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MISSION PROFILE: THE AMATONGAS STORY
A graduate of Catholic High School in Baton Rouge, Brother Chris Sweeney was one of four Brothers from around the Institute chosen by the General Council in Rome as volunteers to begin a new mission endeavor in Amatongas, Mozambique in 2010. Under Brother Chris' leadership and supervision, the four Brothers transformed what had been an abandoned and dilapidated school into an ever-growing and ever-improving resident and day secondary school, now called Sacred Heart Secondary School.
In addition to the more than 800 non-resident students from surrounding villages, Sacred Heart Secondary School provides housing and schooling for approximately fifty orphans. In 2018 the Brothers began accepting girls as resident students, thanks to a newly established dormitory to accommodate them. Because there is no other school within many miles of Amatongas, even many non-resident students come from villages several miles away.
Brother Chris had originally volunteered to remain in Mozambique for three years; but he has remained because of his deep love for the young people and his awareness of how much more work is needed in order to provide the education and formation that the young people need and deserve. Even though Amatongas is not officially a mission of the United States Province, our students, parents, alumni, and friends in the Province have contributed significantly to the ministry there, both financially and through thousands of hours of volunteer work during summertime mission trips.
In only a few years, Sacred Heart Secondary School has become a rich source of vocations to the Brothers of the Sacred Heart. Several graduates are currently in our formation programs in Zimbabwe and Kenya; and some have already professed vows as Brothers. Coming from a Portuguese-speaking country, these young men had to significantly improve their English in order to participate in the formation programs.
The acres of farmland that surround the school buildings now annually produce tons of corn, a staple in the diet, and other vegetables and fruit, thanks to the hard work of Brother Chris and his staff, together with students. Cows, pigs, chickens, and rabbits are raised to provide food, not only for the students but also for local villagers who shop in the school's canteen.
Because Amatongas is a relatively new endeavor in the Institute, missionaries from other parts of the world staff the school; but throughout Africa where Brothers of the Sacred Heart minister, African Brothers have mostly replaced missionaries, thanks to the number of young Africans who are responding to God's call to become Brothers.
Students attend class faithfully and study hard, knowing that a good education is their best means of having a future filled with hope. Sacred Heart Secondary School has earned a reputation as a school of excellent academic achievement and moral development in the students. The school has become a source of pride for the residents of the small village of Amatongas.
In the past, Brothers from the United States founded and ministered at foreign mission endeavors in several African countries, including Kenya, Lesotho, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, as well as in Australia and England. Through the years as vocations increased among the Africans, local Brothers replaced missionaries. England and the Philippines form part of the Province of the United States. However, opportunities remain for those who feel called to ministry in other countries. In addition to our schools, our Brothers minister currently at a home mission among the Navajo in Klagetoh, Arizona - .