Dordrecht

Dordrecht parish was opened much later than neighbouring Indwe and Umhlanga. We hear that in the early years  Mr Mandla Bernhard Huna, whose family was the first catholic family of Dordrecht in the 1920s,  walked on foot to Umhlanga for Mass. The priests residing at Umhlanga came very seldom to Dordrecht by train to say Mass in his house. In their youth the  sons of Mr Huna attended the Catholic school in Umhlanga. Mr Huna died in Gugulethu, Cape Town 1992.

Until 1958 the number of Catholics in Dordrecht remained only a handful and it was served from Tafile, by Fr Koelbl, once per month.

When Fr Oswald Hirmer arrived in Indwe early 1958, he served Dordrecht from Indwe but could not spend much time on developing that community.

Things changed when Fr Hubert Bucher arrived and resided in Indwe at the end of 1958. He became the first parish priest of Dordrecht, serving the whole area of Dordrecht, still residing in Indwe. He immediately took steps to acquire a plot in Dordrecht town, began to reside there in 1960 and built a chapel and a convent next to the priest’s house.

Fr Bucher made close contacts with the people and invited them to the faith. The congregation grew rapidly and he made plans to build a church in the township. The white authorities of Dordrecht did not want the Catholic Church to become established and therefore refused the building of a church on grounds that the whole township would be moved soon to a totally new place. This never happened – it was only a pretense to prevent the building of a Catholic Church. Father Bucher then made application for the erection of a temporary church building and this could not be refused. The structure was prefabricated, but the steel frame was filled in by brickwork. It looked rather permanent and it proved to be so. The diagram to the right shows the layout of that original church building.

In 1961 this “prefabricated” Church in the township was blessed by bishop J.Lueck. Not long afterwards the hall was added to the church opposite the altar, connected to it through a sliding door, so that on big occasions it could be used as one large, long room.

5 August 1962  the building of the convent was completed and the chapel was blessed by bishop J.Lueck. The chapel was used for Sunday Mass of the English speaking community. Three Holy Cross Sisters began to reside there.

 

Several farm outstations were built, seven of them with a Catholic School which also served as church. Several of those farm schools were a fairly large comples of buildings, with several classrooms, residence for teachers and for a catechist.  At each of those farm schools a full-time catechist resided so that around 1975 the parish had seven full-time catechists. They taught adult catechumens, visited the neighbouring farms, invited the farmworkers to the faith and conducted church services, and in this way greatly contributed to the growth of the Church in the whole district of Dordrecht.

 

1965 a sewing centre was started, at first in a garage, then in the hall of the township church and after the new large presbytery was built in 1978, the sewing centre moved into the former priests’ house.

 

Around 1975 Dordrecht parish registered the highest number of Catholics, about 3000. The diagram on the next page shows the huge network of Catholic schools and outstations, with their catechists.

 

After 1984 the number of Catholics on the farms declined to half of the earlier number because the apartheid law of  “influx control to the cities” was lifted and the farmworkers built homes for themselves in the townships.

 

1978 a large new presbytery was built, with spacious flats for three priests and also for visitors and with a library room because it was assumed that Dordrecht would become a pastoral centre to serve the whole area. It was assumed that a larger community of SCJ priests would serve Barkly East and the whole surrounding area from Dordrecht.  For a short time three priests did reside there but soon the number was down to only one priest.

 

By 1980 there were no longer any full-time catechists.  Around that time the Holy Cross Sisters left the parish.

 

Farm  outstations of Dordrecht parish and number of their Catholics in the early 1980s :

  • St.Thomas, Lauriston 53 (has school)
  • St.Simon,  Grootkraal 54 (has school)  Farmer: Muir —  built around 1968
  • Carlton  ………… …. 20
  • St.Markus (Snowdon) 15 (but in 93 all had moved away)
  • Thysfontein(Bradgate) 15 (has school)  S.Thaddeus        school built in 1968
  • Klipkraal               16 -near fly-over bridge towards Molteno
  • Madgala  (near Clanville) (had school,  StMatthew)           school built in 1964
  • St.Jacobs, Middelpaas  24 (has school)                            school built in 1968
  • St.Bartholom,WillowPk  25 (has school)   Farmer: Mortlock,  — built in 1964
  • Bergstroom            107 (has school )
  • St.Andreas,Vogelvlei 60 (has school)                             school built in 1963
  • Lionhill  St.Peter   12 (has school)                             school built in 1960
  • Clarks Siding  (St.Catherine’s. StPaul’s, built in 1962-3) but by 1993 all had moved away
  • Roussow St.John
  • St.Anna
  • Sills farm
  • St.Michaels
  • St.Bosco

The number of farm centres of the Church declines after 1984.

 

Around the year 1975-78 the number of farm stations or Mass centres on the farms was highest. There were 19 centres, but then they decreased when the influx control laws were relaxed and abolished officially in 1984. In 1998 there are only 5 Mass places on the farms and even this number would soon decrease.

 

25  Nov 1990, Blessing of the renovated and extended Church. A tower was added to the building, a new sanctuary at the side of the tower, the asbestos roofing was replaced by iron sheeting because of the severe frost of Dordrecht and an insulating ceiling was added. The diagram shows the layout of the renovated church.

 

Priests serving Dordrecht Parish:

  • 1959 H.Bucher – 68
  • 64 W.Tratz – 66
  • 67 H.Schinhammer – 74
  • 68 F.Aertker – 69
  • 69 R.Recker – 70
  • 70 H.Hirmer – 71
  • 72 G.Stigler – 72
  • 74 KH.Ofenloch – 80
  • 80 A.Lemahieu – 88
  • 80 P.Motsamai – 85
  • 85 M.Ntaka – 85 (4months)
  • 88 A.Austin –

Molteno

 

Until 1964 Molteno was served from Burgersdorp parish.

In the early years, perhaps during the forties or fifties, a house  in Graham Street was bought in order to have a place where Catholics of the township could gather for worship. It later served  as a church for the coloured Catholics.

 

When Fr Tratz arrived in the country 1964 and worked in Dordrecht parish with Fr Schinhammer, he served Molteno from his residence in Dordrecht, until 1966.

 

1966 Fr Tratz bought a plot in Molteno and built a presbytery for one priest and  two Sisters. As from 1966 Fr Tratz resided there and as from 1967 also two Holy Cross Sisters. The parish team now served the whole of the two districts of Molteno and Sterkstroom, together with the five or six farms where services were held for Catholics.

 

18 September 1966 the chapel of the new priests’ house and convent in Molteno town were blessed by bishop J.Lueck. Molteno thus became a new parish with its own resident priest and two Holy Cross Sisters.

 

Around 1966 an old, former Presbyterian church was bought in Sterkstroom township. It was a  weak and primitive structure and  it was small but the Xhosa congregation at least had a fixed place of worship as from that time.

 

The few white, English speaking Catholics were allowed to use the Anglican church in the town of Sterkstroom for the bimonthly Mass.

31 March 1968 the new Church of Christ the King in Molteno township was blessed by bishop J.Lueck. It was of unique design as an octogon, where three of the eight parts serve as a hall. The altar is exactly in the centre of the structure with a glass dome on top giving bright light to the church room.

 

Molteno parish had two full-time catechists during the seventies and eighties, but one later preferred to take up secular employment and the other was pensioned when he reached pension age in 1992.

 

A new Church in Sterkstroom township is completed in May 94. It consists of a Church 10 x 12 m, and a hall which can be connected with it. This is the first proper Church building in Sterkstroom while until this time a very small and primitive church was used which had been bought from another denomination.

 

The new Church in Sterkstroom is blessed 12 Nov 94, dedicated to Blessed Bakhita. Fr.Zolile helps in training people for an African type of liturgy, with a solemn reverent dance round the altar after it is blessed and anointed.

 

In 1994 the two Sisters residing in Molteno had to retire due to old age and could not be replaced. They had loved to work for the people of Molteno for many years and found it difficult to leave but could be proud of having done the pioneer work in Molteno together with the priests. It appeared at that time as if there would be no way of having Sisters again in Molteno parish.

 

From mid 1997 on there was more than a year where the parish had no resident priest. The reason was that two consecutive priests had to leave, soon after each other, because the people were hostile to them. As from June 97 FrTratz served Sterkstroom, residing in Aliwal, also serving Jamestown and the farms around Sterkstroom, while Fr Hansel served Molteno, residing in Aliwal.

 

In 1998 three Holy Cross Sisters of the Lesotho Province took up residence in Molteno as an Animation Team for the whole area. The bishop invited them to stay in the beautiful house in town which was empty at that time. The provincial team of Mohale’s Hoek came to visit the town together with the bishop to find out where the Animation Team would reside. Without hesitation the Sisters pointed out that they wanted to stay among the people and not removed from them and they therefore expressed the wish to reside in the small house next to the township church where the catechist’s family had stayed before. The house was empty by now and was hired out to some teachers. The house was renovated and extended in May and June 1998 and the Sisters moved into the building in August.

 

8 August the Sisters moved into  their house. On 18 August a meeting of all Animation Teams and some priests was held in the enlarged house in order to acquaint the Sisters with their task.

 

In the night of the 22nd August robbers cut through the security fence and broke open the doors of the convent. They parked their vehicle near the creche with full lights on, and for one full hour carried away and loaded what they liked from the house while the Sisters locked themselves in one of the bedrooms. Screams to the neighbours were fruitless because they too were scared. The next morning two priests and Brother came to the help of the Sisters. Security systems were then installed to protect the Sisters. In spite of these unpleasant beginnings the Sisters soon began their fruitful animation work in Molteno and the surrounding areas.

 

In October 99 Sterkstroom is again united with Molteno, and Fr Noah Ssekitto now resides in Burgersdorp and serves Molteno and Sterkstroom.  The hand-over takes place on 12 October in a moving ceremony in Sterkstroom church where Fr Tratz is thanked and the responsibility handed over to Fr Noah. Fr Noah resides together with Fr Nkunyane in Burgersdorp, but after one year he stays more and more in Molteno.

 

As from that time, the year 2000, the parish is a real African Church. They are now served by an African priest and by African Sisters, conducting pastoral work in a more African way. The Sisters no longer “come to the people” but live among them, with people and children moving in and out of their house the whole day. The priest, too, is very much one with the people.

In 2003 the priest serving Burgersdorp, Fr Paul Musafiri, also lives in the presbytery of Molteno. Both priests, serving the two parishes of Burgersdorp and Molteno, reside together in Molteno.

 

Priests serving Molteno Parish:

  • 1966-72 W.Tratz
  • 1972-75 Fr.Gerhard Stigler,
  • 1975-91 Fr.Hansel
  • 1991 Fr.Tratz
  • 1996 Mar – June97,  Fr.Pascal Motsamai
  • 1999 Sept- 2004, Fr Noah Ssekitto
  • 2005 Fr Paul Musafiri(Burg.)with Fr Mojalefa Makoa
  • 2005 Fr Deo Ssengendo(Burg.) w Fr Mojalefa Makoa

 

Tafile Mhlanga

 

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

“After having  made  several attempts to start a Mission in Umhlanga  Native  Reserve. Rev.   Father   Hillekamp, S.C.J. was finally allowed to open a school there in August 1928. Two huts were rented, one of which was to serve as  school  and  the  other  for  the accommodation of a Native teacher. On the 22nd August the school was opened. The next day there was a meeting of chiefs and natives of the district to discuss the matter, and they agreed to give a piece of ground on either side of the road beside the school to the mission.   But  the  consent  of  the Magistrate  who  was  also  Native Commissioner  for  the  district  was necessary for this, and he was reluctant to grant his permission. However, after repeated petitions and protests from the Natives he finally consented.

 

On the 2nd September 1929 Rev. Brother Augustine, S.C.J. arrived to commence the first building which was completed in June 1930 and consisted of six rooms. Rev. Father V. Wanninger S.C.J. became the first resident Priest at Umhlanga in July 1930 and at the same time two Dominican Sisters were welcomed to the Mission.

 

Owing  to  ill-health  Rev. Father Wanninger had to leave Umhlanga in October and was replaced by Rev. Father T. Demont, S.C.J.  In 1931 a new school and church were built and on the 6th December His Excellency the late Archbishop B. J. Gijlswijk, OP. visited Umhlanga to consecrate the church.

 

Meanwhile, in November 1931 Rev. Father C Rosenbaum, S.C.J. had come to Umhlanga to be  introduced  to mission work.  In December 1932 the first fruits of  missionary  endeavour could be seen when 70 Natives were baptized, 23 of whom received their first Holy Communion a week later.”

 

(Other documents report: 9 April 1934 the area of Macubeni and Umhlanga, near Indwe, is transferred to Gariep Prefecture, by decree LIBENTI ANIMO. It is called “North Glen Grey”. The document can be found as Doc No 500 in AFRICA PONTIFICIA Vol I, Editioni Dehonianie Roma 1993, by Savino Palermo SCJ.)

 

“In 1934 Rt. Rev. Monsignor Demont planned to start a Mission Hospital in the Macubeni Reserve which joins the Umhlanga Reserve, but all negotiations with the civil authorities were in vain. However, a school was allowed to be opened there in July 1943.

 

1935 saw the completion of the Priest’s house in Umhlanga.  In July 1936 Rev. Father Koelbl was sent to help Father Demont.  Twelve  out-stations could now be opened in the Macubeni Reserve and were  visited weekly.

 

During the war years Rev. Father Lighton was in charge of the two stations Indwe and Umhlanga (because Fr.Koelbl had been interned – Ed.).   He renovated and beautified the Church and added a sacristy.  In 1945 Father KoelbI returned to Umhlanga.  Mean¬while the numbers on the school roll were increasing and the building of a large school hut became a necessity. In March  of  this  year  Father Koelbl received the very welcome news from the Education Department  that  the mission school at  Umhlanga  would henceforth receive government aid. ” (SV, 30)

 

16 July 1947 electric lighting was installed at the Mission, but it was only a 32V system with huge batteries and a generator for recharging.

18 March 1948 the Government Education Department gave grants for the payment of two teachers. This meant it now became a government school.

 

1951 a mini-hostel was built at the Mission, for Catholic children of Gadlume, so that children who attended other schools could no longer be prevented from becoming Catholics by hostile Protestant teachers. They could now board at the Mission and attend the Catholic School.

 

1952  Fr Josef Nachtmann of MISSIO Munich paid a visit. His visit was the start of the work of more than ten Fidei Donum priests who began arriving in the diocese in 1956.

 

1954 the outstation of Mjongile was closed.

 

1954 a church-house was built at the home of Mr James Matyobeni, in the village of Gadlume, at the South side of the mountain range.

 

1955 the government began its policy of abolishing all religious African schools. Since the Catholic Church wanted to retain its schools, in 1955 the process of phasing out government payment of African Church schools began by reducing the payments by 25%  in the year 1955 and similarly each following year.

 

Jan 1956 the 25-Year Jubilee of St.Augustine’s Mission was solemnly celebrated, presided by bishop J.Lueck, preceded by a triduum, preached by Fr Rogsch SAC of Glen Grey.

 

1 Jan 1957  the  Dominican Sisters left Umhlanga.

 

10 Jan 1957 three Sacred  Heart Sisters arrived in Umhlanga, Sr Jerome, SrMichael, and SrAlexia.

 

9 April 1957 Fr F Lobinger arrived as the first Fidei Donum missionary from Regensburg, working as assistant priest and learning the Xhosa language.

 

1957 the number of catechumens suddenly began to increase in Platkop. On 6 July 1958 a  church-house was therefore built in Platkop, in the home of Mr Gazette Tyilana. The number of catechumens steadily grew and in January 1958 Mr Tyilana, together with Mr James Matyobeni of Gadlume, were sent to the newly established catechists training centre in Lumko to be trained as a full-time catechists.  As from that time Platkop became a separate parish. Its priest, Mgr Koelbl, resided most of the time in Platkop, but still had his rooms in St.Augustine’s and frequently stayed there for a few days.

 

June 1958 a catechumen instruction group was  opened in Guba,  served from Platkop.

 

When the catechumens increased in that part of Macubeni, Mgr Koelbl made application for an official church site in Platkop. Such applications had to be considered by a public meeting of all men of the whole of Macubeni. At the meeting the application was fiercely opposed and rejected by the protestant churches who feared the Catholics would become a large Church in this way. The Magistrate did, however, grant the church site in spite of this opposition.

 

19 June 1960 St.Michael’s Church, Platkop, was blessed by bishop J.Lueck.

 

As from 1 January 1958  St.Augustine’s School is a private “unaided”  church school which receives no subsidy at all from the government.

 

4  August 1958 the church-hut in Boomplas was renovated and re-opened, at the residence of the Xwethu family. This church-hut in Boomplaas was the first one of a series of inofficial church buildings in the area. It was a method of establishing a new Catholic community in an area where it was as yet impossible to request an official church site. A church-hut or church-house was a building erected by the priest on the private residential site of a family. Since it was unlawful to build a church on a residential site, such church-houses were regarded not as churches but as residential living rooms even if they were mainly used for church services. During the following years about eight such church-huts or church-houses were built in Umhlanga and Macubeni(Boomplaas, Gadlume-Ndzakam, Gadlume-Matyobeni, Platkop, Mroshweni, Kalkfontein, Guba, Mgwalana). When a congregation had grown to the officially required number of one hundred members, an application was made for an official church site and the former church-house was then used by its owner for his residential purposes.

 

23 August 1958 the church-house in Gadlume was opened, being an addition to the private residence of Mr Stanford Matyobeni. The slowly growing Catholic community was served from St.Augustine’s  by Fr Lobinger.

 

During 1959 a great number of catechumen instruction centres were opened in people’s homes, and a great increase of catechumens took place, adults and youth. Every day of the week catechumenate instructions were given by the two priests at a different place.  This led to a great increase in the number of  baptisms, the peak being over 300 baptisms per year.

 

In September 1959 Mr Bennett Nofemela converted and became a Catholic. While still a catechumen he began working as a catechist.

 

In March 1960, Gadlume house-church, at the private home of Mr.Stanford Matyobeni, had become too small because of the rapid increase of converts and was enlarged by adding a large brick rondavel with a round steel roof.

 

In November 1960 two full-time catechists began working, after having completed their two-year training at Lumko Catechists Training Centre, Mr James Matyobeni of Gadlume and Mr Gazette Tyilana of Platkop. They were part of the very first training course at Lumko, 1959-1960. Each catechist received a remuneration of 10 pounds per month.  The full-time catechists visited the homes and gave catechumen instructions every day, mostly together with the priest.

 

16 July 1961 St.Konrad’s church-house was opened, at the private home of MrTshaba Mngxuma in Kalkfontein.  It was built of mud walls, was  31×19 ft in size and was only used for a few years until a proper church was built a short distance away.

 

In Macubeni the number of Catholics increased rapidly. The twice enlarged house-church at Gadlume again became too small and the need for a permanent, official church became apparent. An application for an official church site was made and considered at a large public hearing of all men of Macubeni. At that meeting the overwhelming majority of the men approved the application. The protestant opposition still existed but was outvoted by the Catholic and pagan men. Soon afterwards Brother Kilian of St.Joseph’s Trade School of Aliwal North began building the new church with the apprentices of the Trade School.

 

15 April 1963 the large St.Joseph’s Church, on Qoboshane hill, Macubeni, was blessed by bishop J.Lueck. Its original plan was two-thirds of its present length, but with three huge steel doors at the rear so that these could be opened on some occasions for the participation of larger numbers. However, in view of the rapid increase of the Catholic community, it was decided at the last moment to make it longer. The two superfluous large steel doors were then built into the church of St.Augustine’s.

 

October 1964 at St.Joseph’s Church, the sanctuary was adapted to the new liturgy. The tabernacle was moved  to the side and the altar now faced the people.

 

August 1964 at St.Augustine’s Church the sanctuary was also adapted to the new liturgy. Instead of having three altars (see photo of 1955 above), each facing the wall, one altar facing the people was constructed and the tabernacle was moved to the side. A baptismal font and a lectern were added.

 

During that time a church-house was blessed in Mroshweni. It was built on a private residential site, owned by Moletsane family, and was served from Platkop. It was a large round brick building with a zinc roof.  A few years later that building was handed back to the owner of the site when in 1971 the big and official church St.Mary’s was completed on the nearby hill.

 

In  March 1966 St.Konrad’s church-house at Kalkfontein was enlarged. Even the enlargement was built by soil-blocks because it was a temporary church on a private residence.

 

Feb 1968 Fr Heinrich Aertker took  over the parish.

 

In January 1970 St.Augustine’s School was again taken over by the government because it was situated in an area of the Transkei which was destined for semi-indepence and later “full independence”. The apartheid laws had forced it to become a private Catholic school and it had continued through private church funds for fifteen years. From now on it no longer was a Catholic school and it followed the trends which became apparent almost everywhere.

 

In November 1971 three classrooms were built for St.Augustine’s government school, near but outside the church site . The priest, Fr Henry Aertker, built the classrooms and was refunded by the government. He did so in order to improve the education of the local youth and also in order to establish good relations with the school authorities.

 

10 April 1971  a large new church and parish centre,  dedicated to St.Mary, was blessed by bishop J.Lueck. It was built on a hill overlooking the whole valley and was served from Platkop, later from Tafile.

 

1971, 10 October,  the large St.Rafael’s Church was blessed by bishop J.Lueck. It was situated near the Nongqubela High School and on Sundays the large church was completely filled with youth and with newly converted adult Catholics. At that time it was not realized that the large church would later prove too big.

 

A very small church-house in Mgwalana was built by Mgr.Koelbl, on a private residence.

During the night 17-18 August the almost completed church St.Konrad in Kalkfontein was damaged by arson, probably out of envy.

16 Dec 1972  the new Church St.Konrad’s in Kalkfontein was opened.

 

St.Augustine’s School moved outside of the church premises during those years. The exact date is not recorded but Fr.Tratz told Bishop Lobinger in 2005 that he remembers that when he took over St.Augustine’s Mission in 1974 one wing of the new school was already built. During the years of his presence, that means after 1974, the second wing was added. It was financed by Mission donations collected by Monsignor Koelbl.

 

1973 Mgr Koelbl built a very small church-rondavel in Guba on a private residence of a Catholic family, directly on the main road through Guba.

 

Christmas 1973  the Sacred Heart Sisters left and Dominican Sisters took over again, sending two African Sisters who engaged in animation work together with the priest.

 

28 Apr 1974 Fr Heinrich Aertker left permanently for Germany.

February 1977 Mgr Koelbl died. As from that time the two parishes of Tafile and Platkop were served by one priest, Fr. W.Tratz, and again formed one parish.

 

Around that time the combined parishes of Tafile and Platkop had their  highest total number of almost 4000 Catholics.

In 1980 the parish of Tafile became the first parish of the diocese where the full-time catechists were phased out.  Fr Tratz invited Fr FLobinger, working now at Lumko,  to Tafile parish to conduct meetings with the people at all church  centres where the pensioning of all catechists was discussed with the people, so that the people themselves could in future conduct all services and church tasks. The people easily understood this idea and welcomed the fact that in future they themselves would conduct Sunday services, funerals and catechesis. They welcomed the fact that they themselves would become more active as the employed catechists would be retired. They were happy with the fact that in future each community would have a group of trained voluntary leaders. There was hardly a dissenting voice in these dialog meetings. All people were involved in this decision. Therefore, in Tafile parish, the change-over from an approach of a providing Church to an involvement of all people, proceded smoothly.

 

The first installation of three voluntary lay leaders, wearing a liturgical garb, was conducted by Fr Tratz at St.Augustine’s in 1980 (shown in a photo above under the heading of year 1992). This marked the beginning of a movement in the whole diocese towards self-reliant, self-ministering communities.

 

During the Eighties a socio-economic change took place. People ceased  ploughing their fields. They say it was because there was no rain, but the deeper reason was probably that their minds were by now completely directed towards the cities. From there they received practically all their income while practically nothing was now obtained through agriculture. This trend had been slowly developing over many years but it was quite visible now because it led to a different landscape where one sees hardly any field ploughed. The contours of the fields are still vaguely visible but none is ploughed. The so-called “homeland” had now lost its agricultural appearance. This was a marked difference to the 50s when most people ploughed with a span of six to ten oxen, to the 60s when people bought tractors, and the 70s when the government introduced a government ploughing scheme. In the 50s one could see many threshing places where the people were threshing wheat with sticks. In the 60s the parish priest F.Lobinger had bought a threshing machine so that the many people who grew wheat could thresh themselves and did not have to call the white farmers to come with their threshing machines. The parish prist also bought a filling station, set up in the village of Etyeni and operated by one of the Catholics, in order to refuel the many tractors of the people.

 

1997 the church-house in Guba, called “St.Theresa”, was abandoned and demolished. The owners of the site wanted to use the site for their own purposes and since the congregation had dwindled to a handful people, the building was no longer needed. There was no indication that the congregation could grow again in numbers. The matter was discussed with the few Catholics and it was felt it was better to demolish the building than to hand it to the owner of the site.

 

1997-8 many Catholics got estranged from the Church and joined sects such as the many small Zionist groups, uMoya churches, Healing-churches. For example, in Gadlume there were now two Zionist groups, in Helushe another two. The same development was noted in other Catholic parishes. It was a phenomenon taking place in the whole country and in the older protestant churches it caused even more numerous defections.

 

This development was also noted in Church attendance figures which now became considerably lower than in previous years. The number of trained leaders became higher, the financial contributions also  increased, but the attendance figures became lower.

 

After careful house visiting and checking, the overall number of Catholics in Tafile parish was now estimated between 2000 and 2500, down from the official 3900.

 

In January 1999 the parish was for the first time served by an African priest, Fr Joseph Kizito, born in Kampala, Uganda. His arrival brought much hope and much revival. The annual Youth Day of 16 June was celebrated by two hundred teenagers and older youth at St.Mary’s, from the eight communities and from Indwe. It was a number not seen for many years.

 

On 30 June 99 the news arrived that the Dominican Sisters would be finally withdrawn from the parish because the Congregation no longer had Sisters to send. The two Sisters left at the end of the year. The bishop convened a special parish council meeting at St.Mary’s where the councillors heard the sad news. They all expressed their sadness that the seventy years of the presence of Sisters in the parish were coming to an end. They were, however, convinced that parish life and the training of leaders would continue. They were prepared to form small training teams which, together with the priest, would conduct the training and planning.

 

As from January 2000 Fr Deogratias Ssengendo joins Fr Kizito as co-pastor of the parish, assuming responsibility for four of its eight communities.

 

9 December 2000 the new church at Mgwalana is blessed. It is dedicated to St.Gabriel and bears the name “SITHUNYIWE” in large letters on its outside walls. A commemorative plaque at the entrance shows its history and expresses thanks to the builder, Fr Franz Aertker of Indwe. The ceremony of blessing is partly conducted in a large tent next to the church because it would have been too small for the crowd of about two hundred. The history of the building is not very easy. Around 1991 the family that owned the site informed the congregation of Mgwalana that they have to move out of the private house which Fr Koelbl had built in 1971 as a house-church with a concrete altar, on two raised steps and a small sacristy and store room. When the congregation approached their priest with the wish for a proper site and church, they were not willing to collect money for it. The bishop told them during several years at the time of Community Week that he would only take steps after they had started collecting themselves. This did not happen until Fr J Kizito took over the parish in 1999 and from then on the congregation became very active, collected funds and helped actively in building.

 

During these years several groups of priests and sisters who newly arrived in the diocese from Lesotho, Uganda and Congo are staying for a few months at the Mission in order to learn Xhosa. It is the most suitable place for learning the language.

 

Priests who served the Parish of Tafile:

  • 30 –  Otto Waninger SCJ
  • 30 – 38 Theodor Demont  SCJ
  • 32 -34 Michael Hahn  SCJ
  • 33 – Cornelius Rosenbaum SCJ
  • 35 – 40
  • 45 – 77 Michael Koelbl, until outbreak of war
  • Michael Koelbl after released fr internment
  • 39 – 40 – Selle SCJ
  • 40 – 45 Thomas Lighton
  • 57 – 68 Friedrich Lobinger
  • 68 – 74 Heinrich Aertker
  • 74 – 90 W Tratz
  • 90 – 98 Paul Koszielny SCJ
  • 99 – 2003 Joe Kizito
  • 2000 Joe Kizito with Deo Ssengendo
  • 2003 Deo Ssengendo with Charles Matumbwe
  • 2005 Charles Matumbwe (f 4 months w William Ketso)
  • 2005- Paul Musafiri with Boniface Kasale