By Sr. Ferrera Weinzierl OP
Eva-Maria, Ignatia Siegel entered in January 1957 at the Sacred Heart Convent in Greenwich, as a 24 year old Primary School Teacher, trained in her home-town Aachen, Germany. She did her one year novitiate from August 1957 to September 1958 in the Formation House in Salisbury, Our Lady’s, and was given the name of Sister Dominica. She made her first vows on 27.9.1958 and then started on her teaching career at the Dominican Convent Harare, at Chishawasha Mission Primary School and later at Musami Mission, where she taught mainly Mathematics in the Secondary School and the Teacher Training College.
In 1970 she moved to Makumbi Mission, where from 1971 – 1974 she was headmistress of the fairly new Girls’ Secondary School and also taught part time Maths and French. She then returned to Musami, where she became lecturer at the Teacher Training College of St Paul’s Mission, teaching English and Teaching Methods.
She furthered her personal education with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and German with UNISA in 1968, and then did a special honours degree in English and African Literature with the University of Rhodesia in 1975.
After the killing of the seven Missionaries, three Jesuits and four Dominican Sisters at Musami Mission on 6 February 1977, Sr. Dominica volunteered to return to Musami to help in the teaching and assist in the general running of the Mission till the end of 1977, on account of the tremendous shortage of staff.
After the Independence of Zimbabwe, from May to November 1980 she was lecturer for the upgrading of District Education Officers in the Ministry of Education and Culture of Zimbabwe. She then became a Member of the Steering Committee for the accelerated training of primary school teachers in rural Zimbabwe and also was the personal Assistant to the first Minister of Education and Culture, Dr D.B. Mutumbuka. She was appointed Deputy Director of ZINTEC, the newly established Teacher Training at Morgan High School.
In 1982 she became the Founder of CATORUZI, “Catholic Ancillary Teachers of Rural Zimbabwe” for the recruitment of secondary school teachers from overseas and their deployment in rural Zimbabwe.
From 1985 to 1992 she was the Co-ordinator of CATORUZI and was responsible for the welfare of foreign CATORUZI teachers, who were spread out over the whole of Zimbabwe, from Bondolfi Mission to Makumbi, from Mutero and Mukaro to St. Albert’s Mission, even as far as Binga.Today the former CATORUZI (CATS) Teachers are still celebrating their togetherness and their appreciation of their common experiences in Zimbabwe via Whatsapp. They did not forget Sr. Dominica’s 90th birthday.
Recruiting and looking after 300 teachers from foreign countries, visiting each one in their respective Mission Schools, was hard and exhausting work, though Sr. Dominica did it with great enthuasiasm and joy. However, it was taxing work and Sister needed a break and had a Sabbatical in the States. When Sr. Dominica returned from her one year’s break in USA, she took the offer of being executive Secretary of the newly-to-be-established Catholic University of Zimbabwe (1994 – 1998).
Mr. McNally, Chairman of FOCUZ (Friends of the Catholic University of Zimbabwe) and Chairman of the Board of Trustees, CUZ, expressed his great appreciation of Sr. Dominica’s work at FOCUZ (from 1994–1998), before it was handed over to the Council of the University, “The value of your contribution has been immense. As Executive Secretary you have done everything from typing and making tea, to planning, fund raising, co-ordinating the building work, establishing good relations with Universities abroad and funding agencies, and all the other activities which go with starting a major project like this. All of us have come to depend on you and you have never let us down… our gratitude and thanks for a job not just well done, but inspirationally done”. (12.11.1998.)
By 1999, Sr. Dominica had began to work with ST JOHN AMBULANCE, organising the training of Youth in ‘Home-based-Care’ (AIDS) and also Leaders of child-headed households as well as First-AID. She also did serious fundraising for the organisation. On 4 April 2005 Her Majesty the Queen of England sanctioned Sr. Dominica’s admission as a “ SERVING SISTER IN THE ORDER OF ST JOHN.”
The Secretary for Education and Culture , Dr T.A. Tsodzo, wrote in March 2004, to Sr Dominica, “Due to your passion for promoting the education system and supporting rural schools, you left the Ministry and started CATORUZI, a programme which facilitated the recruitment of 300 qualified Christian Secondary School Teachers from overseas to offer mainly Science, Mathematics, English and French in rural schools.
I therefore would greatly appreciate working with you, as I understand you were greatly involved in the successful establishment of the Catholic University’… I hope that you can be instrumental in starting a fruitful relationship between St. John’s Ambulance and the Ministry, more so now when children need survival skills and training in life saving skills.”
Sr. Dominica continued working for the St. John’s Ambulance successfully for many more years. Her work was greatly appreciated as the regular visits from the colleagues of the above organisation testify.
Other regular visitors in her years of retirement were Fr. Mark Hackett SJ, with whom she bridged over the stressfull year of 1977, and one of her former lecturers, Mr. Anthony Chennels.
Sr. Dominica leaves behind one of her sisters, Resi, and a beloved nephew Lawrence.
In the past few months Sr. Dominica’s health was rather fragile. However, she enjoyed her 90th birthday on 20th March this year; she participated in community exercises either using her walking aid or being wheeled into the chapel and dining-room. She was keen to use the ‘modern technology’, i.e. cell phone and computer, even teaching young sisters. Repeatedly she asked for exercise books in order to maintain her handwriting and keep her mind occupied.
It came quite as a surprise when around the 12th July her condition deteriorated suddenly and she could no longer get up, requiring full nursing care. At the same time, it was difficult to communicate with her and from 19th July onwards it was no longer possible, she failed to respond.
Fr. Martin SJ, our parish priest from Mount Pleasant, administered the Sacrament of the Sick and the Sisters watched and prayed with her frequently. In the evening of 23rd July, after the Sisters attended to her, trying to make her as comfortable as possible for the night, at 19.45 hours she breathed her last and quietly slipped away.
May Sr. Dominica now enjoy the reward of her great labour in the field of education and may she enjoy the heavenly vision for all eternity! Thanks go also to our most dedicated doctor, Dr Coots, to our staff and Sr Dominica’s faithful visitors.
Speech by the National Commissioner of St. John’s Ambulance in the chapel of the House of Adoration at the Requiem Mass for Sr. Dominica Siegel’ on 26th July 2023
A lot can be said about this legendary lady, Sr. Dominica, as we called her, but I will only give some highlights.
Sr. Dominica worked for St John for more than 20 years, and she was promoted to the Rank of a “Serving Sister of St John.’
She had the needs of the vulnerable and the youths at heart.
She started the program for training HBC (Home based Care) for Leaders of child-headed households in 2007. This was meant for those who were nursing their bed-ridden family members at home. This program was very helpful in the communities. She targeted high density areas, farms and resettlements. More than 15 000 youngsters were trained. This helped more than 50 000 beneficiaries.
To fund these programs, she worked with a lot of organisations, like Oak Foundation, Stichting Porticus, British Embassy, German Embassy, Beit Trust, Johanniter, British Humane Society etc. She worked very hard to try and reach as many people as she could through St John Centres. She worked with Organisations that worked with People living with HIV, like Znnp+, CRS, The Centre, Mashambanzou, to mention a few.
Since she was a teacher herself, she noted some of the problems faced by schools and so she started the schools’ program. School teachers were trained in First Aid and HBC and would then form clubs where school children would be trained by their teachers. She donated beds, blankets and HBC kits to schools. This program saw a lot of youngsters in schools being trained and becoming very helpful in schools, at home and in the community. She would also make follow ups to schools and homes of those that were in the program. She also identified young people who needed help in the community and in schools and she would help with food, clothing and school fees. – Passion for Young – Dassies. Strict, tough, thorough, above all honest and loving. We are thankful to the Almighty for a life given and a life well lived.