Fr Francis Wafer SJ, RIP

RIP
Fr Francis Wafer SJ
09 April 1934 – 17 September 2021

The Society of Jesus (Jesuits) mourns the loss of Fr Francis Wafer SJ.

After several years of declining health he passed away peacefully this afternoon, Friday 17 September 2021, the Feast of St Robert Bellarmine, at the Coptic Hospital in Lusaka. Fr Wafer will be remembered for his deep care for the Tonga people in Chikuni Mission, where he founded and directed the Mukanzubo Kalinda Institute.

We commend Fr Wafer to the Lord, knowing that he is now at peace.

Padraig Swan, Director of Faith and Service Programmes in Belvedere College, reflects on the life of Frank Wafer SJ, who worked with the Tonga people in Zambia to preserve their language and music.

Please join us in giving thanks for Fr Frank’s life and work, some of which is captured in the video below:

Scenes from the funeral:

Photographs from the funeral:

Vigil Mass

We apologise for the quality, the Internet connection at Chikuni Mission was not optimal.

Requiem Mass

We apologise for the quality, the Internet connection at Chikuni Mission was not optimal.

6 thoughts on “Fr Francis Wafer SJ, RIP”

  1. Frank was such a gracious and kind man. He loved the people he was called to serve and has left such a legacy to the Tonga people in collecting and conserving so many riches of the culture. Our deepest condolences to his brother John and sister in law Adrienne and to his nephews and niece and extended family and friends and to Yvonne his great guide and support in all his work.

    May he rest in eternal peace

  2. Frank’s contributions to preserving the Tonga language and culture will be remembered long after his passing. Frank founded the Mukanzubo Kalinda Institute in the 1980s and published the first (and still only) Tonga-English dictionary. Frank recorded traditional music travelling around Zambia on his motorbike. His work with Padraig Swan, of Belvedere College, in digitising the reels of traditional music he had recorded, is currently underway so that the audio archieves will be available in the future online for reasearchers.

    Padraig’s article in the current IJI newsletter shares our admiration for Frank and his commitment to the Tonga culture.
    https://www.iji.ie/2021/08/24/maembo-the-one-who-sings/

    Rest in Peace Frank.

  3. I had the honour of visiting Chikuni many times and learning about the work of the Mukanzubo Kalinda Institute which Frank established. In turn I was privileged to meet Frank a number of times, most recently in June 2019 just before the world went into a global lockdown. Frank was a generous soul and he served his vocation as a missionary with all the energy that God gave him, right up to the end. He is an inspiration to me and so many more. I pray that he is at peace with the God he served with such passion, and I pray that all who mourn his death will find solace and consolation in the amazing legacy he has left the Tonga people and indeed all the people of Zambia and further afield. RIP Frank. AMDG

  4. My condolences to Frank’s family, my fellow Jesuits in Zambia, and his many friends on their loss. I knew Frank as a scholastic in Ireland — he was a few years ahead of me. I met him a few times on visits to Zambia and learned of his immersion in Tonga culture and his efforts to ensure that it continued to be known and to flourish. May God reward him for a lifetime of dedication and service.

  5. I am very sorry to hear of the death of Fr. Frank Wafer. He was a man ahead of his time and was an early and committed supporter of the Tonga culture in which he lived a very large part of his life. My sincere condolences to all the many who mourn him, especially Yvonne Ndaba, one of his great co-workers who I met in Chikuni and in Dublin. I will remember him in my Masses and prayers. Fr. Martin Curry SJ, Rector of the Galway Jesuit Community.

  6. Dónall Ó Murchú

    I had the honour of knowing Frank when he returned to Zambia and took up his position with us in Charles Lwanga Teachers’ College. I saw him begin his work of collecting the music, songs and stories of the local Tonga people. He highly regarded Tonga culture and nurtured that esteem in others. Never a man to value worldly goods, his Bauer reel to reel tape recorder and his Honda were essential to his work. These items were gifted to him through Eamonn Valkenburg RIP (ex Clongowes) and Copperbelt Catenians. An old joke among his friends in Lwanga, (which he used to enjoy) – what’s the most dangerous animal in the bush? Frank on his Honda.
    I have often compared the National Treasure he has left to Zambia and the Tonga people to that of the Book of Kells.
    Suaimhneas síoraí do’n a anam uasal. Dónall Ó Murchú, Charles Lwanga TC, 1967-74

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