The history of the parishes in the Diocese of Eshowe
A huge papermill which was built in 1950 on the northern bank of the Tugela river brought a big influx of people to Mandeni which is situated near the Tugela river mouth. It also led to the establishment of a Catholic parish. The chronicler gives a description of Mandeni as it appeared in 1954:
"The town is not yet complete, but it has already a population of well over one thousand (300 Whites, 800 Blacks and 200 Indians)...About seventy of them are Catholic...Mass is held once a month in a private home for Europeans, for the black workers in their township and for the blacks living around Mandeni in one of the kraals. There should really be a fourth Mass for Indians and Coloureds as they are accepted neither by the Europeans nor by the Blacks" (chronicle of Mangete, 1953-1954, pg. 160).
The priest of Mangete looked after the Catholics of Mandeni until April 1964 when Mandeni became an independent parish with a resident priest. As the congregation grew, it was not longer possible to celebrate Sunday Mass in a private home. Services were therefore held in the Moth Hall until the Catholics were able to move into their own church.
Bishop Aurelian Bilgeri asked architect Mark Hussey of Pretoria to make plans for a church and a parish centre in Mandeni. The priest's house was ready in April 1967. It contained a large meeting room which was arranged as a temporary chapel. Bishop Bilgeri blessed and opened the chapel on May 28, 1967. The second phase of the project, the construction of a proper church, started in August 1973, a month after the sudden death of Bishop Bilgeri. The contract was given to W. Cain Builders of Pinetown. They completed the church in December 1974. The first Mass was celebrated on Sunday, December 22, 1974. Bishop Mansuet Biyase, the successor to Bishop Bilgeri, consecrated the church on September 7, 1975. It is dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua. The building with its spiral tower is not one of the biggest, but certainly one of the most remarkable church structures in the Diocese of Eshowe. THE ZULULAND TIMES (25-09-75) carried the following report about the opening of the church:
Sunday, 7th September, 1975, was a red letter day for the Catholic community of Mandeni, the day the church was solemnly blessed by the Rt. Rev. Bishop Mansuet Biyase of Eshowe. It was his first major public function. Flanked by six Knights of da Gama, the Bishop was accompanied by Fr. Elmar Kimmel, prior of Inkamana Monastery...(A) warm welcome was extended to...the architects Hussey and Green, the Rev. Frs. H. Terblanche and G. Marchington (Anglican Church), the representatives of the Dutch Reformed Church, Mr. S. van Niekerk of Sappi and Mr. T.A. Moult of the Health Committee. After the Bishop had blessed the outside of the building, the architect, M. Hussey, handed the key over to Mrs. R. Potts, one of the oldest Catholic residents of Mandeni, who unlocked the door. The Mandeni congregation, after years of hard work, could contribute R 7000 towards the building expenses.
Entering the church, the Bishop traced a big cross on the threshold dedicating the building to Christ the Lord.
Having seen the impressive front of the church with the massive tower and monumental cross, the people were struck by the devotional atmosphere of the interior of the church. The altar, receiving its light from above, stands out as the centre of the church."
The black township of Sundumbili forms part of the Mandeni parish. The township's population increased dramatically with the the development of Isithebe, a nearby industrial area, drawing hundreds of families from rural Zululand to Sundumbili. Bishop Bilgeri gave the contract for the construction of a church in Sundumbili to the Wilson Building Company of Eshowe. The building, which looks like a gigantic drum cut in half, was completed in November 1967. Bishop Bilgeri blessed the church, which is dedicated to St. Benedict the Negro OFM, on October 11, 1970.
The Mandeni parish had a total of 1900 Catholics in 1990. Attached to the parish are five outstations. By far the biggest is Sundumbili which has more Catholics than Mandeni. The other four are Mambane, Mathonsi, Msunduze and Nembe. Msunduze is the oldest outstation of Mandeni. It was closed down for a while, but was re-opened when Fr. Gérard Lagleder OSB became parish priest in 1991.
Parish Priests of Mandeni
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This page was last updated on 24.10.06 17:41:27