On February 27 the Catholics of Kokstad took to the streets to celebrate the 85 years of their cathedral church. Accompanied by drum majorettes, floats representing spiritual themes, choirs, drama groups and a great concourse of singing flagbearers and public the Catholics of Kokstad gave thanks to God for His presence among them for so many years.
Following the procession through the town people listened to a short history
of the Cathedral and greetings from dignitaries of Church and State. On Sunday a great crowd from Bhongweni and the town came to give thanks and praise to God. Each day 1400 and guests were treated to lunch supplied by the generous congregation of St Patricks. This was a great community effort by the whole community led by the parish priest, Fr Joseph Methanath.
The Bishop of Kokstad, William Slattery was accompanied by Cardinal Napier of Durban, a native of Kokstad, by Archbishop Green, the Pope’s Ambassador to Southern African countries, Bishop Stan Dziuba of Umzimkhulu, Bishop Xolelo Kumalo of Eshowe and by His Worship the mayor, Councilor Sithole and the National Minister of Public Works, Mr Geoff Doidge and many digniteries for the two day celebration.
The First Catholic Church in Kokstad was opened on this spot in September 1884. This first chapel was constructed by soldiers of the Cape Mounted Rifles. With the chapel began a little school and a resident priest, Fr Howlett, came to reside in Kokstad.
Four years later in 1888 a small group of Holy Cross Sisters made the three week journey from Umtata to establish a school. The leader was Sister Philothea Kruger a young woman of faith who left her home to serve the Lord in South Africa. With the help of the good people of Kokstad St Patrick’s school under these Sisters was to serve the people of Kokstad for 107 years. The tradition and name of the school is now proudly borne by the new school of St Patrick.
In 1924 the sisters felt that this great town of Kokstad needed a better and more ample church and so they financed the building of the present cathedral which is a true landmark in the town.
In 1935 a Church was built in Bhongweni which was replaced by a magnificent new structure in 2003. Twelve outstations in the surrounding district grew out of these beginnings including Pakkies, Goxe, Tigervlei, the Pink Church, Gogela, Brooksnek, Ngqumareni etc. Now a fine new church is planned for Shayamoya. The Irish Franciscans staffed these churches between 1935 and 2000.
We call a church “a House of God”. We do so because it is a place where we gather in the name of Jesus to pray and to hear God’s SavingWord. It is a home for God’s family.
It is here that the Catholics of Kokstad have gathered to make holy the great moments of human life, the birth of our children, the marriage of our young people, and to say goodbye to those who depart this life. We remember that God has always rejoiced to be with his people. The Ark of the Covenant accompanied Israel in the desert and God was pleased with the temple of David and Solomon in Jerusalem. In Jesus God made his tent amongst us and He is present when we gather in this Church in His name.
“This Church in Kokstad unites our people with God and with each other. It reminds us of our common origin, we belong together in God. Here we celebrate our belonging to God’, said Bishop Slattery
This church reminds us that God is present among us. It is also a challenge to the people of Kokstad to build on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ. The twin towers of this Church point to Heaven, they invite us to begin all our initiatives in Jesus Christ.
The Catholic Church has served the people of Kokstad for 126 years and will accompany the town into the future. The church will work that all people of good will and with the municipality and the whole community of Kokstad. Politics alone, money alone will never be adequate to create a human- friendly future, we need spirit -filled hearts, we need community and honesty, truth, charity, mercy and forgiveness, respect and moral lives. And for this we need God.