The Parish Centre at Durban’s Emmanuel Cathedral has served the parish and the diocese for 109 years, many thousands of people benefitting from its facilities. But now it is dilapidated and unable to provide the services needed by a dynamic and growing paris with a strong emphasis on social outreach. So the building is to make way for the Denis Hurley Centre which will be constructed on the same site.

To provide an opportunity for parishioners to take their leave of a building that has been a landmark for many, farewell events were held on the weekend of 11 and 12 May. At each of the four Masses, special prayers of the faithful were said, and reference made to the role of the Parish Centre by Monsignor Paul Nadal in a sponsorship appeal for the 300 km Camino pilgrimage he is undertaking from 24 May to 5 june, to raise funds for the new building.

After each Mass, the Cathedral Administrator, Father Stephen Tully,  sprinkled holy water on the outside of the building followed by a procession of parishioners blowing vuvuzelas and singing hymns of thanksgiving. A final prayer was said by Fr Stephen highlighting the enormous role played by the building in its long history. Parishioners were then invited to write “Graffiti of Gratitude” on the walls of the building and also to make final visits to the Centre which remained open for the last time.

For the first 50 years of its existence, the Cathedral Parish Centre had been home to St Augustine’s Primary School, run by the Holy Family Sisters. Since that time it has been the Parish Centre for the Cathedral, providing space for countless meetings, workshops, conferences, “night schools” (when these were illegal), and giving refuge to people during the apartheid years and the recent xenophobic attacks.  The Catholic Africa Union was based here for many years and regular gatherings of several major sodalities took place. A wide variety of social events and celebrations such as weddings and dances were hosted in these walls, as well as concerts and plays. For some years badminton was played in the hall and it provided a venue for Karati classes. In recent years Refugee Pastoral Care has had its diocesan office here, as well as the Nkosinathi Feeding Scheme and the Usizo L’wethu Primary Health Care Clinic.

All parish activities have been temporarily relocated to the Surat Hindu Association Building in Dr Goonam (formerly Prince Edward) Street, until the Parish Centre has been demolished and the Denis Hurley Centre built.

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