South Africa


This became the first flag of a united South Africa on 27 April 1994, at the same time that South Africa held its first democratic elections and Nelson Mandela became president.

Holy Rosary Sisters in South Africa

Regional Leader:  Sister Lorna Costa.  Telephone:  00 27 11 453 8560 Mobile:  00 27 731 459 977   Email: Holy Rosary Sisters, PO Box 1097, Edenvale, 1610, South Africa       




We, Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary in South Africa,

are women of faith and prayer, living in community on mission

in the spirit of Bishop Shanahan.

We witness to Gospel values, especially those of

acceptance of others, compassion and hospitality.

We are committed to encouraging care of the Earth

and transforming society by serving and empowering

the poor and exploited.





About Us:
In 1940 the first five Holy Rosary Sisters came to South Africa. In that year Schools were opened in Edenvale and Vereeniging, both in the Diocese of Johannesburg. In due course more Sisters followed. The ministries diversified and the Sisters were involved in educational work in schools and townships, medical work in hospitals and clinics, pastoral and social work, in the Dioceses of Johannesburg, in Gauteng, Tzaneen in Limpopo, Witbank in Mpumalanga and Bethlehem in the Free State.

As the years went by, many Sisters returned to Ireland to retire and others the Lord called home and are buried in Edenvale Cemetery. As a result of decreasing numbers, our various works were taken over by other Missionary Congregations and in some cases by the laity. This is in keeping with what St. Paul said: “I did the planting, Apollos did the watering, but God made things grow . . . . . We are all fellow workers with God” (1 Cor. 3: 6, 9).  And Bishop Shanahan said: “… Be ready to move off as soon as your missionary work is done. Do not dig in permanent roots – that is not your function as missionaries. . . “ (‘Lord that I may see’- Sr. Philomena Fox, Pg. 25)




in 2019 we were happy to welcome our Congregational Leader, Sister Franca Onyibor, who came to see us in April 2019.  On the right, Franca with Sister Gemma Byrne, our oldest sister!





For the Holy Rosary Sisters and Holy Rosary School 2020 is a year to celebrate and rejoice in God’s abundant blessings!  Bishop Joseph Shanahan held Catholic education in high esteem, especially for women.  As a result Holy Rosary Sisters were sent to Edenvale in 1940 and a few months later Holy Rosary School came into existence, albeit with only 7 pupils.
    Now 80 years later there are approximately 900 girls in the School.  We have so much for which to thank God, both for the past and the present. 
    Although the Sisters arrived in April 1940, commemoration was postponed due to the restrictions imposed by Covid 19.  The event was celebrated with a Mass on the 7th October 2020 in Shanahan Hall in the School.  On the 11th October 2020, the community in Rosary House celebrated this momentous occasion with a Mass which was presided over by Fr. Michael Murphy SPS, followed by a festive dinner.

 Left: Sr Lorna Costa, Regional Leader, MSHR, carrying a lighted candle, leading the procession to Mass followed by school staff and members. Centre: Bishop Duncan Tsohe, Auxiliary Bishop of Johannesburg, and Fr Lizwelinjani Mlotshwa OMI, parish priest of St Therese’s parish, Edenvale.                                               

Right: One photograph taken on 11th October 2020 in Rosary House Chapel
 Back Row left to right:  Sr. Gugu Mbongwa, Fr. Michael Murphy SPS,
Sr. Lorna Costa and  Sr. Emmy Holzhaus.

Front Row left to right:  Sr. Ursula Day and Sr. M. Gemma Byrne



Passion Play in Holy Rosary School










Students from Holy Rosary School, Edenvale, presented a beautiful Passion Play on two evenings during Holy Week, 2019


Rosary Day 2015


Go ye afar, go teach all nations… Bear witness unto me o earth in every clime...”   The familiar words and music of the Missionary Hymn rang out from the combined Junior and Senior Holy Rosary School on October 7th 2015, at the Mass to celebrate the 75 years since the first Holy Rosary Sisters arrived in South Africa.  The hearts of the six Holy Rosary sisters present  filled with thoughts of their own sending many years ago; they have sung it many times and on many occasions, as did the 139 sisters who ministered here.  This however was the first time  the students sang it, and many people present were moved to tears. 

After the Mass a bust of our Founder, Bishop Joseph Shanahan, was blessed, to stand in the school hall. 



From left to right: Fr. J. Leathem, OMI, Sr. Ursula Day, Sr. Emmy Holzhaus, Sr. Lorna Costa and Bishop Edward Risi OMI (past pupil of the School)




Sister Gugu Mbongwa from South Africa, first left, is on mission in Nigeria. She is seen here with sisters from Ireland and Nigeria.



The first South African Blessed Martyr.

When the Sisters worked in Tzaneen they came to know a young man, teacher and headmaster of the local school, named Benedict Dasawa. Benedict was a family man, and cared also for the children in his school and the youth of the parish by his generous involvement in catechetics and by his example.  In  his private and public life he took a strong stand against witchcraft because it sometimes led to the killing of innocent people.   On 2nd February 1990 he was driving home when he found the road blocked by stones and logs.  When he alighted to remove the blockade he was set upon and stoned to death, as he prayed “Father, receive my spirit.” Twenty-five years later on September 13th 2015 he was beatified in his home town, the first South African to be declared a blessed martyr.  Many Holy Rosary Sisters who worked alongside him in Tzaneen remember him with great affection.





Benedict’s 8 children with his 90 year old mother. Photo: The Southern Cross


The church that Benedict helped to build in his parish. Photo: The Southern Cross.