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HISTORY OF THE PARISH

ST. LOUIS CATHOLIC CHURCH


This vibrant parish was named after King Lois XVI of France.  His mother impressed upon him from an early age the desire for serving the people especially the poor.  He made justice acceptable to all.  This is all still very much alive with the community of Clairwood.

 

In the second half of the 19th. Century many indian families established themselves in the area today know as Clairwood.  At about the same period, Mauritian "Creoles" families also settled in the area bringing with them cultural traditions and their Catholic faith.


In 1884, Bishop Jolivet bought land for a mission for the "Creoles" at Clairmont, later to be divided into Clirwood and Montclair.  In 1885 a school chapel was opened and a large building was erected in the middle of 1886 for the Indian and Coloured pupils who attended St. Louis Church.  This chaple was situated in the corner of Jacobs and South Coast roads where the filling station now stands.


In the earlier days, Clairwood and the adjacent areas were served by priests from the Bluff, but from 1912, St. Louis replaced the Bluff as the centre to reach out to places further south:  Lomontville, Montclair-woodlands, Wentworth, and Merebank.


In 1492, Father Weist and the parishioners built the present church as the other was not suitable.  In the late 90's and even today we often hear older parishioners speak very fondly of how they carried bricks and helped in some way to build the Church.  Once the new church was build, the old was used for clesses, fundraising dances, parties, etc.  Many of the young people enjoyedthemselves at the Sunday afternoon sessions to which people from all over Durban came.


In its hey days St. Louis had parishioners of many cultures and languages with 3 or 4 masses on weekends, with a well attended Mass in Zulu for people of Clearwood, Wentworth and the hostels within the parish.


From 1963 there was a steady decline in the Parish.  Two reasons for this were:  The growth in the church, eg: establishing of Merebank (1966) and prior to these, Lamontville and Woodlands - Montclair.  The second and major reason was the prospectof Clirwood becoming industrial area, thus destroying the community and scattering parishioners to the cormers of Durban.  This also put paid to any development that had been planned such as much needed hall.


Despite all of this, the community of Clairwood rallied together and St. Louis continued as a place where young people of all persuasions came together on a Friday night for youth gathering and to watch movies shown by Fr. Macmanus.  Almost 40 years later it is still heard among the now 40-50 years olds "remember how we went to the dam for that picnic". Loganathan Moodley, a Hindu speaks with fondness of his experiences at St. Louis with his friends.


The annual St. Louis fete around the feast of St. Louis on the 25 of August brings many people back to their haunt to meet up with friends.  The present community of Clairwood are also to be fond assisting on that day and joining in the fun.  This community spirit is also evident another fundraising efforts such as dances.


Members of the Parish who still reside in the area, play an active role in life of Cliarwood such as the ratepayers group, women's group, senior citizens, etc.


One of the ways that the parish continues to interact with the community of clairwood, is via the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which is a group of men a women from the Parish who obtain cash donations and raise funds to assist the needy in the area irrespective of their religion affiliation.  This group has been operating for over 50 years.  In the past 5 yearsone of the projects was a feeding scheme once a month ot the different informal settlements in Clairwood and also for any poor and needy family.


In Conclusion, it is to be noted that while many of the Families of the Parish have moved out of Clairwood area, they still travel to Mass and functions at the church every week.  This strong willed parish community hold their church very dear as it is a family church and has a family history.  Whenever there is a sense of uncertainly, it is clearly and loudly spoken against by anyone.


As a parish community we hope to continue to be part of the Clairwood community.


R. Baroochi


(From 1860 Legacy Foundation Clairwood 1860 - 2010 booklet)