The first Catholic Mission to the Bemba people of Zambia still stands.
Chilubula Mission was founded in 1899 by Father Joseph Dupont of the White Fathers Missionary Society. Prior to the arrival of Father Dupont, Paramount Chief Chitimukulu of the Bemba people of Northern Zambia (then Northern Rhodesia) was violently opposed to any missionaries operating in his territory.
Father Dupont had first arrived at Mambwe Mission, to the north of Bemba territory, and worked to learn a great deal about Bemba culture and tradition. He was nicknamed “Moto Moto” (Fire Fire in Bemba), apparently due to his fondness for smoking a pipe. Eventually, some of the other Bemba chiefs allowed Father Dupont to start a mission at Chilubula, nearby modern-day Kasama.
The mission itself includes a very large church, erected between 1899-1909, with huge Roman influence demonstrated by many Roman semicircular arches. It has been compared to a citadel because of its strength, and during the First World War served as a refuge to people fleeing the fighting between German and British forces.
The site celebrates its founding by Father Dupont, with a marker identifying the location where he first pitched his tent at Chilubula under a Musashi tree, along with his dedication of the site. The Mission continues to serve the local people with a clinic on the site and St. Teresa Girl’s Secondary School.
Father Dupont left Chilubula Mission in 1911 and eventually died in Tunisia in 1930. In 2000, his remains were moved and re-interred at Chilubula Mission. His grave is located inside the church to the left of the Sanctuary. Besides his legacy at Chilubula Mission, Father Dupont is also the namesake of the Moto Moto Museum located in Mbala, Zambia, which houses a very large ethnographic collection of Bemba artifacts.
Know Before You Go
To reach the Mission, head west from Kasama along the Kasama-Luwingu Road. After approximately 23km, turn right onto D20 (Mporokoso Road). Follow signs towards St. Theresa Girl's Secondary School and Chishimba Falls. After another 6km, turn left onto a dirt road that will lead you the directly to the Mission. The grounds of the Mission are accessible at all times, and the grave of Father Dupont is located inside the church. Besides services on Sunday, workers at the Mission should be able to let you inside to view the grave if you ask politely.
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