and intersecting processes: the Africanization of the Catholic Church by African Christians and the discourse of inculturation promulgated by the Church. With great attention to detail, it places the history of African Christianity within the broader context of the history of religion in Africa. This illuminating work will contribute to current debates about the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe and throughout Africa.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

This project began with the crisis of trying to find a job. During my senior year at Georgetown University, I happened across a pamphlet advertising volunteer teaching positions with the Catholic Ancillary Teachers of Rural Zimbabwe (Catoruzi). The pamphlet noted that...

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pp. xiii-xviii

A ChiShona proverb says that success has many mothers, but failure is an orphan. To the extent that this study is in any way successful, I must express my gratitude to the many mothers (and fathers) who helped to give it life. At the same time, I alone take responsibility for any and all of its failings....

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pp. 1-21

Catholic theologians in the last fifty years have developed the term inculturation to discuss the old problem of adapting the church universal to specific local cultures. The theologians conceive of inculturation as a dialogue between Christianity (the church) and culture.1 The concept...

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1 A Failed Mission, Contesting Colonial Rule, and Ecclesiastical Developments

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pp. 22-38

Two Bantu language–speaking groups, the VaShona people (ChiShona speakers), who entered the southern African region as early as the ninth century CE and established the state known as Great Zimbabwe by the thirteenth century, and the AmaNdebele people (IsiNdebele...

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2 ‘‘The Struggle Approximated to the Heroic’’: African Catholic Women Becoming Nunsin Colonial Zimbabwe, 1922–1965

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pp. 39-78

In August 1965, the community of the Little Children of our Blessed Lady (or LCBL Sisters) at Hwedza asked Sister Rocha Mushonga to accompany Sister Ancilla, their delegate to the congregation’s first general chapter, as a secretary. ‘‘That’s how I got trapped,’’ Mushonga recalled....

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3 ‘‘The Most Important Work on the Mission’’: The Seminary of Saints John Fisherand Thomas More, 1919–1979

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pp. 79-119

On September 30, 1974, the students of the Regional Major Seminary at Chishawasha went on strike. The Rhodesian Catholic Bishops Conference’s Secretary General specified the dismissal of Deacon Ernest Mukuwapasi as the cause of the strike, but several seminary staff members...

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4 A ‘‘Do-Nothing’’ Organization? The Catholic Association, 1934–1974

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pp. 120-169

The Catholic Association (called variously the Catholic African Congress, the African Catholic Congress, and the Catholic African Association) was the first organized lay movement in the Catholic Church in colonial Zimbabwe. While African laymen founded the organization,...

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5 Until Death Do Us Part? African Marriage Practices and the Catholic Church, 1890–1979

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pp. 170-203

For most of the colonial period, the Catholic Church’s hierarchy in Southern Rhodesia presumed the superiority of Western Christian marriage and made no efforts to integrate African and Western Christian marriage practices, showing more concern with regularizing canonically...

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6 ‘‘Thou Shalt Not Take My Name in Vain’’: The Mwari Controversy, 1911–1961

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pp. 204-221

Fr. Ignatius Chidavaenzi and his colleagues on an interdenominational team preparing a more recent and more accurate translation of the Bible into ChiShona presented a theological explanation for the meaning of the name Mwari.1 Claiming that of all the ChiShona names for...

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7 Bread and Wine, Beer and Meat: The Kurova Guva Controversy

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pp. 222-242

VaShona cultural practices of honoring the spirits of the dead, or kurova guva, were initially banned by Catholic missionaries shortly after their arrival in Southern Rhodesia in the early 1890s. An important ritual, however, it persisted clandestinely on mission farms throughout...

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pp. 243-253

In 1962, the Southern Rhodesian Catholic bishops appointed a commission to investigate the mission of the Catholic Association and its relationship to other Catholic organizations in the colony.1 The organization had petitioned the bishops to delete the word ‘‘African’’ from its...


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pp. G1-G17


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pp. 255-310


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pp. 311-312


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pp. 313-328


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pp. 329-340

E-ISBN-13: 9780823248803
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823233342
Print-ISBN-10: 0823233340

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 726826638
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Domesticating a Religious Import

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Catholic Church -- Zimbabwe -- History -- 19th century.
  • Christianity and culture -- Zimbabwe -- History -- 19th century.
  • Jesuits -- Missions -- Zimbabwe -- History -- 19th century.
  • Zimbabwe -- Church history -- 19th century.
  • Catholic Church -- Zimbabwe -- History -- 20th century.
  • Christianity and culture -- Zimbabwe -- History -- 20th century.
  • Jesuits -- Missions -- Zimbabwe -- History -- 20th century.
  • Zimbabwe -- Church history -- 20th century.
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