South Africa

S Africa

Fr. DuparquetSpiritans first set foot on South African soil in 1878.

That year Fr. Charles Duparquet (1830-1888) took over the Prefecture of Cimbebasia which then comprised parts of Angola, Namibia and Botswana. Conflict and communication difficulties forbade further work, and in 1889, the few Spiritans returned to Germany.

It wasn’t until 1923 that Spiritans returned to South Africa, to work with the 821 Catholics that had come there, largely from Europe. The missionaries faced a large scarcely populated territory, a virtually non-existent Catholic Church; a situation that needed courage, ingenuity and faith in order to be overcome. The first missionaries were pioneers whose work was characterized by intensive practical activity. They had to be jacks of all trades.

Following the Pioneer Years, 1935 to 1951 Monsignor Leo Klerlein, CSSp., was appointed Vicar Apostolic and subsequently ordained Bishop on May 30, 1935. It was especially not easy for the mis­sionaries during the Second World War and its aftermath. Most of the priests and brothers spent from nine months to four years in prison camps in Pretoria. Bishop Klerlein was first to be arrested at the beginning of 1940, but he was released shortly afterwards after a well placed Anglican pleaded his case. After their release, the Spiritans were forbidden to do most of their pastoral work among the Blacks. In 1945 this restriction was lifted.

Heralding the Spiritans‘ Future

In 1951, one year after Peter Kelleter, CSSp., became Bishop, the South African hierarchy was established by papal decree. Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban and Bloemfontein received the status of arch­dioceses and the Vicariate of Bethlehem became the Diocese of Bethlehem. Now the Diocese of Bethlehem was open to other Congregations as well as secular priests.

If you should need to build a chapel or a church, it should always be beautiful, but never at the expense of the poor (28).