The History of Good Shepherd, Meerhof

The Sisters of the Good Shepherd

The Parish of the Good Shepherd at Meerhof, Hartbeespoort arose from the need of the small local Catholic community to meet for the celebration of Mass. The farming town of Brits has had a Catholic Church since 1937, a pretty little building which continues to serve its faithful to this day. In the early 1960's, a religious Order of Sisters - the Sisters of the Good Shepherd - came to Meerhof where they established a home for wayward girls. They bought a large house, "La Hermosa" (the beautiful),  which had been built during the Second World War in the grounds of the Schoeman family home, on the hill overlooking Hartbeespoort Dam. Here they had a private chapel and it was to this chapel that the local  Catholics of the community started coming for Mass in the 1970's as a comfortable alternative to the drive to Brits.

With the welcome focal point of a Catholic Chapel in their vicinity and the encouragement of the example of the dedicated Sisters, a community of Catholics from surrounding areas slowly began to take shape. Father Giuliano Melotto celebrated Mass for the local community in the Sisters' Chapel every Saturday evening.


Building Fund Established

The Catholics of the area were always very grateful to the Good Shepherd Sisters for the use of their chapel. However, from the election of the first Parish Council in 1984, their sights were set on acquiring a place of their own. For some time the Archdiocese of Pretoria had owned a stand in Scott Street, Schoemansville. This stand was considered unsuitable and too small for the building of a church and the Diocese was advised to sell this stand and look for another one. A Building Fund was started and raising funds became the order of the day.


Building Gets Under Way

In 1985, the congregation was blessed by the appointment of a resident priest, Father James Delaney, who hailed from Ballymahon in Ireland. In December 1986, the parish received the news from the Provincial of the Good Shepherd Sisters, Sister Mary Therese McGurk that the Sisters had decided to donate a portion of their land in Meerhof, to the Diocese for the building of a parish church. The building fund was boosted with donations from, amongst others, the Pretoria German Community under the guidance of Father Brunner, as well as a donation from the Little Company of Mary. By January 1987, the building fund stood at R114 000. Plans for the church were drawn up by architect and parishioner, Willie Voermans. Proceedings for the transfer and preparation of the ground for the building of the new church were set in motion, however, not without challenges such as objections from the residents of Meerhof to the building of a Catholic Church in their suburb.


Church Officially Opened

The Church of the Good Shepherd in Meerhof, Hartbeespoort was officially opened and consecrated by Archbishop George Daniel of Pretoria on the 2nd October 1988, the event well chronicled in the local press.  The church seats about 300 people. The focal point, the Sanctuary, contains an altar, font and lectern of local black granite. Facing the sanctuary at the west end, are three beautiful stained glass windows portraying the theme of the Good Shepherd, in the Dalles de Verre medium by the Pretoria artist, Leo Theron.

Foundation Stone

Building of the Presbytery

In September 1989, plans were drawn up for a presbytery, and by 2 October 1989, digging of the foundations began and on 1 April 1990, the presbytery was officially opened by Archbishop Daniel. Father Delaney, who had been living in the Good Shepherd Convent since he came to the parish, took up residence on the same day.


 
Presbytery

The Death of Father Delaney

In June 1990, Father Delaney suffered a stroke while celebrating Mass on a week morning and collapsed at the altar. He was rushed to hospital in Pretoria, but did not regain consciousness. He died on 16 June 1990, aged 69 years. His funeral was held at the Sacred Heart Cathedral, Pretoria, and he is buried in the Pretoria West Cemetery. This was a sad occasion for the parish, as Father Delaney was much loved and greatly respected. However, the parish achieved much during the short four and a half years of Father Delaney's leadership. For a small parish, the building programme during this short period was remarkable - a church, a caretaker's house, a presbytery and an almost complete parish hall.


For the next three and a half years the parish depended on the services of many different priests for weekend Masses, Baptisms etc. It is during this time that parishioners were very active in taking care of the church buildings and grounds in the spirit of community. A ladies' Tea Group was founded, a Monthly Newsletter was established and two stained glass windows in the sanctuary were installed. The prayers of parishioners were answered when, in early 1994, Archbishop Daniel announced that the priests of the parish of St George in Saulsville. would take care of the Good Shepherd also. Amongst the priests who lived in Saulsville and that were parish priests of both Meerhof and Saulsville were Father John Craven, succeeded by Father Terence McGuckin, assisted by Father Anthony Mdhluli, recently ordained, and then finally succeeded by Father Kieran Creagh who was assisted by Father Velaphi Mazibuko.


At the beginning of October 2001, the parish welcomed a new, permanent priest, Father Sylvius McGaughey who took up residence in the presbytery who has subsequently returned to Ireland.  At the end of 2009, our parish welcomed Father Michael Flattery who did much for our parish, particularly with regards the building of our catechism classrooms. Father Michael sadly left us to return to Sunnyside at the end of October 2013; and was replaced by Father Boiutumelo Simon Molefe who in July 2014 was sent to St. Joseph the Worker parish in Pretoria West. Father Sikhalele Anthony Mdluli, currently our parsh priest,  joined our parish in July 2014.