Lady Grey

The chronicle of Barkly East contains this passage: “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.”

For many following years Lady Grey Catholics were served from Aliwal. The Catholic Church had a site in the vicinity of the town where Church services were held and where School was conducted for African Children.

Around 1961-62 the government made great efforts to enforce apartheid everywhere and there was strong protest from the municipality against the Catholic School breaking the apartheid laws because black children were attending school on white land. The municipality insisted that the School for African children be closed or moved to another place. A small primitive building in the black township was therefore used as a Catholic school and for Church services.

Around 1968 the Apartheid government evicted thousands of black people from farms and from other areas. In order to dispose of them in an inexpensive and quick way it built many primitive resettlement schemes in a hurried way. Two such camps were built in this area, one next to Herschel village, about a kilometer below the main road and still existing thirty years later, the other in Lady Grey. Hundreds of incredibly small corrugated iron shacks were quickly erected next to Lady Grey by the government. Each “house” consisted of one single room of not more than about three by four meter. The rows of tiny tin sheds were a shocking sight.

When Fr.Anthony Austin began to reside in Herschel, as from 1972, the Catholic community was served from there.

The diocese did not have a proper church building in Lady Grey. Some sources say that the diocese at that time intended to build a proper church but was told this was only a temporary site and the Church could therefore not build a permanent church at this place.

The diocese therefore built a corrugated iron Church among the rows of tiny iron sheds. It was larger than the tiny sheds but looked exactly the same, not only the roof but also the walls were or corrugated iron sheets. The site was registered as erf 1048.

The departure of Fr Anthony resulted in a period of uncertainty for the Catholics of Lady Grey, from 1987 to 1995. They were for some years served by the priest stationed in Barkly, then by different priests residing in Aliwal. At that time plans were made to erect a proper church building in the township which had also become too small by now.

As from October 95, the whole area of Barkly, Lady Grey and Herschel was permanently included in the parish of Sterkspruit from where a team of three priests and three animation sisters serve the whole large area.

On 1 March 1997 the Catholics of Lady Grey experienced the great joy of the blesssing of their new, wonderfully designed church. The design of the church includes a courtyard where people can assemble and can conduct their feasts. The liturgy of blessing the church was carefully designed to express the faith feeling of the African congregation and was an attempt at inculturation. In the opening phase of the ceremony, while the faithful were assembled outside the courtyard of the new building, the oldest men of the congregation called on each of the Small Christian Communities, one by one, and invited them to “bring along” their deceased members. Two representatives of each Small Christian Community then stepped forward and with a loud voice called on their deceased members who had worshipped with them in the old iron church. They asked them to be with them in the new church and, as sign of unity with them, they poured some beer on the ground, placed some tobacco and some snuff on the ground, and then said a prayer for them.

All further developments of the community are recorded in the section on Sterkspruit.

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