Barkly East

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

“The town of Barkly East, named after Sir Henry Barkly, Governor of the Cape of Good Hope, saw its official commence¬ment on the 14th December,  1874. Within 35 years of  this  date  five churches had been erected  by  the various denominations, a fact which testifies to the religious spirit of its early citizens.

The Catholic church was the last to be erected.  The project was placed in the hands of a Building Committee which consisted of Messrs. E. H. Hagan, J.B. Murray and J. A. Kelly, and the Contractor was Mr. A. D. Milton.  The church was erected free of debt at the approximate cost of £ 900. The Catholic Congregation of Barkly East, of which the Murray family numbered more than half, had collected this amount amongst themselves and their generous friends in town and district. Rt. Rev. Monsignor ¬Kelly of East London, assisted by Rev. Father Freese,  P. P.  of Queenstown, officiated at the solemn blessing of the new  church  on  Whitsunday  1909, celebrated the first High Mass at Barkly East and dedicated the new church to the Holy Family.

Up to the year 1923 Barkly East was part of the Eastern, now Port Elizabeth, Vicariate, and the Priests from Queenstown paid quarterly visits to the Catholic community.  When in 1923 the Gariep Prefecture, now Aliwal Vicariate, was established and entrusted to the Priests of the Sacred Heart, Barkly East was served  from Aliwal.   Rev. Fathers Schultz, Beirle, Hillekamp, Wamhof and Baur succeeded one another as visiting Priests to the European and Native Catholics of the town and district.

In October 1938 Rev. Father Baur was appointed first resident Priest to Barkly East and was welcomed to “Erin Cottage,” the home of Mr. and Mrs.J.B. Murray.  Two Sisters of the Holy Cross Congregation came to start a dispensary for the Natives  and  to conduct a commercial school for Euro¬pean girls.  They occupied the two rooms which formed the sacristy of the church and Mr. and Mrs. J. B. Murray very kindly placed one of their rooms at the disposal of the Sisters for the commercial classes.

During Easter week 1941 the Sisters moved into a house in Brownlee Street which had been willed to the Church by the late Mrs. Cotterel in the time of the late Rt. Rev. Bishop H. MacSherry, and which had now become vacant. On the death of Mrs. J. B. Murray on the 23rd September 1947, “Erin Cottage” became the Catholic Presbytery and, thanks also to her generosity, the Sisters were bequeathed a house in de Smidt Street which had formed part of her property.  The Sisters moved into this on the 8th November 1947.

About 1936 the Town Council of Barkly East under Dr. A. R. A. Wilhelm as Mayor approached Rt. Rev. Bishop Demont with the suggestion that he undertake the erection and staffing of a small  hospital  and  school  for  the natives at the Location. Bishop Demont regretfully found it impossible at the time to do so owing to the lack of staff for both projects.  However, in 1937 a mission site was acquired at the Location and the transfer of the property finally effected in February 1939.

For the purpose of erecting a Church-school for the Catholic Native community an application for a building permit was made in 1946 by Rev. Father H. Harmeyer, S.C.J. who had been  appointed  to  Barkly  East in January of that year. The permit having been granted by the Government on the 9th November and approved by the Town Council on the 26th of the same month, building operations were at once commenced by the Contractor, Mr. H. Q Dorn.  On the 15th June, 1947, Rt.  Rev.  Bishop  J.  Lueck, S.C.J., assisted by Rev. Fathers Holzenkamp and Baur, blessed the new Mission, dedicating it to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to Our Lady of Fatima.  Rev. Father B. Sahr, who had given a course of instructions to the Natives previous to the opening, was the preacher on the occasion. The Mission was erected free of debt and stands as a monument to the generosity of the late Mrs. J. B. Murray.

On  the  14th July  1947 Fatima Mission school was opened.  Thirty-seven pupils were enrolled the first day and the number soon increased to 60. The teaching Staff is composed of Catholic Natives.  Permission to parti¬cipate  in  the  Government Feeding Scheme for Schools was granted in November.

As well as having charge of the congregations  of  the  Holy Family Church and Fatima Mission, the resident Priest at Barkly East has Lady Grey town and district under his care also. Previous  to  the  appointment  of  a resident Priest at Barkly East, Lady Grey was visited by the Priest from Teresa’s Mission, Herschel,  and  by travelling Priests.  In February 1937 the Vicariate acquired part of the farm, Waaihoek, at Lady Grey, which property adjoins the Location.  In the kitchen of the dilapidated farmhouse, which is let to a Native, the monthly services were conducted for a number of years until, through the generosity of South African benefactors,  a  small chapel could be erected.  On Saturday the  13th December 1947 this was dedicated to St. Bernard, the great lover of Our Lady.  Since then another room has been added to accommodate a Catechist.

It is with deep gratitude to God that the Missionary Staff of Barkly East see the development of the Mission.  They pray that God may be the reward of their many benefactors who by their prayers and generous help have been instrumental in bringing many souls into the one fold of the Saviour.”  (SV, 28-29)

15 June 1947 the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Barkly East township is blessed by bishop J.Lueck.

During the same year 1947 a School for African children is opened in Barkly East township and by October the attendance is between 70 and 80. (Ann.Stat.1948)

February 1955 the priest moves from the old house in V….street to the new house in Jameson Street (handwritten chronicle).

October 1971 the Holy Cross Sisters leave Barkly East. The school for whites in town is closed.

During the  time of  Fr Edwin Rombach, 1985-91 much pastoral progress is made. Small Christian Communities are introduced and many local leaders are trained. Community Week is introduced.

When Fr Edwin Rombach leaves Barkly in 1991 he cannot be replaced by another resident priest and from that time on there is no longer a resident priest in Barkly East. From 1992 until September 1995 the parish is served from Aliwal by visiting priests, then it is permanently attached to the parish team of Sterkspruit.

9 September 1995 all Barkly-LadyGrey-Herschel communities are joined to Sterkspruit parish. A circular letter informed all  communities of the Lady Grey and Herschel area of this permanent change.

As from October 1995 one of the priests of Sterkspruit stays at the presbytery in Barkly East every second weekend, from Friday to Sunday, and the animation team of Sisters residing in Sterkspruit also visit Barkly East.

4 March 2000 a beautiful new church in Barkly East township is solemnly blessed. It is larger than the old one and is more suitable for liturgy than the old one which was very narrow. It is  built next to the old church which now becomes the parish hall. The two buildings are connected through a wide arch which also serves as bell tower and in this way the old and the new buildings form one unit.

Priests serving Barkly East Parish:

  • 1909 – 1938 ..  visiting priests… from Queenstown, then from Aliwal
  • 1938 Baur – 52  residing in Barkly, and there is a Holy Cross Convent there
  • 46 Harmeyer – 49
  • 49 Holzenkamp – 50
  • 50 Rosenbaum  Sept 50 – Nov 53
  • 53 Hahn – Nov 58
  • 58 Bea –  May 60
  • 60 Braun – May 64   ………. during the 70s the Holy Cross Convent is closed
  • 64 Harmeyer – 75   …  ? ..?
  • 80 Ofenloch -81
  • .. Lemahieu – Apr 83
  • 83 Ofenloch Apr 83 – Oct 85
  • 85 Rombach -91  (residing in Barkly East. He then returned to Germany)
  • 91 Ciemiega -95 Feb (residing in Aliwal, but staying in Barkly f.some weekends)
  • 95 Feb-Oct, Fr.Benno Hansel, residing in Aliwal.
  • 95 Oct, Michael Wuestenberg, residing in Sterkspruit.
  • 2004 Joseph Kizito, residing in Sterkspruit

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