Brief History of Diocese of Dedza

Nzama Catholic Parish
On 25th of July 1901, the Montfort Missionaries arrived at Nzama near Ntcheu, welcomed by the Ngoni Njobvuyalema. Nzama is the first permanent Catholic Mission.

The Diocese of Dedza was formerly under Nyasa Vicariate which in 1951 was split into two vicariates. The upper “Nyasa” vicariate was called Likuni Vicariate, and the lower “Nyasa” vicariate was referred to as Shire Vicariate. The Diocese of Dedza was part of the vast Likuni Vicariate.

On 30th April, 1956 Vicariate Apostolic of Dedza was born. It was not yet a diocese but an independent territory of the Catholic Church which comprised of the districts of Dedza, Ntcheu and a small part of Salima. Prior to the establishment of Dedza Apostolic Vicariate in 1956, Zomba Vicariate was born out of Shire Vicariate in 1952 and Shire Vicariate became Blantyre Vicariate. In that very year, 1952, Blantyre was made an Archdiocese.

The 1952 Zomba Vicariate covered as much area as Ntcheu District which in 1956 the same Ntcheu District became part of Dedza Apostolic Vicariate. This meant that some priests who originally came from Zomba but were serving the people of God in the parishes of Ntcheu District were incardinated into Dedza Apostolic Vicariate. The Apostolic Vicariate of Dedza was made a Diocese of Dedza in 1959.

Map of Dedza Diocese
Map of Diocese of Dedza. Malawi map source: GIS Geography

Bishops of Diocese of Dedza

The Diocese of Dedza has so far been served by four bishops. The first of them all was the late Rt. Rev. Cornelius Chitsulo who was the Bishop of Dedza Diocese between 1957 and 1984. He was the Bishop of Dedza for 27 years. Something special with late Bishop Cornelius Chitsulo is that he was the first Malawian to be ordained to the Catholic priesthood in 1936, and he also became the first Malawian Bishop.

Bishop Chitsulo died on 15th August 1984 and was succeeded by Rt. Rev. Gervase Chisendera as Bishop of the Diocese of Dedza. Bishop Chisendera served as Bishop of Dedza between 1984 and 2000. He was the Bishop of Dedza for 16 years. Two years before Bishop Chisendera’s retirement the then Fr. Remi Ste- Marie (M. Afr.) was consecrated Auxiliary Bishop of Dedza Diocese. This was on 9th May 1998. Bishop Chisendera died four years in his retirement on 15th August 2004.  

The third bishop of the Diocese of Dedza was the Rt. Rev. Remi Ste-Marie, who was appointed Bishop of Dedza Diocese on 13th September 2000. His installation to the Episcopate of Dedza Diocese took place on the 27th day of the month of October in the year 2000. Bishop Remi served Dedza Diocese as its Bishop between 2000 and 2007. In 2007 Bishop Remi went to Lilongwe Diocese in obedience to another appointment from the Holy See.

In that same year, 2007, on 6th October, the Diocese of Dedza welcomed in jubilation its fourth Bishop in the name of Rt. Rev. Emmanuel Kanyama. Rt. Rev. Kanyama was ordained to priesthood at his home Parish, Mtendere in 1990. After ordination he was appointed to teach at St. Kizito Minor Seminary. 

In 1992, he was sent for further studies in Urbaniana University, at Rome, in Italy. After 5 years of study he came back home with a Doctorate Degree in Philosophy. He was appointed to teach Philosophy at Kachebere Major Seminary, which is a national philosophicum for the clergy of Malawi. He was at Kachebere Major Seminary for about ten years as a teacher and later as a Rector of the institution. Just a year before his appointment as Bishop of Dedza, Rt. Rev. Emmanuel Kanyama was appointed a Parish Priest of Ntcheu Parish.

Bembeke Cathdral
Bembeke Cathedral of the Holy Family is the seat of the Bishop of Dedza. The cathedral was built between 1915 - 1919 by White Fathers missionary Fr Jean-Louis Lesueur.