Laurence Freeman in South Africa – September 2019

Laurence addressing teachers in Johannesburg


Twelve events – in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg – were held over the 10 days of the visit with attendance totaling just over 800. The events, including seminars, lectures and a retreat, were jointly managed by WCCM (SA), the Catholic Institute of Education and the Jesuit Institute of South Africa.

In addition to these public events three Catholic bishops were visited. Archbishop Stephen Brislin (Cape Town), Cardinal Wilfrid Napier (Durban) and Auxiliary Bishop Duncan Tsoke (Johannesburg) were all supportive and recognised the value of meditation and the contemplative way.

Laurence meditating with children at Holy Family College, Durban

Three schools were also visited. In two of them – Holy Family College, Durban & Loreto Convent School, Queenswood, Pretoria – staff members were addressed and Laurence meditated with Grade 5 and 6 students in Holy Family College and St Henry’s Marist College, both in Durban.

Laurence also had the opportunity of addressing a forum of principals from the Pretoria Catholic schools.



The visit was well-planned and well-balanced exposing a number of different constituencies to Christian meditation. While the schedule was quite tight at times, Laurence was happy to use all the time available.

The collaboration with the Catholic Institute of Education and the Jesuit Institute – with their school and public networks respectively – made the success of the visit possible.

Midday prayer at the Origins Retreat Centre in the Cradle of Humankind

An ecumenical element was provided by having hosts from the Anglican and Dutch Reformed communions assuming responsibility for particular events. There was also support from inHarmonie, a retreat centre in Franschhoek near Cape Town, and from Mosaïek, a post-denominational Christian church in Johannesburg, who invited Laurence to be the speaker at their annual event called Conversations.

The episcopal blessing for the visit and support shown by all three bishops interviewed was a positive sign of meditation growing as a practice in South Africa.

The interest shown by teachers and catechists in all three centres augurs well for meditation being introduced more widely to children and young people.

Collaboration with Contemplative Outreach, particularly in Cape Town where the seminar was a joint venture, dispelled any notion of competition between the two communities.


The small number of groups, many of which do not respond to newsletters or receipt of CDs, and the few committed individuals do not contribute to a sense of community in South Africa.

The flyers which advertised the events had contact numbers but no mention of the actual venues.

The distances between events held on the same day, particularly in Cape Town, made for a tight schedule.

The lack of books for sale at events was discouraging. (Bookshops are not keen to import reasonable quantities of books given the high price that has to be put on them because of exchange rate and import tax.)



A national council should be established to include representatives from the three regions visited – Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.


Participants at the events were invited to leave contact details should they be interested in receiving further information or finding out how they might participate in the work of the community. 129 forms were returned and the contacts have been recorded in a database.


Through the contact details collected at events, people will be contacted in the near future to keep them informed of developments subsequent to the visit. In addition, an invitation to start a group will be sent with the assurance of formation on how to run a group, provision of basic resources, and a connection to the wider community.

An indication of other ways in which a person can be involved in the life of the community will be included in the invitation.


Laurence encouraged the idea of a pilot project in schools. The details of the project will need to be worked out, though some ideas were floated:

  • Introductory sessions with follow-ups
  • The need of a champion in each school to assist in the incorporation of meditation into the school’s daily practice
  • Journalling the school’s experience
  • A research project
  • School reports to inspire other schools


An annual programme of events should be established. This could include:

  • Annual retreat (regionally)
  • Essential teaching weekend
  • National Conference (for group leaders, connecting with another national community)


An agreement has been reached between Medio Media, the publishing arm of WCCM and the Jesuit Institute of South Africa to publish local editions of key resources, such as Christian Meditation: Your Daily Practice, Word into Silence, Pearl of Great Price and Light Within.


The possibility of a Meditation Seminar on “A Contemplative Approach to the Crisis of Youth” in 2021 was discussed.



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