Building the new Cathedral of "St. Joseph the Worker"


The new bishop’s church dedicated to St. Joseph the Worker, at Mpika was the third and final stage of our new headquarters’ construction. It is built right next to the diocesan headquarters.

Mpika is the district capital of the Mpika District, the largest district in Zambia with approximately 45 000 square kilometers. Mpika itself has a population of 25 000 to 30 000 people. According to our records 40 per cent of the population are Catholics.

Mpika is quite a big settlement. It has a District Hospital with over 100 beds, a prison with over 250 inmates, a Secondary School for almost 1000 boys, a central market and it is seat of the local government, the “Boma”. Ten kilometers to the South-West is TAZARA, the seat cum workshops of the Zambia-Tanzania Railway Authorities. Tazara is the railway Station on the line Kapiri-Mposhi to Daresalam.

Economically most people in the Township are working as Civil Servants or employees of the government, as well as Tazara workers. The informal sector is extensive, people do a lot of selling and marketing, others are farmers, but mostly subsistence farmers. Main crops being maize, beans, cassava and ground-nuts. There is also some considerable vegetable growing and selling at the local market.

On the pastoral site, Mpika is a center of activity in the diocese. 15 kilometer to the North at Lwitikila, is our diocesan Girls’  Secondary School with 650 pupils. The institution is administered by the Sisters of Mary Immaculate (LSMI). 25 kilometer to the South is Chilonga parish, founded in 1899 with a Mission Hospital of 220 beds. In Mpika itself is the ICL, the Institute of Christian Leadership, a pastoral center with courses and seminars for our local Church leaders. Mpika had so far only one parish, St. Andrew’s, in the middle of town, approximately five kilometer away from the new Church. The parish was founded in 1972 by Fr. Piwek and Fr. Berg, two Fidei Donum priests from the diocese of Mainz, Germany. The parish has been handed over to the Zambian clergy in 1995. There is also St. Monica’s Pariah in Tazara roughly 10km from Mpika Boma. Since Mpika is growing in all directions the two parishes are too small.

The new Cathedral at the diocesan head-quarters has a size of more or less 550 m² and is shaped in the form of an octagon, whereby the central beams converge outside the geometrical middle. The plans were drawn up by a German Architect, Mr. Peter Schardt from Gottmadingen, a friend of the diocese. His inspiration was to get a more African shaped Church building which is at the same time within the tradition of the Church. Thus he chose the classical octagonal shape, 19 meters high in its center. It is able to seat 500 people, not a huge building, but adequate for the parish’s population.

The roof is of red corrugated iron sheets, interrupted by a wall of glass, just above the altar. The Church is straight forward, plain and standard, no frills or oddities added.

The cathedral was built by  A/S NOREMCO Construction, a Lusaka based firm with headquarters in Daresalam, Tanzania. They had already built the new headquarters. Building manager was Mr. Björn Olsen, a Norwegian National.

We got funds and donations from the following dioceses and donor agencies:

Propaganda Fide in Rome (USD 80,000), the Archdiocese of Paderborn (DM 50,000), the Archdiocese of Cologne (DM 60,000) and the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart (DM 40,000).  Private donors raised DM 20,000, a special collection brought in another DM 38,425.

The Construction of the Cathedral

On 10 September 1998  Bishop T-G. Mpundu did the ceremony of the “first turning of the sod” in the presence of members of the presbyterium, sisters and laypeople of Mpika township.
The blessing of the foundation stone took place on 10 December 2008, many Christians were present. The work went ahead. A Zimbabwian company made the steel beams for the roof construction in March 1999. Heavy rains delayed the roofing, since the roof is steep.

In May 1999 the floor of the new church was laid by a Lusaka company. The Church in its initial stage was handed over on 29 August 1999.  Since we had to scout for more money, there was a forced break, before we undertook the final stage. Painting, inside and outside, the construction of the benches for the people, the glass windows and all the other bits and pieces followed. On Easter 2000 it was ready for use and Holy Mass was said in the new Cathedral from that day onwards.

The parish of Mpika had to be divided up, the baptism books had to be copied by hand from the old St. Andrew’s records and mid 2002 we will be able to formally establish the new St. Joseph’s Parish. The Cathedral was solemny dedicated on the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker on 1 May 2004 by Bishop T-G. Mpundu in the presence of the entire presbytery of Mpika diocese and the faithful.