The History of the Parish
Parish established 1959 - Blessed & Opened 1980 - Dedicated 2003
When the parish first started in 1949 there was no church building. The Catholic families met every Wednesday to say the Rosary and attended Mass each week in the corrugated iron church in Bellville.
Fr Paddy O’Brien visited various homes giving religious instruction. Mass was said initially in the home of John and Peggy Fords, and afterwards at the local Jewish Hall which is still in existence today behind Palm Grove Centre. In the latter part of 1950s, Mr Kropman constructed the original church, which is the parish hall today, and the priest’s residence. Fr Harry Banahan was installed as parish priest in the latter half of 1950 and remained until his death in 1961 in a motor accident. At this stage the Ladies’ Fellowship was started and fundraising commenced. Shortly afterwards, Fr Banahan was replaced by Fr Watkins, who presided over house Masses and Rosaries, and he was followed by Fr Kirwan and Fr Miles Hyde. The people started Planned Giving as a means for a steady income.
In 1968 Fr O’Brien was appointed parish priest. The parish was made up mostly of families with young children. Fr O’Brien used to say Mass once a month in the morning in different homes for mothers and children, who got to know each other in this way. He also attended the Rosaries which were held weekly in different homes in the evenings. These are continued in the parish today and arranged by the Legion of Mary, which started in the parish in 1978.
Fr John Armstrong was appointed assistant priest in 1977. Catechism classes were started and a Parish Council was also formed. In 1980 two parishioners Bert Fraenkel and Bill Otto began negotiations to build a larger church. Michael Foale designed it, and it was constructed by Michael Judge. The foundation stone was laid by His Eminence, the late Owen Cardinal McCann.
The late Fr Banahan had a great devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help and so was instrumental in the selection of the name for the church and of the Celtic cross at the top of the church tower. The church was opened and blessed on 14 December, 1980 by the late Archbishop Stephen Naidoo. Other features of the church were the crucifix above the altar, designed by a Paarl artist, and the Stations of the Cross designed and painted by a Parishioner Mrs E Hallam.
In July 1981 Fr O’Brien sadly died in Ireland while on holiday. Fr Armstrong continued to run the parish until in 1983 Fr Bernard Brown was appointed parish priest.
The parish began to grow and parishioners began to get involved in the St Vincent de Paul Society; planned giving was restarted and a newsletter was launched to keep the people abreast of parish events.
In August 1989 the parish acquired its first Deacon, Roger Letord, who did a tremendous amount for the parish. In 1990, Fr Brown was transferred to Brackenfell parish and Fr Terence Gorman was appointed. Ministries were introduced -- of the Holy Eucharist, ushers, cantors and a strong traditional choir that sang at the 10am Sunday Mass and at all Easter and Christmas celebrations. Today there are three choirs, the traditional, folk and youth choirs. Fr Frank de Gouveia took Fr Gorman’s place after he had become ill.
The parish really began to grow. Catechists for all grades were increased and the numbers of children attending grew and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) was started. A care group was also established to visit the sick and aged members of the congregation. A garden of remembrance was opened at the side of the church. The first Alpha course was held in 1999 and this has continued annually. Proclaimers of the Word and sacristans were introduced.
In 2002 Mgr Andrew Borello was appointed parish priest, and on 19 May the following year the church was consecrated, and in 2005 the parish celebrated its silver jubilee. Mgr Borello remained until January 2014 when he was transferred to Pinelands Catholic Church and Father Michael van Heerden was appointed parish priest. We now have a strong Parish Pastoral Council and a Finance Council. Socially, the parish is very active, holding many functions and, for the poor and destitute, a soup kitchen is run weekly.
The old presbytery used as a parish centre was too small, and a larger one with many meeting rooms, classrooms and a small hall was blessed by Archbishop Stephen Brislin on 7 September 2012. preparation. The St Vincent de Paul Society is very active, as are the Knights of da Gama.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help has, over the past year or so, had the opportunity to embrace the community of nearby Fisantekraal informal settlement. Current parish priest Fr Michael van Heerden celebrates Mass on the first and third Sundays of the month in one of the churches in the area.
The parish is going from strength to strength in the Holy Spirit.