A last look at De Aar

St. Mary's Cathedral in De Aar

St. Mary’s Cathedral in De Aar

As noted previously,  Fr. Tom Cassidy, SCJ, former provincial superior, is in South Africa for much of November.

During his travels Fr. Tom is keeping a journal. Periodically entries from it will be posted on the province blog. Today’s is written from De Aar, where he celebrated the feast of All Saints before continuing on his travels:

Here in South Africa the feast of All Saints is celebrated on Sunday rather then on November 1st. I had the 08:00 Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral here in De Aar. If you think “cathedral” think small as the Diocese of De Aar is not very big, at least in numbers of people.

According to the 2011-2012 Catholic Directory for the Southern African Catholic Bishop’s Conference the diocese comprised:

An area of 67,248 sq. km. (25,965 sq. mi.)
Total population of 165,000
Catholic population of 5,747
1 bishop, 9 priests and 1 permanent deacon
I could find the addresses for 3 religious sisters working in the diocese as well

With those figures you can get a feel for the size of the cathedral. If I tried to compare it to one of our SCJ parishes in the United States the old Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Franklin comes to mind or perhaps Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel at St. Joseph Indian School might be a good comparison.

When I first visited St. Mary’s in 1987 it was for all practical purposes a “white” church. Today there is a mixture of blacks, colored (South African terminology) and whites.

One of my sisters asked me if I felt safe walking the streets of De Aar. I walk an average of at least an hour a day. Since I basically walk the Main Street where there is a lot of traffic I really don’t have any worries and have found that the people pretty much ignore me. I’m sure that even in this town of 30,000 I appear to be a stranger among them. Bishop Adam pointed out the many bed & breakfasts in the town which makes me think that strangers on the main drag are not all that uncommon.

When I came back from my morning walk Bishop Adam was ready to take me to visit the cemetery where Fr. Cecil Wienan, who died on February 8, 2000, is buried. It took a little hunting for us to find the grave as Bishop Adam had the right plot number, but we were mistakenly in the wrong section. After saying prayers over the grave we took to the road so Bishop Adam could show me the solar farm being developed by Siemens. When finished it will produce 95 megawatts of electricity. The farm is 2.5 kilometers long (1.5 miles).

Screen Shot 2013-11-06 at 8.47.08 AMThis is one of two solar farms under construction. According to the bishop they are employing up to 600 people during the two-year construction phase. There are also plans to construct a wind farm in the area as well. The Karoo has plenty of sun and plenty of wind so the region is a good candidate for projects such as these.

Tomorrow is the meeting of the Diocesan Senate. In addition to running the meeting Bishop Adam is putting on his chef hat to  prepare the meal as the person who does the cleaning and some of the cooking has been gone while Msgr. Alcaster has been away. 

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