Indwe almost became what Mariannhill is today.

During the year 1876, almost twenty years before there was any settlement at the place where Indwe is today, the bishop of Grahamstown-PortElizabeth came to this area with the intention to establish a Trappist Monastery. If this had succeeded, the church map of this whole area would have turned out quite differently. The details about that attempt, collected by Father Franz Aertker, can be found in the special chronicle of Indwe Parish, in this computer(“Chronicle of Indwe Parish”).


Early history of Indwe town

lndwe was the fourth town after Johannesburg, CapeTown and Kimberley which had Electricity. The “Indwe Railway Collieries and Land Company” was formed in Kimberley in late 1894. De Beers played a big part in it. The railway line was completed in March 1896. By 1899 the mine produced well over 100 000 tons of coal a year. By 1917 the coal mine closed down because meanwhile better coal had been discovered in the Transvaal.


How the Church started in Indwe

In 1914 bishop McSherry of Port Elizabeth bought the “GOOD WILL LODGE OF GOOD TEMPLARS NO 92” to be used as the Catholic church in Indwe. It remained the Catholic church of the town until 1991 when it became the church hall.


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

“In October 1927 Rev. Father Hille¬kamp, S.C.J. was appointed to be the first resident Priest at lndwe.

A small church for the European congregation had already been  built there and in 1928 a Native school for about 40 children was started in the Location.

In 1929 a seminary for the training of students for the Priesthood was opened and two students began their course of studies there.  This seminary, however, was later transferred to Aliwal North.

Meanwhile a house in town had been bought and accommodation arranged for three Sisters.  In July 1929 three Dominican Sisters from Kingwilliams¬town arrived to take over the school in the Location and a Coloured school in town.

The following years show a steady growth in the Mission so that both the school and church in the Location had to be enlarged.  The present school accommodates 120 children.”  (SV, 32)


When the first priest arrived in Indwe in 1927 he resided in a small room next to the old church in Xalanga street. In 1928 a Syrian family close to the Cahi family donated their house near the Railway station, the second house below the station, to the Catholic Church. One room of the  house served as school for the coloured children. The Sisters resided there until 1952 when the new two-storey convent was built.


1936 the church in the township was built, and in 1937 a schoolroom was added. In 1949 Fr Hahn added two classrooms, one on each side of the sanctuary of the church.


1952 the double storey convent was built in the town. 1954 the Dominican Sisters left Indwe and in 1955 the Holy Cross Sisters took over, residing in the newly built two-storey convent, and establishing a boarding school for European girls in that house. The house near the railway station then became the priest’s residence.


In 1957 Fr Oswald Hirmer took over the parish. He began immediately, in 1958, to establish groups of catechumens on several farms, and to build Catholic farm Schools on some farms. The number of Catholics thus increased very fast.


Several farm schools were built, probably in those years:

  • 1958 Featherstone farm school, closed around 1980
  • 1961 Neil Hillhose farm school
  • 1961 Onverwacht farm school,   closed in 1997
  • 1962 Tinki, Willows farmschool, St.Mary’s, closed 1995
  • 1963 Chase farm school St.Andrew’s, opened 28 April 1963
  • 1963 Post Catherine(Donald Hillhouse)  closed around 1997
  • 1964 Hillview farm school (Archibald Hillhouse) closed around 1980
  • 1965 St. Anna in Washbank, discontinued around 1985
  • 1968 St Anton, on Washington farm, on the asphalt road, no longer used after 1985.

All these farm schools were at first private farm schools where the Church paid the salaries of  teachers, then they became state aided schools, and then became full public schools. A great number of Catholic farm workers found these farm schools a great help for their spiritual and their educational and social advancement. When the government lifted influx control around 1984 many of the farm workers moved into the towns and the farm schools and farm churches became less important and were almost all closed down.

May 1960 a creche was built in the township.


1960 the double storey convent was rented out to a Catholic family (Sahd) and the sisters again moved up to the house below the station where the priest had been living for several years, while the priest again moved down to the rooms behind the church.


1960-1963 regular re-training sessions of the employed Catechists were introduced, alternating between Indwe and Tafile. The three parishes of Indwe, Tafile and Platkop conducted these monthly re-training meetings for all employed catechists in order to improve their ability to give formation to the many hundreds of adult catechumens. The re-training sessions were  conducted alternatingly by Frs  O Hirmer and F Lobinger. This re-training of catechists led to the need to have a catechism for adults.


1962 Fr O Hirmer wrote the adult catechism “Africa’s Way to Life”. In order to ensure that the book will include the most recent catechetic insights Fr Hirmer took part in catechetic meetings in Uganda and Germany and also convened meetings of missionaries of neighbouring dioceses. This led especially to the writing of the section of an “African Background” for each catechetic lesson which proved to be the most important new feature of this revolutionary adult catechism. -The book is  translated into several South African languages and also into several languages of other African countries.


1962-1970 the “Indwe Pastoral Study Group” was formed. It consisted actually only of Fr O Hirmer and Fr F Lobinger, but became the convenor of several meetings where inculturation was discussed between missionaries of neighbouring dioceses. It eventually led to the formation of the Pastoral Conference of the Xhosa Region in 1974.


6 March 1966,  a large Celebration of the Conclusion of the Second Vatican Council was held for the parishes of the whole area, to which 2500 Catholics came to celebrate the success of the Vatican II Council in Rome. The celebration was held on the slopes of the mountain, near the township. A huge crowd came by special train from Dordrecht and Tafile. Bishop Lueck addressed the crowd and large posters highlighted the main points of Vatican II.


1966-68 African liturgical tunes were  composed and published.  The Pastoral Study Group undertook a study of African liturgical tunes in other parts of the country. An African composer was employed, Mr B K Tyamzashe. He resided at Tafile and during several months composed liturgical tunes for the newly introduced vernacular liturgy.  The Study Group convened a large study conference on African Music in Lumko, where Mr Tyamzashe presented his compositions to other dioceses, with the help of professors from Grahamstown University, Professors Gruber and Kirby. These tunes became widely used and they inspired the composition of African liturgical tunes in many parts of the country.


1965-1970 Indwe became the production centre for a slide-and-tape catechetical series, the “Vita Series”.  During the years 1965-1968 the texts and photos of the 25 catechetical slide-and-tape series were produced by Fr O Hirmer and Fr F Lobinger,  were tested in several African countries and were translated into seven languages. The series was produced together with SONOLUX of MISSIO Muenchen. First five test themes were produced and tested, then 25 themes were produced in great quantities.

A sound studio with a recording room, with several sophisticated tape recorders and mixing facilities was constructed in the former living quarters of the priest, next to the old church, where the 25 themes of the VITA texts were recorded in English, Xhosa, Sotho, Tswana, Afrikaans. From Indwe these tapes and the slides were sold to parishes of the whole country. The photo shows the studio recordings of the Tswana team at Indwe studio.


The Vita Series was also published in the form of large wall pictures. The wall pictures were printed by Herder in Germany in large numbers, five topics, and were sold throughout the country.


The wall pictures were intended for catechumen groups and for deepening of the faith among the baptized adults. The wall posters made it easier to draw a group of catechumens into a discussion.


This experimentation with group-reflection processes was the basis of the development – several years later – of gospel sharing, of training in groups, and of other group-processes which O Hirmer and F Lobinger produced when at Lumko Institute.


In 1967 the house opposite the church, in Xalanga Street, was bought and became the convent, while the double storey house was rented to a Catholic family (Sahd). That convent house of Xalanga Street is sold again in 1996.


1 March 1968 Fr Franz Aertker arrived and the following year took over Indwe parish. His twin brother Heinrich took over Tafile parish.

In 1971Ndonga, a large part of Indwe parish towards Lady Frere, became part of Transkei “homeland”. It had been white farmland but the government now bought all farms of that area in order to enlarge the homelands. Thousands of Xhosa people moved in from the Transkei and pastoral work of Indwe parish now for the first time included work in a homeland area.


1973 a sewing centre was opened in Indwe. 1977 a house was bought for the sewing centre, next to the church in Xalanga street. At its peak time the sewing centre gave work to about 25 women, half of whom doing their work at home.


Catechetic camps were often held for the children, especially those from the farms, to prepare them for baptism and  communion. For example,  in March 1976 a catechetic camp for 125 children was held at Platkop Mission.


As from January 1976 the government was gradually taking over the Catholic School in the township. The first two teachers received government salary in January and gradually more followed, until by 1978 the whole school was again a state-aided Catholic School. This ended the many years when the Church had to run the school as a private school without any subsidy. The government then renamed the School “Luzuko School” and it was then integrated into the government school. The fire which destroyed the buildings of church and school in 1983 ended the existence of the school.


1980 Fr Allo Rehwinkel SCJ died.  He had come to Indwe around 1967 and kept company with Fr Franz for many years, doing also some pastoral work in the parish.


6 April 1983 St.Francis church was blessed in Ndonga. There were  now three church centres in Ndonga area and StFrancis was the main centre for the whole Ndonga area.


8 November 1983 St.Catherine’s church in Indwe township was destroyed by fire. It was probably the work of somebody who was envious of the good work the Catholic school was  doing. The church had consisted of four wings by that time, three of which were used as classrooms during the week. The photo is taken from the main nave of the church. It shows the altar and behind it the ruins of the biggest classroom which had a round window at the opposite side.


6 April 1987 the re-built, large new Church in the township was blessed by bishop F.Lobinger.


28 October 1989 serious clashes erupted between the police and the youth who hated those who collaborated with the apartheid government. Four young people were shot dead by the police. For hours the police drove with their vehicles through the narrow streets of the township and shot at any youth they could see in the streets. Hundreds of rounds were fired at the youth, resulting in the four deaths.

2 November a huge Memorial Service for the all victims of that police brutality was held in the Catholic township Church, for all denominations. The bishop presided and preached. It was a most emotional service for all African people of Indwe in the packed Catholic church of the township.


5 Novemver 1989,  a large political funeral of Fumanekile Jacobs was held in the Catholic church. He had been killed by police in front of the Catholic Church, in connection with the above uprising.


2 January 1990 Fr Franz led a huge protest march through the streets of Indwe.


In June 1991 the parish buys the Dopper Church in the main road of the town of Indwe. The Dopper community no longer had a sufficient number of members and wanted to sell their building. This building now became the Catholic parish church while the former church became a parish hall and all Regional Meetings of the neighbouring parishes were conducted there. On 10 July the first Holy Mass was celebrated in the newly acquired church.


After Easter 1994 a small church was built in Jango (Guba), below the Indwe dam, for the newly emerging village which the government was establishing in that area below the dam wall, along the road to Macubeni.


18 Novembr 1994 the house next to the Church in the main street, Voortrekker Street 45,  was bought and renovated. There was a vague plan that after some years there might again be a community of Sisters in Indwe and this might be a possible residence for them.

In July 1996 the former convent in Xalanga Street, opposite the former church, was sold.


1 April 1998 the sewing centre closed. The house of the sewing centre was changed to become a residence for pastoral courses. Sleeping facilities for up to twenty people were  installed.


1999 Systematic Training of leaders is started and is continued the next years. Here is an example of the systematic, planned training:

  • 2001, New, larger church in the form of an octogone is built in Jango, Guba.  Building operations begin in May. The plans of Lady Grey are copied. Christmas 2001: First Hl. Mass in new church in Jango, Guba.  End of 2001: School at “Washington” closed
  • 2002, End of first quarter: School at Van Niekerk closed.  6.4.2002: blessing of new church in Guba by Bishop F.Lobinger; 10.4.2002: School at Thornhill closed (by owners)
  • 2003, “Old Convent” near station sold to Mrs Ngqiza.  End of Oktober the school at St.Mary’s is shifted into the old farmhouse of Mr. Hartley. Only few children. Later combined with new school in Guba. 16.Mai 2003: prepaid elect.meter boxes
  • 2004, The house in Station Street.  Erf 204, is sold to Mrs Ndabula.

Priests serving Indwe Parish:

  • 1928 – 30 Joseph Hillekamp SCJ   in 1930 Theodor Demont SCJ, 1932 Fr M Hahn SCJ
  • 33 – 37 Cornelius Rosenbaum SCJ
  • 38 – 40 Joseph Rittmeyer SCJ     1940-42 Patrick Meyer  SCJ
  • 41 – 46 Michael Koelbl
  • 46 – 48 Peter Baur  SCJ
  • 48 – 51 Michael Hahn  SCJ
  • 51 – 58 Xavier Bea  SCJ
  • 58 – 68 Oswald Hirmer
  • 61 – 71 O.H. with Adalbert Rehwinkel  SCJ
  • 68 – 69 O.H. with R. Recker SCJ
  • 69 –  Franz Aetker