The first Augustinian assignment in Tanzania began on 3 November 1977 with the arrival of two Augustinians from the Province of the Holy Name of Jesus - the "Philippines Province". (This province is based in Spain. It was originally established there in 1575 to send Spanish members of the Order to the missions in Asia, including the Philippines).
These priests took charge of the Parish of Mahanje, Tanzania. As well as continuing to serve there, Augustinians now have two additional Augustinian communities at Morogoro and Dar es Salaam.
Mahanje is situated in the south of Tanzania. It is 135 kilometres from Songea, the main city of the region, and about 900 kilometres from Dar es Salaam, the national capital. It is in a mountainous zone, with areas between 800 and 1,400 metres in altitude. Its tropical climate has only two seasons a year: six months of rain and six months of drought. The Parish of Mahanje was assigned to the Augustinians on 3 November 1977. It covers an area that extends for forty kilometres, and includes three other dependent areas: Madaba, Nkongotema and Rutukira. The area contains 15,000 people, of whom 10,000 are Catholic. The population is broadly distributed in small village communities that survive almost exclusively on subsistence farming (i.e., the people have to survive on whatever they can grow.) Schooling is not generally available in the area, with a few primary schools but no secondary school. Since 1978 Augustinian Missionary Sisters have given invaluable assistance at Mahanje by conducting a large medical dispensary, which is owned by the local Archdiocese of Songea. The dispensary each year assists 35,000 outpatients, mainly women and children.
Morogoro is a district capital situated seventy five kilometres east of Dar es Salaam. It is the industrial centre of Tanzania, and in 2003 has a population of 246,000. Saint Augustine's House was established in Morogoro in 1996. It is here that Tanzanians seeking admission to the Augustinian Order live, pray and study both philosophy and theology on the way to priesthood.
Dar es Salaam
On 16 January 2001 the cardinal archbishop of Dar es Salaam handed the Augustinians the care of the Parish of the Immaculate Conception in Mavurunza. The people there are mainly "internal immigrants" who were attracted from other parts of Tanzania in search for employment in this industrial region. As early as 2004 there were three Tanzanian-born Augustinian priests. As of July 2006 a Tanzanian-born Augustinian has been the regional superior of the Augustinians in Tanzania, until which time the superiors had all been Spanish. He is Kosmas Assenga O.S.A. (see photo below)
Since 2006 all three Augustinian houses in Tanzania have built new and bigger churches to provide a better pastoral service to the people entrusted to their care. Among these, Morogoro initiated a new Church in Kilakale, a sector under the pastoral care the Augustinian Formation House there. Upon the invitation of the Archbishop of Mwanza - the second biggest city of Tanzania, on the borders of Lake Victoria -, the Augustinians in mid-2006 accepted a new parish. It is in the district of Nyegesi, and lies on the outskirts of Mwanza.
A report prepared for the 25th anniversary of the Augustinians in Tanzania: November 2002 captured the spirit of the Augustinian presence by using the words of the local Augustinians. These are included below:
“The number of Tanzanian Augustinians is growing. Everyone is looking toward the future with hope, conscious that - as with the apostles - the Risen Christ goes before you to Galilee." (Blas Sierra de la Calle O.S.A.).
"The soul of the mission during the first period were two pioneer priests, Agustín Pérez O.S.A. and Vitalino Malagón O.S.A..
“There is also the ministry of social justice and care of the poor people, etc., besides the responsibility of community building, administrative work and the search for means of subsistence in land and a farm... Today the Augustinian Order is growing in Tanzania. There is great hope. Each year there are a number of young people who - having finished their high school studies - pursue an Augustinian vocation." (Teodomiro González Olea O.S.A.)
"Today the Augustinian Order is growing in Tanzania. As Africans we feel proud to be Augustinians, having in mind that St. Augustine was African. May he help us to spread our style of life in these lands." (Faustin Mlelwa O.S.A.).
"Throughout these 25 years our work in Mahanje has been centered around three fields: evangelization, social concerns and vocations promotion. Since 1978, we have been promoting vocations to the Augustinian Order. The fruit of this vocational ministry are the currently professed Tanzanian Augustinians." (Vitalino Malagón O.S.A.).
"Seminary life revolves around three supports: prayer, study and work. In this house of formation we have two formative processes: the professed study theology and the postulants and pre-novices study three philosophy courses. Another element of formation is the pastoral component; for this we collaborate on Sundays in the pastoral care of the community at Kilakale, situated about 10 kilometers from our house. The professed begin here and are trained for ministry, some as lectors or acolytes, others as deacons." (Javier Antolin O.S.A.).
"At the central Parish - Mission of Mahanje - covering an area of 40 kilometers - there are three other dependent areas: Madaba, Mkongotema, Rutukira. The current population is 15,000 inhabitants, of which 10,000 are Catholic." (Kosmas Asenga O.S.A.).
"We have a number of dreams as we look toward the future- the construction of a number of schools, churches, youth centres - which could be accomplished with the collaboration of all." (Pedro Rubio Bardón O.S.A.).AN4876