Christ the King of Peace Church
We have to give our great recognition to Mr Chirwa who celebrates this year his 103rd Birthday. Originally from Malawi, came to South Africa, got married and rooted his life in Richmond. This man for many years took a very active part in building the local community in Richmond. At the very beginning Fr. Colin Bowes was coming from Graaff-Reinet to celebrate Eucharist and other Sacraments as well as giving catechetical classes to all present in Mr Chirwa’s home. At that time there was a small group of people consisted out of a few families. Mr Chirwa’s dream was to build a church in the nearer Xhosa speaking community. The very small number of Catholics made it difficult to make such an important decision for the priests who serve in this place only on Sundays. Frustrated with this situation, Mr Chirwa constructed on his property one-room hut as a place for worship. Many years passed when in 1987 Fr. Adam Musialek SCJ took over Richmond community from Fr. Joseph Alcaster. From the beginning of his service Fr. Adam heard over and over the one question: when we will build a church in Richmond? The answer was always the same: First, we have to build the community, so we have to have people for whom we will build the church. The joined effort of the priest and Mr Chirwa of visiting families in Richmond gave positive results because at the end of 1991 the number of practising Catholics was 85 including children. After the ordination of Bp. Joseph Potocnak SCJ in 1992, Fr. Adam made a request to build a new church building in Richmond. The ground for the new church was bought by the local community’s savings and permission from Bp. Joseph was given. With the help of the Priests of the Sacred Heart from the US Province, the church was ready for consecration on the 1st of May 1994. Build on the solid rock consecrated in the year of the first democratic election in South Africa, the church was dedicated to the Christ the King of Peace. Since that time, many priests served in this community: Frs. Adam Musialek SCJ, Chris Grzelak SCJ, Msgr. Joseph Alcaster, Fr. Paul Koscielny SCJ and presently Fr. Albert Post.
The church building survived all the earthquakes of the country but the membership diminished as everywhere in the outstations’ churches in the diocese. Some left Richmond for a better life in the cities some died and the other left the Catholic Church for another community. Presently the number of the faithful, including children is 25.
What happens in-between Sundays and the occasional Holy Day when no priest is available to attend to the flock? In the outstation parishes, not much is going on to keep the flame of hope burning and it is like that for some time now. With this lack of exposure, reality sets in for the parishioners immediately after Holy Mass; there is an unfriendly and at times hostile world waiting for them. Taken from the perspective that it is all right to be poor (and to be, subjected to a perpetual struggle against food insecurity, sickness and lack of basic needs; un-employment) could easily be misinterpreted as the soft way out. One can't work from the premise that there is a better life waiting, after this life when you sit in Church with an empty stomach and the prospect of going home to nothing. Socio-economic issues are not effective and in-depth explained as to how they influence the believer: the differences between rich and poor in the eyes of God.
Should the Church be held responsible? No! Not at all! But it should be remembered that the Catholic Church was one of the voices and a visible beacon of hope to bring down the apartheid government. Once again is it expected from her to voice her opinion on the social and economic injustices the majority of our nation is enduring at the hands of some of the so-called liberators and unscrupulous corporates. There is no better life for the poor and vulnerable insight judged from the frightening levels of corruption, poor service delivery and unemployment we are faced with. The fight must go on; there is a higher mountain to climb since a bigger struggle faces us this time around.