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The cross
Bishop Coleman turns the first sod. 30th November 2008
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Little is known of Catholic activity in what is now the Kouga municipal area (the western-most municipality in the Eastern Cape) prior to the 1940's and 50's.
In those early days, it is known that Mass was said at Humansdorp and in Jeffreys Bay on alternating Sundays, usually in a private home, in the church of another denomination or in a shop. By 1957 Mass was said weekly in the home of the Coetzee family. In Humansdorp, Mass was celebrated monthly in the home of the Gush family. It was through the zeal and hospitality of this family that Catholic priests kept the Faith alive in this small but important community. (Southern Cross report of January 9th 1957)
The resident parish priest of the newly-built Church of the Sacred Heart, Kabega, Port Elizabeth, became the Priest-in-charge of these two communities, and among the priests who fulfilled this role were Fr "Billy" Barnes, Fr Dania Vales, Fr Paddy Quirk and Fr Tom McGuinness.
During the summer holidays a great influx of up-country visitors swelled the seaside congregation and a more permanent establishment was needed. In 1986 a small house and a double erf was purchased in Humansdorp. The house is one of the oldest in Humansdorp, and is protected under the National Monuments Act. It was suitably renovated for the purpose of saying Mass, and was also used for social gatherings, religious instruction classes, bible study groups and Parish Council meetings during the week.
Very soon this building became too small and shop fronts too inconvenient, so a site in Jeffreys Bay was bought and blessed by Bishop Michael G. Coleman in 1995. A tall wooden cross was erected in the centre of the site - a pledge that the community would one day have its own dedicated place of worship.
Construction began on a community centre, under the supervision of Fr Tom McGuiness, and on the 22nd December 1996 Mass was celebrated in the new Jeffreys Bay Catholic Community Centre of Christ Our Lord!
The first baby was Baptised there on the 29th December 1996 and the first Marriage took place on the 15th March 1997. Mass was said weekly by a priest from Kabega. Catechism and Adult Instruction classes are held regularly. The Hall was also the venue of sustained and fund raising efforts in anticipation of the building a church in Jeffreys Bay. (Extracts from "Growing in Faith" by Helena Glanville). Mass was also said weekly at the "Old Church" in Humansdorp, although this practice was interrupted for a short while. The practice of saying Mass in Humansdorp was reinstated with the arrival of Fr Paul Fahy, the newly appointed Parish Priest of Sacred Heart in Kabega, Port Elizabeth.
Since then, the needs of the greater Kouga community grew to such an extent that Bishop Coleman decided to build a new Church in Humansdorp, replacing the quaint and historic converted house with its very limited seating.
On the 30th November 2008, assisted by Fr Paul Fahy, Bishop Coleman blessed the site and turned the first sod for the new church, St Francis of Assisi.
Construction began soon afterwards, and thanks to some monumental efforts on the part of the communities, especially those of St Francis Bay and Humansdorp, and of Fr Paul, the new Church was dedicated on December 18th 2011 - still only partially completed. The date for the Dedication was advanced in the light of the failing health of Bishop Coleman, who had been the guiding spirit behind the construction of the Church. Sadly, however, Bishop Michael passed away on 17th December, 2011, and he was present at the Dedication, which was carried out by the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese, Msgr Brendan Deenihan.
In the meantime, the members of the Jeffreys bay Community had not forgotten Bishop Michael's pledge of a dedicated place of worship of their own, and, on completion of the Church in Humansdorp, they petitioned the Diocese to build their own Church.
However, it was decided that the construction of a new Church from scratch would be very expensive, and put a tremendous strain on what was essentially a very small community. A plan to convert the existing community Hall into a Dedicated Church was developed and presented to the Diocese for approval. Plans were eventually passed, and work began in mid-2013. The first Mass in the new Church was celebrated on Christmas Eve, 2013, and the Church of St Clare of Assis was Dedicated on February 23rd, 2014, once more by Apostolic Administrator Msgr Brendan Deenihan.
The name of the Community has been formalised as the Kouga Catholic Community of Sts Francis and Clare of Assisi.
It is one, united community, boasting two very different but equally beautiful Centres of Worship.

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