Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Lost Heritage - A personal historiography

This is a snap of my aunt’s First communion, which she recievied on the feast of Christ the King 1956. The Priest seen distributing the Blessed Sacrament is the late Fr. P. Hogan O.M.I. This is the parish from which our family originally originates. My Grandfather being associated with the Parish for well over 50 years, he and his elder sister- and duly both of his younger siblings, ‘converted’, or as he puts it as due to‘ conviction’ rather for the Catholic faith, from Anglicanism, when he was 19years old in 1954.
Since this time my family has had an intricate history with the parish, up until recently when we decided that the Novus ordo reforms had been taken to the extremes, most especially with the frequent occurrence of what our fellow parishioners deem “charismatic masses” – the night that I decided to leave was during the celebration of one of these masses in which the visiting priest equated the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, to that of his presence sacred scripture. I was the last of my family to receive baptism at the parish, a month following my birth on the 6th March 1987, thankfully by a relatively well minded O.M.I priest, Fr. B. Connelly who celebrated my mother and fathers nuptial mass at the parish on the 1st September 1984.

The original church, as seen above was once deemed to be the “model” parish in the diocese at the time, a title which was understandably deserved, considering the fervor and devotion of the various members of the parish, the period in question could be said to be the heyday of catholic culture in the city of Johannesburg. It is during this period of the 1950’s when such things as the Corpus Christi Procession would take place annually, St. Patrick’s hosting the event due to its close proximity to the Rand Show Grounds, where such ceremonies took place. Also seen in the parishes jurisdiction was the visit of the world renowned Fr. P. Peyton, apostle of the Rosary. I am privileged to say that my grandfather possesses a rosary blessed by him at the time of his visit. Such was the life of catholic people who lived in these Southern Suburbs.

This same ‘catholic culture’ was further enhanced by various other aspects. Firstly, by the large catholic population living in the area and its surrounds, in the early years of the parish its jurisdiction covered all the areas south of Johannesburg; one relates the story of one of its Parish priests, the well known Fr. L. Peron who would ride his bicycle from the parish in La Rochelle to Heidelburg, a town some 50km + away in order to carry out his parochial visits as well as to celebrate Mass for those Catholics resident there. The likes of such zealous priests have yet to be seen!

Those other aspects which influenced the vibrant catholic culture found in these suburbs are seen in the effects of Catholic Schooling in the area. The King Williams Town Dominican sisters established residence in the area since its first settlement in 1906, a small two bed roomed cottage which stood adjacent to the first tin and iron church in 6th Street served as the first ‘ St. Roses’ convent. The church at this time served two purposes, namely during the week as the convent school house and on the weekends and holydays as the parish church. The first priests were supplied by the then Pro- Cathedral in Kerk St. Doornfontein.

The parish grew drastically and soon gave reason for a new church to be built, however in the final attainment of this objective the admirable characteristics of the once ‘model’ parish have been seemingly lost to history. ( to be continued)

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