120th Anniversary of the Church at Keilands 1895-2015


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Keilands is a farm in the Stutterheim Magisterial District on the right side of the Kei River. It was bought in 1886 by Fr. Alfred Weld S.J. (Jesuit Superior) In 1888 Bro Theodore Nigg began building a small chapel-he could not complete the building as he died on 10 August 1891. In 1894 the foundation of the church was laid by Fr. Kerr. The church was blessed on 09 September 1895 by Fr. Gillet. In 1894 seven Dominican Sisters were sent from King William’s Town and they started teaching children in a newly opened school. Jesuit fathers Horning and Bick made contact with Chief Saliwa with the intention of opening a school among his people and in 1895 a modest start was made with about 10  children. The people, however, were opposed to the establishment of a Christian Mission and School, fearing interference with their customs. Later they were willing to grant site to the school, but insisted on getting a trained teacher. The son of the chief, Peter Gidini who had been converted in June 1896 was a great help in these negotiations.

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In 1897 Bishop McSherry came to Keilands for the first time, also paying courtesy visit to the old chief. When the Bishop came again in 1899, the Christians of Saliwa made a procession across the river to Keilands and twelve of them were confirmed. In 1900 Fr. Apel took possession of Zigudu and in that year a school was started. The Jesuits were withdrawn from the Cape and transferred to Zimbabwe. In 1908 Keilands was handed over to the Trappists of Mariannhill. The new missionaries had their first experience of the vicious climate of the Kei valley when a violent storm removed the church roof. The Trappists started three schools and Fr. Huss taught the people proper farm skills. He experienced many problems. His concern was the notoriously bad road from Keilands to Dohne Railway station and long periods of drought. There are factors that made the mission work at Keilands difficult: bad roads and inclemency of climate.

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The mission was taken over by the Pallotine Fathers in 1928 July 01 with Fr. Rackl as the first Pallotine priest in charge there. In 1929 he obtained a welcome assistant in Fr. Ruebsamen. At the end of 1929 schools were conducted at Saliwa, Nciba, Zigudu, Sabalele, Matakane and Nonquthu. A lot of priest and brothers did work there, to mention a few, Frs Peter Graeff, Gross, Wergen, Anton Vay, and also brothers Stephen and Michael Phako.  Regardless of all the difficulties in that mission but it is important to mention that the only congregation of sisters in this diocese was born there. When Keilands celebrated its 75 years Jubilee in February 1961, the foundation stone was laid, the constitution for the Congregati Matris Didini Amoris (CDMA) – Congregation on The Mother of Divine Love was completed and submitted to the Bishop and to the Roman Authorities. We are so proud as the Diocese to see this congregation still active in our diocese and working in some important branches of the church’s foundations like Catechism.


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On this speci d the community of Keilands and neighboring parishes. He challenged us to look at the stones that are building the church which are still there and useful after 120 years of the church’s existence, he therefore, reminded us that we are also the stones that build the church of Christ. We should always try to work hand in hand for the growth of the Kingdom of God. We should join our hands for the mission of the church to continue. People were singing nicely and joyfully. The church was packed even the gallery itself was full. There was a lot of nice food served after mass.

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Fr. Tulani thanked the Bishop for taking his time to celebrate with the Keilands community and everyone who took part in that celebration. He thanked in a special way the church of Carthcart both english and xhosa speaking communities for all their generosity for the success of this special celebration. The Mother General of the CDMA Sisters, Sr. Pascalina Ndata also was given a chance to say a few words as their congregation is the child of Keilands. She expressed their joy as the congregation to see that place still existing, she also mentioned that on this very year of Consecrated Life they are praying in special way for vocations and she is very much convinced that they will get some as she made this prayer from where their roots are. “Thanks so very much Fr. Tulani for the good works you are doing at this place, the last time i came here the place was like the forest, even the church was not in a good condition but now i can see even the windows are replaced and there is life if we look around this place.” These were the words of the Bishop to the priest in charge. Congrats Keilands Community and God Bless!!!


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