Of the four provinces which compose the Union of South Africa- namely, the Transvaal, the Orange Free State, Natal, and the Cape- only the last mentioned was to any notable extent the scene of the missionary labours of Irish bishops and priests. Irish nuns, of course, who are more daring and efficient in their methods of ‘peaceful penetration’, have found their way into every nook and corner of the sub-Continent. You will find them in the principal cities successfully holding their own in the work of higher education: in the lonely dorps patiently laying the foundations of the life of grace in the souls of a handful of children in an atmosphere of intense and bitter Calvinism; in the Native territories laboriously fitting ‘black souls’ for heavenly citizenship-far away, thank God, from the corrupting influence of what is called “European civilization” ( a word to conjure with in south Africa, where a million and a half whites fondly hope to keep in a condition not far removed from slavery a Native population of six millions).
The first Europeans who came to South Africa were, of course, Catholics (Protestantism did not exist then), and their first act was a religious act. They were Portuguese, and the standard they hosted was not the standard of Portugal but that of the Kingdom of God. In August 1486, Bartholomew Dias erected a cross at Angra Pequena and later on in the same voyage another, which gave its name to Santa Cruz, in Algoa Bay. At this latter place the historian speaks of “religious rites”. Was there a priest on board; and if so, was it South Africa’s first Mass? St. Francis Xavier rounded the Cape. Did he land there, and did he celebrate Mass?
If some Jesuit scholar in Europe, who has access to ancient records, can prove that he did, the present writer (who said his first Mass at the shrine of him whose “Francis what doth it profit” gave the Church of God the greatest missionary since the days of St. Paul) will erect on the shores of Table Bay a shrine to the Apostle of the Coloured People.
The first church in the southern hemisphere was in the island of St. Helena. This was a place of call by the Portuguese, and the first house (for a long time the only house) they built there was the house of God. Too many misfortunes were associated with the “Stormy Cape” for them to wish to stop there; so as a rule sailed from St. Helena right around to Mozambique.
These golden days passed away, and the Dutch and English stepped into the place of the Portuguese. Whatever the political world may have gained by the change, the Catholic Church, for a time at least was practically shut out of South Africa. Van Riebeek landed in the Cape in 1651, and in 1688 came the French Huguenots and Dutch refugees, bringing with them their new religion (Calvinism). What Catholicism in Australia owes to Irish immigration Protestism in South Africa owes to Dutch and Huguenot occupation. In the following years the Great Trek took place to the Free State and the Transvaal. Thus a Calvinistic Protestism became entrenched in the greater part of South Africa, and it has remained so to this day.
In 1674 we learn that the Catholic Church was present in the Cape at least in its laity. While obliged to submit to the privation of public worship, they were anxious about the public recognition of the baptism of their children. We get a more interesting glimpse in the year 1685, where six Jesuits called here on their way to Siam, having been sent thither with the embassy for scientific purposes by Louis XIV. They were kindly received by the governor, van Der Stel, and were granted an observatory in Cape Town. “Hardly had we taken possession of our little observatory,” one of them writes “when the Catholics of this Colony, who are fairly numerous, got to hear of it and showed great joy…. Those who who could not express themselves otherwise knelt and kisses our hands. They drew their rosary beads from their necks to show us that they were Catholics; they wept and struck their breasts…. We visited the sick in their houses and the hospitals. It was all we could do to console them in so short a time, seeing that they were not allowed to come on board to hear Mass and we were not allowed to say it onshore. When two of our fathers were returning from the ship with a microscope covered with a gold cloth, two or three of the inhabitants walking on the beach thought it was the Blessed Sacrament we were carrying in a pyx for the Catholics. They came up to see what it was; the Father told them, and to prove it made them look into the microscope”.
From 1686 the Catholic Church disappears from the pages of South African history. Whatever aspirations individuals may have had after religious liberty were effectively quelched. But when the Dutch returned after tempory English occupation, a breath of freedom came with them. In July, 1804, Commissioner General de Mist published his ordinance on toleration. This became our Magna Charta, and at once the Catholics availed themselves of it. Three Dutch priests came to the Colony, and a room in the castle was put to their disposal. In the very next year, our new-born freedom received a severe rebuff at the hands of the English, and the priests were ordered to leave. But on the following year better counsels prevailed as the result of the intervention of Bishop Poynter, Vicar Apostolic of the English Midlands of the English Midlands District.
The next event of interest in the history of the Church in the Cape was the arrival in 1820 of the Vicar Apostolic of Mauritius, D. Slater, who was accompanied by three priests, one of whom, Father Scully, he left at the Cape. At the time Cape Colony was an ecclesiastical appendage of the island of Mauritius.
Father Scully sojourn at the Cape was not a happy one. He had been forced to accept an arrangement whereby the Catholic Church was governed on Presbyterian lines. The free exercise of the Catholic religion was permitted only on condition that churchwardens should be appointed to control the parish finances. A church was built, mostly with borrowed money. What with financial difficulties, discord among his congregation, the growing hostility on the part of civil authorities, the good priest found his position more than flesh and blood could bear, and in 1824, taking advantage of a passing ship, he left the Colony and his troubles behind him forever.
This was the state of things when our countrymen, at the suggestion of the Sovereign Pontiff himself, made their appearance on the mission field of South Africa. Monsignor Brady, on his way from the Isle of Bourbon, calling at the Cape and seeing spiritual destitution of the Catholics there, carried a petition to the Pope. The result was that in the month of August, 1837, Rev. Patrick Griffith, O.P., Administrator of Westland Row Parish, Dublin, was consecrated bishop in his parish church, and arrived in Cape Town on the 14th April, 1838, as the first Vicar Apostolic of the Cape of Good Hope. Bishop Griffith lost no time in intimidating to the churchwardens, who met him on his arrival and escorted him to the shore, that he would permit then no share in the administration of ecclesiastical affairs. In 1839 he purchased as a site for a church what was known in Cape Town as “Tanner’s Square.” On this site-one of the very best in the city-St. Mary’s Cathedral now stands. It was dedicated in 1851.
St. Peter’s College, Wexford, has the distinction of being the first nursery of Irish Missionaries to the Cape. Early in 1838 Bishop Griffith paid a visit to the College and persuaded Dr. Devereux (at the time professor of rhetoric there, and formerly vice-rector of the Irish College in Rome), Mr. Murphy, junior professor of humanity,) not at the time in priest’s orders), and Mr. Browning (who died a few months after his arrival in Cape Town) to accompany him to the Cape. There is mention at the same time of a Father Corcoran, O.P., who was the first priest at Port Elizabeth, and who died in South America, whither he had gone to collect funds for the building of a church, of Rev. Dr. Burke, who died in 1839 in Grahamstown, and of Father Hartigan at Uitenhague. It is to be presumed that all six accompanied Bishop Griffith on his first expedition to the Cape.
Of this band of pioneers more than one was destined to make history in the church of South Africa.
Dr. Devereux became the first Vicar Apostolic of the Eastern Vicariate of the Cape of Good hope, and Father Murphy, who was ordained priest in a room in the military barracks in Cape Town, made for himself an imperishable reputation as a zealous and undaunted missionary in the Eastern parts of the Colony.
From Cape Town the faith moved upwards, Bishop Griffiths had visited Port Elizabeth, and from there had gone on horseback to Grahamstown, Cradock, Graaf-Reneit, and Fort Beaufort, finding a handful of Catholics here and there, most of them ignorant of their religion of lukewarm in in its practice. In 1839 Father Murphy was sent to Grahamstown to minister to the Irish Catholic soldiers, who formed a large proportion of the army guarding the frontiers in the days of the Kaffir wars. One of his first duties after his arrival was to give the last sacraments to his brother-in-arms, Rev. Dr. Burke. As Father Murphy knelt beside the dead body of his brother priest, the field –cornet entered and asked him if he killed his friend- an instance of the stupid prejudice against which the early Irish missionaries had to struggle. When Father Murphy arrived in Grahamstown there was, in the whole of what is now known as the Eastern Vicariate of the Cape Colony, only one church-if the miserable building which did serve as a chapel, school and residence could be dignified with the name. His work of ministering to the needs of his soldier flock necessitated long and tedious journeys. Nevertheless in the midst of his heavy labours he found time to collect money to build a church. St. Patrick’s, Grahamstown, is a monument to his zeal and to the generosity of his flock- the Irish soldiers who bore the brunt of the Kaffir wars of 1846 and 1851. It was dedicated in 1844, Bishop Griffith going all the way from Cape Town for the occasion.
St. Patrick’s was the scene of many epoch-making events in the history of the Colony. In 1851 it was fortified as a place of refuge for the citizens, the nuns and children taking refuge in the sanctuary and the people in the body of the church. It was at another time equipped as a fort, though the Kaffirs, who often appeared on the neighbouring heights, never attacked the town. It was in St. Patrick’s too that many years afterwards, namely in 1875, High Mass was sung to call down God’s blessing on the Jesuit missionaries who were about to set out on their “Great Trek” to the Zambezi to add another province to the Church’s empire.
The Eastern Vicariate of the Cape of Good Hope was established in 1847, Dr. Devereux being the first Vicar Apostolic. He was consecrated in Cape Town by Bishop Griffith, under who he had worked for nine years. His work was rendered difficult by insufficiency of priests and by the turmoil of the Kaffir wars. A little more than six years after his appointment as Vicar Apostolic death took him from his labours and his trials.
It is necessary to return again to father Murphy to complete the sketch of the early days in the Eastern Province of the Cape Colony. In 1852 Bishop Devereux removed him from Grahamstown to Port Elizabeth. By that time his name and his fame had gone all over the Colony. His untiring zeal, his courtesy, his splendid horsemanship (his famous black horse with Father Murphy “up” was the pride of the Irish soldiers and the envy of the mounted me of the Border troops) had won him friends and admirers even amongst the most bigoted of Protestants.
In those days Port Elizabeth, now the most commercial and industrial centre in
South Africa, was only a “dorp”. In 1840 we are told there were forty Catholics there. A dilapidated building, which did service as school and chapel, and a cemetery were the only Catholic possessions in the place. The first interment which took place in the cemetery was that of twenty Spanish sailors, who lost their lives in a shipwreck off the coast of Cape Recife while bound from the Philippines to Cadiz. The present handsome church of St. Augustine’s, which is one of the landmarks of Port Elizabeth, is the work of Father Murphy. The foundation stone was laid on the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, 3 December, 1861. More than £8,000 was collected- a mighty sum of money when one considers what a poor and scattered flock the Catholics of the time were; but in Port Elizabeth as in Grahamstown the generosity of the Irish soldiers and immigrants was Father Murphy’s chief asset. The labours of this great Irish priest are an inspiration to those who come after him. In 1861 he received from the Holy Father the degree of doctor divinity honoris causa and was appointed domestic prelate. He died in 1872, loved and honoured by all who had come into contact with him.
To continue this history of the work of the Irish missionaries in the Cape, it will be necessary to deal separately with the two vicariates into which up to very recent times the Colony was divided: the Western Vicariate, which centres at Cape Town, and the Eastern Vicariate, which centres at Grahamstown.
Bishop Griffith died in 1862, and was buried in St. Mary’s Cathedral. Before his death he had the happiness of seeing missions established in the principal suburbs of Cape Town and at Oudtshoorn, some three hundred miles from the coast. He was succeeded by his co-adjutor, Dr. Grimley, a native of Fingal, Co. Dublin. Dr. Grimley brought out the Irish Dominican Sisters and the Marist brothers, both pioneers of education in the Western Cape. He died in 1871, just after his return from the Vatican Council. In a letter to the Secretary of the Congregation of Propaganda, written in 1869, he states there were only eight priests in the whole of his vast vicariate, and that the mass of the population was profoundly hostile. As an instance of this, he mentions that one of his priests, when travelling through the country, was taken for a Protestant minister and given a bedroom, by the wife of a Boer. When the good lady, however, discovered she was sheltering a Catholic priest she transferred his quarters to a stable, though she showed signs of relenting when her guest remarked that if a stable was good enough for his Master, it was too good for him.
Dr. John Leonard, who was formerly a curate at Blanchardstown, Dublin, was the next Vicar apostolic of the Western Cape. During the thirty -five years of his episcopate he gave to priests and laity an inspiring example of priestly life and holiness. His time was spent mostly in the saddle or Cape cart, traversing his vicariate from end to end, visiting the most distant dorps, and going hundreds of miles to give even one Catholic the opportunity of making his Easter duty. If he could not be described as a scholarly man, and if the educational problems which called for his attention were at times too much for him (his was a period of transition, when the Cape Colony was fast developing into a progressive and enlightened political unit) he had the mind and heart of an apostle. At his death in 1908 there were 33 priests in his vicariate, 153 religious, 19 churches, and 20 elementary schools. The name of the family is perpetuated in “Leonard’s Corner,” in the city of Dublin, where his brother up to very recent years carried on the trade of wine merchant. To mention Bishop Leonard’s name to the old Irish people of Cape Town today is to bring tears to their eyes-talium est enim regnum caeloerum.
Trained in the school of Dr. Leonard and aiming always to follow in his footsteps; the right Rev. John Rooney became Vicar Apostolic in 1908. The burdens of office were no novelty to him; for he had been co-adjutor bishop for twenty two years before the death of Bishop Leonard. He was a native of Kildare and was educated in the College of Propaganda in Rome. He died on the 18 February, 1927 two years after ill-health had compelled him to resign from office. For fifty-three years he labored as priest and bishop in the Western Vicariate. His life of voluntary poverty and detachment might be taken as an example even in the cloister. Under his kindly rule considerable progress was made in educational and other respects. He introduced the nursing order of the Holy Family Sisters and the Good Shepherd nuns into Cape Town, and built several churches. He was succeeded by the Right Rev. Bernard O’Riley- the first South African born bishop of the Western Vicariate.
To return to the East. On the death of Dr. Devereux the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide appointed Dr. Moran, who had been a curate in Irishtown, Dublin, Vicar Apostolic of the Eastern Vicariate. He arrived in Grahamstown in 1856, and soon gave proof that he was a zealous priest and an able administrator. The Sacred Congregation must have got to know this; for in 1870 he was transferred to Dunedin, New Zealand, as the first Bishop of that see. The next year the Rev. J.D. Ricards was consecrated bishop in Grahamstown. Like Dr. Devereux, he had been recruited for the South African mission field in St. Peter’s College, Wexford; and, as in the case of Dr. Moran, his brilliant attainments almost resulted in South Africa losing her most illustrious prelate.
In 1876 he was voted dignissimus by the clergy for the vacant bishopric of Ferns, his native diocese. He declined the honour, preferring to labour and die in the land of his adoption. Dr. Ricards, before his appointment as vicar apostolic, had already spent twenty-two years in South Africa, and had make a reputation as a writer, lecturer and pastor. He edited a paper called the Colonist.
He deserves to be regarded as a pioneer not only of the Catholic faith but of culture in general in the sub-Continent. All the hardships which his predecessors endured he was called upon to face, and he faced them joyfully. More than once did the roar of lions disturb his sleep on the open veldt as he rested, with his saddle for a pillow, after the day’s labours. Chevalier Lynch, who frequently accompanied him on his journeying’s, would always refer to him as “Dr. Ricards,” in order to save him from the unfriendly attentions of the Boer farmers. The latter, concluding that he was a medical man, would not only receive him kindly, but would also bring their sick and ailing to him. The bishop was never at a loss in an emergency of this sort, for he was a firm believer in the efficacy of castor oil and wormwood tea.
It would take much space to narrate all that Bishop Ricards did for the cause of Catholicism and education in the Eastern Vicariate. He introduced the Marist Brothers and the Dominican nuns to his Vicariate. But, what was most important of all his works, he established the Jesuit College of St. Aiden’s, Grahamstown. Not only does South Africa owe the education of thousands of her sons to St. Aiden’s, but the great venture known as the Zambesi Mission was thought out and begun there. St. Aiden’s is the cradle of the faith which now flourishes in the land of Cecil Rhodes. A severe illness overtook him some years before his death checked his activities of this most apostolic missionary. In 1891 Dr. Strobino (an Italian priest) was appointed co-adjutor. Two years afterwards Dr. Ricards, on 30 November 1893, breathed his last in Grahamstown. The principal newspaper of that city gave expression to the popular verdict when it said of him: “Verily was he a man about whom it may, humanly speaking, be said that he was without spot or blemish.” Three years after the decease of Dr. Ricards his successor succumbed to a serious illness and the vacant see was filled by its present occupant, the Right. Rev. Hugh MacSherry.
Dr. MacSherry was consecrated by Cardinal Logue on the 2 August 1896, at Dundalk, where for some years he had been the administrator. Under his regime the story of the Church in the Eastern Vicariate is one of steady progress. Twelve new missions have been opened and churches built. The number of teaching and nursing sisters has increased to 500 in twenty-five convents. The Brothers of the Christian schools have been brought to King Williams Town. At Aliwal North one of the most imposing of ecclesiastical buildings in the land, the convent of the Holy Cross, was erected at his suggestion and under his inspiration. Today it can boast of other foundations in Cape Town, Basutoland, Transvaal, Bechuanaland, and South-West Protectorate.
The number of the missions established and of churches built is not the full measure of the influence of Dr. MacSherry in South Africa. Port Elizabeth, to which city he transferred the seat of government of his vicariate from Grahamstown, looks upon his as one of its most distinguished citizens. He played a big part in founding South Africa’s Catholic weekly, the Southern Cross.
Commenting editorially on Bishop MacSherry’ consecration and appointment as Vicar Apostolic, the Dundalk Examiner, of the 18 August 1896, wrote:-
“The Most Rev. Dr. MacSherry is the latest addition to the episcopal ranks, and in him are personified al those attributes which in the past ensured the glory of the Church in Ireland; and which is at once its guerdon and its hope. No more worthy priest was ever raised to the purple, and no abler ecclesiastic could ever be called on to fill a great and sacred office. Not alone is he a pious and zealous priest devoted to his mission, but he is a born ruler of men, gifted with a fine presence, and endowed not only with administrative power of a very high order, but with a fascinating manner which cannot fail to secure for him the love and reverence of the people over whom he has been called to rule.
Bishop’s MacSherry’s career in South Africa has more than justified these words of praise written thirty- five years ago. To-day he carries his eight years with a quiet and strong dignity, and performs all the duties of his pastorate with the same attention to detail as he did half a century ago. If God spares him, he intends to be present at the 1932 Eucharistic Congress in Dublin.
The story of Irish missionary enterprise in the Cape Colony would be incomplete were no mention made of some of the grand old soggarths whose names even now are words to conjure with amongst the old Irish people of the Cape. There was Father Joseph Griffith, brother of the first bishop, who was the first pastor of St. Michael’s Rondebosch. This was the first mission to be established (1853) by Bishop Griffith near Cape Town, when the completion of St. Mary’s Cathedral make it possible to devote time and money to other work. For a time Mass was said in a small cottage which was hired for this purpose. The joy of the faithful knew no bounds when at last they saw their new church completed, but their joy was changed to sorrow when the floods of heaven came down and left scarcely a trace of it. A new church was built and dedicated by Bishop Griffith in 1858. Father Griffith was compelled by ill health to relinquish his charge of St. Michael’s and his place was taken by Father Thomas. Meagher. Father Meagher was for years both pastor and school-master. There are men highly placed in commerce and business to-day in Cape Town who were initiated into the mysteries of the three “R’s” by Father Meagher. Though he was a firm believer in the maxim “spare the rod and spoil the child” he is spoken of always with love and respect of those who remember him. Then there was Monsignor McMahon, who in 1860 built the first church in Oudtshoorn, three hundred miles from Cape Town (now the centre of a separate Prefecture Apostolic), another church at Mossel Bay, and still another at Wynberg (nine miles from Cape Town), where he secured the splendid Springfield estate for the Dominican Sisters in 1871. And Father O’Hare, who spent 12 very full years in and around Cape Town, and who is the author of Twelve Years in South Africa. He was remarkable for his zeal and eloquence. Many stories are told of him to show that, though called upon at a moment’s notice to speak in public, he could produce a well-reasoned and polished discourse. He established a mission in Malmesbury- a town forty miles from Cape Town and a hot-bed of bigotry. So bitter was the feeling against Catholics that Father O’Hare was forbidden to show himself in the public park. The prohibition was ignored; for Father O’Hare’s Christianity was as muscular as it was orthodox. In the Eastern Vicariate of the Cape the memory of Monsignor Fagan will live many a day. The Catholic community of King William’s Town owes their beautiful church and convent to him. The mission was first established there in 1851. Like Grahamstown, it was a garrison town in the days of the Kaffir wars. When Father Fagan first took charge of King William’s Town, the only church property were a very small cottage and chapel, wholly inadequate to the needs of his flock. The old cottage and chapel have disappeared, and on their site stand a school for boys, a hall, a convent, one of the most beautiful churches in South Africa, and a well-built presbytery. Monsignor Fagan died a few years ago, mourned by the Catholics of the Cape Colony.
Now we come to Kimberley- known all over the world for its famous diamond mines. Kimberley itself is in the Cape Colony, but the vicariate of that name includes a portion of the Orange Free State, Griqualand West, and Bechuanaland. The vicariate as established in 1886 included also Basutoland, but this was subsequently established as a separate vicariate. There are few cities in the world with a history so romantic as that of Kimberley. In what was practically a desert, a city sprang up almost in a day with the discovery of diamond fields. The first bishop was the Right Rev. Anthony Gaughran, O.M.I. The quests of wealth brought people from near and far to Kimberley, and among them, of course, were many Irish. The iron structure which did service as a chapel soon gave way to a handsome church. St. Mary’s Cathedral was dedicated in 1880. Dr. Jolivet, Vicar Apostolic of Natal, was on his way to Kimberley for the ceremony when he was arrested at Potchefstroom by the Boers, and made a prisoner of war; for the Transvaal were on the warpath at the time, and Natal was a British colony. Bishop Gaughran suffered much during the siege of Kimberley and died in 1901. He was succeeded by his brother, Dr. Matthew Gaughran, O.M.I., who died in 1914. The Kimberley Vicariate owes much to these two bishops.
Where before there but three of four mission stations, in 1914 there were 16 churches and chapels, one of the most famous educational institutions in the country-the Irish Christian Brother’s college, established during the regime of the first Bishop Gaughran-several convent schools for girls, and an orphanage under the care of the Sisters of Nazareth. The good work which has been done in Kimberley has been done in spite of very exceptional difficulties. While the Western and Eastern vicariates of the Colony were almost wholly unaffected by the Boer War, Kimberley was in the thick of it. Add to this the fact that the population was necessarily a floating one. Diamonds are not altogether an unmixed blessing; their value in money depends so much on the sudden fluctuations of the market. Kimberley has known days of great prosperity, but it has known days too of great economic distress. But in spite of all its ups and downs the Catholics of that city have kept the flag of our ancient faith flying. They were of course mostly Irish, and proud of it. The Kimberley Vicariate has been in recent years given over to German Oblates of Mary Immaculate, but Irish traditions linger on in a strong and simple faith, generosity to the Church and loyal to their priests.
I have said that of the four provinces which constitute the Union of South Africa only the Cape Colony was to any large extent the scene of the Irish Missionary enterprise. This was especially true of the old pioneer days. It does not mean that Irish priests have not done great and lasting work in the Transvaal, the Orange Free State and Natal. For a time an Irish bishop governed the destinies of the Transvaal Vicariate. He was the Right Rev. William Miller, O.M.I., a native Mountrath.
As far back as 1864 Mass was said in a room at Potchefstroom (once the capital of South African Republic). No one suspected then that the earth contained vast stores of hidden wealth. What the diamonds did for Kimberley gold did for Johannesburg. The Golden City is one of the wonders of the world. There are many alive to-day in South Africa who saw the old wood and iron buildings which were the beginnings of what to-day the greatest and most important city of the Union.
Up to 1885 the Transvaal was portion of the Vicariate of Natal. For a time it was a Prefecture Apostolic. It is now a Vicariate, Dr. Miller (consecrated 1904) being the first Vicar Apostolic. The years following the Boer War were years of booms, slumps and financial crises, and before the arrival of the first Vicar Apostolic the Transvaal Vicariate found itself in serious debt. Dr. Miller labored strenuously to meet his creditors, but the consequence that in 1912 he became so weakened in health that he retired.
I have made no mention by name of Irish nuns in the course of this article. No human record could do justice to the work they have accomplished for souls in this sub-Continent. Bu the story of the Irish missionaries in South Africa would be incomplete if I were to make no mention of Mother Patrick of the Order of St. Dominic. It is no exaggerated tribute to her greatness to say that she is a national heroine and the pride of the Dominican nuns of King William’s town branch. She was the first white woman to enter Matabeleland. Going with the invading columns, she was nurse and mother to the sick and wounded soldiers. A public monument perpetuates her memory, and every year the story of her deeds is told again when pilgrims gather around her tomb.
It must be borne in mind that the course which history took in South Africa, since the landing of Van Riebeek, made Irish immigration, or Catholic immigration of any sort, o a large scale impossible. From the beginning the land had become the property of the Dutch and French Huguenots. Subsequent immigration was too big a menace to their political and spiritual supremacy to receive any encouragement. Even to-day they look askance at it. The work of the first Irish bishops and priests consisted in travelling long distances, more often than not in the scorching sun, in an endeavor to keep alive the languishing faith of the scattered and isolated Catholics. The question has often been asked, especially by those who are new-comers and who are not acquainted with the history of the early missionaries and the conditions of the time. Why did they not do more for the native and Coloured people? Why did they spend so much time in the saddle and in the Cape cart in quest of the few, when an abundant harvest lay within reach?” This was the very question they had to decide, and they sought and found advice at the fount of the Catholic wisdom-the Holy See. “Attend first to the wants of the children of the household of the faith” wrote Pius 1X, “and when the wants of this portion of the flock are provided for, turn your attention to the native population”.
By Rev. John Colgan, D.D.
Editor of the Southern Cross