Bothaville, South Africa, gets its first Catholic church.

Bothaville, South Africa, gets its first Catholic church.

Fr. Anthony Ndang Ndichia mhm

When Fr. John Doran mhm first arrived in South Africa
in 2005 he took charge of four communities (two small English speaking and two Sotho speaking communities). Out of the four communities, only one, Bothavile town, rented the Methodist Church for services and celebrations. Geographically, Bothavile is in the middle of South Africa and is the heart of the maize production in the country and a big transport hub. It hosts the second largest agricultural show in the world every year. The Catholic community of Bothavile is very small and is made up of persons of Portuguese, Italian, Lebanese extraction as well as Afrikaners and Basotho.

For the past 38 years, the community of Bothavile has been collecting money to build a new church, most recently with the support and permission of the Bishop and a retired Belgian missionary (OMI). This church which has taken over five years to build cost between 75,000 – 80,000 pounds.

According to Fr. John Doran mhm, the church was built for three reasons:

for the future of the Catholic Church as many Catholics move into the area, secondly, a Catholic witness to the community at large and lastly the hope of some of the whites becoming Catholics allowing the community to grow together.

It should be noted that the Town Council donated the land free of charge saving the parish at least 12,000 pounds for the project. The architect who designed the church worked for free but received a token gift of five hundred pounds for her great work. The Church was built without a building contractor thus saving ten thousand pounds. It was built by local workmen and supervised by some parishioners who know about building. During the building, Fr. John Doran asked for two luxuries: an open fire in the flat for winter and a bell tower with a bell. The process of building the bell tower is still to commence and is estimated to cost about 4000 pounds.

On the 24th September, Rt. Rev Peter Holiday, Bishop of the Diocese of Kroonstad, officially consecrated the church dedicated to Holy Family of Nazareth. The Bishop has given permission to have the Blessed Sacrament in the Church. It should be noted that there were some objections from the neighbours for the presence of the church. During the opening of the church, the neighbours were invited and most didn’t come. However, the animosity has since disappeared and one or two of the neighbours are currently enquiring about the possibility of joining the church.

Visiting the church, one can easily see that the church has a great atmosphere of prayer even though it’s new.

Inside the church there is the statue of the Holy Family, St Anthony of Padua and pictures of the two well known locals: Blessed Benedict Daswa who was recently beatified and Joseph Gerald (OMI) an apostle of the Basotho from France.

Lots of people, both blacks and whites, are very proud that they managed to build this church in the town. There are a number of people who contributed a lot for the building of the church such as the Catholics from the town community and the Portuguese community in South Africa as well as the bishop of Kroonstad.

At the moment, a priest stays in the little flat attached to the church ten days a month. Priests and religious serving in Bothavile include Fr. John Doran (England), Fr. Gabriel Baraza (Kenya) and the Franciscan Sisters (South Africa).

Fr. Anthony Ndang Ndichia, is a Mill Hill Missionary working in the diocese of Kroonstad, South Africa.

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