St Peter church
HISTORY OF ST PETER’S CATHOLIC CHURCH, POINT, IN THE ARCHDIOCESE OF DURBAN
The 80th anniversary of St Peter’s Catholic Church, Point, further referred to as ‘the Church’, has sprung upon us the opportunity to visit and research the history and origin of the Church. Below is an extract detailing events between 1922 and 2009.
“The land for the new church in Point Road, near the corner of Hospital Road, was bought from Mrs Nicoll around 1922. Funds for the erection of the church were collected over a number of years. Bishop Delalle gave the £1000 presented to him on the 25th anniversary of his consecration as bishop in 1929, a parishioner, Leo Angelus Coughlan left a legacy of £2000, and £4000 was collected from other sources. Leopold Letord, a Durban architect, designed the new church and the foundations were dug at the end of December 1938. The church was completed in 1939 and had several unusual features including the bell tower, an alter made of onyx mined at Port St John’s, while the baptistry and confessional from wings to the nave and follow the line of the curved front brickwork in the manner of the old galleons. This style was chosen because of the position of the church in what was then the dock area and its association with the Apostleship of the Sea.
St Peter was at its busiest during the Second World War when entertainment took place in the church hall, situated under the church and when a canteen was set up in the hall for use by the thousands of soldiers and sailors visiting the port or camped nearby. Thousands of workers from Basutoland (Lesotho) were brought to Durban 1952 to work on the construction of the harbor and Father Dupuis came to care for the many Catholics among them, using St Peter’s as his headquarters.
Over the years the Point area changed with warehouses occupying what were originally houses and vacant land. St Peter’s continued to attract good congregations particularly after Addington Hospital was rebuilt and a number of large apartment blocks were completed and people moved in to be near the beach and the city centre. Point Road (now Mahatma Ghandi Street) began to be upgraded and the whole are developed when uShaka Marine World was built as tourist attraction in the 1990’s.
St. Peter’s CATHOLIC Church, Durban
From 2000 to 2006 Father Faustyn Jankowski became parish priest of St Peter’s as well as chaplain to the Polish community. During this time the community donated an alter, baptismal font, lectern and other items including a statue of our Lady of Czestochowa and a plaque commemorating the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the Polish community in Natal. Father Seamus O’Reilly SPS was the parish priest until end of 2009. At the present time Masses are no longer said in Polish but parishioners come from a variety of countries including Nigeria, Rwanda, Congo and Burundi”. BRAIN J; A Glimpse into the History of the Archdiocese of Durban; Editions Du Signe; 2010.
Furthermore, from 2010 to date the Church has undergone many changes, from priests at the helm to the congregation. To mention just a few priests who shared their ministries at St Peter’s, among others are Father’s Faustyn, Kelly, Shamaeus, Sifiso Ndlovu who was the predecessor of Father Georges Bidzogo who has been the parish priest from August 2014 to date. The Church has predominantly served Foreign Communities since its inception in 1922 where it was started by the Polish Community. Currently the congregation is made up of people from various African countries, the majority of whom were forced to settle in the South Beach, Point Area either as migrants or as refugees with some locals, due to the socio-political-economic climate affecting them. As mentioned above, these countries include Nigeria, Rwanda, Congo, Liberia, Burundi, with Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Malawi among others.
St Peters is one of the few parishes that became home to these Foreigners alongside their South African counterparts. The current congregation can best be described as cosmopolitan in nature, mostly Foreigners, some pensioners and some South Africans. All nationalities are embraced in this parish with mass readings and homilies being read and translated into the dominant languages such as English, Zulu, French, Swahili, among others. The parishioners dress according to their different cultures and attires, yet all are one in the parish of St Peter’s. The different prayer groups are encouraged to worship in their own mother tongue and in a manner they feel comfortable.
As we know, the church building is 80yrs old and has been declared a heritage sight as guided by the municipal bylaws of Durban, KwaZulu Natal. Although the building is slowly becoming weather -beaten, no renovations or improvements can be made that may change or alter the face of the building. Since Father Georges arrived at St Peter’s as the parish priest, he took it upon himself to transform the church in terms of its infrastructure and others, without interfering with its heritage look. With the assistance of the parishioners by fundraising/donations, immeasurable work has already been done, such as the tiles being replaced in the church and the hall, windows being replaced in the hall and painting of the inside of the hall and the church. The church was also fitted with four new air conditioners. There are two kitchens, one on either side of the hall. One is used as the soup kitchen for feeding the poor with the assistance of the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SSVP). This kitchen was fully tiled, with the kind assistance of the SSVP.
Father Georges and the 80th Anniversary steering committee hope to embark on a new project after this celebration. The roof is leaking and there are trees and shrubs growing on it. The roof tiles need replacing. The outside of the entire church also needs to be given a facelift by way of painting and sealing cracks. The only challenged faced in this regard is lack of funds. In order to embark on this project a total estimate of R200 000.00 (Two Hundred Thousand Rand) is needed. Anyone wishing to contribute or donate towards this project should please contact the Parish Secretary in the office.