Christmas at Cabrini!

Seasons Greetings!

We have been having a great time here in Swaziland celebrating Christmas with the lowveld community. On December 12th, members of the Teen Club, along with their caregivers and guardians, came together to enjoy their annual Christmas party. For those who don’t know, Teen Club Swaziland is part of an international family of support groups, spearheaded by Baylor International Pediatric Aids Initiative.  The clubs are made up of young members of the community who are living with HIV. Rising to the challenge of addressing the psychosocial and medical needs of HIV positive adolescents, the club meets once a month to offer support, to learn valuable lessons given by qualified medical professionals, and to nurture a sense of camaraderie amongst their members. It is also a great way to make sure the teens and their guardians are receiving all the help and guidance they need from Cabrini Ministries. To learn more about this exciting international program, visit BPAI’s website!

We also want to send out a big thank you to RUCHI Wholesalers for donating mielie meal, beans, and sugar for the families to take home and enjoy. Thank you, RUCHI!

Enjoy pictures from our fabulous Teen Club Christmas Party!


What a treat! A few of the guardians perform a drama about the importance of being tested and adherence to medication. We were blown away by their talent!


An angel appears! One of our talented Teen Club members performs the role of the angel for the nativity play.



The girls perform traditional Swazi dances for an audience of their peers and caregivers.


Simo Mamba does a great job as the Christmas Party MC!


Thobile Matsubula, head facilitator of the Teen Club at Cabrini, opens the ceremonies with a word of thanks to the staff, the club members, and the guardians.


More dancing by our fabulous Teen Club Stars!


A word of prayer lead by one of the Teen Club guardians.


Make way for the boys performing traditional Swazi dances!


And of course, we must give the makes (mothers) and Go Gos (grandmothers) a chance to show off their dancing skills!



Teen Club members and their guardians all together to celebrate Christmas!

Fantastic Feast Day!

On the 13th of November, we here at Cabrini Ministries in Swaziland, celebrate our namesake and the foundress of the ministries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini. This year our celebration was made even more joyous by the addition of a much needed bout of rainfall! As the entire staff of Cabrini Ministries Swaziland gathered together to honor the life of Mother Cabrini, we reflected on the life of an amazing woman, without whom our work would not be possible.

Frances Cabrini was a remarkable woman who practiced great determination and perseverance in order to live her life spreading God’s love to those most in need. We are grateful to her and all she did in her life to make the world a better place. Siyabonga, Make Cabrini!

As it does every year, we start our Feast Day with a procession to the church carrying the statue of Mother Cabrini…

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We then attended a beautiful mass lead by Fr. Gaston, who was assisted by a few of our hostel children performing their duties as altar servers.

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Some of our hostel girls approaching the altar with offerings for Mother Cabrini.

After the moving mass, the entire staff gathered at the dining hall for some entertainment, speeches, and, of course, a feast!

Our Deputy Executive Director, Ben Kickert, kicked the program off to a great start, bringing up all the new employees that have joined us this year at Cabrini Ministries of Swaziland.

New Employees

“Welcome to the family!”

He then continued the recognition party by presenting staff members who have been with us for 5 and 10 years with a special gift and thank you from Cabrini Ministries.

5 Year Employees

And of course it would not be called a Cabrini party if we did not get to hear a few songs sung by our glorious choir!


To send the entertainment portion of the celebration out with a bang, Grade 5 and Grade 6 performed a fantastic retelling of Saint Frances Cabrini’s inspiring life, appropriately titled Mother Cabrini and the Cabrini Way. 

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Here we see Bongiswa Nxumalo perform the role of the priest in the baptism scene of the play.

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When Frances was a young girl, she admired her sister, Rosa, very much and was always copying everything she did!

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Here we see Celemphilo Maziya and Ncobile Gumedze with their prop boats and flowers as they perform the scene where Frances explains to her sister that she is imagining that the little boats are filled with missionaries that she is sending off down the river.

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Here we see Mother Cabrini’s first voyage to New York City!

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“Siyabonga, Mother Cabrini” the children sing for the finale of “Mother Cabrini and the Cabrini Way”

And then…we feasted on a wonderful meal prepared by our very own Cabrini staff.
The Cabrini Staff ate, laughed, and cheered on the rain as it fell down onto our thirsty land.

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Grades 5 and 6.

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Simo Mamba in traditional party attire.

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As always, we are grateful, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, for all that you did for this world. We strive to live on in your spirit of peace and goodwill!

-The Cabrini Staff



Swazi Observer covers Feast of Mother Cabrini

On Saturday, Cabrini Ministries celebrated the Feast of Mother Cabrini with Mass, drama, singing, dancing, and lots of food.  The Swazi Observer was on hand to cover the events.  You can click the image below to see the article or read the full text of the article below.



Saint Francis Cabrini honoured

19 November, 2012 11:55:00   Stories by Joseph Zulu

CABRINI Ministries at St. Phillip’s on Saturday celebrated Francis Xavier Cabrini, a Catholic nun who dedicated her life to helping orphans and immigrants in the late 1800s in America.

The day, also known as ‘Cabrini Feast’ started off with a church service at St. Phillip’s Catholic Church and was followed by plays, dance and song by the community. Cabrini, who died in 1917, is considered a Saint and a section of nuns known as Cabrini Sisters have continued her work throughout the world.

The Italian born Saint travelled to America where she worked extensively to help orphans, immigrants as well as miners.

She ensured that they had basic healthcare as well as basic education and even went inside the mines to ensure the working conditions for miners were safe and healthy.

In Swaziland, the Cabrini sisters under the Catholic Church have continued the work of Francis Cabrini where thousands of residents around St. Phillip’s have been helped.

Residents were also treated to a slide show of the life of Cabrini and how she struggled to reach thousands of orphans and immigrants who at the time were considered low class citizens.

Although her initial dream was to travel to China and serve communities there, the Pope at the time advised her to travel to America. By the time of her death, she had founded 67 missionary institutions to serve the sick and poor as well as train additional nuns to carry on the work.

Highest survival rate for HIV patients on ART

SISTER Barbara Staley says Cabrini Ministries has the highest survival rate amongst HIV patients who are on the antiretroviral treatment (ART) programme.

She said according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the survival rate was at least 80% but with Cabrini Ministries, it was 90%. She said the rate was based on how many patients died within a year from commencement of the ART programme. Sister Staley said some of the patients died because they arrived late for ART but that the extensive awareness made by Cabrini in the area had made it possible for people to test for HIV.

Cabrini taking care of over 3 000 HIV patients

CABRINI Ministries is taking care of at least 3 000 HIV and AIDS patients, including both children and adults around the St. Phillip’s area.

Sister Barbara Staley, the Director at Cabrini, revealed this during the ‘Cabrini Feast Day’ for residents around the area. She said some of the patients were orphans due to the pandemic and that Cabrini provides for their needs, including education.

“We want to provide the same care they would get from their parents,” said Staley, adding that the organisation only stopped helping the orphans once they were grown up and able to support themselves.

In most instances, she said some of the children were also provided with school fees at primary, secondary and tertiary levels. Noteworthy is that this is similar to the work done by the founder, Francis Cabrini who also assisted orphans, sent them to school and provided free medication.

At St. Phillip’s, Cabrini Ministries provides free medication to its patients and also operates a mobile clinic.

According to Bongani Khumalo, who heads the programme, Cabrini has several outreach activities for residents.

He said they provided mobile medical facilities at Ncandweni, Nkanini, Mbadlane and Madleni.

“We provide similar health services offered in bigger towns,” said Khumalo. He also said they had partnered with bigger hospitals such that patients who need further treatment were referred to major health facilities.

He said due to the high level of poverty in the area, patients were also provided with transport and got their medical bills paid. Khumalo revealed that Cabrini was funded through ICAP and that they also work in collaboration with the ministry of health.

Feast of Mother Cabrini

The mission and work of Cabrini Ministries Swaziland has been shaped by the life and ministry of Mother Frances Cabrini.  Every year, the entire community St. Philips Mission comes together to celebrate her heritage and lasting impact.  This year, the Feast of Mother Cabrini was observed on November 12. 

This year took on special importance as it represented the 40th year of service from Cabrini Sisters to the people of Swaziland.  The Bishop was on hand to help celebrate the occasion.

Here are some pictures of the festivities:


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Feast of Mother Cabrini 089 Feast of Mother Cabrini 095 Feast of Mother Cabrini 101 Feast of Mother Cabrini 103 Feast of Mother Cabrini 117 Feast of Mother Cabrini 147 Feast of Mother Cabrini 167

Be sure to follow the blog as we will have a video of the festivities uploaded shortly.

A Wedding, A Funeral, and A Family Health Day

Hi Everyone,

Here is an update on what has been happening at Cabrini Ministries in the past few months.


Over 2500 people attended our first Family Day at the Mission. The message was ‘Stay alive to raise your children.’ Not a topic you would normally need in the Western world but here where HIV/AIDS, TB and hunger are taking their toll, it was an important message.

The day started at 7am and was supported by doctors testing for HIV, TB, blindness and other acute medical conditions. Even breast cancer screening and prostate cancer tests were done. Action Against Hunger provided nutrition and cooking demonstrations while others taught the benefits of male circumcision, a program which will be introduced later in the year to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS.

The atmosphere was wonderful as all the local people used the Mission as a centre to draw them together and support each other. Children laughed as they played on Jumping Castles, had their faces painted, played games and danced to music. The faces on Swazi adults and children alike beamed as they saw the local school’s marching band and singers entertain them and regular dramas unfolded teaching all about HIV. The day was so successful that it didn’t wind up until midnight.

To see such poor people – in fact the poorest of the poor – arrive in their best clothes, so bright and clean with their beautiful white teeth beaming out of smiles, it is hard to imagine that they live on bare earth with no water, electricity or any worldly possessions. Everyone received a meal and for some it was their only one in many days. The first Family Day was such a success that the local people hope it will be an annual event.


We are very sad to share that we have lost the first child ever to death under our care. Thandizile was only 13 years old when she died of measles outbreak at the Mission. She was born with HIV/AIDS, the same disease which claimed her parents and made her an orphan. Thandizile is survived by her elder brother, 20 years older than her, who is a herdsman in the district. Her brother tried to feed her but a herdsman is the lowest of paid jobs here and soon she found herself struggling to find food.

Just six months ago the Mission embraced her, with her beautiful spirit and will to live. She loved each day at the Mission with other children and knowing the care of the Sisters and ‘Aunties’ were strengthening her life. “The one gift we could give her in her hard life, was one full term of being able to live like a normal little girl, reasonably healthy, very happy and loved,” said Sister Barbara in her time of mourning.

The measles outbreak has already taken 17 people in the area- all were vulnerable because of their HIV/AIDS status which destroys their resistance to other diseases. Thandizile was the first to contract measles at the Mission. The Sisters quickly acted by having all students and staff vaccinated but not before the very sad death of little Thandizile. Our community was hit very hard by this loss.

On a much more joyous note, there is nothing as raw and alive as a traditional Swazi Wedding- and it lasts for three days!

Two of our female Swazi staff, Philisiwe and Jane, were married recently. Each wedding followed the sound of Africian drums which echoed through the Low Veld and brought all the community together.

The first day is the gathering with dancing around camp fires where hundreds talk and chat. The numbers attending the wedding are hard to judge as it is quite normal to welcome ‘gate crashers.’ In fact there are no invitations, it is just who turns up for the festivities and banquet. By the second day there were many hundred of guests to see the bride dance with her lady friends while the men dressed like warriors and staged the ‘kidnapping’ of the bride from the village. This is a 4 hour ritual and wonderful to see. The beating of the drums travels miles as all the men dance a warrior dance to approach the camp. Meanwhile the ladies line up and dance to a steady rhythm to ‘protect’ the bride. By the end all the guests are dancing too and enjoying the mock battle. The ladies costumes are richly decorated while the men are covered in African furs and beads holding spears and shields. Hundreds of people dancing to the beat of the drums and stirring up the dust is mesmerising. It leaves you with the true spirit of Africa, the culture of hundreds of years of history and is something you will never forget.

Blessings and love,
Srs. Barbara and Diane

Spring for Swaziland, NYTimes and Swazi Observer Articles

Just a reminder, if you are in the New York City area- next Wednesday evening:

And thanks to Nick Kristof for his mention of the Cabrini Sisters in his op-ed piece on Sunday in the New York Times (yes, that’s Sr. Barbara with the “lead foot”!):
A Church Mary Can Love

Finally a Cabrini Swaziland staff member wrote a wonderful article that was published in the Swazi Observer:


How does a child grow into a person who becomes a good mother or father?
How does a child grow into a person who becomes a good citizen of the Nation?
How does a child grow into a person who respects himself and others?
How does a child grow into a person who knows that he comes from God and goes back to God ; a person who prays and struggles to do good?

It may seem like a simple answer but the beginning of becoming a mature adult who contributes to the common good of the Nation and the good of his or her family… is to have parents who direct and discipline a child’s life with love and concern.

In our Nation today only 21% of the children have both parents and all the rest are either double or single orphans. Even the single orphan is often abandoned by the remaining parent when one dies.

What does this mean for the future of family life in Swaziland? What does this mean for the future of the Nation?

It is truly a tragedy for the children of the Nation today and a disaster for the future of the Nation tomorrow. So many of the children of Swaziland are growing up disconnected….with no sense of belonging to someone who loves, respects and disciplines them…who teaches them the way to think, choose, behave in the normal situations of every day life.

Orphans, many thousands of them, are struggling to raise themselves with no sense of belonging to a family, a group, a Nation. They are learning that adults often take advantage of them, encroach on their homesteads, abuse them physically and sexually, or just don’t have time for them because the adults themselves are overburdened with mouths to feed.

Already the Nation has, by some estimates, more than 200,000 orphans…how lonely, disconnected and angry will these children be as they try to grow into an adult world with no skills of family and relationship….they will easily follow the example of those who have taken advantage of them and abused them in various ways. Are we moving toward a Nation of thugs? A nation of young adults without compassion and connection? A Nation of young adults with little sense of right relationship? Faithful relationship? There appear to be few answers for the children growing up without parents in these last 15 years..often alone or with overburdened guardians.

Are there answers for the children being born right now? A large percentage of the families and women having babies are HIV+…does that mean the tragedy and disaster of disconnected children must go on and on? In the area of the Lubombo lowveld where Cabrini Ministries works the HIV+ rate over the past three years has remained between 45 and 60% of those tested.

Is there an answer? Yes, I believe there is the beginning of an answer – PARENTS, MOTHERS AND FATHERS MUST TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR LIVES AND STAY ALIVE! What does this mean?

1. It means testing early and often even if you do not feel sick
2. It means getting to the clinic before you are too sick to walk
3. It means adults have to stop pretending that there is nothing wrong even when they keep getting sick
4. It means if you find you are HIV+ you decide that you will get the help you need, eat as well as possible, go on anti-retroviral treatment when it is necessary and live for another 15 or 20 or 30 years so that you may stay with your children, love them, teach them, discipline them and help them to grow into a good and loving adult like yourself.

Your health as an adult and a parent is not just a personal thing….IT IS NOT TRUE THAT ”MY LIFE BELONGS TO ME AND I CAN DO WHAT I WANT.“ Our lives belong to God, to our family and to the Nation. As a parent it is a responsibility that comes with parenthood to care for yourself, stay healthy, even if you are HIV+ or with AIDS, because your life is for your children…for their future.

There are programs and projects to help orphan children in Swaziland all struggling to do the best they can to help some of the thousands of orphaned children; there are school teachers with great compassionate hearts trying to help as many as they can of the many, many orphaned children they teach each day. These are good efforts and God who loves children in a very special way blesses these efforts. BUT NOTHING TAKES THE PLACE OF A PARENT WITH ENOUGH LOVE TO STAY ALIVE FOR THE SAKE OF HIS OR HER CHILDREN, NOTHING.

Blessings and love,
Srs. Barbara and Diane

Save-the-Date for this NYC Event: April 28

Hi Everyone,
A New Yorker who formerly worked with us at Cabrini Swaziland by the name of Katie McCaskie is organizing an event in Brooklyn on April 28. (Read the blog entry about some of Katie’s work in Swaziland by clicking here.)

This event aims to spread the word about the child care program at Cabrini Ministries. (Please contact Katie by email at if you have any questions.)

Click here to learn more about child care at Cabrini.

Blessings and love,
Srs. Barbara and Diane

Today the Hawk Takes One Chick at the Margaret Mead Film Festival NYC

On November 15 2008 at 6pm in NYC, there will be a screening of Today the Hawk Takes One Chick as part of the Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival.

This 72 minute film was shot entirely on location in our community and features the adults and children we serve, as it presents the lives of three grandmothers and the challenges they face. Read more about the issues in the film’s study guide:

The film will be shown in the Linder Theater at the American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, NY 10024. Both Jane Gillooly (the filmmaker) and Sr. Barbara will be there, so please come see us if you can!

Rebuilding With Faith After The Storm

We wanted to send word out to our worldwide community about the storm that hit us here at St. Philip’s Mission.

On December 26th, at about 4 PM, a heavy rain started, followed by hurricane force winds, then a tornado. The storm was severe and did major damage. Among some of the damages: the roof to the house over our living room was blown off, we lost the whole kitchen to the children’s hostel, we lost our maintenance and storage office, the roof on the girl’s hostel was damaged and leaked and ruined bedding and other items, we lost a newly planted crop of chilies, etc. A lot of trees and debris were downed around the Mission so much that we could barely get around. We are estimating that the storm did about $30,000 in damages just to our facilities. Many of our community members in the area lost their homes, because the homes are not very strongly built in the first place. Electricity lines and telephone lines and cell phone towers were down all over the place, and it’s been very hard to reach people. Miraculously, we haven’t heard of anyone in the entire area that was hurt in the storm.

We are staying strong in spirit and just trying to find the continuous energy to deal with all of the additional challenging demands of cleaning up after the storm, on top of our already demanding healthcare and orphan care efforts. We pray for the homeless now and for the support and strength to rebuild to continue to provide love and care to those in need.

Blessings and love,
Srs. Barbara & Diane

It’s Gala Time!

A week from now, the Cabrini Mission Foundation is holding its annual Gala in New York City. Click on the link above to find out more information about this event.

This year, the work in Swaziland is highlighted, and there will be a short presentation and slideshow given by Sr. Barbara.

Sr. Barbara is currently on a spiritual retreat and looks forward to seeing everyone that can make it to the Gala next week.