CHRONICLE OF ST. PAUL’S PARISH, SOMERSET WEST
Until 01 April 1958, St. Paul’s formed part of St. Peter’s Parish, Strand. On the 1st April 1958, The Most Reverend Owen McCann, Metropolitan Archbishop of Cape Town, established St. Paul’s in Somerset West as a separate and independent Parish. In its care he placed the outlying Areas of Elgin (Grabouw), Hermanus, Gansbaai, Bredasdorp etc. The boundaries were defined in the ‘Decree of Erection’ as “The present boundaries between the Municipalities of Strand and Somerset West, the Eerste River at Faure, the Stellenbosch Municipal boundary at Firgrove, the Franschhoek boundary at Villiersdorp and the Swellendam Municipal boundary this side of the Breede River”.
Our origins are somewhat vague. There is mention of an application for the building of a Roman Catholic Church in the ‘Municipal Minutes’ of March 1914. This was during the tenure of Father M. P. Dahille of the Strand and it would seem that the monies used to build the original Church were paid by him personally.
Fr. Dahille built a tiny Church, seating about 80 people – adequate for the time. It was a pretty little building of simple design but with great atmosphere. For many years it supplied the needs of Somerset West with one Holy Mass every Sunday. Later this was increased to two Masses and in 1950 expansion of the Church Building was needed to cater for increased demand. The 1950 additions, designed by Mr. David Seymore-Cousins, increased the capacity to 180, leaving the original building undisturbed except for the loss of its back wall.
Somerset West was expanding rapidly and in view of a predicted influx to the various Factories to be erected in the Village neighbourhood, and to celebrate the Church’s fifty years of existence, St. Paul’s was again renovated and expanded in 1964, becoming a fairly new and modern Church Building accommodating approximately 250 people. 1989 marked the 75th Anniversary of St. Paul’s. The then Parish Priest remarked at the time: “I sense a strong desire among Catholics for an improvement of facilities for the community. This together with the phenomenal growth of Somerset West convinces me that now is the time to assess our resources, plan for our future needs and commit ourselves to building”.
To cater for the increase in the Catholic population, further renovation and building extensions were deemed absolutely necessary and with new Building Plans drawn up and approved by both the Archdiocese and the Municipality, work commenced in 2001. St. Paul’s Church was again enlarged and completely overhauled and renovated to accommodate 500 people. A new Priest’s House was built on the property and the old Presbytery became the Parish Office and Meeting Rooms. During Construction, which lasted approximately nine months, Mass and other Services were held in the Church Hall. One week before Christmas 2001 the Church was completed and again used for Sacred Worship. In February 2002, Archbishop Lawrence Henry excised from St. Paul’s Parish the districts of Villiersdorp and Grabouw (Elgin), establishing the new Overberg Parish of ‘Our Lady, Queen of Apostles’ comprising Villiersdorp, Greyton, Caledon, Bettys’ Bay and Grabouw. St. Paul’s Parish now comprised Sir Lowry’s Pass, Macassar-Firgrove and Somerset West.
Sunday, January 27th of 2002, was a momentous day for the Parish. The Most Reverend Lawrence Patrick Henry, Metropolitan Archbishop of Cape Town solemnly Dedicated the Parish Church under the title of the ‘Conversion of St. Paul’ – our principal Patron Saint. However, we did not forget our other Church in the Parish – St. Stephen the Martyr in Macassar – and after much needed renovations and refurbishment, this Church too, was solemnly dedicated by Archbishop Lawrence Henry on the 26th December 2005. In 2007 the Parish Hall and facilities at St. Paul’s were modernised, renovated and completely refurbished, becoming the focal point for all Parish Social celebrations.
The renovations and additions of 2001 had an ‘in-built’ defect in that two of the Church Doors opened directly to the outside of the Church Building, affording very little to no shelter, and faced squarely into the notorious ‘South-Easter’ wind! This caused many difficulties and led to protracted discussions as to a possible solution to the problem. In 2013 it was finally decided to build a much needed Entrance Porch for the Church, incorporating a Repository. This latest addition and renovation was completed at the end of April 2013 and was duly blessed by the Parish Priest at the 8:30am Sunday Mass on the 12th May 2013. It has since proven itself to be a great and much needed asset for the Church and the Parish.
Whilst we annually celebrate our Patronal Feast on the Sunday closest to the Conversion of St. Paul – the 25th January – we decided to celebrate this Centenary Jubilee on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul – the 29th June 2014. We thereby wish to give honour to our Parish origins from St. Peter’s in the Strand and acknowledge the special bond and relationship that has always existed between these two neighbouring Parishes. We are extending an invitation to the Parish Priest and the Pastoral Council of St. Peter’s to join us for this solemn celebration. We are also honoured that the Most Reverend Stephen Brislin, Metropolitan Archbishop of Cape Town, will be the Main Celebrant of our Jubilee Mass of Thanksgiving.
There is a great deal to celebrate with enthusiasm and confidently we place all our hopes for the future into the loving hands of Almighty God. We also entrust ourselves to the loving intercession of ‘Our Lady of the Flight into Egypt’ – the Patroness of this Local Church of Cape Town – the Local Church of which we are an integral part.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us!