Returning to South Africa


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As a part of his sabbatical Fr. Tom Cassidy, SCJ, is traveling to the countries for which he had responsibility when he was on General Council. On October 28 the former provincial superior left for South Africa.

During his travels Fr. Tom will maintain a journal. Entries will be posted on the province blog. He starts with the following:

I first visited South Africa in 1987 when it was an apartheid state. Unlike today it required a hard-to-get visa to enter the country, and because I am a priest it was even more difficult to get one; in fact, my visa was granted just the day before I was to travel. I’m guessing this visit is about my eighth since then and a lot has changed in the country.

It’s going on noon here in De Aar, my first morning in South Africa. The trip from Milwaukee was long.

Fr. Tom Cassidy

Fr. Tom Cassidy

It included a bus ride Monday afternoon from Milwaukee to Chicago, a flight from Chicago to Frankfurt that took eight hours, a ten-hour overnight flight to Johannesburg and finally a flight to Bloemfontein.

At Bloemfontein I was met by Bishop Adam Musialek, SCJ and Fr. Paul Koscielny, SCJ. A few more hours in the car and I was in De Aar at 6 p.m.

I was surprised to find Fr. Paul at the airport along with Bishop Adam. Paul explained he had a doctor’s appointment and since I was being picked up by the bishop the two of them came together. I forgot that a couple of years ago Paul fell off a roof and damaged his leg. He still has pins in the leg but told me it now looks like they will come out in the next few months.

When we got to Colesberg to drop Paul off at the rectory both Bishop Adam and Fr. Paul told me the story of what happened to the previous pastor, Fr. Gerry Fitzsimons. As they told the story I recalled learning about it back in the States. He was found stabbed to death in the rectory after being reported missing. His car was stolen and it was the car’s license plate that led to the capture of his assailant. With that sad tale in my head we said goodbye to Paul and headed to De Aar about an hour’s drive from Colesberg and my final destination of my long journey from Milwaukee to De Aar.

At present there is an eight hour time difference between Milwaukee and De Aar. Since South Africa does not go on summer time when the clocks in the US fall back it will revert to a seven hour difference. And since I am now south of the equator De Aar is in the middle of spring. At this time of year warm days and cool nights — good sleeping weather.

This afternoon I will travel with Bishop Adam to Graaff-Reinet as he has a 6:00 p.m. meeting. We’ll stay overnight before returning.

The bishop's residence and offices in De Aar, South Africa.

The bishop’s residence and offices in De Aar, South Africa.

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