After months of meticulous planning and preparation, the day of the 50th Anniversary of Fr Paul Fahy's ordination - June 10th, 2017 - finally dawned, and with it came totally unexpected drama!
Fires, fanned by strong winds, had been raging in the Thornhill area, in the vicinity of the N2 highway between Port Elizabeth and Humansdorp for a few days and much damage and even loss of life had occurred. On the morning of the 10th, the fires had spread to the Van Staden's Bridge area, and we heard with trepidation that the authorities were considering closing the highway, due to the excessive smoke.
As is usual in these situations, we kept on getting conflicting reports; "The road is closed!" "The road is open - they are letting light vehicles through". This merely added to the consternation- what was Plan B? No Plan B was possible - the event simply could not be postponed. At best, we could delay it for a few hours, but if the main player himself, Fr Paul, who was in Port Elizabeth, could not get through even that option was a non-starter.
What would we do? The Bishop and 30-plus priests, deacons and religious were also all on the other side of the fire! Plus numerous other guests!
Finally, to our relief, priests and guests started arriving with harrowing stories of the smoke and fire along the way, And eventually, the man himself, together with his brother, Ed, who had flown in from Australia for the occasion, made his appearance. Not long afterwards, Bishop Vincent also arrived.
Against the odds, the Jubilee Mass started exactly on time, and a wonderful and moving Liturgy unfolded. The choir, under the inspired leadership of Fr Paul's long-time friend Veronica Wittstock, ably assisted by our own choirmaster, Dennis Mauer, rose to new heights. The homily was presented by Fr Dick O'Riardan, who had arrived in South Africa with Fr Paul on board the Pendennis Castle nearly 50 years ago. The homily covered Fr Paul's career in the Diocese of Port Elizabeth and highlighted his many achievements. It was very special and moving to see so many priests on the altar, concelebrating the Mass with Fr Paul, in tribute to his contribution to the Church in this Diocese. Cecile Heather's solo rendition of "Panis Angelicus" during Communion sent shivers down many a spine!
In his message, Bishop Vincent also paid tribute to Fr Paul's service and ministry to the Church and the Diocese.
Everyone attending the Mass was afterwards given a special cupcake, beautifully iced with either a cross or the numeral "50' on it. These were handed out at the tea following the service, and also served as the dessert at the luncheon. Special thanks to Linette and her team for the hard work in producing the 500 plus cupcakes and icing them all!
After the tea, those who had booked for the luncheon made their way to The Links in St Francis Bay, without serious incident, and only one priest managed to get lost along the way!
The day's drama had not ended though, and more was to come!
At this stage, the morning's lovely weather had given way to heavy winds which soon approached gale force and the noise of the wind almost drowned out Diana's welcoming address, as well as Fr Paul's reply, and the talks given by Fr John Clarke and Fr Billy Barnes.
Meanwhile, the fires in the mountains continued, with increased fury, fanned by the now gale force winds, and an early casualty was one of the power lines feeding power to the Kouga area. This resulted in a power blackout across the entire area, including, of course, The Links! While they did have a backup generator, the decreased available power had an effect on the kitchen, and the main course of the luncheon was delayed by more than an hour!
Nor was that the last of it! As people began to leave to return to Port Elizabeth, we immediately started getting reports that the road was again closed. When Fr Paul left to go back to Port Elizabeth at about 3.30 pm, he was turned back and had to spend a few hours back at the Church in Humansdorp. He eventually left to go back at about 7 pm and got home well after eight. Also delayed were many of the priests who had evening Masses, as well as Bishop Vincent and many of the lay guests from Port Elizabeth and points east.
In spite of the circumstances and problems, it was generally agreed that the event was highly successful and definitely memorable, perhaps made more so by the dramatic happenings that surrounded it.
Our thanks as a parish must go to Organising committee chairperson, Diana Alberts, Parish Chairperson Cecile Heather, Choirmaster Dennis Mauer, and the many others who worked so well as a team, and gave of their time so unstintingly to make the event the success it was.
Special thanks, too, to Veronica Wittstock, who travelled up from Knysna on at least two occasions to hold workshops and practices for the choir, and still managed to come through and attend the celebration in spite of having been twice evacuated from her home (which is also her B & B business) in Brenton-on-Sea in Knysna during the terrible fires of the previous week.
Our sincere and warmest congratulations, once more, to Fr Paul on achieving this very special milestone.
The Kouga Catholic Community was honoured and privileged to have been able to host the celebration and to have been a part of a very special Ministry by a very special Pastor.
As you are all aware by now, our Pastor, Fr Paul, celebrates the Golden Jubilee of his ordination on June 10th this year, and we as the Kouga Catholic Community are honoured to be the hosts of this auspicious occasion - not many parishes can boast a 50th jubilee celebration for their Shepherd!
The occasion is being marked by a Jubillee Mass at St Francis of Assisi, Humansdorp, at 11am on June 10th, at which Bishop Vincent Zungu will be presiding, and upwards of 30 Clergy will be concelebrating
The Mass will be followed by a luncheon at the St Francis Links Clubhouse.
We are also producing an A4 full colour book to mark this "once-in-a-lieftime" event, and we are appealing for anyone who may have photographs of Fr Paul in the Parish context during the years 2003 -2011 to send them to us for possible inclusion in the book. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
The book will be finalised shortly after the event, so that pictures of the Mass and luncheon can be included in the book. It will sell from between R220 - R250 a copy, and anyone who would like a copy is asked to indicate this to us as soon as possible so that the printing order can be established. Please place an order with us by emailing email@example.com. You will be sent an invoice as soon as we can establish exactly how much the book will cost. - the bigger the print run, the lower the cost per book.