Zimbabwe: President Mourns Struggle Activist Sister Janice

President Mnangagwa yesterday sent his own and Zimbabwe’s condolences to the McLaughlin family and the family of the Maryknoll Sisters following the death of Sister Janice McLaughlin at the New York headquarters of the sisters on Monday morning. She was 79.

In a statement yesterday, the President said the news of the death of Sister Janice came to him as a great shock.

Sister Janice had been connected with Zimbabwe since 1977 when she first came to the country and was a prominent anti-regime activist as secretary of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission; after being jailed and deported she worked in the Mozambique camps, returned after independence to help with education and with assisting victims of violence, and after leading her congregation returned to continue her missionary work in Zimbabwe.

“A devout Catholic for whom faith meant the quest for human freedoms, Sister Janice was deported from the then Rhodesia for opposing racial colonial occupation and injustices, and for supporting our just liberation struggle,” said President Mnangagwa.

“She chose to leave an otherwise quiet life of an American nun to join rough and dangerous camp life in the jungles of Mozambique where she worked with refugees in our education department.

“Alongside educational work in the camps, she also worked with our Publicity and Information Department where she helped give the liberation struggle an enhanced international voice and reach.”

President Mnangagwa said after Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, Sister Janice would resume her higher studies until she attained her doctorate in religious studies from the University of Zimbabwe in 1992.

“Her field of study related to frontline missionary work in African struggles, a subject she knew intimately well from personal experience and commitment.

“She continued to offer her expertise in reshaping schools curricula for a post-colonial Zimbabwe. Above all, she worked closely with the likes of late Herbert Mahlaba to foster and strengthen solidarity between sister peoples of Zimbabwe and Mozambique under the Zimbabwe-Mozambique Friendship Association.

“On behalf of the party Zanu PF, Government, and on my own behalf, I wish to express my heartfelt condolences to the McLaughlin family, and to the family of the Maryknoll Sisters who have lost a loving daughter and devout member respectively. Her leadership in both secular and spiritual realms will be sorely missed. May her dear soul rest in eternal peace,” said the President.

She authored the book, “On the Frontline: Rural Catholic Missions and Zimbabwe’s Liberation War”, which was published by Baobab Books in Harare in 1995.

Sister Janice also co-authored an advocacy training manual used across Zimbabwe to train communities to lobby for changes in policies that affect their lives

She worked with the Washington Office on Africa, a church-based lobby group that helped to educate the American public and Congress about African affairs.

In 1979, Sister Janice became the projects officer for the Zimbabwe Project, a new initiative set up by a consortium of Catholic donors to assist refugees from the war in Rhodesia.

After independence in 1980, Sister Janice was invited by the independent Government of Zimbabwe to work as education consultant in the President’s Office and in her capacity, she helped build nine schools for former refugees and war veterans and to develop a new system of education which linked academic subjects to technical training.

In 1991, Sister Janice returned to Maryknoll, New York, to work as communications coordinator for the Maryknoll Sisters and returned to Zimbabwe in 1997 where she worked as a training coordinator for Silveira House.

She chaired the African Forum for Catholic Social Teaching, an association of justice and peace practitioners throughout Africa, and chaired the Counselling Services Unit, a group of doctors and counsellors who assist victims of violence in Zimbabwe.

In 2008, Sister Janice was elected president of the Maryknoll Sisters at their General Assembly and in October 2015 after her retirement from the top post, she returned to Zimbabwe to continue her mission work.

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