Bethulie

“Silver Jubilee. Aliwal Vicariate 1923 – 1948” gives this information:

“At the time of the arrival of the Sacred Heart Priests, Bethulie was under the care of Rev. Father, now Rt. Rev. Bishop D O’Leary, O.M.l., who visited it from Bloemfontein.  From 1925 to 37 its pastoral care devolved successively upon Rev.  Fathers  Schultz,  Beirle  and Wamhof.

 

In December 1937 during a canonical visitation held by Very Rev. Father Provincial Schunk, S.C.J., who  was accompanied by the present Provincial, Rev. Father Driessen, a property was acquired at Bethulie.  It was to be a Retreat House for the Priests and Brothers and the residence of the Regional Superior of the Sacred Heart Priests.  Rev. Father Holzenkamp, who was appointed the first Superior, and Rev. Brother Ildefons took up residence  there, and were joined later by Rev. Father  Beirle  and  Rev.  Brother Anthony.  The blessing and official opening was performed by Rt. Rev. Bishop F. W. Demont, S.C.J. on the first of January 1939.  From this date onwards the small European congrega¬tion of Bethulie attended Holy Mass in the Monastery chapel.

 

In the Location, Divine Service was held in a private hut until 1930 when Rev. Father Schultz bought a house having a fairly large room, to be used exclusively for church services.  As years went by, this house became too smaIl for the growing congregation, the number of Catholics having risen to about 300, but war conditions delayed the erection of a church.  It was only on the 8th June, 1947 that the patience and perseverance of these Christians were rewarded.   On that day His Lordship Rt. Rev. Bishop J. Lueck, S.C.J. solemnly opened and blessed the large and beautiful church of St. Peter end Paul, built by Rev. Brothers Kilian and Theodore with the apprentices of St.Joseph’s Trade School under the direction of Rev. Father T. Lighton. The paintings in the church and that of the Good Shepherd outside on the front wall of the church are also the work of Rev. Father Lighton.

 

That same year, the Catholics of Bethulie, Europeans and Natives, were happy  to  pay  homage  to  their Eucharistic King by holding the first Corpus  Christi  procession  in  the Location.  As it was the first ever witnessed there, many Non-Catholics, out of curiosity, joined in.  Religious prejudice, however, is still a factor to be reckoned with in missionary life in Bethulie.

 

Springfontein, which  has  monthly services, is the most flourishing Out¬station of Bethulie.  The number of Catholic Natives there increased to such an extent that the building of a church became a necessity, and the day is not far off when the Christians of Spring¬fontein will witness the opening of their new church, a well-deserved jubilee gift. For the past 25 years Holy Mass has been  celebrated  in  the  house  of Zacharias and Elizabeth Posholi, two faithful and zealous Catholics whose fervour and unselfishness has largely contributed to the development of the Catholic Church in Springfontein.  At present not even half of the congregation can fit in the room where Holy Mass is said and so the rest must remain outside. And those inside are  so  crowded together, even around the altar, that the Priest often finds it difficult to make a proper genuflection.  Before Holy Mass, Confessions are heard and all patiently await their  turn,  kneeling outside in all weathers, burning heat, bitter cold or heavy rain.

 

There are several other  mission-stations where Divine Service is held under similar conditions to those of Springfontein, and where the Catholics constantly beg their Priest and their Bishop to have a church built.  God grant that one day in the near future through the help of our dear mission friends these wishes may be fulfilled.” (SV, 20-22)

 

8 June 1947 St.Peter and Paul Church in Bethulie township is blessed by bishop J.Lueck. The old church had been far too small.

29 August 1948 St.Boniface Church in Springfontein township is blessed by bishop J.Lueck. The long wish of the very active parishioners is finally fulfilled.

 

In 1949 The Holy Cross Sisters send two Sisters to Bethulie who now lead the household for the three priests. (Ann.Stat.1949 )

During the early 1980s the church in Springfontein is renovated and gets a beautiful tile floor but the walls are not plastered properly. Therefore in 1989 the church again gets new plastering outside and inside.

 

1992 marks an important change in the pastoral life of the parish. Fr Alfons Nordlohne SCJ leaves the parish and retires after having served the parish continually for forty years. Fr Mathias Ntaka SCJ takes over and tries to introduce the changes which Vatican II and the Pastoral Plan had brought to the Church. A parish council is established as well as Small Christian Communities and the training of lay leaders.

In 1993 the two Holy Cross Sisters are also leaving the parish for the Fatima Old Age Home and their Congregation is unable to replace them. The presence of Religious Sisters therefore ends after many years.

 

As from 1994 the building which had been the Sister’s convent is used as Pre-Novitiate of the SCJ and an additional priest resides there who conducts the formation of the pre-novices.

 

An agreement is concluded between the Diocese and the SCJ Congregation whereby it is stated that the total of the premises are property of the SCJ Congregation but the diocese is maintaining the part of the buildings which constitute the presbytery because it houses the priest who works for the parish.

 

Venterstad township finally gets its own church in 1995.

 

The New Church is completed 7 Sept 1995 and blessed 25 April 1998. For the many years until this time the Catholic community of Venterstad had to worship in the garage of a white family and later by rotating between their own small houses. The community then became very lively and started very actively during the 1980s to collect funds for the building of a church. The small community cooperates very well and accepts the Pastoral Plan with great enthusiasm. Leaders are trained and three Small Christian Communities in the small congregation meet for weekly gospel sharing.

 

During the years 1992 to 2003 Bethulie congregation is going through a very difficult phase of change. For forty years it had to follow a highly priest-centred pastoral life and the wave of participation introduced by Vatican II had not touched it. When that pastoral approach ended in 1992 there was much resistance and even passive aggression, recorded in the reports on the Community Weeks. For six years the bishop could not come to the congregation of Bethulie for conducting a Community Week. It was only from 2003 onwards that the people reacted normally like other parishes of the diocese. The Community Week of 2003 thus was a turning point for the parish.

 

25.January 2004 Springfontein St.Boniface Church is closed for several months because of very bitter fights in the congregation, mainly because some people did not want to abandon their domination over the whole congregation. After several earlier attempts to solve the problem the bishop went to the church on Sunday, together with three priests. When fighting between the factions became physical and fierce, before the very eyes of the bishop, the bishop declared the church closed. Six times the bishop traveled to Springfontein to achieve reconciliation. Finally the church is re-opened after five months.[for details see file =Bethulie]

 

Priests serving Bethulie Parish:

  • 38 – 48 Clemens Holzenkamp  SCJ, w Peter Max SCJ in 1948
  • 41 – 51 Johannes Beirle SCJ
  • 48 – 49 Peter Platten SCJ, 48-51 Gerhard Schultz SCJ
  • 51 – 52 Hans Schaefer  SCJ
  • 52 – 54 Hermann Harmeyer SCJ at some time also Fr Benedikt  SCJ
  • 52 – 92 Alphons Nordlohne  SCJ, 62-63 Andries Lemahieu  SCJ
  • 93 – 03 Mathias Ntaka SCJ, with SCJ Formation priests, eg Fr Zolile95-98, Peter Surdel
  • 03 -04       Innocent Mabeka SCJ
  • 05 –          Bernard Sompane SCJ

 

 

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