Herschel

The whole magisterial district was called “Herschel” but for many years Herschel village itself only consisted of a few administration buildings along the main road. It was probably envisaged that Herschel village should grow into the administrative centre of the area but this role later fell to Sterkspruit.

 

The diocese considered Herschel village an outstation served  from Umlamli, where the large hospital was situated and where two priests resided. At that time Sterkspruit was still a tiny settlement with only a few buildings and was not yet considered the main centre of the area.

 

In the 1940s a Catholic School St.Mary’s was built in Herschel village, consisting of three classrooms, below and adjacent to the main road, opposite the bus stop.  That Catholic school continued even during the difficult times when most other Catholic schools were closed,  until around 1980 when the government again paid the teachers. The school was then integrated into the government school and the building was rented to the government as a clinic, still under the name of “St.Mary’s”.

 

9 April 1961 St.Catherine’s Church in Hlomendlini, near Herschel, was blessed by bishop J.Lueck. This building on the hill side was later sold to the Methodist church and exchanged for a new site lower down near the main road, where a new church was built around 1985 or 1986.

 

In 1972 it was felt that Fr.Anthony Austin should reside in Herschel and the area should become a separate parish, serving the village of Sterkspruit with its two churches Mokhesi and Tapoleng, serving Jozana with its small church, serving KwaMei which already had its church and which lies between Sterkspruit and Herschel, serving the villages around Herschel and also the town and township of Lady Grey.

 

Around 1975 the church of Mokhesi is built. Mokhesi is technically a rural village near Sterkspruit but is in fact more the township of Sterkspruit. As the place of Sterkspruit gradually grows from a few shops into a town, the adjacent villages of Mokhesi and Tapoleng take on the nature of a township.

 

At Jozana the priest bought a private house and furnished it as a church building.

 

Also around 1975 the church of Tapoleng was built, on the outskirts of Sterkspruit, opposite Mokhesi.

 

In Herschel village a large church and hall were built in 1978. The hall is attached to the church in the form of an “L” so that it becomes one large room when the sliding doors are opened.

 

1985-6  a small new Church was built in Emvakwentaba, served from Herschel. The solemn blessing and opening was postponed and never took place because the priest left soon afterwards.

 

1985-6  a small new Church was built in Tabakoloi, served from Herschel.

 

In 1987 it was decided not to maintain Herschel as a priest’s residence but rather to serve the area from Barkly East and Aliwal North. The few Catholics of Herschel, however, found it very difficult to accept this decision for many years. Only several years later they accepted the fact that they had to depend on their own local leaders instead of depending on a resident priest.

 

During 1990-1 two Sacred Heart Sisters resided in the parish buildings at Herschel, but not as parish Sisters. They used the buildings to give music lessons. It was a Convent project, not a diocesan project. The sisters were not in charge of the congregation and were not entrusted with pastoral work.

 

After the departure of the resident priest the communities around Herschel were served by the priest residing in Barkly East for some years. When Barkly East no longer had a resident priest, as from 1991, the communities were served for a few years by a priest residing in Aliwal. Then, in September 1995, it was decided that the communities would be served by the new team of three priests and two or three Sisters residing at Sterkspruit. All events after 1995 are therefore recordded in files on Sterkspruit parish.

 

7 Nov 2005 the stone building in the church grounds are solemnly opened as MASABELANE HOSPICE for the treatment of AIDS patients.

 

In 2003 the hospice work and work with home-care-givers had started. A contract was signed for the time the buildings are leased to the hospice until the building is returned to church use.

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