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Kimberley in Orange

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The portion of South Africa which at the present day forms the Vicariate of Kimberley in Orange became in the division of the Vicariate of Good Hope part of the Eastern District, and later on part of the Vicariate of Natal. In 1886 it became a separate vicariate comprising Basutoland, Griqualand-West, Bechuanaland, and the Orange River Colony (then Free State). On 8 May, 1894, Basutoland was separated and made an independent prefecture. At the present day the vicariate includes the Orange River Colony, Griqualand-West, and Bechuanaland, and since the late Anglo-Boer war all this territory is under British rule. The whole vicariate lies between the Tropic of Capricorn and the southernmost point of the Orange River Colony, and between 22 deg. and 30 deg. East Longitude. Before the discovery of diamonds the white population was practically composed of Boers. The number of Catholics was insignificant. The towns now in existence were then mere small villages or had no existence at all. But in 1870 Kimberley began to attract attention; diamonds had been first discovered about three years previously by John O'Reilly, and immigration brought to South Africa and especially to Kimberley multitudes of Europeans, most of them Irish and English. By the time Kimberley was leaping into existence there was already a priest in Bloemfontein, Father Hoendervangers of the Order of Saint Norbert, who had followed the troops as military chaplain during a war between the British and Boers in 1854. He built a church which was replaced by a new one in 1880. When Father Hoendervangers left Bloemfontein he was replaced by Father Victor Bompart, sent by Dr. Jolivet to minister to the scanty Catholic population. For some time the number of Catholics remained limited to eight or ten. All of them were poor and consequently unable to support the priest who very often saw himself on the verge of starvation. However, Father Bompart never swerved from his duty ; he was always ready to face sacrifice. His greatest trial was neither starvation nor physical sufferings, but the fruitlessness of the soil he had to cultivate. Being obliged to live in the midst of an element prejudiced against anything which might remind them of Rome and hating the very name of Catholic, his labours were to remain apparently fruitless for several years. The Boers were at that time, as they are now, unwilling to hear of another creed than their own. Their ministers never wearied of railing at and abusing pope and priests. Owing to such a spirit conversions have been always few; many prejudices, however, have been overcome by schools conducted by nuns of various orders.

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When Kimberley started into existence the number of Catholics in the locality necessitated the frequent visit of the priest and very soon the establishment of a permanent mission. Fathers Bompart, Lebihan, and Hidien used to visit them occasionally. Father Hidien finally established a Catholic Society and began the erection of a hospital. A poor and small chapel was first erected, but owing to the increase of the Catholic congregation, a larger and more substantial one was planned and built. Its erection is due to the indefatigable Father Hilary Lenoir, O.M.I. The whole vicariate is greatly indebted to him for all the missions he has founded or helped to found; Kimberley, Mafeking, and Harrismith have, thanks to him, their churches and presbyteries. When, in 1886, a separate vicariate was erected, the Right Reverend Anthony Gaughren, O.M.I., was appointed the first Vicar Apostolic ; he was elected in May, 1886, consecrated on 10 August, 1886, and died in Kimberley on 15 January, 1901. On 29 January, 1902, his brother, the Right Rev. Matthew Gaughren, O.M.I., was elected to replace him, and was consecrated Bishop of Tentyra on 16 March, 1902. Under the jurisdiction of these two bishops the Vicariate of Kimberley has seen its churches and schools multiplied. In 1910 the vicariate possesses: 16 churches and chapels ; 19 priests (of whom 16 belong to the Order of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate ); one college under the management of the Christian Brothers , where over 300 boys receive a thorough education. The Sisters of the Holy Family conduct 6 parochial schools and 3 boarding schools. The Sisters of Mercy have two schools, a boarding school in Mafeking and a parochial school in Vryburg. The Sisters of St. Jacut conduct at Taungs a school for natives. Taungs has been up to the present day the only native mission. It was founded in May, 1898, by Father Porte, O.M.I., and counts over 400 Catholics. The total number of children frequenting Catholic schools is at present over 1200. Besides the schools, there is in the Vicariate of Kimberley an establishment for orphans, the poor, and the aged; it is managed by the Sisters of Nazareth. The devotedness and self-sacrifice of these Sisters have not a little contributed to overcome the prejudices of Protestants who help them generously in the upkeep of their establishment, where over one hundred and fifty children and aged persons are cared for; it may be mentioned that all the primary schools are in part supported by the Government. Besides the 16 Oblates and the 3 secular priests, 3 lay brothers, 11 Christian Brothers (Irish), 42 Sisters of the Holy Family of Bordeaux, 14 Sisters of Nazareth, 5 Sisters of Saint Jacut, and 12 Sisters of Mercy are carrying out the work of regeneration in the vicariate.

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One of the great obstacles to evangelization in this vicariate is caused by the fact of the population being scattered and unsettled. This prevents the priest from being in continual touch with his flock. The small number of priests has not permitted an increase of mission work amongst the natives, who far outnumber the white population. At present the mining industry seems to be the only source of material wealth, and its duration is uncertain. In the farming districts, though communication has been facilitated by the construction of railways, the future seems precarious owing to droughts, cattle diseases, locusts, etc. As a consequence the population is unsettled and shifting, and sacerdotal vocations within the vicariate are hardly to be expected for the present. Catechisms and prayer books in the native language have, however, been compiled by Father Porte who made an expedition into Bechuanaland, in 1898, and discovered that the natives, while akin in race and speech to the Basutos, are more rooted in fetishism.

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