H i s t o r y of St Francis Church – Tabankulu
1952 – 2000
Situation of Tabankulu and Early History of St Francis’ Church
According to Fr Marcel Dischl in his book, “Transkei for Christ”, Tabankulu is situated at the foot of a “great mountain , which had given the name to the village and the district. Tabankulu is 18 km off the N3 road between Kokstad and Umtata going South. The nearest villages on the N3 are Mt Ayliff to the North and Mt Ayliff to the South.
There are mountains running on both sides of the main road and the side road leading to Tabankulu climbs quite steeply, so the village is not visible from the N3.
Tabankulu was founded in 1894 as the magisterial seat of the district and the few Catholics in the village were served by priests from Kokstad. Fr Gourley paid a visit to Tabankulu in 1907 and noted that although no-one had come to meet me, the people seemed to be very generous towards me.
Later on, Fr Raphael Boehmer (no date mentioned) did a great deal to promote the missions in the area, but although he built a church and a Coloured school at nearby Mt Ayliff he only managed regular visits to Tabankulu and that was all.
In 1928 when Mt Frere had its first resident priest, Tabankulu became one of its outstations.
Tabankulu was by no means neglected and various sisters and priests tried hard to include it in their busy schedules, as is seen when Sr Elfreda made all 11-hour walk to visit the people at Tabankulu, and Fr Storch a 9-hour walk to do the same.
When the German Franciscans came to the Kokstad area in 1935, they regarded it as a priority to build a church and provide a resident priest at Tabankulu and in 1939 Fr.Gerard Maier was stationed there. World War II however, intervened, and Fr Maier was interned, so priests from Kokstad had to fill the breach. After the War, Fr Guido Nuernberger was the resident priest from 1948-1950, being the last of the German Franciscans. He was followed by the much-loved Fr Columbanus Timmons.
When Fr Matthias McSweeney arrived on the 30th December 1950, there was only one building on the mission property, the school-room which was also used as a church and presbytery.
The site on which the mission building was erected was donated by MESSRS MUIR and MONCUR. The Moncur family was very involved with the church until their departure from Tabankulu in 1989.
ii. Fresh Start Made by Irish Franciscans – 1952
On January 15th 1951, Bishop McBride and Father Superior made an official visitation of the mission station. Later that year the Bishop came again, accompanied by Fr Urban and Archbishop Lucas, the Papal delegate.
Building of the New Church and Presbytery, 1951.
About mid-year Fr Antonine Relly, the Vicar-General and a controctor, Mr Goudle, came to mark out the site of a new church and presbytery. The same year (exact date unknown) brick-making began and towards the end of 1951, work started on the foundations of the church. Tabankulu was established as a parish and Fr Matthias McSweeney became its first parish priest. By 19th February 1952 the church and presbytery were complete.
Opening of New Church at Tabankulu, 27th July 1952
This was a most important day for the Catholics in Tabankulu when their long-awaited church was opened. Fr Edward was the celebrant, assisted by Frs Columban and Wilfred, with Fr Bruno Byrne being the Master of Ceremonies. Later they enjoyed an excellent lunch at the Hotel.
Fr Procincial, Hubert Quinn OFM came on visitation to Tabankulu on 19th of October 1952.
Bros Philip & Juniper Install the Electric Plant
In November the Brothers installed the plant and wired the church, house and parish hall which had originally been the old church. At Christmas electric light was used at Midnight Mass’ a triuimphant milestone at the mission.
The same month Bishop McBride came and arranged that the HOLY CROSS SISTERS, who were to staff the new Coloured school would occupy the new Presbytery until their convent was built. In the meanwhile Fr McSweeney returned to his old quarters .
April – Fr Matthias erected the new set of the Stations of the Cross. Later that month he went to Aliwal North to fetch the altar confessional for the Church .
May – A big crucifix was placed over the altar.
June – The Kokstad sisters gave a piano for the Parish hall.
September – The organ (originally from the Matatiele church) arrived.
August First Holy Communion: The first group of Coloured children received Communion.
May – A verandah and two store rooms were added to the back of the Presbytery.
June – A wooden floor was put in the old presbytery.
August – A stage was built in the Parish hall.
November – The Statue of St Francis was erected in the mission grounds.
December – Fr Matthias went overseas on holiday, while Fr Reginald Gunn supplied for him in his absence.
February – The ground was prepared for a lawn.
March – New pillars and ga.. Were erected at the main entrance. The same month Fr Matthias returned from Ireland, and a very successful parish mission was held at Tabankulu.
Lent – Bishops’Campaign began and Fr Matthias and Mr HN Holmes collected the pledges.
November – The new bell was hung in the tower and was rung for the first time at midnight Mass.
February – Work began on the grotto and a shingle roof was put on the roof of the bell-tower. The following year Bishop McBride blessed the statue of St Francis, the bell and the grotto.
August – Fr Matthias started evening masses, but soon dicontinued the practice as few people came.
December-The old lighting placed was replaced by a diesel plant by PIENAAR SCOTT of PieterMaritsburg. And was used for the first time for midnight mass on christmas eve.
October – Frs Antonine and Matthias with Mr Carolan of Kokstad chose a site outside the villag for a Catholic TB hospital. Later our application was turned down in favour of the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) which prepares to build a general and TB hospital about 52 km south-west from Tabankulu.
June – Fr Roger Huser arrived here to do his general visitation.
Confirmation and First Communion
Bishop McBride administered these sacraments at St Francis’s church in Tabankulu.
Xhosa Rituals – September
The Xhosa rituals were given to the priests by Bishop McBride at a meeting in Kokstad and permission was granted to administer the Sacraments in the African languages.
Fr Matthias Sweeney Transferred – December
On his return from overseas leave, Fr Matthias was transferred to the Commisariat.
New Resident Priest at Tabankulu
Fr Seraphim Kennedy was appointed resident priest at Tabankulu.
Dr Verwoerd, Prime Minister of South Africa (and architect of Apartheid)
announced his intention to grant “self-government” to the Transkei – an undefined terriory – causing much criticism and a certain panic among White parishioners here. Many are ready to leave their property behind and seek business elsewhere.
Officials everywhere see no place for panic as they imagine this new Bantustan will make no “real” difference to whites for a long time. The Congo and Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) are already conveniently forgotten!
Meeting of all Europeans
At the Phoenix Hotel a mass meeting was held, being sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. This was to help the fact-finding committee financially and in other ways when the means to help Europeans financially and in other ways when the Transkei became independent. Many traders wanted to seek compensation from the Government, as they felt that sooner or later they would have to leave the Transkei.
April : Fr Seraphim left on his overseas leave on the 16th , and a week later his stand-in plaintively remarked that there had been no electricity since the good priest had left Tabankulu. However Bro Juniper soon arrived and rectified the position.
May: Visit of Provincial of Solanus Sisters
The Sister Provincial, accompanied by Sister Superior of the Harding hospital and two from the Mt Ayliff community came to visit the mission and were very impressed.
January Fr seraphim Returns from Ireland.
Immediately on his return he was transferred to Mt Ayliff to replace Fr Canisius Bertsch, who was moved to Zululand.
Fr Columbanus takes his place at Tabankulu
March: Bishop McBride Administers Sacrament of Confirmation
On Easter Sunday the Bishop confirmed over 60 African and Coloured Catholics of the parish after he had celebrated the 10 am Mass
April: Visitation of Fr Celsus O’Briain to Tabankulu
New Signpost: Signpost indicating the Catholic mission was erected on the footpath outside the main gate, with the permission of the local Village Management Board.
New Cook For Priest
Since the departure of the Precious Blood Sisters in 1961, the priest had taken his meals at the Phoenix Hotel, so he was delighted that Mary King was now doing the cooking at the presbytery.
June – Church Fund-Raising
On the 6th June a bazaar and braai (barbeque) were held at the hotel. Also a lecture on China was given as a fund-raising effort and between these efforts, R212.00 was made.
The parish hall was used for Mass while the church was being painted.
August – Bishop McBride Supplies for Fr Columbunis while latter on retreat.
He celebrated the 10 o’clock Mass on Sunday and gave First Holy Communion to the two children on Dr Hart. This was also the first Mass in the church since it had been painted and re-decorated inside and out.
September: Fr Desmond from Wedza, Zimbabwe, spent a few days at Tabankulu and a few days later Fr Matthias, a former parish priest at Tabankulu paid a brief visit.
October : League of St Anna’s
The President and Vice-President of Kokstad branch were invited for a visitation of the local branch, where there would be a week-end retreat and three new ladies received.
November – Vernacular in the Mass
The Vicar General called a meeting in Kokstad to discuss the Vatican Council’s decisions regarding using the veracular during Mass. On the 15th November English and Xhosa were used at the two Sunday Masses for the first time in Tabankulu.
March: Silver Jubilee of Local Catholic Lawyer
Bishop McBride presided at the Mass for Mr Henry Holmes and many people, including several non-Catholics, attended a cocktail party at the presbytery after the Mass.
April: Plans approved by the Bishop and the village Management Board for a new porch to the church.
Farewell for Magistrate
There was a farewell party for Peter Gordon, the local Magistrate, who was leaving for the Transvaal.
May: The priest left for a Priest’ retreat at Melville on the South Coast.
The cost for building a porch on the church was R450 and the work was started by Caldwell contruction.
Bros Conrad and Humilis from Singapore called in on their way to Kokstad.
June: Feast of Corpus Christi : Mass was held in the evening, made memorable by the first fall of snow.
The Tabankulu Primary School for Europeans held their school concert in the parish hall, and was attended by all the European community (no date).
In December, for the first time a Christmas party was held for the Coloured children of the village, organised by the local Catholic priest. Eight Rand was collected and the party was held at the Coloured school.
For the first time Holy Mass was celebrated at Woycieh’s store. Both Rose and John Woycieh, both Catholics, living 40 km.from Tabankulu and 12 km from Sepetu Hospital. (Rose Woycieh, widowed for several years, now lives in Kokstad).
25th February Parish Mission: A parish mission preached by Fr Wilfred Byrne was held in Tabankulu and started on the 25th February.
27th February: Confirmation: Bishop McBride confirmed 62 candidates at Tabankulu.
Fr Hermes Peeters made a visitation to Tabankulu on the 22nd March and Fr Kieran called to take him to Lusikisiki.
9th June: United Service of Prayer for church unity.
This was held at the Catholic at 7pm that eveining, with Bishop McBride presiding. The leaders of the service were Anglican, Methodist, DRC and Catholic. The whole village took part and people of all churches and races filled the church. After the church service, the ladies provided tea and refreshments at the hotel.
Transport For Fr Finbarr
Fr Finbarr bought a horse to help him in visiting the parishiners.
Women of St Anne’s and Legion of Mary
Fr Egbert, accompanied by two sisters and several women made a visitation of these two ladies groups and lost no time getting down to business and utilised all the time available to them. Fr Columbanus returned to Tabankulu from overseas Holiday.
June: Disastrous Hailstorm Hits Village
The storm hit the village in the afternoon, with the hail being the size of gold-balls. At the mission 93 windows were broken in the church, hall and house. A lot of damage was done in the village as well.
An ispector from the Old Mutual insurance company assessed the damages as approximately R700. Another heavy storm with thunder and lightning passed over the Mission in November.
November: Feast of St Columbanus
Bishop McBride and Fr Germaine Mannion came for lunch to celebrate Fr Columbanus’s feast-day.
December: Wedding of Gale Holmes
The Bishop and three priests attendend the wedding of Gale , Henry Holme’s daughter. It was a big wedding, with over 200 guests.
January: Visit of Fr John Kerr
This was no casual visit, he brought a second-hand paraffin refrigerator for the Mission, bought in Port St John’s for R40.
New European doctor took over in Tabankulu.
Fr Columbanus and catechist Andreas Moleko were appointed to take care of hte spiritual welfare of of the prisoners at the local prison.
March: Fr Comumbanus buys a New Car.
He traded in the old Mission car and bought a new Volkswagen . The old car had done a mileage of 37,000.
A new Taternacle made in Pietermaritzburg and donated by the local Catholics was put on the high altar. Then in May a new clock, presented by the Moncurs was put in the church.
May: Faction Fighting
There were two incidents near town, where 8 people were killed, including a Headman.
Grand old man Mr Myburgh was buried in the local cemetery.RIP.
June: Legion of Mary Envoy Starts New Praesidium
Over 20 Africans and 5 Coloures Catholics attended a talk the gave on the Legion. At her suggestion, she started a new praesidium in Tabankulu there and then; subsequently she went through the usual meeting, Rosary,etc and named the praesidium after “Our Lady of Sinners”
August: Fr Severin’s 60th Birthday
Frs Germain and Callistus called in at Tabankulu after celebrating Fr Severin’s birthday at Flagstaff and also Fr Finbarr’s feastday.
December: Christmas Party for Coloured Children
Slides were shown on Christian doctrine.
January: Visitation by Bishop McBride
Fire Gutted Moncurs’ House
Local Catholic and benefactor Mrs Moncur, had her house gutted by fire at midnight, losing everything. We put the family in the empty Convent building. The following day the Bishop and Fr Germain called to sympathise with the Moncur family.
February: Resident Doctor rents priest’s House
The local doctor moved in , paying R40 per month rent: (The Bishop had bought the empty Convent from the Holy Cross sisters and the priest moved in there).
Fr Columbanus has a car accident
That Sunday on his return from Lusikisiki to say goodbye to Fr Kieran, who was leaving for his overseas holiday, the car skidded on the dirt road and overturned on a bend. The car was badly damaged, but fortunately Fr Columbanus escaped injuries, but was badly shaken. The Bishop came two days later to enquire about the accident and his well-being.
I would like to mention at this point a complimentary remark made by Fr Marcel Dischl in his book: Fr Columbanus enlivened the whole diocese with his truly Irish humour and laughter.
March: Contract with Paterson Builders of Umtata
This was to fix up and paint the house iside and out, starting in April. Total cost R1,119 (remembering it was a big building, being the former convent).
April: Visitation of Fr Celsus O’Briain
He came on the 8th and left the following day . I reproduce his official stamp below.
Visit of English Provincial
Bishop McBride brought Fr Urban, the English Provincial and Sup. Reg. Fr Paschal to see Tabankulu misison.
May: New Assistant Magistrate in Tabankulu
During Mass Fr Columbanus welcomed the new Assistant Magistrate, Mr Ephrem Makhetha and his wife, Mrs Grace Patience Makhetha, both Catholics.
Quite a few visitors came to see Fr Columbanus in May, all being Franicscans.
Bishop McBride came to confirm over 50 candidates. The occasion was followed by the first fall of snow that winter.
June: Fr Oliver Moran ofm, exprocurator FMM, stayed overnight, and there was another heavy fall of snow.
November 10th & 17th Fr Columbanus away
While he was away giving a retreat to the Capuchin Fathers in Cape Town, Fr Vianney and Bishop McBride supplied for him.
SUDDEN DEATH OF FR VIANNEY IN KOKSTAD
Fr Columbanus had a phone call from Kokstad to say that Fr Vianney had suddenly died while chatting with the other priests during recreation time the previous day. RIP.
December 14th : New Family in Town
Their names were Mr & Mrs Driver Mrs Driver was a Catholic and sister of Mrs Chaplin, Mrs Hart and Mrs Henning, all three of them from the Kokstad district.
February 16th : Fr Dominic Hession from the Transvaal called and stayed for lunch, then left for Kokstad.
Fr Columbanus gave a mission in Lusikisiki, while Fr Eric supplied for Sunday Mass.
March: Visit of Mrs Jo O’Connell, Secretary of FMM
Miss J Smith, Representative of Kokstad District Child Welfare called regarding two cases at the mission.
29th : Charitable Visitation to Mission
Fr Robert Carlozili from the Roman Curia came on the 29th March – after tea and a look around, the parish priest took him to Mt Frere.
October 27th – November 1st
Fr Khumalo gave Mission to the Africans.
AS the Bishop was not available, he gave Fr Khumalo permission to confirm over 20 candidates.
A First for Tabankulu a plane from Mt Frere landed for the first time here on the new improvised airstrip in preparation for the coming of Father Christmas ( the children’s Christmas party).
December 26th – Feast of St Stephen (Boxing Day)
The Flagstaff sisters called for tea and a visit.
Departure of several families from Tabankulu
The Letchers , Gaffneys and Nightingales after a stay of 40 years. The village is graduarlly getting Africanised.
Awoke at midnight when locals rang the church-bell to ring in the New Year – got up and took a glass of cold milk laced with …….. to soothe my nerves.
Frs Paschal and Walter from Zimbabwe called and had tea.
Fr Wilfrid Reg, Superior, spent the night to give his blessing and bonvoyage to Fr Columbanus for his trip home overseas. Fr Columbanus left on the 8th February for 3 months. He arranged for the neighbouring priests to supply for Mass and sick calls during his absence.
November: Feast of St Columbanus
The day was spent at a meeting of the Diocesan priests in Kokstad.
Six Holy Cross sisters from Kokstad, with Bro Flannan, came to tabankulu for a picnic and spent the day there.
February 23rd: Fr Nicholas Egan came to Tabankulu on visitation and went on to Mt Frere
Fr Gerry Griffin Holds Chiro Meeting
He also supplied for the weekend at Tabankulu
Biggest number yet came in from the outstation, also 33 baptisms.
Bishop McBride comes for Confirmation
He confirmed a number of candidates at the 8 o’clock Mass, then went to one of the outstations for confirmation.
Dr Sr Kathleen O’Sullivan OFS and her brother Fr Tim, came from Lusikisiki with Matron Mayela and stayed overnight.
In August Fr Liam Slattery (Bishop William) came with Fr Gerry Griffin for lunch.
Fr Wilfrid Byrne, Super Reg staryed overnight and discussed implementing visitator’s suggestion re possible changes in the Diocese.
In October Jubilarian Fr Antonine Kelly called and stayed overnight.
In November, Fr Finbarr called with a Jesuit Missionary from India, Fr IVO.
DEATH OF MRS KENNEDY
She was the oldest resident and also the oldest Catholic in Tabankulu. RIP
Just a few days later her son, BRIAN, also died.
Chiro Meeting at Tabankulu
Four boys were local, four from Hardenberg and four from Mt Ayliff.
Fr Griffin was the director and he was very successful.
Cutting Down the Number of Sunday Masses
Fr Columbanus normally said two Masses at St Francis church at Tabankulu, one at 8 am for Europeans and Coloureds and one at 10 am . As the numbers at the 8 am. Mass had dwindled, he celebrated only one Mass at 9 am.
Visitation of Fr Sylvester McGoldrick
He came with Fr Cosmas of Mt Ayliff and stayed the night. Fr Wilfred Napier took him to Lusikisiki the following day. Below is a reproduction of Fr Sylvester’s official stamp.
Visit of Fr Kieran to Tabankulu
He and Sr Monica Kenan, a Holy Cross sister from Lusikisiki came to visit her relatives.
Five sisters from the Kokstad Convent came for a day’s outing.
For the first time there was a procession of the Blessed Sacrament around the block into the Main Street of th evillage. Ther ewas no canopy, only the blue sky.
September: feast ot st. Anne.
Over 40 Women of St . Anne’s from the whole district came to celebrate this feastday. They had a day’s retreat and three lectures and discussions.
October: Legion of Mary.
Members from Hardeberg and Matatiele with Frs. Kevin and NIALL HARDIMAN came for Peregrinatio Christi and visited Tabankulu and outstations.
– Fr. Finnarr came for a private retreat.
– 23rd November. ‘The Bishop came from Flagstaff on visitation and celebrated Feast of St. Columbanus!’
-‘One of my parishiners, a Coloured boy , was stabbed to death while on a visit to Durban’.
– FR. LIAM SLATTERY (Now Bishop William) from the Transvaal stayed the night at Tabankulu.
February: Farewell for Henry & Mona holmes.
Farewell party at the Hotel to this couple, Henry being a alawyer at Tabankulu for nearly 40 years. Both of them were Catholics ‘a great loss to the village and the church here’.
– SR. M. GEASEN (Sp?) AND BRO. MICHAEL from Ixopo Seminary stayed the night to fetch ex Seminarian DAVID MAZEWU from Lower Ncuba to teach at the Seminary.
April: Bishop McBride confirmed 54 confirmands.
On Easter Sunday confirmed these people, mostly adults, from the whole district. On Holy Saturday 28 were baptised.
BRO OCTAVE came with the Bishop. 15/. . .
Fr. Columbanus went on overseas leave, while Fr. Wilfred Napier did supply in Tabankulu.
STAFF CHANGE AT TABAMKULU: NOVEMBER.
– Fr. Columbanus was transferred to Lusikisiki.
– Fr.Wilfred Napier became resident priest at Tabankulu.
FR. Napier officially took over Tabankulu.
The same day Fr . Columbanus ‘paide a brief visit on his way from Kokstad to Lusikisiki.’ He had served God long, well and cheerfully at Tabankulu.
January :SERIOUS FACTION FIGHTING.
The fighting took place at Mtukukazi location and ‘according to some reports, over 15 people have been killed’.
FR. VALERIAN did supply, as Fr. Wilfred was attending a Frannciscan formation course at Besters in the Free State.
Fr. Luois brennan, Minister Provincial, and FR. ANGELO came to Tabankulu on a visitation.
24-26th JULY: ST. ANNE’S RETREAT.
40 ladies came for the retreat, receptions, professions and cdelebrations of ST. Anne’s feastday. Eight received into Aspirent stage and 14 were professed.
December :BISHOP MCBRIDE’S JUBILEE.
On the 29th December he came to celebrate his jubilee with his flock at St. Francis. A large crowd was in attendance for the special concelebrated Mass of Thanksgiving. The occasion also marked the parish celebration of the Holy Year. Six local children made their First Communion. After Mass, representatives of each outstation made gift presentation to mark the Bishop’s Jubilee’.
Party held AT St. Francis to welcome MRS. J. O’CONNELL the Diocese. There were three priests present, as well as MRS. MARY NAPIER, mother of Fr. Wilfred Napier, and two sons. .
Fr. Wilfred goes on overseas leave.
A farewell concert was arranged for him by th echurch committee before he left in February. He returned to Tabankulu in December ‘after a protracted absence overseas during which he underwent surgery to his right knee’ which he had injured some years previously.
Fr Gerry Griffin came to visit the mission, accompanied by Fr Simon Ngcobo, Bro Sydney Daniels (now Novice master at the Kokstad Postulancy) and Bro Thomas Tshabalala (now Fr Thomas) and stayed overnight, before going on to Bizana.
A few days later, Fr John Heggarty and Bro Martin Thompson also passed through.
In February, his brother Peter and wife Gloria came to see brother Anthony (Anty) and his family spent a day with him. Certainly a busy time for visitors – they must have been very glad to see him again after his absence overseas!
Re-Opening of Several Mass Centres
That year was a busy one, with the re-opening of several Mass centres and also the opening of a new one. Each will be discussed under individula outstations.
St Anne’s Flourishes
The league of St Anne’s was diong very well and at their AGM attended by some 40 members, eight ladies were professed and four received.
Fr Napier can be seen as very spiritual and very humble, as many of his entries in the chronicle show. When he went to the moral theology course at Besters, the entry was as follows: The course proved to be a great revaval in Franciscan spirit as more than 15 sons of St Francis met to learn, discuss, pray and recreate together.
Franciscan Convention at La Verna
Fr Wilfred attended this Convention and travelled with Fr Eamonn Hoade, who was attending the Bishops’Conference in the absence of the Bishop. Th Franciscan convention was a great success, especially in the areas of reviving and renewing interest in and dedication to St Francis and all things Franciscan.
Transkei Independence – 26th October 1976
A new era has dawned. Today the Transkei became the Independent Republic of Transkei. Church bells ushered in this new age. Andrew, the Catechist, braved the rain and cold to sound our bell, thereby ringing in our first taste of Homeland independence.
Fr C Timmons called on his way to Kokstad. With him was Bro Bernardine of the FMU in Dublin.
Record numbers turned up for the Easter celebration – very good attendance by locals as well. Communions for the weekend topped the 500 mark. Perhaps a sign of better things to come, please God.
Confirmation by Bishop McBride
The Bishop confirmed 64 adults and children, and during the Mass a particularly moving tribute was paid to the late Mr Tom Napier, father of Fr Wilfred who died just the day before the confirmation.
Funeral of Tom Napier
Tom Napier was laid to rest during a moving ceremony at Franklin. The Mass and burial were attended by the Bishop and 12 priests and brothers and a large crowd of relatives and well wishers including representatives of the parishioners of St Francis’ church, Tabankulu.
White Wedding at St Francis
A memorable day for St Francis’ churchgoers- a white wedding, that of Mr Ronnie Venn and Miss Priscilla Pretorius a good crowd of wellwishers turned up for the evening Nuptial Mass.
First Anniversary of Transkeian Independence
A Mass for this intention was celebrated at 10 am, followed by a commenorative meeting at the Magistrate’s office. The guest of honour wa Mr Ndesi. It was a sober ceremony, with no sumptuous feasting, but speeches and prayers and sports marked the civil ceremony.
Revival of Children of Mary’s Sodality
This also took place in October. 25 girls were received to serve one year’s noviciate. Several were put back on 6 months postulancy and they were received in March the following year.
Opening of Coloured social club, Kokstad
A great day for the Coloured Community in Kokstad as the new Social Club was blessed by the Provincial, Fr Louis Brennan and opened by Mr N Middleton of the CRC. A good contingent of friars was present, some whites from Kokstad including the Mayor and Mrs.Reins. St Anthony’s Club, Boksburg also well represented.
Apostolic Delegate Interviews the local Frati
His Excellency Poledrini came to Kokstad on a quest to find a successor to Bishop McBride who was expected to retire that year.
Fr Wilfrid started house visitation and blessing during Lend and most of the parish was covered by Easter. He planned to visit the outstanding places after Easter.
The Easter ceremonies were well-attended and 16 adults were either baptised or received into the church.
Abnormally High Rainfall causes Problems
Abnormally high rainfall for that time of year marooned the Tabankulu people when the Caba river overflowed the road, cutting off the village from the outside world for 2 days.
Landslides on the Horseshoe road to Flagstaff added to the communications problems of the people in the district. Extensive damage to roads, crops and buildings were reported from other parts of Transkei, notably Lusikisiki and Port St Johns, which has been devastated by the flooded Umzimbubu River.
Visitation at Tabankulu
Fr Finian O’Kerrin came to Tabankulu and I reproduce below a copy of his official stamp.
Junior St Joseph’s Sodality
Another memorable day for the young boys of the Parish, when 11 boys were admitted to the sodality.
This wa held at Coolock House (SouthCoast) under the chairmanship of Fr Liam Slattery. It was a resounding success as an effort at renewing our Franciscan vocation and also at attempting to adapt Franciscanism to our missionary situation.
There were 9 friars from Kokstad and two from Zululand. May we see many more such “Chapters of Renewal”.
Junior St Joseph’s Sodality
Four more boys were received into the society at Tabankulu.
New administrator Apostolic
Red letter day for Tabankulu. The Pastor, Fr Wilfrid Napier has been appointed Administrator of the Kokstad Diocese in place of Bishop J E McBride, who has resigned after three decades at the helm.
Bishop McBride Leaves Kokstad Quietly
He was seen off only by the local friars – three of the priests saw him off at the airport, among them being the new Administrator Apostolic, Mgr Napier. The Bishop typically quietly and unobtrusively bade farewell to sunny South Africa.
Business Visit to Tabankulu Mission
Sr Leah CPS and four laypeople from Mt Frere spent the afternoon at Tabankulu.
St Anne’s Sodality Retreat
Close on 60 ladies attended the retreat and AGM, with seven new members being received and nine professed.
Junior St Joseph’s Sodality Growing
Four boys were professed in the sodality that month and several at one of the outstations.
Fr Wilfrid goes Overseas on a business trip
This was in connection with the diocese and also the recruitment of personnel. At the end of December he returned to his flock and there were scenes of joy and rejoicing as locals greeted their long-absent priest.
New Year’s Day
Quite a good crowd came to Mass to begin the New Year with the Sacrifice of Thanksgiving, Reconsiliation and Peace. We pray God it will be a year of Grace and Peace here and everything on Earth.
Mr Anthony Napier on his way back from a business trip to Umtata installed the fuel injector and pump in the lighting plant and got it going nicely.
A double blow to the prominent Tabankulu family, the Moncurs: first their son-in-law Mr E Strydom, passed away on the 10th , then Mr DC Moncur himself died on the 11th. Though he attended Mass regularly he was not a Catholic and was received into the Church the day before he died – he was buried in Kokstad on Wedneday 14th April. RIP
Mr Arthur Kennedy, faithful parishioner at St Francis, passed away in Addington Hospital in Durban. He was also buried in Kokstad, in the Kennedy family plot.
Fr Columbanus returns to Ireland for good
He has been in failing health for some months, necessitating much hospitalisation and decided to leave South Africa. At his farewell lunch all the priests and brothers paid tribute to him for his many years of sterling service, about 20 years in all – they also remembered his unfailing cheerfulness and sense of humour.
Regional Meeting of Pastoral Consultation committee
About 30 parishioners from Tabankulu attended this meeting, which was held in Mt Frere. The aim of the meeting was to brief the people of the aims and purposes of the National Consultation Committee which was scheduled for 1980.
This also gave the people a change to voice their views on the needs and priorities to which the Church should be paying attention.
Diocesan Pastoral Consultation
This took place at St Patrick’s hall in Kokstad. There was a good turnout and the proceedings were a marked success.
This augurs well for the future.
Death of Fr Columbanus in Ireland
On the 8th October Fr Columbanus died at St Luke’s Hospital in Dublin at 2.30 am of cancer. Mass and Office were celebrated for thed repose of his soul at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Kokstad.
Visit of the State President of Transkei to Tabankulu
President Kaiser De Matanzima and his entire Transkeian cabenet were greeted by thousands of people on their visit.The function was a great success and was due reward for the efforts of the organising committee and its helpers. It proved that a spirit of co-operation and goodwill has been built up over the past couple of years as a result of other co-operate actions on such days as Independence Day, National Day of Prayer, etc.
Visit of Fr Bonaventure Hinwood to Kokstad
Fr Bonaventure addressed the Friars regarding the proposed pre-noviciate formation house in the Federation (Franciscan – Southern Africa). With him was Fr Alexander Kerigan, who gave a number of talks on Scripture and also answered many queries and problems.
Vicar-General of Irish Province Makes a Visit
Fr Fergal Grannell and Fr Gerry Griffin called in at Tabankulu mission on their way from Mt Frere to Lusikisiki via the Horseshoe road, which follow the course of the river.
As usual there was great activity on the Mission during Holy Week and Easter ceremonies, but the attendance was not as big as usual. However, the congregation was every bit as enthusiastic. 7 adults were baptised and were received into the church and 3 were accepted as catechumens.
Fr Alexander Kerrigan gives Scripture Lectures in Kokstad
He came to give 2 days of Scripture lectures. All but one or two of the Frati attended and enjoyed a couple of days of living in fraternity. A most refreshing experience, especially in view of the fact that the subject matter was St Paul’s Epistles and the early church.
Pastoral Conference of the Xhosa Region – AGM
This was held at Lumko and expressed the desire for better communication between the sending Dioceses and the receiving dioceses regarding migrant workers, eg mine workers.
Two methods of improving communications were suggested:
i. Publications of names and addresses of mine chaplains.
ii. Sending names and addresses of men working on the mines to the chaplain.
It was also urged that priests encourage the wives and families of men away at work to keep in touch with them by sending letters, newspapers etc of local interest.
Celebrating a 93rd Birthday in Harding
Fr Wilfrid and other members of the Davey family met at St Andrew’s hospital in Harding to celebrate the 93rd birthday of Aunt Lucy Green Thompson, surely the most senior Catholic in East Griqualand.
Priests’ Retreat at Coolock House
This was conducted by Fr Dick Broderick and was a real prayer experience.
Confirmation at Tabankulu
Some 60 people were confirmed on this occasion – there was a great feast afterwards.
Death of Bishop Zwane of Swaziland
He was tragically killed in a car crash and his funeral was in Manzini on the 16th August.
Quarterly meeting of St Anne’s
This was held in preparation for the proposed gathering of St Anne’s, Children of Mary and the Sisters from Mt Frere.
Golden Jubilee of Fr Eymard Hoade
At the same time Fr John Kerr and Fr Baptist celebrated their Silver jubilee. Fr Manus was celebrating his jubilee in Ireland.
Leadership Training Course at Maria Telgte
Owing to short notice it was not possible to prepare any Tabankulu people to attend.
Meeting of all the Friars
This was held under the auspices of the religious Superior.
Spiritual/Educational /Formational weekend at Tabankulu.
This was run by SRS Leah & Mary from Mt Frere for the ladies of St Anne’s and Children of Mary and proved very successful.
Kokstad Diocese has a bishop
Its official. Kokstad has a Bishop. The Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop E Cassidy, announced that the former parish priest of Tabankulu and present Administrator Apostolic, MGR Wilfrid Napier, has been appointed Bishop of Kokstad to succeed Bishop JE McBride, who resigned in 1978. The announcement was made at the priests’meeting in Kokstad.
Solemn Profession of Bro Sydney Daniel
Frs Kevin, Egbert and Gerry Griffin attended Bro Sydney’s profession, the first OFM of Indian descent to be professed in South Africa. (June 2000. Bro Sydney is now in charge of the postulancy in Kokstad, having taken over from Fr Richard Duarte who has been transferred to the Seminary in Pretoria.)
Tabankulu was being served by various priests, namely Fr.Gerry Griffin, Bill Lovett and Germain Mannion since Fr Napier was ordained Bishop and was based in Kokstad.
Fr Kevin O’Byrne celebrates the Easter services.
He had just returned from the funeral of his father in Ireland. In the meantime, Bishop Napier temporarily took charge in Hardenberg.
Fr Bill Lovett takes charge of Tabankulu
Fr Bill, while helping out at Mt Frere and staying there, took over Tabankulu as well – or at least took charge of the cheque-book and travelled back and forth between the two missions.
(He made several entries ofhis activities and dealings with the parishioners of Tabankulu, but may words were in Xhosa, which language I do not know).
Visitation of New Bishop
Bishop Napier came of visitation on the 10th March. See his efficial stamp below:
News of Fr Bill’s Impending Transfer to Hardenberg.
He would leave the week after Easter, while his replacement would arrive later in the year.
A reasonable crowd – the church is just full. Quite a large numbers of children, mostly girls. Two adults were baptised, the third failed because she is a girl. Two people were received into the church and there were seven First Communions. Saturday the rain poured from the heavens – it rained all day. Sunday was scattering day. Most of the people had lifts arranged. Very few stayed over till Tuesday, when buses began to flow again. (The heavy rains had stopped the buses from coming through).
This was Fr Bill’s last entry – he left for Hardenberg shortly thereafter.
Arrival of Fr Bernardine Dore as paristh priest.
Fr Bernardine got busy immediately and his first entry in the chronicle is as follows:
As there was no suitable accommodation for the housekeeper, Francina Ntombiswazi Mnxasana, on the premises, Bro Masseo Gibney set about providing it. He partitioned off the western section of the presbytery and replaced the bay window at the corridor end with a door, to be approached by a concrete stairway which he built.
Instructing Mothers Prior to Baptism of Babies.
Miss Humiliana Dubazana, a teacher from Hardenberg and president of the Praesidium of the Legion of Mary there, spent 3 days instructing and training a team of 10 animators who would assist her in the instruction of the mothers.
Outstations: Following Months
The mothers were reminded that attendance at instruction prior to their babies baptisms was absolutely necessary.
Special charts were supplied to help them learn church teachings about Baptism.
Disco Group uses Parish Hall
They asked to use the hall from 8 pm. until 1.00 am and promised to clean up afterwards, however they did not and were subsequently banned from using the half again.
First Sunday of 1983
The attendance at Mass at St Francis’ church in Tabankulu was 46.
Whirlwind blows off part of presbytery roof
The corrugated iron roof and purioins on the south-western side of the presbytery was blown off and 3 days later was repaired by Mr Sharpley of Kokstad, who ensured that the purloins were wired down to the rafters.
Instructions for Sacraments at Easter
Mrs Margaret Raselo and Miss Humiliana Dubazana instructed children and adults preparing for reception of the Sacraments.
Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday
The church was overflowing with worshippers for the services.
Over 150 people from the outstations dossed down (slept) in the hall, garage and “overflow” sacristy at night during the Triduum. There were over 200 at the Easter Vigil.
Half-Yearly Meeting of Sodality of St Ann
The preacher was Fr. Gerry Griffin.
Bishop Napier called in at the mission and tried his hand at providing light, without success. On the 9th June, Tube and Products of Kokstad removed the engine head generator to fix the problem – by th 15th the lights were restored at a cost of R1209.
The ringing of the Angelus bell was re-introduces: it would be rung at 7 am and 5pm each day.
Maintanance of Mission Gates
Fr Bernardine remarked as follows: Had front gates repaired and rotating passenger gates for pedestrians installed and all gates and entrance pillars painted.
Between mid-march and mid-April there were heavy rains, particularly on the 8th/9th April.
First frost of winter.
Fr Kevin Egan Introduces the Mass for Children
He introduced this to the children of Tabankulu (Kanon Kwidini labantwana) page 526 of the prayer book “Bongani iNkosi” and it was well received.
June 24th (Sunday)
At the childen’s Mass, the prayers of the faithful were read by two younr children.
The flu has raised its head in the area and many heads have hit the pillows.
August: the month was generally mild but went out rather cold.
September 12th/13th: Heavy rains.
September 24th – 28th
Pre-Confirmation Instruction for Children.
Miss Dubazana of Hardenberg Mission school instructed 25 children at Tabankulu in preparation for their confirmation.
Much Appreciated work done at the Mission
Anna Mbewu of Ndakeni outstation helped to hoe the flower beds and clean up the Mission grounds.
What’s going on Here?
A drum of dieseline now costs R89.00 – the last drum lasted only 25 days instead of the usual 60 days. We suspect that there is some pilfering going on, so from now on the lifting plant room will be kept under lock and key, with one key being held by the doctor.
1st: Rain and hail.
January 3rd- 4th
From the afternoon of the 3rd to the afternoon of the 4th there was solid rain.
There was a bus accident on the way to Sipethu Hospital about 10 km from Tabankulu. The bus went off the road and 23 people were killed outright and many injured were taken to hospital.
Mrs Blantina Nyokana instructed 17 children and a few adults at the Mission in preparation for reception of Penance and Eucharist. All dossed down and received their meals at the Mission during the course of the instructions.
Easter Elmech of Kokstad removed and repaired the lighting plant generator in time for the Easter ceremonies, which were attended by 65 people from the outstations.
Visit of Prime Minister of Transkei to Tabankulu.
Mr George Matanzima visited tabankulu and has morning tea at Dr Essa’s house and spoke to the people.
June 10th – 16th
The cold started setting in on the 10th and on the 16th it was very cold and frost overnight. It was unusually cold right through September as well.
Severe Earth Tremor
At 9pm there was a severe earth tremor which was felt along the south-east coast of South Africa. The African population was terrified.
Then on the 26th a tornado caused some damage to the buildings, including the roof of the Mission building known as the Colured School” now occupied by S/N Rose Lugongolo.
Also dealing with weather, on the 31st October there was very heavy rain and as a consequence, a bumper attendance at Mass on the following Sunday, 2nd November.
Poor Attendance at Christmass Mass.
Only 10 people, including the moncure family, attended the Midnight Mass. Outsiders were prevented due tothe enforced curfew (10pm – 6am), which had been the rule since October 1985. ( This was as a result of the unrest in the Transkei.)
The weather during Holy Week was very favourable and the attendance at the Easter Ceremonies , especially from the outstations was very good, but very few parishioners showed up for the Triduum ceremonies.
St Anne’s Sodality
30 members attended a get-together at the mission and Fr Egbert O’Dea conducted the Spiritual exercises.
Fireplace in the Hall
The South African Provincialate per Fr Neil donated R500 towards this. This project should ameliorate conditions and bring much comfort and relief to the members of St Ann’s Sodality, who doss down in the hall for two consecutive nights, often in the extreme cold in June or July each year..
Comments on the Weather.
On the 9th it was very cold, then on the 17th there were storm winds for a whole day and night. In August, the windy month, two trees outside the fence on the church road were blown down during a storm and the fence was damaged. Also in August, there were many people sick with the flu (influenza).
As a result, extra burglar bars had to be fitted to the presbytery windows.
Security Fence Erected
A two-metre high fence from the gate in Church Street right around the mission to the border with the Moncur property was erected. This was done partiaclly for the Mission, but also for the Moncur Supermarket which had had several break-ins at night.
Lightning Plant Repaired
The cracked cylinder head was replaced with a second-hand cylinder head in very good condition by Mt Currie Tractors in Kokstad at a cost of R927, paid by the Procurator. This job should give us a good hope of a trouble-free spell till 1989.
Continuous Rain Causes Damage
The rain caused much flooding of fields, damage to houses and loss of livestock. Bishop Napier donated R750 to provide food for the needy and the gift was much appreciated.
Preparation of Road for Rarring
The road construction firm, Savage and Lovemore, began preparing the 18km. road from Tabankulu to the junction with N2 national road, for tarring, and a deviation road was being built. In March the following year the road party started blasting for granite stone at the quarry at Bonxa, 3 km from town. For some time we were also started as the explosion shakes the windows and doors.
By June work had begun in constructing a new bridge over the lover stream close tothe town.
Electrification at the Mission
The presbytery was connected up with the town supply of electric current by underground cable and Elmech of Kokstad laid the cable and provided the meter box.
We enjoyed beautiful warm weather with no rain and the ceremonies were very well attended at St Francis’ church, Tabankulu.
April – June
On 31st April there was the first frost and by June 5th , bitter cold had set in.
Death of Loyal Church Helper
Joel Thogwana passed to his reward; he had been visited by Fr Bernardine only the previous Sunday at Sipethu hospital.
The Bishop sent the cheque for the poor and needy.
Church Statues Refurbished
The statues of Our Lady of Lourdes, the grotto, and the statue of statue of St Francis received face-lifts and coasts of paint.
Church Attendance at St Francis
The attendance had become very lackadaisical. Fr Bernardine noted that the maximum attendance for nine o’clock Sunday Mass was about 35 (15 adults and 20 children) and communicants averaged eight. If the day was cold or the group wet, attendance would be fewer than seven. Also, the local community did not attend the Easter Ceremonies at St Francis.
INDLELA YOBOM (Africa’s way to life)
At Tabankulu this book was used for instruction of the congregation and they seemed to like it very much. Mrs Coroline Sibali of Bonxa was the instructor. She had been both faithful and devoted and for many years had prepared the adults and children for receiving baptism and /or the eucharist using this instruction book.
Repairs and Renovations at the Mission
1. The fences at the ex-coloured school still being rented by S/N Rose Lugongolo, were repaired at the cost of about R400. They had been extensively damaged by vandals.
2. A new gatepole and gate were erected at the main entrance to the church and some fences were repaired.
3. A heating-stove was set up in the hall for the comfort of the lodgers during winter months (the Provincial bursar had contributed R500 towards the projects).
4. The ladies of St Ann’s Sodality were the first to enjoy and appreciate the warmth of their hall at the quarterly meeting in September.
This was a day to celebratee as on that day a ne lawnmowere costing R450, wa put into action on the lawns at St Francis.
Visit of Irish Provincial
Fr Fiachra paid a courtesy visit to the Mission.
We were blessed with good rains, especially on Christmas Eve.
New Years Eve
Fr Bernardine was somewhat put out that in the course of celebrating the New Year, some youngsters damaged the bell, which was unable to be used for some time.
Storm causes damage
A storm of unprecedented ferocity hit the Municipal area, causing much damage to houses and completely wiping out the mealie crops, on which the people were so dependent for their staple food.
Mrs Louis Moncur.
Mrs Moncur, the co-donor of the site on which the church was built, suffered a severe health setback while on a visit to her daughter in Durban in March. At that time she ws the only White person regularly attending chuch services at St Francis. She is constantly in our prayers and she hopes to be well enough to return to Tabankulu by November this year, wrote Fr Bernardine.
Ringing the Angelus Bell
Amusing things sometimes happen in smalle places – at the time it may be a real annoyance, but later it may be regarded as funny. In this case, the incident had been recurring for two years.
In Fr Bernardine’s words: The pratice of ringing the Angelus bell twice daily has been discontinued since early 1987. Our bell had attracted the attention of a certain deranged local individual, who usually announces his presence at any time of the day or night – with a vigorous clanging of the bell. We tried bribing him, but he interpreted our “kindness” as an incentive for greater devotion to is favourite pastime. We then resorted to hauling up the bell chain out of human reach; only by the use of a ladder can one succeed in ringing the bell, which means that we have to cut down on the daily ringing of the bell. Also, providing the ladder each time constitutes a hazard. It takes all sorts of people to make up our world and to provide obstacles on our way to Heaven!
A New Young Doctor in Tabankulu
Dr Myendeki had recently come to live in Tabankulu – an answer to prayer and a long-felt and urgent wish. He was very welcome and made himself available in his clinic from Monday to Friday from 8 am to 5 pm. He was also appointed District Surgeon in the place of Dr Essa.
Tarred Road Completed
The road connecting Tabankulu with the N2 had finally been completed and was opened to traffic in June. Remarked Fr Bernardine: “What a treat was in store for us and what a beautiful job of work and pleasant to behold. It would have gladdened the heart of St John the Baptist, the great evangellical road builder. Thanks to the contractors, Savage and Lovemore and the Department of Roads who provided the funds. Its contours are in keeping with the surrounding terrain –
“Shout to the lord all the earth.
Let the rivers clap their hands.
And the hills ring out their joy.”(Psalm ?)
July came in very mild and at times, except at night, was more like summer – we were fooled. On the 18th we experienced arctic conditions – gale force wind, rain, snow and bitterly cold.
In August we had some lovely daytime weather and one particular day the temparature registered 30 C at Umtata.
Fr Fergus Mceveney, who teaches at Gormanstown Collage in Ireland and was celebrating his Silver Jubilee (14.03.1964) paid a brief but very welcome visit.
Family Business of D C Moncur to close down
Alan and Carol Moncur were now running this business which had been in the family for generations and had to close it down. Although born in the Transkei, Alan was now a noncitizen and could not obtain a permanent trader’s licence. He had to sell it to a Transkei citizen. (More regarding this under Parishioners of St Francis’Church). The whole family, including Granny Louise left Tabankulu in November 1989.
Sunday Mass Attendance
When the Moncur family left, the attendance at the 9 o’clock Sunday Mass now averaged 23, reduced from 26, with the maximum being 60, a very low figure indeed.
Visitation of Provincial to Tabankulu.
Fr Liam Mac Dermott came to Tabankulu and left his official stamp in the Chronicle, as appears below:
Very Good New Year News
Great Excitement in Tabankulu:
Tescor (Transkei Electricity Suppy Commission) equivalent of ESKOM (Electricity Supply Commisison in the rest of South Africa) will suppy electric current to Tabankulu early in 1991. We will be connected up to the Kokstad grid and work has already commenced with putting up poles to carry the wires.
We have been invited to itemise our needs as to the uses to which we will put the current. We will use electric current for fridges, kettles and cooking but not for ironing.
For lighting purposes we have indicated that we will be consuming current in bulbs (36 in number ), which are already in place in the presbytery, church, hall and outhouse.
Our Journey Together, (Catechetical Instruction Book on the Faith)
Fr Bernardine started working the lessons in this book into the church services and after the first lesson of the Mass of the day was read, the present responsorial psalm was recited or sung. Photocopies of the lessons were distributed to the literate people (about a quarter of the congregation).
The facilitator then read the introduction and recommended text. After that one person was invited to read the text, then finally all read the same passage together.
Generally he found the congregation welcomed the change from the sometimes monotonous and ritual Sunday readings, as they became more involved and sharing, though he himself found the formula too bookish. He also felt that it was often above the heads of the congregation and hoped that with repetition – and the guidance of the Holy Spirit we will begin to reap the fruit and see results.
June – September
Fr Bernardine was on leave during that period and Fr Bill Lovett, who was on convalescent leave, supplied Mass at St Francis and the outstations.
Visit By Comboni Fathers
The Mission at Tabankulu was visited by three members of the Comboni Missionaries on the 11th September and it was reported that they took a fancy to the place.
(This was prior to the exchange between the Kokstad Franciscans and the Comboni’s from Middelburg and Witbank).
This was the last entry in the Chronicle by Fr Bernardine
FrAloysius Kelly Appointed to Tabankulu
‘With effect as from 17th February 1991, being the First Sunday in Lent’ (Fr Aloysius own words).
Arrival in Kokstad
He was accompanied by his sister, Mrs RoseMary Hailes, who was due to return to UK on the 23rd February . On the 18th Fr Kelly and his sister went to Tabankulu where she helped him move in. On the 23rd he took her to the airport. Both of us, I think, feared that this might be a final separation.
Funeral of Bro Masseo in Kokstad
Bro Masseo died suddenly in Kokstad on the 18th .
Fr Aloysius to cook for Himself
Fr Aloysius realised that for some time he would have to cook for himself, as he had no cook at the presbytery. The catechist and his son would have breakfast and lunch with him, as Andreas’ wife was living at their home, some distance away.
March – Sunday 3rd
Mass was celebrated at St Francis and one of the outstations in Xhosa with sermon in Zulu (Fr Aloysius had been serving at a Mission in KwaZulu/Natal prior to his arrival in Tabankulu.
Visited Bishop Napier in Kokstad and he was very kind and helpful. I was delayed in Kokstad by the need for a small repair to the truck which I shall be using for the time being, a 4 wheel drive one tonner Isuzu and rather heavy to manage.
The bishop came to Tabankulu on the 4th and got the refrigerator working for me.
Drs Essa and Carrim, tenants occupying the former priest’s house and gave Fr Aloysius the rent for February and March.
He reported his arriver to LT Majola at the police station. He did not require a permit to reside there.
Dr Carrim kindly sent in cooked food sufficient for today and tomorrow, Sunday. One can imagine the heartfelt manner in which he added: D.G!
Friends bring some of Fr Kelly’s Personal Belongings.
Gideon and Philly Booysen brought Fr Kelly’s steel filing cabinet from Utrecht (KZN) as well as his pri-dieu, which had some from St Finbarr OP of Blaauwbosch. The Booysens also brought a small pine bookshelf -cum-desk. It was a very happy occasion. Mambele sent over chicken stew and bread. His friends left the following day after breakfast.
Masithole of the Guild of St Anne’s came, unasked to was my clothes. The kindness and generosity of these people is beautiful.
Sunday 17th March
Mass at Tabankulu, where there were about 30 people present, with 12 for Holy Communion.
Celebration of St Patrick’s Day
Fr Kelly went to Kokstad and celebrated the day with his confreres.
Tragic News From Utrecht
His friend, Mrs Philly Booysen, phoned to let him know of the tragic murder of former parishioners Mrs Lesley Dunne, daughter Shannon (14) and attempted murder of the younger daughter, Cheryl. The murderer was Mrs Dunne’s husband, who later committed suicide. The children had been preparing for baptism. I am devastated by the news – I had been trying to help this family for a long time.
There were about 60 people, with 16 for Holy Communion.
Changes in the Tabankulu Church
Fr Kelly restored the confessional to its original location, thus making the baptismal font available for the Holy Week liturgy. The statue of the Sacret Heart, which had been standing on top of the font was taken to the former sisters’choir.
When this had been cleared out, they erected what remained of the former high altar (two legs had been removed and converted into flower stands) and made the west transept into a chapel of the Sacred Heart.
Fr Kelly stated that it is my intention, as always, to celebrate the complete Holy Week and Easter liturgy as far as is possible.
Wednesday of Holy Week
There was morning Mass at Tabankulu, then Fr.Kelly went to concelebrate Mass with the other priests of the Diocese at St Patrick’sCathedral, Kokstad.
The congregation was small but appreciative and the liturgy was very satisfactory. There were seven First Communions.
There were 12 Holy Communions.
There was a congregation of 85, with 3 baptims (1 adult) and 55 people for Holy Communion. It was very satisfactory.
Also very satisfactory attendance, but no number was mentioned.
Cleaning up the Church Continues
The heavy brass holy water stoop was found broken and discarded – it was brazed in Kokstad and is now in use. The tall high altar candlesticks have been restored to use and now flank the tabernacle. Much work has been done in cleaning up the sacristy, cupboards, vestment press etc.
New Vehicle for Tabankulu Delivered Unexpectedly
The vehicle was delivered, much to Fr Kelly’s delight sooner than he thought. It was a 1 ton Isuzu KB160 2-wheel drive with fifth gear. He found it excellent and easy to handle.
MaMbele andher sister Gladys came to Fr Kelly recommending a lady who would work for him as cook/housekeeper, an Anglican widow with teenage children.
Her name was Florence Mahlakoana Mosotho andshe started working for him at the beginning of May. Of course Fr Kelly was glad of her help with meals, washing and housework.
Although Fr Kelly Remained at Tabankulu Until 1994, He made no more entries in the Chronicle
In 1994 Fr Kelly retired to Besters neary Ladysmith, in the Free State, where he started a hermitage which he ran for 3 years. He is now 86 years old.
Holy Cross Sisters and Coloured School
1952 – 1961
In 1951 the Bishop and Fr Antonine arrived at Tabankulu to see the new site chosen for a Coloured School outside the village. Then Fr Mathias MsSweeney, the first parish priest at Tabankulu, went to Aliwal North to arrange that Holy Cross Sisters be sent to Tabankulu.
In 1952 Mrs Joyce Groom of Libode became teacher of the Coloured school and shortly afterwards, the Bishop blessed the school and opened it for 39 pupils – school started the next day.
Mothers Irene and Clare Francisca called at Tabankulu and promised to send sisters to Tabankulu. Then in November the Bishop and Fr Antonine arranged that the new sisters would occupy the new presbystery until such time as a convent would be built. In the meantime, the parish priest returned to his old quarters. The Bishop and Fr Edward went to Aliwal North to make official the acceptance of the sisters for Tabankulu.
In January Fr Matthias fetched Sr Maria and Sr M Flannan from Kokstad. Sr Maria took charge of the European school and Sr M Flannan took charge of th Coloured school. 1954 marked a change of sisters, as Sr Flannan was transferred to Aliwal North and was replaced by Sr Finian.
Two African girls went to Aliwal North from Tabankulu to become nuns in May.
In August 1956 brick-making for the convent was started.
In 1957 Sr Finian was transferred to Namibia (formerly South West Africa) and Sr Mary Denise took her place. In early 1958 the building of the convent began, two months later Pienaar and Henry Scott wired the convent for electricity and Bro Juniper finished the job and did the plumbing.
The convent was completed in July, the water system was completed and Fr Antonine Kelly blessed the new convent in August 1958. Even before the new convent was blessed Sr Denise left and Sr Margaret Mary took over the Coloured school. Then in January 1959 Sr Caroline took over from Sr Margaret Mary, and in 1961 Sr Maria left on transfer to Windhoek.
The Coloured school closed for lack of pupils.
The Holy Cross sisters left Tabankulu in 1961.
(b) Precious Blood sisters
In September the Sisters of the Precious Blood arrived to give the place a 6 month’s trial before deciding to live in Tabankulu permanently. It is expected that this will be the Provincial house.
January 1962. It was decided not to have the Provincial house in Tabankulu, but Umtata instead. The sisters would, however, remain at Tabankulu in the hope of acquiring a clinic.
Discussions about starting a clinic in one of the outstations took place, but as the bishop was not in favour, the project was abandoned and the Precious Blood Sisters closed the convent and left Tabankulu. Unfortunately for Fr Seraphim Kennedy there were now no longer any sisters to cook his meals, so he had to eat at the hotel from then onwards.
iv. Franciscan Brothers – Maintenance work at Tabankulu Mission
I have not previously mentioned the work done by the Franciscan brothers at the various missions, so I will mention here the many and varied tasks they carried out. It will give sone idea of the scope of their work, apart from building mission buildings and carpentry and to show what valuable services they rendered (and in the case of Bro Erich Fischnaller of Mt Frere) still do.
Bro Dosing and Benignus build a verandah and bathroom at the old presbytery. In 1957 Bro Masseo erected the structure for the Lower Mnceba church.
A few years later, in 1963 it was mentioned that since Fr Seraphim had left on overseas leave, there had been no light, as the lighting plant had broken down. Bro Juniper came to service and clean it . In the meantime the mission was without electricity – the light was missed most. During the same year, Bro Dosith came to re-hang the bell which had arrived in 1955 and had had to be returned to Ireland as it was cracked. The bell had been recast in Ireland and the new bell was installed.
Then in 1966 Bro Juniper came to overhaul the engine for the lights and he brought new water tanks, which he installed and repaired the old tanks and the roof. In February Bro Juniper came with an altar from Kokstad and took away the altar from Tabankulu for the Kokstad Cathedral. While he was at the mission he also fixed the lawn-mower and examined the ceilings of the convent building. In January 1969 Bro Juniper came to overhaul the engine – he brought one new battery and Mr Moncur gave the second.
Bro Juniper was having a busy year with Tabankulu, as he came in May to put hail-guards on all the church windows, a lighting plant needed an overhaul, so Bro Juniper in his usual cheerful way came to do the job.
In 1972 Fr Columbunus bought poles, fencing wire and a gate in Kokstad and Bro Massea took them by truck to one of the new outstations that he was busy with. Bro Masseo came again in 1974 to repair the toilet at the doctor’s house, formerly the convent. IN February that year he also came to service the engine of the lighting plant.
In March 1975 there was a leaking water tank to be attended to, as well as a number of minor jobs, so Bro Masseo spent two days doing them all and returned to Kokstad, where he was based.
Bro Juniper came to renew all the guttering on the church – the job took 2 weeks. In September 1977 he came to service the lighting plant and fitted new valve and valve – guide and did a decarb.
There was a Franciscan convention from the 6-10th at La Verna and Bro Flannan went with the Kokstad friars, as he was doing a major repair job to the roofs there. A little tongue in cheek, Fr Bill Lovett, the Tabankulu parish priest at the time remarked: Rumour has it that Bro Flannan is on the roof, the rest up the walls. (It must have been the noise).
Bro Juniper erected a new water tank on the tank pedestal beside the garage and a new stand for the church tabernacle. Then in November he installed three new water tanks- being the rainy season, it was a good time.
Bro Masseo did some necessary repairs to the roof and outside walls and guttering of the former Coloured school. He also pruned the overhanging trees.
This was the last entry for the Franciscan Brothers in the chronicle. Unfortunately the rest of the parish priests did not record the maintanance visits of the brothers, as has been done in many other missions. However, we can rest assured that maintenance was being done while there were brothers living in Kokstad. (Bro Eugene, the last Franciscan brother left Kokstad in 1996).
v. Well-known Families in the Parish of St Francis.
This family had lived for generations in Tabankulu and ran a trading store there. They were Catholics and supported the church extensively, both financially and morally. They, together with Mr Muir donated the site for the church when the Irish Franciscans arrived in 1951.
Mrs Moncur’s house was gutted by fire one night and she lost everything. The priest put up the family in the empty Convent building. The following day the Bishop and Fr Germain went to sympathise with the family. In May the same year a clock presented by the Moncur’s was put up in the church.
1979 – April
A double blow to this prominent Tabankulu family. First their son-in- law Mr E Strydom, passed away on the 10th April, then Mr D.C Moncur himself, husband of Louise, died on the 11th. Though he attended Mass regularly he was not a Catholic and was received into the Church the day before his death. He was buried in Kokstad. RIP.
Midnight Mass at Christmas
Only 10 people, including the Moncur family attended this Mass, as people ouside Tabankulu were prevented from attending due to the enforced curfew which had been the rule since October 1985. This was as a result of the unrest in the Transkei.
A 2 metre high security fence was erected right around the mission to the border with the Moncur property to protect the Mission and also the Moncur Supermarket which had had several break-in at night.
Mrs Louise Moncur, the co-donor of the mission site, suffered a severe health setback while visiting her daughter in Durban. At that time she was the only White person regularly attending church services at St Francis. She is constantly in our prayers and she hopes to be well enough to return to Tabankulu by November this year, wrote Fr Bernardine.
1989 – October to December.
Alan & Carol Moncur were now running the family business and had to sell it. Although he had been born in the Transkei, Alan was now regarded as a non-citizen and could not obtain a permanent trader’s licence. He had to sell the business to a Transkei citizen. The couple, with their children and Granny Louise left Tabankulu in November 1989 and moved to George.
When the Moncur family left, the attendance at the 9 o’clock Sunday Mass now averaged only 23 people.
Silver jubilee of local Catholic lawyer. Bishop McBride presided at the Mass for Mr Henry Holmes and many people including several non-Catholics, attended a coctail party at the presbytery after the Mass.
Wedding of Henry Holmes daughter , Gale, which was attended by the Bishop and three priests.
Some years later the Holmes family left Tabankulu after living there for 40 years, when the Transkei became independent.
This family was mentioned about twice in the chronicle.
Arthur himself was a faithful parishioner at St Francis and died at Addington Hospital in Durban in 1979. He was buried in Kokstad in the Kennedy family plot.
Other Catholic families in Tabankulu: Letchers, Gaffneys, and Nightingales, who left Tabankulu in 1969.
Catechists at Tabankulu Mission
Killian Mkuzo arrived at the Mission, the first catechist. He was not mentioned again in the Chronicle.
In 1964 the parish priest mentioned in the Chronicle that Already a Catholic from Dungu has acted as unofficial catechist and collected 47 names for catechumens. Also in the typed resume which Fr Columbanus Timmons wrote to his successor, Fr Wilfrid Napier, he mentioned: When I came here in January 1964 there was a trained catechist brought in by a priest on supply, who did wonderful work especially in by a priest on supply, who did wonderful work especially in beautifying the grounds etc. (Probably the same man).
Fr Columbanus brought two catholics to Umtata to attend the Cathechists school. Their names were SOLOMON NDUDE and JOSEPH NTAKANA and they were both from Ncumbe.
From his unlikely position as gardener at the Mission Andreas became a long-serving and trusted catechist. He went to Cwele Mission, Umtata, to train as a catechist in 1966. Fr Columbanus mentioned in 1973 that his quarterly wage was R25, which considering that he had six children was definitely not just.
May- the resident Catechist, Andreas and his helpers had one of their rare opportunities to conduct the priestless Sunday services (communion services) There was no-one available to supply in the absence of the parish priest, who was away at Hardenberg.
Annual Retreat for Catechists
After a lapse of many years, the custom of holding an annual retreat was resumed when some 30 catechists assembled at Maria Telgte Mission for a four-day retreat /refresher course. Two catechists, one of them being Andreas were very happy to have the opportunity for spiritual renewal. Four priests directed the retreat and other priests sent catechists and gave talks and lectures. All the catechists requested that it become an annual event.
Catechists Refresher Course
Andreas went to Lumko for a 10-week refresher course, which covered the various books which had been produced at Lumko.
Representation of Parishioners Approach Fr Bernardine
Four parishioners, one of them being Andreas the Catechist, cme to see Fr Bernardine with a complaint, in Fr Bernardine’s own words regarding the way in which I am conducting the church services and the Mission in general. No comment. The monologue was taped unknown to them and handed over to the Bishop for his comments.
Fr Columbanus in his typed resume mentioned to Fr Napier I suggest you keep Canisia, wife of Andreas, and their children as far away from your house and kitchen as possible to avoid trouble.
1984 – September
The Tabankulu Mission paid the 8-year overdue tax of R168.80 for Andreas at Maluti offices, Transkei.
When Fr Bernardine was at the Mission he noted in the Chronicle: Mrs. Canisis Moleko, wife of Andreas and five of their six children, together with most of their belongings were transported to their new residence at Kotispola Ramohlakoana, Matatiele.
1991 – February
Fr Aloysius Kelly had this tosay in the Chronicle: The catechist Andreas and his son will have breakfast and lunch with me. Andreas wife is at home and their present lifestyle is most unsatisfactory. Andreas needs the presence of his wife to cook, clean, wash, etc.
1991 – Easter
Andreas’ sife, Khanyile Mamakoena and his daughter attended the Holy week liturgies and will return later.
I expressed a wish to remove the barbed-wire fence running across the lawn along the front ot the house, and returned from Kokstad to discover that Andreas had removed it – enthusiastically!
Andreas wife and family have returned to s tay. She is very hard-working and co-operative and has transformed their living quarters and has begun getting the vegetable garden under cultivation. The ground had been very neglected before and Fr Aloysius had been unable to arouse any interest in its cultivation.
Bishop William Slattery mentioned on the phone to me that Andreas was still living at the Mission.
The first mention of Solomon was by Fr Seraphim Kennedy in 1964, when he returned from a 3-month course at catechists’school in Umtata. Fr Seraphim planned that Solomon would take over Ncumbe and Dungu districts.
Fr Bill Lovett mentioned in the Chronicle: I finally got round to retiring Solomon. I wanted to do it properly, but he announced it himself before I got a chance. There was no reaction form the people.
In September 1964 Joseph, from Ncumbe, returned from the same catechists’ course as Solomon Ndude, in Umtata and Fr Seraphim sent him to look after Mtukukazi district.
Catechist Joseph was taken ill and hospitlised for a fortnight, where it was discovered that he has mild TB (Tuberculosis) and should be laid off work for 3-6 months.
As he is not confined to hospital, but has to pay 2-weekly visits for treatment, he has volunteered to help in the Ncumbe area, specifically at Bheja.
Fr Bill Lovett in the Chronicle: I retired JOSEPH at Mtukukazi. The nine people there got a shock, as he was going to leave immediately. They were afraide of what other people would say about his sudden disappearance. They persuaded him to stay till Monday, so that they could say goodbye to him properly I gave him R40 a month pension.
In 1969 Bernard form Mtukukazi was killed by lightning, also his daughter Esther. He was formerly an Anglican Catechist. The funeral Mass was said at his kraal.
His widow, Mary Dumani, was living at the Mission then, having taken over as cook for Fr Columbanus after Mary King retired. She lived in a hut near the school and worked at Father’s house from 7 a.m to after lunch, then went home.
Her wages were R10 per month, plus a bag of mealies, transport, doctor’s fees, the occasional alms and school fees for her daughter, who was at the Holy Cross Convent Farm School near Umtata.
Henry was one of the two qualified catechists ( the other being Andreas Moleko) at Tabankulu, having been to an initial catechists’ course.
In 1973 Henry was mentioned in Fr Columbanus’ resume to Fr Napier: Henry did not live at the Mission but had his own house and a piece of ground. He had six children and received R30 a month wages, plus a bag of mealies, transport, doctors’ fees, occasional alms and school fees.
In 1981 he went to Lumko for a 10-week refresher course which covered the various books that had been produced at Lumko up to that time.
He was mentioned only once, in October 1981, by Fr Bill Lovett: As a Christimas present, I decided to release Joel Thegwana from his R10 per month, but not from his work. He didn’t like it.
2000 – May
Phoswa And Terara
According to information from Bishop William Slattery, both of these catechists (neither mentioned in the Chronicle).
St Malumba’s Church
1956 – August
Mass was said at Sapukanduku.
1972 – March
Fr Columbanus received permission for a new church site at Sapukanduku and went with an official from the Magistrate’s court to mark it out.
Patron St Matthias Malumba.
The walls of the roofed mud-walled church at Sapukanduku had collapsed. On instruction from Bishop Napier, we arranged with Rory McKenzie of Maritzburg Steel and Wire to supply a prefab building 13m. X 10m. Comprising sheets, stanchions (trusses and purloins, which cost R2460.
1986 – March
Mrs Agnes Xorile instructed 10 children and 3 adults in preparation for the reception of confession and First Holy Communion at St Malumba’s outstation.
1986 – Easter
20 people from Sapukanduku came to Tabankulu for the Easter ceremonies.
1988 – March
The attendance at St Malumba’s is increasing steadily. It is now over 50 per Third Sunday of each month.
1989 – November
The annual procession to the graves of their ancestors at Sapukanduku on the 19th was postponed to 24th December. The outstation Mass there now averages 60 of a potential 80.
1990 – July/September
While Fr Bernardine was on overseas leave, Fr Bill Lovett supplied Mass at the outstations, among them being Sapukanduku.
1991 – March
Fr Aloysius Kelly mentioned that he said Mass at Sapukanduku, where there was a congregation of 32 and 12 people went to Communion.
This was the last mention of Sapukanduku.
Mass and Mbongeneni
It was said at Msolma’s place and there were about 50 people present.
St Charles Lwanga and Uganda Martyrs.
Mass at Mtukukazi.
The only Catholic at Mtukukazi was buried.
Holy Mass celebrated at the Headman and Chief’s place at Mtukukazi. Already a catholic from Dungu has acted as unoffical catechist and collected 47 names of possible catechumens.
1965 – August
Holy Mass celebrated for the first time in Mr Faber’s store at Mtukukazi.
1967 – June 13th
Feast of St Anthony. Applied for two church sites, one being at Mtukukazi.
1968 – October
Received official confirmation from the Transkei Government for a church site.
1981 – October
As the catechist had been retired, the congregation had to manage without him.
As Fr Bill said: We got on fine.
Victoria Mdletye led everything. The three St Annas were like three buddhas, overseeing the whole procedure. In 1983 only one person came for Sunday Mass – the rest had the excuse of the headman’s funeral that afternoon.
When Fr Bernardine was parish priest, he visited Mtukukazi twice in 1984, to find that the attendance had dropped to five. Elizabeth Mvika found the steep hill too difficult to climb, so he then visited her at home for confession, communion and some almsgiving. The congregation dwindled more in 1985, as one lady left to join the Zionists.
Church Demolished in a storm
One of the parishioners at Mtukukazi, Rosina, reported the event to Fr Bernardine. I will borrow a pick-up van and visit Mtukukazi after Easter this year.
Nothing further was mentioned about the church at Mtukukazi.
Mass said at Dambeni. Little prospect, though there were many pagans present.
Another first. Holy Mass was celebrated for the first time at Ncalana store, Dambeni district. Mrs Brauns, a Catholic, runs the store which belonged to the late Alex Williams.
Over 20 Africans were present.
St Joseph’s Church
1957 – April
Church site granted at Lower Mnceba.
1960 – January
St Joseph’s Church Opened
There was a great crowd present at the opening. Mass was said by Fr Kevin O’Sullivan of the Seminary in Pretoria. Benedictin was given by Bishop McBride.
Repairs to St Joseph’s Church
Fr Columbanus mentioned in his resume to Fr Napier that this church had been painted and repaired that year.
1978 – May
Another memorable day for the youth of the parish, this time for the boys. 11 boys were admitted to theJunior St Joseph’s Sodality. This first lot was received at Lower Mnceba.
Men of the St Joseph’s Sodality at Lower Mnceba began a 3 day retreat/preparation for their profession on Sunday 1st June. 4 members were professed.
Today (4th) I tested 14 sacred Heart ladies in Lower Mnceba toa ward the cape (they already have the medal and blouse) and they all failed on questions regarding the rosary.
1985 – Easter
The Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday ceremonies were held at St Joseph’s church at Lower Mnceba as well as at St Francis, Tabankulu. This relieved the pressure on Tabankulu as far as accommodation was concerned. The following four years the Easter ceremonies were also held at St Joseph’s church.
1986 – January
Members of the Sodality of St Ann at Lower Mnceba attended their quarterly meeting, which was held at Tabankulu.
1988 – September
Miss Humiliana, a teacher from Hardenberg conducted a catechetical course at St Joseph’s from September 26th -29th and it was very well attended. Over 30 people were prepared for reception of First Communion at Christmas.
On Sunday 2nd October the attendance figure for St Joseph’s was 140, 60 adults and 90 children. We prayed for rain and got some on the following Monday.
1988 – November
We visited the graveyard before Mass at St Joseph on the fourth Sunday in November. All the graves had been attended to beforehand, including some of the non-catholic ones. This services usually takes about an hour to perform and it intsills peace of mind among the living and obtains, we hope, peaceful rest for the departed.
1988 – December
Additions and alterations. A new outdoor toilet was put up at St Joseph’s, the sanctuary outside wall was repaired and the sanctuary was painted, all at the expence of the congregation.
1989 – May
Bishop Napier visited St Joseph’s to confirm 45 Catholics. We were met at the approaches to the church by a midst singing, dancing, whilrling and drumming. The local congregation rose to the occasion and acquitted themselves with flying colours and dresses. They enjoyed the church service and the aftermath. Mutton was in plentiful supply, not to mention the accessories, and donations flowed freely.
The bishop appreciated the reception he received (as he still does now as Archbishop) and he enjoyed the day.
November – 1989
The procession to the ancestral graves at St Joseph’s was held on Sunday 26th November. Welcome timely rains drenched the area during the following week! Just a statement of fact.
Average attendance at monthly Mass (1st Sunday) is over 100, 60 children and 40 adults, inspite of inclemente weather and long distances to be travelled.
1990 – June-September
Fr Bernardine was on long leave overseas, so Fr Bill, who was on convalenscent leave supplied Mass at St Joseph’s among other places.
1991 – March
Fr Aloysius celebrated Mass at St Joseph’s on Sunday 3rd, where the Mass was in Xhosa and the sermon in Zulu.
1991 – April
Funeral of Sodality member at St Joseph’s where there was a large attendance. The whole congregation escorted the body to the grave, the women in their uniforms and waving, singing and toyi-toying (dancing) all the way. (In recent years toyi-toying has become a feature of political protests and marches.
1958 – May
Mass celebrated at Cacadu
1976 – February
This month marked the re-opening of Mass centre at Cacadu (among others) which had been closed down for a number of years owing to faction fighting.
Fr Matthias said Mass for the first time at Bonxa in Cecilia Ntsada’s kraal.
1983 – Lent
Fr Bernardine visited Bonxa, and blessed the homes even of some protestant families who invited us to do so, and erected home-made crosses at the entrance gate to the Catholic homes
1962 – March
The outstation at Dungu was taken over from Mt Frere. Until now the priest at Mt Frere visited Dungu bi- monthly.
1976 – February
This month marked the re-opening of Dungu outstation, among others, which had closed down for a number of years owing to faction fighting.
1965 – February
I brought out the statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to Ncumbe. I discussed getting a church site there. Solomon Ndude was the pro-tem unofficial catechist.
1967 – January
As I was going to Ncumbe for the third Mass that Sunday, an African man riding a horse ran into the car – the horse’s leg got stuck in the front bumper . There was not much damage to the horse or the car, but I had a bad shock.
I applied for two new church sites, one being at Ncumbe.
Day of the Covenant (holiday). The priest blessed the new temporary church at Ncumbe and said the first Mass there. He also baptised the first baby.
1973 – July
Bro Juniper came to put up statues of Christ in Ncumbe.
1974 – 1st June
Opening of the church
Bishop McBride solemnly blessed and opened the Uganda Martyrs’ Church at Ncumbe, with about 400 people attending this auspicious occasion. Unfortunately no priests, brothers or sisters attended – they were all too busy, being the First Friday! The cost was approximately R2757. 65, with probably more to pay.
1975 – October
There was a 3 day Chiro workshop at Ncumbe.
1975 – November
Installation of Relics of Uganda Martyrs
At a special Mass the relics of Ss Charles Lwanga and Matthias Malumba were installed in the shrine at the church in Ncumbe.
1980 – August
One of the first Catholics in Cweraland served by Ncumbe outstation, Maria Phezisa, who died on Saturday 9th August just before the priest arrived to give her monthly Communion, was buried in style. Good turnout of people to see her off to her reward RIP.
1983 – December
Bro Nicholas Potolwana of Ncumbe visited the Mission for some days, prior to his journey to the Novitiate at Besters in the New Year.
1984 – July
Second Sunday, Mass as usual at ncumbe at 12.30 pm.
1986 – April
There was a very poor attendance at the monthly Mass at ncumbe. Only 11 out of a possible 90 (9 adults and 2 children). Plea: Local non-Catholic funeral.
1986 – May
There was a bus accident near Mt Frere on the road to Ncumbe. 29 people were killed and 35 were taken to the hospital at Mt Frere. As the road between these two places was very dilapidated and full of potholes this way have been one of the reasons for the accident.
1990 – January
Fr Rogers Sihlobo, who was substituting for Fr Gerry O’Relly at Mt Frere, offered Mass at ncumbe outstation.
No mention was made of Fr Aloysius Kelly of the Ncumbe outstation.
1969 – December
Sr M Jacinta from lesotho came to visit her relatives at Dageni.
1976 – February
This month marked the re-opening of several Mass centres, among them being CABA, which had close down for a number of years owing to faction fighting; CABA had more of less closed for various reasons.
1983 – Lent
Visited the Mass centre of CABA, blessed the homes even of some Protestants who invited me to do so, and erected, homemade crosses at the entrance gates to the Catholic homes.
A new centre was started in the Bheja location in the Ncumbe area. About a dozen people where present.
1983 – February
On Sunday 27th Feb, Mass was celebrated at Bheja at the home of Eleanora Sekhuti at 12.30pm; attendance was 5 children and thirteen adults. We promised to go there for Mass on every fifth Sunday of the months of five Sundays.
1983 – Lent
Visited the Mass centre of Bheja and blessed the homes even of some Protestants who invited us to do so, and erected home-made crosses at the entrance gates to the Catholic homes.
1983 – Lent
Fr Bernardine visited the Ndakeni Mass centre and blessed the Catholic homes and also some Protestant ones, putting up home-made crosses at the entrance gates to the Catholic homes.
1st June 1973
Opening of Church at Cawa.
It was a triumphant and happy occasion when Bishop McBride blessed and opened the church for the people at Cawa. Fr Comumbanus, the parish priest, opened the door and spoke to th congregation after the Bishop had declared the church officially blessed and opened. Th efour catechists, Andreas Moleko, Henry Nkabane, Solomon Ndude and Johannes Ntabane were also present. I represent below two articles and a photo of Bishop McBride standing at the entrance, below. The text of the articles is in Xhosa, one written by catechist Henry Nkabene and the other by Andreas Moleko.
1986 – May 11th
Mass was celebrated at the home of Mr & Mrs Nicholaus Sondiyaza at Dumisa at 11.30 am. During the Mass their son, Bernard Banele, born 24th May 1985, was baptised.
1987 On the fourth Sunday of March, June, September and December, Mass was celebrated at the Mofoka home at Baqozeni. The average attendance was 55.
The outstation section is now concluded.
Proposed Clinic at Mission.
1962 – April
In the Chronicle are the following notations:
A letter fromthe Village Management Board stated that the Board had no objection the establishment of an urban clinic on the mission grouds.
In May about 14 African men gathered on the mission to form an employing body to be registered as a Welfare Organisation in view of establishing a District Nursing Service in the following places previously suggested by the Native (African Affairs Commissioner at Tabankulu, Mr Peter Gordon:
and Village Nyokwene
The committed formed comprised the following people:
Rev. Seraphin Kennedy, Chairman
Mzatheti Diko (Chief) Vice-Chairman
Julia Makitini (Sr Celena, CPS), Secretary
Selenzo L Mnyoni
All these men apart fro Selenzo Diko Mnyoni are Headmen. Mr Selenzo Diko is a pensioner.
It was decided to call the clinic Sigidi Clinic, as a memorial to the Chief’s late father.
However in August the Department of Health informed us that it was not in favour of a district nursing service at the Mission in Tabankulu. (The Department , still part of South Africa and therefore under the Afrikaans Nationalist Government preferred to have the district nursing service at a Dutch Reformed Mission).
Once more politics reared its ugly head and the scheme at the Mission came to nothing.
Resume of Position at Mission in July 1973.
When Fr Columbanus went on overseas leave in 1973, he fully expected that he would be transferred elsewhere on his return, as often happens with the priests so he drew up a typewritten resume for his successor (who turned out to be Fr Napier). Some of the details I have used under outstations and catechists. The rest I will repeat verbatim.
When I took over from Fr Seraphim Kennedy in 1974 the number of baptisms in the register was 997. For the benefit of whoever takes over during my absence either temporarily or permanently, don’t be deceived by figures. The last entry I made in the register in July 1973 was 1586, but what with deaths, emigration and floating population, a rough estimate of the number of Catholics in the district is 742.
These people are scattered around in five main districts, namely:
St Francis, Tabankulu
Uganda Martyrs, Ncumbe
St Joseph’s Lower Mnceba
St Charles Lwanga, Mtukukazi
St Matthias Malumba, Sapukanduku.
Three new church -sites were officially granted by the Transkei Government at umtata since 1963, namely:
Ncumbe – Blessed and opened 1st June 1973
The Sapukanduku and Mtukukazi are already fenced in and a temporary mud church built on each site.
Additions and Alterations
At the Mission a new porch was added to the Tabankulu church in 1965 and all properties have been repaired and painted twice. The church at Lower Mnceba has been repaired and painted.
(After this came a large section which has been interwoven with the text and does not need to be mentioned again).
Finance – 1973
Income: Diocese Quarterly …………………..R 560
Rent ……………………………………… 120
Collections, approximately 120
R 820. 27
Cook ……………………………………………………….. 45
Car ………………………………………………………….. 60
Alis Cap …………………………………………………….. ?
Since Tabankulu becme part of the Bantustan (African states), the great exodus of whites began and there are now only 5 European Catholics here, whereas there were formerly 26. Hence the drop in income, eg only 45 cents in the collection last Sunday. The Moncur family in the store next door, where I have an account, both Mother and the son are Catholic and the father, not Catholic, come to church every Sunday. Then there is Mrs Coetzee and Arthur Kennedy. The Woycieh family are also Catholics, living in the store near Sepetu hospital at Ncumbe. Although not practising, they pay their Maintanance fund – I suggest a quarterly visit for Mass there.
They average about 90 people in the village, of whom 58 are Catholics and mostly the children who make up the school.
Excepting the Brauns and Venn families, the poverty and living conditions of the rest is appalling. The drinking habits and dangerous occasions for the young, especially the girls, makes church-going a problem, chiefly owing to the indifference of the parents. Now this is an apostolate for a young and zealous priest!
Every Thursday at 7.15 am there is the children’s Mass and on Friday at 8.30 am. religious instruction in the school. Up to last year I had two Masses in the village, eight and ten am, first for the European and Coloured community and the second Mass for the Africans. Now there is only one Mass, at 8.30am except on the first Sunday of the month, when I have Benediction and exposition after the Mass.
The custom of ringing the Angelus bell every morning at 6 am at midday and 6 in the evening , has been strictly adhered to and the village, apart from the Catholics would be lost without hearing it . Every evening at 5 pm the rosary is said, with the prayer to the Uganda Martyrs by the priest, catechist, cook and those living on the Mission.
Information on Tabankulu Mission
Between November 1973 and December 1980.
Supplied by His Grace Archbishop Wilfrid Napier.
In March 1999, after trying vainly around the Kokstad Diocese to find the Tabankulu chronicle, I was told by two separate sources that there was no Chronicle at Tabankulu, so I wrote to Archishop Napier. He responded by giving me 2-1/2 pages of information from his tenure there between November 1973-1980 while he was still Fr Napier. He apoligises for his bad memory but considering that this was at the latest date 19 years previously, I find the detail quite remarkable.
I am very grateful to him for finding the time to help me in this way.
I reproduce direct copies of the letter and the information contained therein on pages 65-67.
My Ministry in Tabankulu from November 1973 – December 1980
My first experience of life in Tabankulu was a three-month period of supplying for the parish priest Fr Columbanus Timmons OFM from July to September 1973. In November of that year I was appointed parish priest.
From the outset I undertook an extensive house to house visitation of the parish, taking up where another locum tenens (supplying priest) had left off some eight years earlier.