Our Burnt Church Will Rise Again
Janet Hyland, Overstrand, Western Cape – Friday, January 11, 2019. People were milling around Kleinmond town hall preparing for the return of firefighters from their ten-hour shift. They had been battling mountain fires for the past ten days.
As they filed into the hall amid singing and clapping, the team leader was asked what the situation was. I turned icy-cold as I heard his reply: “Houses are burning in Betty’s Bay and the Roman Catholic church burned this afternoon.” That was my home, my spiritual home!
After ministering to the teams, I drove home that evening, through a moonscape, to our lovely church. All that remained were the walls, the marble name and the statue of Our Lady standing proudly above the main outer wall where a stained glass window had, a few hours previously, overlooked the ocean.
At the rear, the wood-carved statue of St Francis of the Fynbos had escaped the flames. This was the dedication name our Anglican community gave this church where they had worshipped for over 40 years.
Sadly, the Blessed Sacrament and ciborium melted in the intense heat, but the tabernacle was largely intact.
A year on, I revisited the site and gazed at the remains of our church. I prayed for parishioners whose ashes now mingle with those that lie in the Garden of Remembrance.
On that fateful day when the flames poured down the mountainside, a part of my soul died, as happened to so many other people.
However, our Catholic community remains strong, continuing to visit the sick, comfort the sorrowful — or this is what we are about.
Around us, homes are being rebuilt, nature is revitalised, animals are returning. Life is rising from the ashes and so, too, shall we.
We continue to celebrate weekly Mass in the local Dutch Reformed church who, a mere 12 hours after the tragedy, offered us the use of their facilities. We are very grateful to them, but we long for the Blessed Sacrament to once again be permanently reserved in our midst.
Until then, we pray: “Our Lady of Montserrat, intercede with your Son on our behalf, asking that we may soon rededicate our church in the Overstrand to you. Amen.”
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