ABOUT LUMKO

The original intention of establishing a Missiological Institute in Southern Africa was raised in 1950 by Archbishop Lucas, SVD. He was Apostolic Delegate to South Africa from 1946 to 1952. At its plenary session, held in April 1952, the members of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) resolved that “it strongly urges the erection of an Institute of Anthropology, Missiology, etc, and gives a mandate to the Administrative Board to effect its establishment”. The necessary money and personnel were found. Bishop Rosenthal of the diocese of Queenstown offered accommodation and accepted to be the first Director. Although the Institute began in a small way in January 1952 it had to close the same year. This was due to the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith withdrawing its approval for the Institute. There was a fear that it would be left shouldering the financial burden. It was Cardinal Montini (later to become Pope Paul VI) who related the news to Bishop Rosenthal.

 

In spite of this setback, Bishop Rosenthal persisted with the project and, because the members of the Bishops’ Conference were not willing to accept liability for the Institute, he himself eventually succeeded in 1962 in founding a Missiological Research and Training institute on a property 13 kilometres east of Lady Frere, Cape Province. The Irish Province of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart supplied staff and, although the Institute was situated in Bishop Rosenthal’s own diocese, he intended it to be at the service of the Church in the whole of Southern Africa as originally envisaged by Archbishop Lucas.

 

The piece of land on which the Institute was to be built had originally been bought from a local family, Mr and Mrs Lumko who owned a farm of 25 square kilometres. The bishop of Queenstown built a church on this plot and then a house for the parish priest. On the same property Bishop Rosenthal later opened a Catechists’ School. These catechists were Xhosa men who pursued a two year residential programme. Houses were provided for them and their families. The women also received instruction and worked at domestic chores (there was a common kitchen and dining room). A school on the property secured the education of their children. The teaching of the catechists and their wives was conducted by a priest of the diocese of Queenstown who was the school’s Director. The school for the children was staffed by local Xhosa teachers.

 

Bishop Rosenthal also opened, on the same plot of land, a Domestic Science School, an Art School and finally the, Missiological Training Institute. By then the parish priest had moved to the local town of Lady Frere (the name by which the parish had been known all along). The new Institute became commonly known as Lumko. Fr Sean O’Riordan, MSC, moved in at its inception in 1962 as Organizing Secretary. A year later Fr Patrick Whooley, MSC, was appointed the first Director, and he was soon to be joined by Frs Thomas Nicholson, Sean Coffey and Hugh Slattery, all members of the MSC congregation.

 

The location of Lumko influenced the way it developed. Situated in the hilly country of Transkei, near the small town of Lady Frere, the staff were physically cut off from the mainstream of Church life. This meant that they had to travel long distances to meet pastoral leaders, conduct workshops with them and generally “sell” their concept of Church leadership. On their return from these journeys they were able to use the solitariness of Lumko to write without hindrance. Had it not been for the remoteness of the Institute it is probable that the enormous output of written material would never have seen the light of day. From the beginning, Fritz Lobinger had harnessed the help of up to 25 people in the writing of the series. He made use of the quiet afforded by the location of the Institute to design, write and edit the series Training for Community Ministries and to preserve a common methodology and a consistent ecclesiological vision throughout the many books and kits.

 

The Institute eventually was moved to Germiston, Gauteng, at the end of 1985. One of the main reasons was the desire to be nearer the majority of the Catholic population. According to the government census taken in May 1980, of the 2,930,092 Roman Catholics in the country, 33% lived in the Transvaal and a further 27.6% lived in Natal which has easy access to the Reef so the move made sense.

 

In 2010 the Lumko Institute moved bought property from the Carmelite Sisters and moved to the current venue in Benoni where the conference centre facilities are continuously being upgrsded and improved.

 

The Lumko Conference Centre now opens its doors to various organisations needing a venue to hold meetings, conferences, church camps and get-aways.

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