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  • Fr. Sipho

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    Sipho Mathabela, OSB

    Administrator, St. Theresa’s Catholic Church

    Father Sipho Matabela came to Orofino from Africa by way of Jerome, Idaho. He is from a tiny, landlocked nation in Africa called Swaziland, or Ngwane, which is bordered on the north, south and west by the country of South Africa and on the east by Mozambique.

    Father Sipho (pronounced See-Po, which means gift) came from a poor family but royal blood runs through his veins, as his great grandfather was a village chief. He was orphaned at a young age of nine when his father was killed and from that point on was cared for and raised by his grandmother. Growing-up with his four siblings, he was fortunate enough to be educated by the Salesian Fathers of Don Bosco who ran the St. Elizabeth Catholic School. Fr. Fleming, one of the priests took notice of his academic gift and helped him earn his tuition by teaching him how to varnish school benches. Though he flourished in school, his transfer from one family to another and from one village to the next somewhat confused his growing up years but this didn’t deter him from growing-up a good Catholic.

    Early on his formative years, he already showed his leadership skills as he became in- charged of a group of 60 homeless boys supported by generous people and organizations from Germany and Canada. Girls are not included in the program but he managed to include them by listing their names as boys. Addiction in the form of snipping glue and benzene was also a problem in his country especially among this homeless group of boys but he was able to get through them and taught them how to cook and play soccer. His perseverance paid off as ten (10) of those boys went on through university.

    With his association with the homeless kids, the call of religious life becomes apparent thus joining Benedictines. As he joined them, he was also able to go to college in Petersburg, South Africa known today as Polokwane. To further his education, the Benedictines offered him to study locally or go overseas. Sensing the opportunity to broaden his horizon, Fr. Sipho opted to go to America and Study at Mt. Angel Abby in St. Benedict, Oregon. He studied there for eight years on scholarships and completed his thesis on Polygamy, an African Dilemma and a Church Dilemma. He earned a Theology Degree in Eschatology and a Master of Divinity. He continues to hold the title of Chaplain in the Diocese, and was in charge of developing and overseeing eight Catholic schools. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Bishops of South Africa – specializing in finances.

    Fr. Sipho has recently completed his degree in Psychology from the University of Phoenix online and due to graduate on April 30. He feels that psychology and religion makes a good marriage and that one discipline helps the other. He finds it useful in helping parishioners whom he counsels and those whom he visits at the State Hospital North.

    He came to Orofino as a Parochial Vicar, at the end of January 2009, to assist Monsignor King – after living in the Monastery of Ascension (Jerome) as a Benedictine monk. Upon the death of Monsignor King on November 2010, he was installed as Administrator of the Parish.   His goals, while in Orofino, are to reinforce the church here and to focus strongly on the youth – which is something he knows more than a little about.