It is almost impossible to look to the future if you have no knowledge of the past, in this case the eighty years that St Patrick’s Sydenham is celebrating on Sunday 28th August 2016.
Prior to the construction of St Patrick’s (the second catholic church to be built in Port Elizabeth), Holy Mass was celebrated on Sundays at Sacred Heart Convent, a small building on North Road in North End which served as a school during the week, being staffed by the Assumption Sisters. For many years the Catholics of North End had been collecting for a convent and church and soon they saw the fruits of their labour, when in 1934 Bishop Mac Sherry, laid two (school and church) foundation stones in Somers Road Sydenham. Under each foundation stone was placed a glass jar containing documents, current coins and copies of the SOUTHERN CROSS, and the local papers. Included with these is a piece of St Patrick’s altar stone, from Saul, County Down, Ireland where a local tradition says “St Patrick founded his first church”.
St Patrick Catholic Church, Sydenham is special in many ways, from its Catinary arch used throughout the nave supporting the roof. It should be explained that the catinary arch, is derived from the curves formed. The shape is almost elliptical, and apart from having a fine and dignified form, a catinary arch requires no buttresses, all thrust being carried to the ground instead of sideways and outwards. This arch is employed to a great extend in the Middle East, having originated in Hittite times. The wall at the end of the nave has a vivid depiction of the Passion scene. This was the work of a roving artist from the then South West Africa and was done in the 1940’s while Monsignor David Dahille DD was the parish priest.
Little is known about the painter, who arrived at the Presbytery down on his luck and in return for free board and lodging, offered the talents of his brush in grateful thanks. The work has a remarkable sense of depth; the huge crucifix behind it seemingly hovering at its centre. Look at the parish website: stpatricks-pe.co.za to get a better understanding of this 80 year church and the twelve nations who currently make up its pashioners.
St Patrick’s has a CD called “Ava Maria” available at R100.
The 80th anniversary mass will be led by Bishop Vincent Zungu, Bishop of Port Elizabeth and will be recorded by the SABC for national radio broadcast on Sunday 4th September on SAfm (104-107) from 11am to noon.
Although the convent closed four decades ago in 1974, a group of ‘old girls’ will be having a reunion on the 27th August and attending the anniversary Mass on the 28th.
Pictures show pages from the issue of the Southern Cross that would have been placed in the glass jar under the foundation stone. The picture on the left includes a report on a concert by the pupils of the Convent.