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SACBC-MAKORO (CORRECTED) Dec-14-2011 (370 words) With photo posted Dec. 13. xxxi

Nun named SACBC official sees appointment as recognition of women

By Bronwen Dachs
Catholic News Service

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNS) -- The new secretary-general of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference views her appointment as a natural extension of the many tasks performed by women in the church.

"I see my appointment as recognition from the bishops of the work that women are doing in this part of the world," Sister Hermenegild Makoro said in a Dec. 12 telephone interview, noting that "in parishes women are talking the lead."

The job "will be challenging, especially for me as a woman after the position has been held by men for so many years," said Sister Hermenegild, who has served a term as provincial superior of the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood.

During the height of apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s, the late Holy Family Sister Brigid Flanagan was associate secretary-general of the Southern African conference and frequently stood in for Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa while he was imprisoned for anti-apartheid activities.

"The face of the conference has changed since those days," Sister Hermenegild said, noting that "about 15 new bishops have been appointed in the past two decades."

For the past six years, Sister Hermenegild has been associate secretary-general secretary of the Pretoria-based bishops' conference. She will replace Father Vincent Brennan, a member of the Society of African Missions, who will retire in March.

"Because I've worked for the bishops' conference for a long time, I understand the way they operate," she said, noting that the region's bishops "have open and vibrant discussions and I feel I will be able to challenge them if the need arises."

Sister Hermenegild, 60, was born in the village of Koeqana in South Africa's Eastern Cape province. She made her first profession in 1976.

In meetings of IMBISA, which represents the bishops' conferences of Angola, Sao Tome and Principe, Botswana, Mozambique, Swaziland, Namibia, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and South Africa, "I will be the only women among all the men," she said.

"But I don't feel like an outsider. There is mutual respect, and we all have the same interests at heart -- the interests of the people of God," Sister Hermenegild said.

Her appointment "might make them think" about appointing women to leadership positions in their country's episcopal conferences, she said.


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