Saturday, May 30, 2009

Catholic Church seeks new home

-Zelia Mullins-

I would like to recall the words written by Winnie Graham in “A business deal that turned into a labour of love” from “Paths less travelled”, published in Worldwide in October 2007….

“There is a little church on a hill in the Karoo village of Prince Albert that was built by a layman. In fact, I know of no other church in this country that was built by a man in response to a deal he perceived as a blessing – but which anyone else would have seen as a normal business transaction. Eddie Gleeson is a joiner who runs a business in the village. A few years ago the wife of a friend asked him to find something for her husband to do. The couple had lost their farm in Zimbabwe and Don Erasmus was at a loose end. Eddie says the two men decided to buy a stand and build a house. “However, before we got started we received an offer for the land at double the price we had paid. We decided we had to do something in thanksgiving and settled on a small Catholic church for the village” Eddie estimated it would cost about R12 000. In fact, it cost R22 000 – but he and Don were to be overwhelmed by support from local Catholics and friends. One couple from the UK who come to the village each summer made a substantial contribution. So did a friend from Ireland. Cash donations rolled in. Then Eddie had a happy surprise. Father Kevin Reynolds who had been at school with him at CBC in Pretoria, happened to visit Prince Albert. He learned by chance that Eddie Gleeson lived there. When the friends were reunited, Fr Kevin contributed a glass picture of Christ for the main window in memory of his mother. Fr Fidgeon, parish priest of St Charles in Victory Park, Johannesburg, sent a crucifix. Joyce Gleeson designed the stained glass windows. Another friend donated statues of angels and a bell. Fr Brian Williams, the priest who travels nearly 100 kms every second week to celebrate mass with the small community provided pews that seat 30 “at a squeeze”. All manner of people contributed. In the end, Eddie says, he and Don gave their labour but the church didn’t cost them a cent. It was named St Albert’s by Fr Brian. “It wasn’t my choice.” Eddie admits ruefully. “I first thought St Anthony’s, my patron saint. Then one Sunday, when I was working on the roof I couldn’t get down because a snake had curled up at the base of the ladder. I decided it should be named after St Patrick who chased the snakes from Ireland. But Fr Brian had made up his mind.”

St Albert’s Church celebrated its third anniversary in October 2008, a landmark of love that stands out against the mountains behind Eddie’s workshop.

It seems that another business deal will now leave the Catholic community of Prince Albert without a permanent place to worship - the land on which the church stands has been sold and the new owner, who is due to take possession towards the end of May 2009, has indicated that we will not be allowed to hold services in our quaint little church any longer. We have been asked to remove all contents from the church as soon as possible but have been denied our request to remove and replace the stained glass windows, which hold sentimental value to us as Catholics, with clear glass. The exquisitely crafted picture window of Christ which holds place of honour behind the altar and was designed by Leo Theron, from Oudtshoorn in 1985 in memory of Father Kevin’s mother, may also not be removed.

We once again appeal to the generous spirit of Prince Albert to assist us in finding a new home. If anyone knows of a place that we could use as a church please contact Zelia Mullins on 072 108 1987 or 023 541-1102. Please also remember to keep us in your thoughts and prayers during this time of tribulation.

“Oh Lord, fill them with your Holy Spirit to guide them into understanding and respecting that You are the Author and Master of all creation, Saint Albert, pray for us. Amen.”

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