Francis and Ursula Fitzsimons are an Irish couple with rich backgrounds in education and who have a desire to see lives transformed by the Good News of Jesus Christ. Francis grew up in Dundrum, Co. Dublin and in 1979 he graduated from UCD with a BA degree. He studied for a further year at Carysfort Teacher Training College in Blackrock. He was on the teaching staff of St.Mark’s Senior Primary School, Tallaght, before heading to Mozambique in 1992 to take up the post of Director of Maforga Primary School.
Ursula grew up in Castlerea, Co Roscommon. She has a degree in Home Economics and Irish from St Catherine’s College of Home Economics in Blackrock, Co Dublin. She taught in St. Macdara’s Community College, Templeogue.
Francis and Ursula married in 1987. They lived in Firhouse, Co Dublin where their two sons John and Matthew were born. At this time, in addition to their teaching careers,they were also involved in youth work, Sunday school teaching and youth camps throughout the country.
In 1991 Francis had the opportunity to spend 5 weeks at a mission station in central Mozambique. Moved by this experience and sensing the call of God, Francis and Ursula with their two young sons moved to Mozambique in September 1992. Within a month, the civil war ended, and the Fitzsimons stepped up to the task of assisting in the education of a new generation of Mozambicans.
Francis became the Primary School Director where he completed the school’s construction, implemented a development plan, and guided it through a time of rapid growth. Before long the school was reaching over 500 local children.
Their daughter Lisa was born in Zimbabwe in 1996, and all three of their children attended the primary school headed by their father where they learned through the medium of Portuguese alongside their Mozambican friends. Ursula home-schooled their children through secondary school, and the two boys have now graduated from the University of Pretoria. Lisa hopes to follow her parents’ footsteps into the teaching profession.
Brief History of their work in Mozambique to date
Francis and Ursula spent their first 17 years in Mozambique developing and managing the Maforga primary school and serving at the mission orphanage. The school reached over 500 children from the surrounding villages. However, due to poverty and related social problems, many children could not continue into second level studies.
In 2009 the Fitzsimons transitioned to Africa 180,a neighbouring mission for five years during which time they developed and registered their own non-profit Mission association called “Passo a Passo.”(Step by Step) The Mission Association is located in central Mozambican province of Manica, in the district of Gondola, in the locality of Nhambia, and there they have built Nhambia Christian Secondary School.
Passo a Passo also impacts the community through a variety of other ministries. These include ladies' literacy and numeracy programmes, Bible studies, prison ministry, social aid and a small agricultural programme including tree planting. They have recently partnered with a couple from the U.S. involved with Audio-Scripture ministry and Palliative Care. God willing they hope to expand to establish a basic health care programme as well as catering and IT courses.