History of Grassy Park Parish

The history of Grassy Park Parish goes back to August 1925 when the Redemptorist priest, Fr John Charlton realized a need and asked the Holy Family Sisters in Sea Point for nurses to care for the poor and sick of the area. Three months later their weekly visits started and operated from a shed in Victoria Road opposite where the mosque now stands. A year later they bought a property, including a cottage, between 7th and 8th Avenues in Victoria Road for 375 pounds. They continued their weekly visits and Holy Mass was celebrated once a month in a room of the cottage. In 1928 a clinic was built on the site and also was used as a chapel. The following year there were two residential priests Fr J.Hughes CSsR, serving Retreat and Tokai, and Fr Ord CSsR serving Grassy Park. In the following years the area gradually built-up parish life.

In 1932 a Sunday school was opened in Retreat under the guidance of the Sisters of the Holy Cross from Heathfield. Holy Mass was celebrated twice weekly in the Victoria Road chapel on Sunday and Tuesday mornings. In June 1949 the long-awaited moment arrived when Grassy Park Parish was created with Fr John Dempsey appointed as Quasi-Parochus. Funds were raised to build a church, school, and house for priests who could not as yet live in the area. Midnight Mass was celebrated at Christmas for the first time in 1949. In February 1951, Bishop Owen McCann visited Grassy Park Parish to confirm 39 adults and children in an open-air ceremony held behind the chapel. Later that year Ferreira’s Farm of five and a half acres in Lake Road was bought for 2000 pounds with the Redemptorists’ funds. The property included a four-roomed house and at long last Fr Dempsey was able to take up residence in the parish. In 1953 Fr Dempsey appealed to the St Vincent de Paul Society of Corpus Christi to assist the poor. Eight men volunteered until their retirement, with others following in their footsteps until this day. The first local member to be recruited to the Society was Mr. Andrew Williams. They had also moved to Grassy Park into the new housing project (SERVITAS). Currently (2022), the parish has three Saint Vincent DePaul Conferences serving the impoverished members of our society located in Grassy Park, Lotus River, and Parkwood.

In September 1953 Fr Dempsey left Grassy Park Parish and was replaced by Fr Dominic Campbell CSsR as parish priest. In November 1956 Fr. Justin Feeny CSsR succeeded Fr. Campbell. In July the following year, four plots in First Road were bought for a reasonable price of 350 pounds. This site was more suitable for the building of a church than the one acquired near the Klip. In September 1959 an architect, Ugo Bergamosco, was appointed to design Our Lady Queen of Peace Church. Two months later, the plans were approved by Archbishop Owen McCann. On 23 October 1961, a contract was signed with Eric Dundee for the construction of the new church. In a ceremony on 10 March 1962, Archbishop Owen McCann laid the foundation stone. The murals on the outside walls of the church which are such a distinctive feature of the church building were done by Mr. Wren Sargent. They depict the Nativity, The Flight into Egypt, The Baptism of Jesus in Jordan, the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, and the miraculous catch of the fish. The fine marble altar was donated by Monsieur and Madame Van der Stichelen, the Belgian Ambassador, and his wife in South Africa at the time. On Monday 25 June 1962, the Archbishop blessed the new church which was formally opened the next day by 18h00.

The paintings of the Stations of the Cross in the church were also donated by Wren Sargent and were put up in March 1963. The statue of the Sacred Heart in the church arrived from Germany in the same year. In 1963 the parish priest moved into the new presbytery at First Road Grassy Park after having to live for six and a half years in the shack at Lake Road. On Sunday 15 April 1964, the first vernacular Holy Mass was celebrated and was well received by the parishioners. In July of that year, Fr George Christians CSsR arrived from Garsfontein and was appointed parish priest. By January 1965, three Holy Masses were celebrated at Our Lady Queen of Peace church. Fr Anderson CSsR became the assistant priest in the same year. Grassy Park now had two priests. In 1967 Fr. Christiaans was transferred and Fr. Gerard Ratcliffe CSsR was appointed parish priest. 

On 31st May 1971, the St. Gerard Majella Church in Parkwood was blessed and opened for worship by his eminence Owen Cardinal McCann and on 03rd March 1973, St. Clement Hofbauer Church in Lotus River was blessed and opened by Monsignor John Galvin V.G. Grassy Park now has three churches. In May 1975 Fr. Ratcliffe was transferred, and Fr. Anthony Pathe was appointed parish priest in his place until January 1981. The first Deacon of the Grassy Park Parish, Rev. George (Toby) Paynter (deceased on 31 May 2022) from St Gerard was installed on the 6th of July 1980 and ordained in 1981. Fr. Martin Gay CSsR was appointed parish priest from January 1981 until December 1986. On 18th October 1985, Owen Cardinal McCann dedicated the church and its altar to the honour and glory of God under the title of Our Lady Queen of Peace. Relics of St. John the Apostle, St. Alphonsus Ligouri, St. Andrew, and St. James were placed in the altar. In January 1987 Fr. James Harding CSsR was appointed parish priest until September 1994. Rev. Michael Ramages was ordained a deacon for St. Clement Church on 7th February 1988. On 14 February 1988, three deacons were ordained for Our Lady Queen of Peace Church, namely Rev. Paul Adams (deceased), Rev. Patrick Jacobs, and Rev. Victor West (who passed away on 03 September 1989). Rev. Piet Philander was ordained on 07 December 1997 (he passed away on 16 July 2017).

Many other Redemptorist priests worked in Grassy Park Parish, including Fr Kevin Dowling, Fr Peter Wilson, and Fr John Smith. Fr Kevin Dowling was responsible for hosting many successful plays and raised much-needed money at the time and later became the Bishop of Rustenburg Diocese. In March 1994, the last Redemptorist parish priest in Grassy Park was Fr James Harding. He moved out and Fr Doran was appointed by Archbishop Lawrence Henry to look after the spiritual matters of the parishioners until a permanent priest could be appointed. In October 1994 Fr. Augustine Kunnakkatt from the Order of the Heralds of the Good News was appointed parish priest until November 1995. On the 5th of January 1995 Bro. Gavin Stokoe made his First Profession as a Religious brother in the Order of CSsR and on 18th July 2010 he made his Final Profession. From December 1995 until October 1997 Fr. Joseph Plathottam (Heralds of the Good News) was the parish priest. Other priests who assisted at the parish during this period were Fr John Malayil and Fr Ratna Raju. On the 28th of June 1996, the parish celebrated one of its own sons from St Clement’s church, Fr. Brandon West who was ordained as a diocesan priest. In 1997 the house opposite the church was purchased as a presbytery for the priests.  From the end of 1997 Rev . Peter Barnes resided at the presbytery and looked after the day-to-day running of the parish until another priest was appointed. During this time the Jesuit priests assisted with Sunday Masses at Our Lady Queen of Peace, St Gerard, and St Clement churches. 

In January 1998, Fr Frank Whyte was appointed as parish priest. On 9th November 2000, Rev. John Sheraton was ordained a deacon for St. Gerard Church. During Fr Whyte’s tenure, St. Gerard’s Church was consecrated on the 16th of October 2001 by Archbishop Lawrence Henry. St Clement’s church was also consecrated by Archbishop Lawrence Henry on the 8th of February 2004. The parish was further blessed by the consecration of Sister Daphne Firth from St Gerard’s church who made her final profession in the presence of Archbishop Lawrence Henry on the 17th of January 2004 as a Little Sister of Anawim dedicated to the service of our parish. Fr Frank Whyte’s assistant priests were Fr Eugene Jackson, Fr Mark Foster, Fr Peter Ziegler, Fr Paul Taylor, and Fr Masilamani Suvakkin (Herald of the Good News). In 2006 Fr Frank Whyte was appointed to Parow Valley parish and the MSFS priests (Fransalians) arrived in Grassy Park Parish with Fr Job being appointed as parish priest, on 23 March 2006 assisted by Fr Jacob MSFS and later by Fr Babu MSFS. To God’s glory, a second priestly vocation arose from the parish. Fr. Cecil Dowling CSsR was ordained on the 29th of September 2007 in service of the Redemptorist Congregation. In August 2011 when Fr. Job was transferred to St. Clare’s, Elsies River Fr. Joseph MSFS was appointed parish priest until the end of July 2013 and on 27 July 2013 Fr Baiju Mundackal MSFS was appointed parish priest assisted by Fr Mathew MSFS,  Benjamin MSFS, and Fr. Noble MSFS and currently by Fr. Ventino MSFS.