Holy Cross Church
The Catholic Church started in Philipstown in 1955 with only two families. Holy Mass was celebrated by Fr Leonard Will who frequently visited the two families. But Philipstown was not Fr Will’s only responsibility. He served several other communities such as Hopetown and Petrusville. Nevertheless, this did not deter him from attracting more people to the Church in Philipstown. As the years passed more families were found and joined the community, standing firm against hatred for Catholics and apartheid.
In 1974, Fr John Strittmatter was placed in charge of Philipstown. He made it his business to visit local farms to find the Catholics working there and to try to draw others to the Church. In this endeavour, he was very successful and the congregation grew quite quickly. At this time, however, Holy Mass was celebrated only once a month. The church was a one-roomed hut and became too small to accommodate everyone. The priest’s house was built with mud and sand and belonged to the family of Mr Kleinbooi Joe which was, in fact, the first family to join the Catholic Church.
It wasn’t very long before Holy Mass began to be celebrated every second Sunday at 6.00 am and at the same time, two members of the Mbombo family were trained to help run the church and to make it grow. They were also appointed as teachers of a catechism. It was their idea to introduce Bible Studies which were held on Sundays when the priest could not be there. In this way, they managed to keep the community together.
In 1988, after nearly fifteen years of tireless service, Fr Strittmatter was appointed to take charge of another parish. For the next thirteen years, the parish was looked after by a number of priests: Fathers Potocnak SCJ, Joseph Alcaster, and Andrew Malek SCJ. During the time of Fr Joseph Alcaster, who was Parish Priest of Petrusville, Holy Mass began to be celebrated every Sunday and some of the parish ladies were trained to teach catechism. During this time, also, the community petitioned the municipality for the ground to build a church. This petition was successful. Despite all sorts of obstacles, including serious opposition on the part of the local residents and the municipality, the Holy Cross church was opened and blessed by the Apostolic Administrator, Bishop Lobinger, in October 1989.
In 1992, Fr Potocnak was ordained as the Bishop of De Aar and in 1995 took he took responsibility for Philipstown. He served the parish diligently until his retirement in 2009. In 2007, he ordained Tom Mbombo as Deacon to assist him when he could not be there. We were very fortunate when Bishop Potocnak’s successor, Bishop Adam, took over for a few months. However, in 2010, Fr Douglas Sumali was appointed parish Priest and served the parish until 2016. He brought some changes and promoted many of the young people to be altar servers. In January 2017, we were blessed with the appointment of Fr Jan as our parish priest.