1st Nazareth House established
in Hammersmith, London.
1st African Nazareth House
established in Cape Town, South Africa.
2nd African Nazareth House
established in Kimberly, South Africa.
3rd African Nazareth House
established in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
4th African Nazareth House
established in Johannesburg, South Africa.
5th African Nazareth House
established in Durban, South Africa.
Nazareth House Cape Town completed
building Main House in Vredehoek.
6th African Nazareth House Fourteen Streams, South Africa.
7th African Nazareth House
established in Harare, Zimbabwe.
8th African Nazareth House
established in Pretoria, South Africa.
9th African Nazareth House
established in Elsies River, South Africa.
Nazareth House Kimberly closed.
Nazareth House Fourteen Streams
establishes Morning Star Creche.
Nazareth House Fourteen Streams
establishes Frances Shannon Hospice.
The History of our
With a history and legacy of more than 137 years in Africa, Nazareth Care has established a country wide footprint that has cared, loved, and assisted countless individuals. In 1881, a small group of Sisters arrived in South Africa at the invitation of the Bishop of Cape Town. Their mission was to care for indigent elderly and orphaned children. Today, more than a hundred years later, Nazareth House South Africa still provides a caring and compassionate haven for the most vulnerable members of our society.
Each Nazareth House in Africa has its’ own story to be told.
Nazareth House Cape Town:
Five Sisters of Nazareth left Hammersmith, London, to open a Nazareth branch house in Cape Town in 1882, at the request of the (Roman Catholic) Bishop of Cape Town. Cape Town House was the very first Nazareth House to be established outside of the United Kingdom. This is tenth house of the Congregation opened. The Sisters arrived on the ship “Pretoria” and anchored in Table Bay. Because of the prevalence of smallpox in the town, they were unable to dock immediately. The Sisters were cordially welcomed and accompanied by the Vicar General to their new home at 65 Buitenkant Street. As the Sisters were used to a cold Winter Christmas, the first Christmas in Cape Town seemed very strange in the heat of the summer.
At the beginning of 1883, the Sisters accepted the Bishop’s offer of 18 Roeland Street in exchange for the orphanage in Buitenkant Street, as this was a larger house with more extensive grounds. Early in 1884, Bishop Leonard visited the Mother House in London, bringing with him, on his return, three additional Sisters. They were expanding their work and they succeeded in securing a piece of vacant ground measuring about five acres in the locality of Upper Mill Street. It had a magnificent view of the city and bay, but was somewhat inconveniently situated with regards to roads, water, and sewerage.
In 1899, war broke out between the British and the Boers. The Sisters met several Catholic soldiers and gave them notepaper and envelopes. The Sisters would bring as many as 200 letters at a time off the troopships to be forwarded to their destination. The Sisters also wrote to the soldiers’ families, which was a great consolation to many sorrowing wives and mothers who learnt that the Sisters had met and spoken with their absent loved ones.
In October 1901, a fearful bubonic plague epidemic broke out in Cape Town and caused extreme anxiety for the Sisters. Every possible resource was exhausted to prevent the spread of the disease. The Sisters attributed their miraculous preservation to the many prayers offered.
In 1918, a serious epidemic of Spanish influenza broke out in Cape Town. More than 5 000 people died in the city and suburbs, which included friends and benefactors of the Sisters and one Nazareth Sister. All, except two boys and a girl fell ill amongst the children. This resulted in the death of one baby and one infirm girl. The miraculous recoveries of the others were attributed to the Blessed Virgin. This month was always referred to as “Black October”.
The children competed for the first time in the elocution test at the English Eisteddfod in the City Hall in 1946. The girls won first place and received a gold diploma. The boys received a silver diploma. The Boys’ Choir won first place in the singing section and received a gold diploma and a silver cup. The children also distinguished themselves at the Afrikaans Eisteddfod, the Boys’ Choir won first place and the Girls’ Choir took second place.
In 1980, Cardinal McCann was incredibly anxious for the Sisters to take on work for the Coloured people. Mother General discussed this with him and said “ We are willing to do so if permitted, but the laws of the country would not allow the Sisters to live in a Coloured area, nor admit any Coloured people into our existing Nazareth House, which is in a so-called ‘White’ area”. This project was officially placed on hold until the laws had changed, however, Sister Sebastian went out anyway to do social work among the Coloured population and brought spiritual and material help to the poor. Sister Sebastian also promoted family life and raised the standard of living for these under-privileged people. The Sisters actively opposed apartheid government policies such as prohibiting “white” nurses from treating “black” patients.
Babies suffering from A.I.D.S were admitted into the care of Sister Anne Margaret Craig and her team of carers in 1993. In mid- 1994, reports appeared in daily newspapers of the care provided for the children with A.I.D.S in the Nazareth House. Due to this media coverage donations poured in from the local community. The Sisters took on the A.I.D.S work, fully aware that the care the babies would require would be demanding and costly and knowing that the little ones would die at an early age.
The Nazareth House welcomed many well-respected guests. In 1996 Tony Blair, who was the leader of the Labour party in Britain, visited with his wife Chérie. The Union Jack and the S.A. flag were hoisted for this occasion. In 1998, Patricia de Lille, MP, and Earl Spencer (Princess Diana’s brother) visited. They were both members of the Mandela Trust Fund for Children and Earl Spencer sent a substantial donation. In 1999, Tony Blair, now the British Prime Minister, and his wife enjoyed a return visit. Also, in 1999, Mr Bertie Ahearn, the Irish Prime Minister, visited. He presented the Superior with a cheque of R200 000 toward the building of a cottage for the older children and donated a set of Irish linen serviettes. In 2002, Nelson Mandela, the highly esteemed former president of South Africa, visited. He was greatly concerned about the A.I.D.S babies and H.I.V. positive children. He sang to the children and then addressed the staff, shaking each staff member’s hand individually. He addressed the Sisters and the religious leaders of the country and acknowledged the Sisters for providing the privilege of a great education to the disadvantaged people.
Due to the crisis caused by Xenophobia against the displaced persons and refugees in Cape Town during 2008, various emergency camps around the city were setup. The Sisters donated several necessary items to the organisations.
In 2011, to comply with the regulations introduced to the Children’s Act of 2005, all homes were requested to specialise in a defined aspect of childcare. As the House is involved in the ‘place of safety’ ministry and the profoundly challenged children, they chose to continue with these ministries.
When Nazareth Care Cape Town turned 130 years old in 2012, a two-day festive affair was enjoyed. The celebration included a host of family-friendly activities, including a live musical line-up featuring the likes of Just Jinger, Ard Matthews and Scream and The Chocolate Stix, to name a few. Little ones enjoyed carnival rides and all the proceeds went towards supporting the house.
In 2018, the Regional house relocated from Pretoria to 1 Derry Street, Vredehoek, Cape Town. This is where, at the foot of Cape Town’s landmark Table Mountain, you will find Nazareth House now, one of the oldest buildings in the peaceful neighbourhood named Vredehoek. They continue to strive to improve the quality of life of each resident here.
Nazareth House, Kimberley:
Many people had gone to Kimberley, South Africa with high hopes of finding sparkling riches, but instead only found unhappiness, illness, and poverty. To assist these vulnerable people, the Sisters of Nazareth opened a home in Kimberley at the request of Bishop Gaughran.
Five Sisters left Southampton, England in 1888 on the 20th of September. They boarded the SS “Tartar” which took them to Cape Town. The Sisters were thankful for having been chosen to work for God in South Africa. They were filled with courage and a giving spirit. The ship docked at Table Bay in Cape Town, South Africa on the 12th of October. The Sisters were warmly welcomed at Cape Town Nazareth House in Roeland Street.
The Sisters left by train on the 17th October for Kimberley. When they arrived in Kimberley, they were taken by carriages to St. Mary’s Cathedral. The Magnificat was sung by the choir in thanksgiving. They were then taken to the Holy Family Sisters who welcomed them lovingly. On the 22nd of October, two Sisters started their collecting rounds. They first approached all the Catholics for assistance and then the people of other denominations.
The Kimberley house was very small, and as it was necessary to build, plans were sent from the Mother House. Once a large room was built, it was arranged as a dormitory. When a second room was finished, it was quickly converted into a Chapel. The altar and essentials for the celebration of Holy Mass had already arrived from Hammersmith, England. There was no available kitchen, so the Sisters had to use a fire outside. The Sister who oversaw this department had to stand over a steaming pot, using an umbrella to shield herself from the blazing hot sun. Nearly two weeks passed before a temporary kitchen was built.
The very first resident was an elderly gentleman. On 1st of November, the Feast of All Saints Day, two children were admitted. Next, an old lady who was in an extreme state of neglect, was welcomed into the home. Accommodation became an urgent problem, as there were only four small rooms available now. In September, two Sisters left to collect in Johannesburg, these donations allowed the Sisters to continue their building. The Sisters also travelled to Bloemfontein to collect, this was challenging, and they endured hardships. Travelling in the Free State was difficult and dangerous. This trip was financially successful. By October 1889, 43 children had been admitted.
Kimberley was besieged on Sunday, 15th October 1899. The son of the Master of Beaconsfield reached the Nazareth House breathlessly. He said the Boers were in sight and they had cut off telegraphic communication, railway lines and even the water supply. All men had to leave to take up arms. The women and children were taken into Kimberley from Beaconsfield. Refugees came to the Sisters who prepared meals and beds for them until late at night. The Sisters spent four anxious months as food was scarce. They required a permit to go through town and to have a light on inside the house after 8pm. They raised the ambulance flag over the house, hoping this would spare them from shelling. This did not save them.
The house was constantly surrounded with falling shells. A 100lb. shrapnel burst over the house. A piece weighing about 9lbs. tore through the roof and landed in the Sisters’ community room. Fortunately, the Sisters were not injured, as they were at breakfast. A shell had passed over the hood of the Sister’s cart one day, which resulted in two horses dying in an adjacent cart. Everyone thought the house had been destroyed when a shell fell into the Dynamite Magazine nearby. Mother General in London sent an encouraging cable: “Courage! Remain with your poor. God Bless you.”
On 15th February 1900, General French and the Column relieved Kimberley. One soldier rode up to the Nazareth House. The Bishop spotted him from the balcony and asked the Sisters if the soldier was attached to the Relief Column. The Sisters replied: “Yes, it is General French’s staff”. The soldier knelt down and kissed the Bishop’s ring and spoke for a few minutes then said, “I am Lord Edmund Talbot. The Duke of Norfolk’s brother.” He then mounted his horse and rode off. The Sisters continued caring for the British and Boers, who were sick and wounded, while refusing to accept any payment whatsoever.
In 1916, an outbreak of the Spanish Flu spread rapidly throughout Kimberley. This continued for five weeks, resulting in the death of 6 000 people. Convicts were employed to dig graves at great speed. Nazareth House experienced 127 cases amongst the children and five of the Sisters were critically ill. However, Nazareth House escaped without a single death.
On 19th October 1938, Nazareth House, Kimberley, celebrated its Golden Jubilee. A number of distinguished people attended and General Smuts, who performed the opening ceremony said: “The work of Nazareth House, when you look at it from the point of view of work that endures, is a noble one. This is a Jubilee Fête to celebrate the great work. Think of how much this Institution must have done over the past fifty years to relieve human suffering, to extend a helping hand and to do truly gracious things. Think of this great “City of Diamonds” where fortunes were made. Think of all that went wrong. Think of the elderly people and the little children who did not know where to go, and the others who were ‘derelicts’ of society. Where did they find a refuge? In Nazareth House. Nazareth House has kept flying the banner of the spirit founded on Christianity, based on simple things which, nevertheless, make up the essence of human life.”
In 1980, the Sisters’ work grew beyond the confines of Nazareth House, therefore the Sisters operated a crèche for Coloured children. On 2nd November 1980, the crèche was officially opened under the leadership of Sister Frances Patrick Martin (Sister Mairead). 48 Children were homed.
In 1996, St. Teresa’s Hospice was formally opened, named after St. Teresa Avila, and embodied the principles of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who strove to ensure that the terminally ill die in peace and with dignity. The government was reducing the subsidies for the care of the elderly and the hospice closed in July 1997 but re-opened in January 1998. The number of residents was 68, consisting of 53 ladies and 15 men.
In 2001, Nazareth House closed due to a shortage of Sisters, lack of government funding and the extreme challenges in procuring nursing staff. The last fête was held in August. On November 23rd, 2001 they celebrated Holy Mass for the last time in the Nazareth House Chapel.
The story of Nazareth House Kimberley
Five sisters arrived in Cape Town on 11 October 1888 and came straight to Kimberley to establish a Nazareth House on the diggings. Half an acre of land was given by the London and South African Exploration Company and construction started on the building. Nazareth House Kimberley was located on Dutoitspan Road.
Illustration of Nazareth House Kimberley
The first room to be completed was fitted as a dormitory and the second room to be completed became the chapel. The altar and other essentials needed for Holy Mass were brought from England. On 26 October the house was blessed by Reverend R O’Reilly and the first residents arrived on 1 November 1888. Initially there was no kitchen and food was cooked on an open fire. The sisters later had a “Dutch oven” and “bake house” built so that they could make their own bread and thus save money. The house soon became too small and in 1892 construction began on the left wing of the main building. Within one year after the opening of this building, there were 43 children living at Nazareth House and by the end of 1895, there were 130. The construction on the new chapel began in 1894 with a message from Bishop Gaughren placed in a bottle under the cornerstone, the chapel being dedicated on 5 October 1895.
On the 18th February 1900, the distant rumble of guns alerted the citizens of Kimberley to yet another large battle in the near vicinity this time at Paardeberg, some 41 kilometres east of the town. The Nazareth House sisters being medically trained it would help the British army immensely. On 19 February Lord Roberts arrived to take command. His immediate concern was the wounded soldiers and he arranged that both Christian Brothers’ College and Nazareth House be turned into temporary hospitals. By late that day of 19 February the wounded were being brought in to the temporary hospitals by wagons and carts. Both CBC and Nazareth House would remain as hospitals until May 1900 with further influx of British soldiers because of the water-borne diseases enteric and dysentery.
Nazareth House Kimberly being used as a make-shift hospital during the war
During the Siege of Kimberley, Nazareth House raised the ambulance flag in the hope that it may escape shelling. It did not, however. Although nobody was injured, the community room was hit by shrapnel. During the war, the sick and wounded were nursed at Nazareth House.
In 1918 the Spanish flu epidemic killed nearly 5000 people in Kimberley and although Nazareth House was affected, they suffered no deaths.
Nazareth House was known through the years as a home for the aged, poor, incurable and orphan children. The children’s section of the home was closed in approximately 1976 and later served only as a home for the aged. Nazareth House closed its doors in December 2001 and is currently being used as a boarding facility by CBC St Patrick’s.
Some memories of Kimberley from Msgr. Vincent Hill:
Nazareth House in Kimberley used to operate a mule-coach for transporting the Sisters around the town, or for errands like going to the railway station to fetch the milk cans despatched from the farm at Fourteen Streams. It was almost square in shape, and covered in black canvas. Entry was through a door at the rear. There was no window except in the door itself. There were two vertical steps down. It resembled the police vans in use in many countries, so my dad used to call it the “black Maria”. It was replaced by a small panel-van sometime around 1953.
The Sister’s transport, the “Black Maria”
If the Sisters came to our house, it was presumably to make arrangements with my mother for the party for children making their First Holy Communion. Mom made this her personal responsibility every year, baking and icing cakes and cookies. We often had to help making fudge or pulling toffee sticks. She also made the ice-cream in a special barrel-shaped “machine”, crushed ice and salt were packed round the inner cylinder. There was an attachment for stirring the custard mixture, to make it smooth and prevent it from freezing into icicles. Sometimes I was sent to fetch the half-block of ice from the Cold Storage, carrying it in a sack balanced on my bicycle handle-bars.
Nazareth House Fête was an annual event in Kimberley, on the last week-end of November. Invariably it rained heavily, and had to be postponed for a week. I remember boxing exhibitions, drill displays and the usual games of skill or chance. The “Crown and Anchor” table was strictly illegal, which the police tried to ignore unless somebody made a fuss. Then they would close it down and somebody would pay the fine. My Sisters were members of the Children of Mary Sodality, which sponsored the sale of fudge. We all got roped in to collect, design and decorate boxes to hold the goodies, and spent hours stirring the condensed milk to the right consistency. The smell of caramel clung to our hair for a week.
Legends handed down from my mother:
During the Boer War, Kimberley was besieged, but eventually was relieved by a column of cavalry under General French. The children and Sisters joined the crowd lining the streets watching the triumphant parade. One young Sister grew pale and turned away. She had recognised one of the officers as the beau she had refused, in order to join the convent.
One week-end early in the First World War, there was a riot of drunken miners in the streets of Kimberley, threatening the offices and homes of all who were “German”. This included Ernest Oppenheimer and his family, who were offered shelter in Nazareth House. According to my mother, this was why Sir Ernest was a generous benefactor always.
My mother was at 6.30 Mass every morning at Nazareth House chapel in Kimberley. We children would join her occasionally, if there were exams coming up. The nuns were in a transept to the right of the sanctuary. The Nazareth boys and girls occupied the central space. The Christian Brothers also came across the road sometimes, and knelt underneath the choir loft. Old people in the left side aisle, and we were usually to the right.
Images of Sisters of Nazareth from 1889
Nazareth House, Port Elizabeth:
In 1889, at the request of Bishop Ricardo from Port Elizabeth, Mother Mary of the Nativity Owen sent six Sisters from Hammersmith, London to establish a Nazareth community in his Diocese. The citizens of all denominations of Port Elizabeth had, prior to the arrival of the Sisters, contributed towards a fund which would be used to cover the rent for the Sisters for one entire year. The Sisters were also able to purchase furniture and a horse and cart. This property was known as Florence House.
In February 1891, a plot of land adjacent to the House was up for sale, but the Sisters did not have the finances available to purchase the land. Mr. John Daverin put up the sum of money required for the purchase. The generosity of Mr John Daverin continued throughout his life and is continued by his family.
On 11th October 1899, war broke out and on 12th October 1899 all communication was cut off with both Kimberley and Johannesburg. Port Elizabeth was not at the centre of the fighting; however, the House was filled with refugees from the Transvaal and Orange Free State. On 15th February 1900, the siege of Kimberley was lifted, and the Sisters could freely continue caring for the elderly and children.
In 1934, the Sisters were extremely handicapped by the prematurely worn out horses, owing to the steep hills found in Port Elizabeth. Therefore, they purchased a motor vehicle. The driver, fortunately, knew how to drive a vehicle and soon obtained his driver’s licence.
In July 1935, a deadly epidemic of influenza broke out, resulting in many deaths in the town. The children also fell ill, but only one little girl died. The school was closed, as there were eight Sisters and 120 children in bed. The generosity and self-sacrifice of those who continued their work will always be remembered.
In January 1943, Scarlet Fever broke out amongst the children and the hospital was unable to provide care for them all. Trained nurses were recruited, and the new girls’ wing was used for isolation. All made a great recovery. In April, the house came out of quarantine.
In 1963, the Children’s Choir was very successful at the Eisteddfod and their singing of the Ave Verum in Plain Song got great attention. On 19th August, the Music Inspector visited the school and, as he was so pleased with the children’s performance, he brought the Chief Inspector the very next day. He said that their singing would be worth broadcasting.
On 1st September 1968, the worst flood in the history of Port Elizabeth took place. Structures were damaged, cars were swept off the roads and at least ten lives were lost. Millions of Rand’s damage was caused to roads, services, and industrial, commercial, and private property. The House only suffered damage to the roof and boundary wall. The flood had only lasted a few hours.
In 1969, the children’s choir sang at Mass, broadcast from St. Augustine’s Cathedral. Afterwards, they enjoyed special praise from the South African Broadcasting Committee who said that their voices were youthful, reverent, and vibrant.
In 1998, a new Child Care system named “Project Go” was activated. This project encouraged children in care to get out into the community. Nazareth House only homed nine children by the end of the year. It was decided to end their work with the children. The remaining children were placed in other homes in Port Elizabeth with as little trauma as possible.
In 2011, the House experienced more positive developments. Judy Boland was appointed as the new manager to help Sister Illtyd, Superior and Matron. The best care possible was provided for 60 elderly residents, some of these residents coming from the poorest communities. The house had also been taking care of the more elderly Sisters of the Congregation and from other orders. These residents required emotional, nutritional, and material support. To enhance their sense of belonging, they were encouraged to socially interact with each other regularly.
There is still currently a large percentage of residents who pay a smaller amount of board than required. This highlights the need of continued support from the donor community. Fundraising efforts are carried out, as without this income, the House would not be maintained. The kind generosity of the business community and many individuals are always greatly appreciated.
At 10 Park Lane, Port Elizabeth Central, Port Elizabeth, you will find the bright and sunny House, which also includes a magnificent Chapel. They continue providing the much-needed high level of frail care to individuals over the age of 65, who require 24-hour nursing care.
Nazareth House, Johannesburg:
Nazareth House, Johannesburg was established in May 1894 soon after gold was discovered on the Witwatersrand. Very Reverend Fr. Schach, Prefect Apostolic of the Transvaal, asked the Mother General of the Sisters of Nazareth to send Sisters “to serve the homeless human causalities of the sprawling mining camp that was Johannesburg.” Six Sisters were sent from Hammersmith, England on the ship named “Gaul”. After a three-week voyage, they arrived in Cape Town and set out for Kimberley. On 11th May, they arrived in Johannesburg.
Their first home was a five roomed iron cottage on the corner of Saunders Street and Grafton Road in Yeoville. With the generous help of Prefect Apostolic, a brick and iron building was purchased and housed around 50 residents. They soon outgrew this house too.
In June 1895, Sir Alfred Beit laid the foundation stone of the first wing of a much larger complex. The Sisters moved into their new house, in Yeoville, in December. They were happy to have a more permanent home for the children and elderly in their care. In 1896, unfortunately, the House was commandeered and used as a barracks following the Jameson Raid because war broke out between the Boers and the ‘Uitlanders’. The Sisters and the charges were accommodated at the Convent of the Holy Family Sisters. They were happy when peace returned to the Transvaal, as they were able to continue with their work.
On 10th October 1899, war was declared and Martial Law prevailed. Johannesburg was barricaded and deserted; the house had bought enough provisions to provide for their family of 200 members for a few months. On 28th May 1900, the very first cannon shots were heard. The Sisters visited the temporary hospitals daily to care for the wounded and injured soldiers. On 31st May 1902, peace was proclaimed. The House and its residents were not harmed during the war.
60 boys from Nazareth had fought in the First World War by 1916; 6 were killed in action and 20 wounded. The Spanish Flu struck in 1918, resulting in 200 children and 6 Sisters falling ill. There were no fatalities. Someone would push a barrow past the isolation wards every evening while calling out: “Bring out your dead”.
1922 saw a General Strike, trams stopped running, lights and water were turned off, obtaining food was done with much difficulty. The Sisters put their lives at risk daily when they went out in the van to get food. They were surrounded by Military Units who held back the crowds at the point of the bayonet. Civil War was expected, and Martial Law was declared.
In May 1981, South African Broadcasting Representatives taped interviews with the Sisters and residents about all the work done in the House. This was broadcast and funds raised were allocated towards a new building. Plans were made for a larger building and, in 1985, construction began. On 14th February 1988, the new Nazareth House was opened by Mr. Harry Oppenheimer. A Thanksgiving Mass followed, which was concelebrated by Bishop Orsmond and 20 Priests.
The first African child was admitted in 1995 and, in 1998, the Sisters decided to care for children with HIV. Three HIV positive children were cared for by Sister Teresa King, who had travelled from Ireland to South Africa specifically to care for A.I.D.S children. They were housed on the second floor, on the far side of the main building. In 2000, the Clinic of Peace and Love, which was opened by Sister Mura Doherty, provided ARV’s to those suffering with A.I.D.S. Funding for this clinic came from the South African Catholic Bishop’s Conference and the American PEPFAR programme of Congress. When two of the babies reverted to an HIV negative status, the Sisters were filled with joy.
In June/July 2010, South Africa hosted the Soccer World Cup. The Sisters and residents showed great enthusiasm and even wore soccer shorts to show their support for some teams. The Convent was decorated with flags of 32 countries.
Sadly, in 2011, there was a break-in at the Clinic and the burglars made off with computers and money. An electric fence was installed all around the perimeter and panic buttons were also installed to provide additional security. This was made possible by the generous donation from the Knights of Da Gama.
The Nazareth House is now known as an oasis in the middle of Johannesburg, serving people amongst the poverty-stricken and destitute communities. The gardens are well looked after and provide a beautiful area for the residents to enjoy daily walks or some quiet time while taking in the peaceful surroundings. More than 80 elderly residents now call Nazareth House, Johannesburg their loving home. Many have escaped their extremely poor situations and can now live out the remaining part of their lives in comfort and dignity, with care from the staff member of the House.
The House also looks after mentally challenged women. Some of these women can attend the local sheltered employment centre. This gives them the opportunity to be contributing members of society.
The elderly cannot afford to pay for themselves and are therefore dependent on the generosity of others, such as the business community and the community at large. This support will forever be appreciated and allows Nazareth House to continue its good work.
Nazareth House, Durban:
On 2nd November 1895, at the request of Bishop Jolivet, seven Sisters left Hammersmith, London to open a Nazareth House in Durban, South Africa. Their journey aboard the ship named “The Greek” was very pleasant. They arrived safely in Durban on the 4th December 1895 and were warmly welcomed by Rev. Father Murray, OMI and two Holy Family Sisters. The latter provided beds, sheets and blankets for the new House, which allowed the Sisters to gain a peaceful night of rest. The House was made up of a few adjoining cottages in Walls Avenue in an incredibly poor area of Durban. It was clear to the Sisters that they could not stay at this address for long, as the cottages were not suitable. With their trust in the Sacred Heart, they started looking around for better accommodation. A suitable building was soon rented nearer to the city, on the corner of Grey and St. Andrews Street. The Sisters were excited to move in immediately.
On 24th December 1895, Mrs. Bridget McGreal, an old lady from Pietermaritzburg, was admitted. She was the very first resident in the care of the Sisters. On 6thJanuary 1896, Lily Gertrude Abrahams was taken in; she was the first child in the House. On 11th January 1896, Teresa Gattie, the second child was received. Thereafter, applications for both the aged and children increased quickly. The erection of a house more suitable for the work of the Congregation was felt, and a site nearer to the racecourse was purchased. Construction was planned to start as soon as money was available. In the meantime, the Sisters were forced to find alternative accommodation immediately as their House had been sold. Fr. Murray became aware of property available which was standing on five acres of land. They rented this property for £15.00 per month and soon purchased the property for £4 850.00. The Mother House and previously established Houses in South Africa sent very generous donations of bedding and other commodities to this new foundation.
In 1901, the Country Collecting was started by the Sisters. A cow was gifted to the House from the Piccione family of Mooi River.
Between 1918 and 1926, there was a deadly outbreak of the Spanish Flu, which resulted in the daily deaths of as many as 35 to 40 people. In the House, 2 babies and one child sadly died. Also, during these years, the House was debt free, more construction was planned, the house was painted, Prie Dieux were procured for the Sisters’ choir and a motor van was purchased for the Sisters to use during their daily work.
Between 1927 and 1933, the children enjoyed a visit onboard the Cunard liner ‘Franconia’. The Sisters and the children took part in the Eucharistic Congress procession from the Cathedral to Albert Park. 1 500 people had assembled for the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. This was the most incredible demonstration in the history of South Africa’s Catholicism.
Between 1939 and 1942, there was an outbreak of war in Europe, daily devotions were said in all the Houses to obtain protection and restore the peace. Soldiers visited the Nazareth House and received objects of piety. The visitors also included chaplains from Nazareth Houses, there were also Brothers of the Sisters visiting. At the Governments’ instruction, Air Raid shelters were built, costing £850 and a Blackout was enforced. Tobruk had fallen to the enemy and prisoners were taken. Past pupils of the House were also taken as prisoners. Tobruk was released after a few months and some of the boys were amongst the released prisoners. During this time, Miss Agnes Donavan, a generous benefactor, died. She left her estate, which was jointly owned by her brother, consisting of a bequest of £9 723 and a beautiful residence in Kloof.
During 1965 and 1971, the Legion of Mary Praesidium was established. Marguerite Cochran was its first president. Tommy Cochran and Marguerite were, after receiving the permission from Mother General, the first couple to be married in the Chapel. There were 160 children and 74 elderly people in the care of the Sisters during this time. The boys had a Great Dane which was named Rory. Rory followed the children everywhere they went, including to church. When “The Lord’s my Shepherd” was sung, Rory contributed a loud, high-pitched howl during the verse with the descant. A Board of Management was appointed as made compulsory by the Social Welfare Department. The chapel was also renovated, according to the new requirements of Vatican Two. In 1971, the entire house had to be fumigated to combat the borer beetles and white ants.
In 1984, the number of children dropped to only 25. In 1984, severe flooding affected the whole of Natal. Many lives were lost; some of the staff also lost their homes and their possessions. By 31st December 1989, the children’s cottage was closed. This was due to the number of children quickly decreasing even more. The number of elderly people in care was now 120. By 1993, the part of the House which previously housed the children, was altered to make suitable for the elderly instead.
During 2002 to 2005, the move of the House took place. The old House was cleared out and then demolished in August 2003. Furniture, pictures, and paintings that had been accumulated over the 100 years were assessed, renovated, or sold. Sales were held for staff and local people, donations were made to the Missionary Sisters of Charity, the Red Cross, Albalindi Home for the Aged, St. Vincent de Paul Society and the Refugees Committee. The Sisters had been reducing the number of admissions since 1999 as their new facility could house 52 residents. By 20th December 2004, everyone had been moved into the new House, assisted by volunteers, families, and a couple of paid helpers. There were, unfortunately, a few issues such as the power plugs not working, there was a leak in one shower, cracks in the plaster and doors were sticking, as Durban experienced the hottest summer in years. Engineers, electricians, and plumbers were on holiday in January
In 2007, Nazareth House became involved with the Outreach programme in Kwa Mashu, which had been started by Enrolled Nurse, Patricia Xaba in 1991. The salary for the Parish Nurse was provided by the House and goods were donated when there was an abundance. Sadly, one of the old boys, Father Eldred Leslie, was murdered in Pietermaritzburg on 21st January 2009.
In 2010, South Africa hosted the Soccer World Cup. The Sisters prayed daily for the graces needed to ensure fairness, patience, tolerance, sportsmanship, and good health for all teams. ŉKosi Sikele iAfrika was sung in the Chapel and flags of the partaking countries were displayed in reception.
This Nazareth House is situated high on the Ridge in Durban, only about 5km away from the Central Business District. It has beautiful views of the sea and the City of Durban, and fortunate in that the House is surrounded by hospitals. Regular public transport is conveniently located nearby. The residents often enjoy tea-parties, musicals, concerts, and Bingo evenings. The residents, who can, recondition old Christmas cards and knit doll and baby wear. This contributes financially to the House. Nursing Sisters still train home-based carers in the local community, which extends and continues their impact in the area and assists the local community and residents.
Nazareth House, Fourteen Streams:
The Sisters deeply desired to open a House in an area where they would be able to attend to the basic needs of the tremendously poor and underprivileged. In 1912, Mr. James generously left a farm, consisting of 5 000 acres of land in a beautiful location at Fourteen Streams, to the Sisters. Mr. James set forth the following conditions: “The farm must be used for the purpose of providing the necessary instruction and experience for boys from Nazareth House, Kimberley, who were willing to be trained as farmers.” The Sisters took possession of the farm on 31st January 1913. In 1914 the construction of a new building was completed and 12 boys moved in. Farming consisted mostly of cattle at this stage and this provided an astonishing amount of milk for the many hungry people.
In December 1917, the heaviest flooding in 40 years was experienced. They experienced stock loss and bridges and houses were washed away. The engine room was badly spoiled and the vegetables were destroyed.
In January 1925, 5 Sisters from Kimberley joined the farm. The first school was opened for the farm workers children and 20 children were educated here. The children varied in ages, from 7 years old to 17 years of age. The school room was only a storeroom, with a few rough benches and some tables. The children had great enthusiasm to learn from the Sisters how to read and write and do mathematics. The Children thoroughly enjoyed the Religious lessons too. By 1930, there was a total of 72 children registered and taught lovingly by Sister Asicus and Sister Peter of Alcantara. The ‘Good Shepherd Mission’ came into existence around this time and the Outreach work commenced. The Sisters visited Windsorten, Andalusia, Gamuvlaagte and Warrenton and did their good work among the poor. This included providing food and clothing, dispensing medicine, dressing and treating sores and providing comfort or consolation to those in need, regardless of colour or creed. The Sisters also visited the sick and elderly in their huts, said prayers with them and arranged suitable care for those with the biggest needs. From the very beginning, this was the apostolate of the Mission.
In 1928, the school was able to include Standard 5 and 6. Domestic Science was now offered as a subject. The girls were fond of their regular lessons in Cookery, Needlework and Housekeeping. A poultry farm was erected; this served the children and the community with the much-needed food and was also a learning experience for the children: the children learnt about generating a means of income for their own future.
1933 was a challenging time, as a dreadful drought caused the river to dry up. Water was carried from Doorndam, which was 5 miles (around 8 kilometres) away. The mealie crop was not as successful as had been planned. They experienced awful damage to stock.
In September 1940, the African people of the Fourteen Streams location received notice that they had to leave by the end of the year because the Government had purchased the land. It was said that for 3 months they would be provided with rations and building materials, at no cost, if they went to the ‘Taungs Native Reserve’. Records show that the Sisters described the situation as follows: “It is difficult for us in many ways as some of these people are Catholics and the children attend our school. Several families have asked to come and live on the Farm. We are faced with a problem – we cannot allow them to live here unless we employ the men, otherwise we come under the “Locations Act”, but the farm is not paying so we cannot afford more wages. On the other hand, we lose the children from the school. With all the unrest and uncertainty in the country at the moment we don’t feel secure in any way on the Mission. Most of the Kimberley Priests are in internment camps and the Priest here is only waiting for notice to leave. The Bishop is doing his best to get matters fixed up but the Government don’t seem anxious to help him and is quite unsympathetic… Bishop Meysing called today on his way back from the internment camp at Andalusid, 17 miles from here but was disappointed as he was not allowed in to see the Priests. Since then, 2 Fathers and a Brother have been sent to the camp, bringing a total of 52 Priests and 12 Brothers interned there.”
In 1944, heavy rainfall swept away houses, bridges, and animals. Many people lost their lives, but the Mission survived relatively unscathed. In 1946 the war came to an end. The Italian Prisoners of War returned to their camps. They were deeply missed as they were excellent and competent tradesmen and workers on the Farm. They had saved the Farm a substantial financial amount.
By 1957, the Government withdrew all salaries paid and all support to Europeans teaching in Bantu schools. This resulted in the Catholic schools becoming Private schools. The Church continued with their Mission schools which also meant that grants for books and equipment were no longer available. Also, in 1957, the first telephone was installed. This was an amazing cost and time saving benefit, as previously a phone call would entail a 4-mile-long journey.
By February 1960, the South African Region was set up. Areas in the country were zoned either “White” or “Black”. The Mission was in a White area and the Sisters took on boarders with extreme caution as the Government was liable to close the Mission entirely. The Government planned to take over the Farm and the heads of all the families residing on the Farm had to appear before the Warrenton Magistrate. The Magistrate asked where they would like to be located and the workers made it clear that wherever the Sisters went, they would follow. The Government ruled that all boarders had to leave, and the section closed in 1967. The Primary school was re-registered and only 90 pupils were allowed – this, unfortunately, resulted in many children being sent home at the start of each year.
Upon the opening of the school in 1996, the Government started phasing in Standard 8, 9 and 10. Previous pupils and other people who had never even attended the school began an extraordinary campaign of pressure and intimidation against the Sisters and demanded that a Standard 9 class be created. They had locked a Sister in a storeroom and the police had to be called to release her. Superior, Sister Marie Therese King, said they had neither the money to employ a teacher, nor did they have accommodation for such a class. This led to the unhappy group of people Toyi-Toyi-ing the very next week. The Sisters were instructed by the then Bishop, to go to Port Elizabeth until the unrest settled down.
In 2003, extreme damage was caused by a veld fire due to the long, cold, dry winter. Fields and trees burnt; local farmers suffered massive damage. All the Mission buildings were spared and, fortunately, no one was hurt.
In 2011, all the Nazareth Houses in the world sponsored 5 representatives of the Nazareth House Mission to visit Kimberley to apply for their passports. This was done in anticipation of the Catholic event, which was held from 16–21 August in 2011 in Madrid, Spain. It focused on youth and was attended by as many as a million or 1.5 million people. It was the very first time that these 5 representatives had the experience of travelling on a plane or even leaving their own country. They met the Pope and shared their faith with Christians from various countries.
Currently, there still is a high level of unemployment, the A.I.D.S crisis continues, and many poor children need a basic education. It is not only the Streams that require assistance from the House, but also the surrounding areas. More than 60 children now fill the Primary school and 40 children attend the crèche. The good work done is as important now as what it was when it started in the 1900’s. The Mission relies heavily on donations and they are forever grateful for all the benefactors and their ongoing support. Outreach programmes have grown to include educational sessions, training workshops, empowering the local community, meetings where blind people are taught the skill of basket making, sewing lessons, and counselling services for those affected or living with HIV / A.I.D.S. These outreach programmes assist in helping the local community become self-supporting.
To this day, the Sisters still visit the nearby shanty areas where they suitably care for the sick, administer injections and see to any wounds. The Health Authorities selected Sister Helena to take on the screening for HIV in the area and her work is highly respected.
Nazareth House, Harare:
In June 1936, Mother General sent the Superior and a Sister from the Kimberley Nazareth House to Salisbury, now known as Harare. It was the wish of Rt. Rev. Bishop Chichester, S.J that a House be opened in his vicariate of Salisbury in Southern Rhodesia. The property of Judge M. Ilwaine went up for sale. This suitable property consisted of a two-storey house, three small out-houses, one garage and 8 acres of land. It cost £3 500 and was quickly purchased. A plot of 8 acres of adjoining land was also purchased.
On 7th May 1937, 13 Sisters left Southampton, England on the Stirling Castle. Some of these Sisters would start the new foundation, others would join the other Houses in South Africa already in existence. The Sisters who would start the new foundation were: Mother St. Dorothy, Sister M. Ildephonse, Sister Cephas, Sister John Francis, Sister Elizabeth of the Visitation, Sister Joseph Declan, and Sister Joseph Hildegarde. The Feast of Pentecost was celebrated while at sea. It was also a joyful experience to receive Holy Communion at sea and assist at Mass. On the 21st of May 1937, the Stirling Castle reached Cape Town. The Sisters received a loving welcome and the Boys Band played a selection of Irish songs to greet them. On 31st May 1937, the Sisters boarded a train, and headed to Kimberley. After many hours passed, they finally reached their destination. Bishop Meysing took the Sisters round the Mission, which included Fourteen Streams and this is where they saw African life for the first time.
On 7th June 1937, the Sisters took another train to Salisbury. Because of the rain on the trainline causing delays, they only reached their destination on the 10th of June 1937. Bishop Chichester was overjoyed to have a Nazareth House in his vicariate and said Holy Mass in the Chapel for an entire week to show his delight.
On 29th June 1937, the first admission took place – this was an old lady; a week later the first elderly man was admitted. Various donations, such as sugar, tea, bread, eggs, and butter poured in. A cow and a calf were donated by a local farmer. Butchers gave copious amounts of meat. The Sisters started their collecting work in Bulawayo and received generous donations there too.
In 1938, applications for the admission of elderly and babies were streaming in. Two new rooms were built in the yard to cater for their needs. A girl aged 10 years old, with mental challenges, was admitted into the care of the Sisters. The girl was soon very happy in her new home and her parents were grateful for this. The number of residents quickly increased to 23 and plans were drawn up for the construction of a bigger and more suitable building. On 20th March 1939, the foundation stone of the new building was first solemnly blessed by Bishop Chichester and then laid by Sir Herbert Stanley. On 8th September 1940, once blessed, the new building was officially opened. Many people of status were present, they included: Lady Stanley, Bishop Chichester, a representative of the Beit Trustees, the Prime Minister and his wife, several Ministers of the Cabinet, the Mayor and Mayoress of Salisbury, various Consuls, Jesuit Fathers and Brothers, the Dominican and Little Company of Mary Sisters, the Minister of Internal Affairs who represented the Government, a representative of the State Lottery Trustees and also Mr. Jaffray, who was the architect of the building. By 1946 the new building had almost reached capacity as applications for admissions were steadily pouring in.
On 3rd October 1951, a devastating attack of bees resulted in the death of four ladies, all over the age of 80, and one elderly male resident. A strong gas was pumped under the roof tiles to kill millions of bees.
By October 1956, the Sisters had started wearing the new habit. This was made of light white material and provided the Sisters with more comfort in the hot African climate. During this time, the Sisters travelled to Northern Rhodesia by plane and thumbed lifts to do collecting work. They stayed with the German Dominican Sisters and only returned home 6 weeks later.
During 1962 there were riots all over the country, but Salisbury was spared. The Federation was broken up in 1963 when England gave independence to Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia. Southern Rhodesia became independent from Britain on the 11th November 1963.
By July 1969, a new outreach programme was started by the Sisters in the Tafara Township. This outreach was centred around visiting and educating African women in housekeeping, cookery, needlework, hygiene, and childcare lessons. The African women had an insatiable appetite for learning and appreciated this programme.
In 1970, the proposed Land Tenure Act, was a threat to the Catholic property. The bishops fought against this. In July 1973, devastating unrest was experienced in the country. In January 1974, the Catholic Bishops of Rhodesia discussed the problems which affected the Church under the present Government, topics of discussion included were: the media being controlled by the State, arrests that were made, the restrictions placed on and the imprisonment of people who opposed the Government and new Missionaries not being granted permission by the Government to enter the Country. On 6thFebruary 1977, seven Missionaries were savagely murdered by terrorists at St. Paul’s Mission in Musami. The future for White people was looking extremely bleak. By April 1980, Rhodesia had gained its independence from Britain. Rhodesia changed its name to Zimbabwe and Salisbury was named Harare. For the first time Black leadership was introduced.
In May 1980, Mother Austin Superior wrote: “The new nation of Zimbabwe is going through a period of adjustment and nation-building and there is a general feeling of uncertainty around. Our Sisters have gone through very anxious times and have borne their trials bravely. They stuck to their posts with individual and mass murders going on all around them. God has blessed them for their fidelity and dedication”.
In 2002, political unrest troubled the country and farm invasions began. The new occupants were inexperienced, or uninterested in farming. They failed to continue the successful management of previous landowners. Extreme export losses were experienced, and investor confidence fell. By 2006, the economy was enormously crippled. On 4th April 2008, the new $25 million and $50 million bearer cheques were introduced by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. When these were first issued, they were only worth US$0.70 & US$1.40 on the parallel market, respectively. In 2008, bread was no longer available as there was no flour, basic food was hard to find and the shelves in supermarkets remained empty. It was a challenge for the staff to get their wages from the bank due to the shortage of cash. There was also an outbreak of cholera in Harare in November 2008. Many people lost their lives; however, the Nazareth House was spared. On 1st February 2009, the Nazareth House had a bank balance of zero. Staff were paid in petrol coupons, vouchers, food packs and in US dollars. This was because the Finance Minister had announced that 12 more zeros were to be removed from the Zimbabwean Dollars.
Currently, the Nazareth House in Harare continues with their good work. They minister to the poor, assist in the feeding schemes, care for the dying, teach the nursery school children, care for abused children, contribute towards child protection groups and work hand in hand with Social Workers. They also transport sick people to hospital and they educate the community on gender-based violence.
The ministry is certainly a challenge and requires hard work and true dedication. They remain full of love, hope, faith, generosity and compassion.
Nazareth House, Pretoria:
In 1911, Mother Clare of the Cross, Superior General, gave the Sisters in the Johannesburg House permission to purchase some plots in Waterkloof, Pretoria. The grounds were without water and electricity, it was simply a bare and rocky veld. The ravine running through it made it unsuitable for children. The land stood vacant for many years. Finally, in 1946 it was decided to build a Nazareth House on the land. They planned to care for the elderly and babies up to the age of 5 years old in this house. Mother General guaranteed funds for the building. Construction commenced on the 1st of July 1948.
On 30th October 1949, Archbishop Luca, S.V.D. laid and blessed the foundation stone of the new House. Archbishop Garner said: “In Pretoria there are many stately buildings alive with the buzz of commerce, of national and local government. To those beautiful buildings is to be added one that is concerned, not with commerce or government, but with charity. Here there will be a powerhouse of prayer and work offered to God, which cannot fail to bring down a great blessing on Pretoria and its people. It will not be out of place here to thank Pretoria for its generosity to the Sisters in the past.” On 26th October 1952, Archbishop Garner officially opened Nazareth House Pretoria. Around 1 500 people attended the opening.
The very next day, Mr Page, being the first elderly gentleman, was admitted. Two more men soon followed and then Mrs. Moore, the first elderly lady, was admitted. The number of residents continued to increase. In September 1953, the House was registered, and the Sisters resumed their appeals for donations. In October 1953, 30 babies who were transferred from Nazareth House, Johannesburg were warmly welcomed in the nursery in Pretoria. The oldest resident was over a hundred years old and the youngest was three months old. On 14th September 1961, two of the residents who were both over 80 years of age, were married in the Chapel.
In July 1980, the Visitator gave the following approval of the House, which indicates how well things were running: “This is a very beautiful house, situated in picturesque surroundings, with grounds in perfect order. The climate is pleasant, even in winter, as the cold weather lasts only a couple of months, and during the day it is generally warm enough for the residents to sit out in the sun for a few hours. The verandas catch the sun at all times as they are positioned on all sides. Many improvements have been made in this House over the past couple of years and the provision of single and double rooms has added much to the comfort and privacy of the residents, especially for married couples. Soon the passages are to be carpeted, thanks to the generosity of a benefactor, in gratitude for the loving care given to his mother. This will reduce the danger of slipping and it will be much quieter along the passages. The Sisters’ spirit of dedication and self-sacrifice is greatly appreciated by the residents and their relatives, and donations are often given as a token of thanks. The Archbishop, Priests and laity are loud in their praise of the great work being done by the Sisters. The Social Workers and Welfare Dept. find the standard of care very high. A deep spirituality pervades and the Franciscan Fathers from the nearby monastery and the Redemptorist Fathers are devoted to the spiritual needs of the House. The nursery group has become a family group, much to the benefit of the little ones.”
In 1983 the Social Welfare stopped sending children because of their adopting and fostering policy and with great sadness the children’s section was closed. In 1990, the number of residents was 80. In March 1996, the rains were heavy in the Transvaal. This caused water to pour through the basement walls – the water rose over 50 feet resulting in the total disruption of the electricity plant. 8 Firemen spent an entire day, working on getting the water out. The hall’s ceiling had also caved in because of the force of the rain. Good workmen quickly secured the ceiling and the dampness dried out.
In 2001, Sister Hilary, reported in her visitation: “There are 51 residents in the House at present. They receive excellent care from the Sisters and Staff in very comfortable accommodation. Under the Larmenier Village Scheme, the land has been used to develop housing under ‘Life Rights’ for people who can afford such accommodation. That scheme is now complete with 50 houses and the Larmenier residents enjoy security in beautiful surroundings. They have a village club house which includes facilities such as a clinic, chiropody, library, and hairdressing salon. Larmenier frail care is provided within Nazareth House. Another part of the existing building is presently being renovated to provide flatlets for independent living. Both these schemes have been designed to scale down the workload of the Sisters and provide income to supplement reduced Government subsidies. The sick bay and all resident’s accommodation have been upgraded to a very practical and attractive standard. In order for the House to continue to qualify for Government subsidy, one of the Sisters is at present in the process of setting up our Outreach Community Centre at Attridgeville, to offer counselling and other services to families in the poorer area.”
In June 2005, the Government was cutting subsidies and the Frail Care section had to be closed. The residents were placed in the Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, and Durban Nazareth Homes. They were also placed in other Homes in Pretoria. In 2007, the Board of Health Care Funders approved the Sub-Acute unit and Medical Aid patients could now be admitted. Unfortunately, this unit was closed in 2010.
Nazareth House Pretoria remains a peaceful safe haven for those needing care and security in their golden years. The Staff provides 24-hour comprehensive care and support. The nurturing, family-like environment allows the residents to have a new lease on life.
Nazareth House, Elsies River:
In 1982, meetings that were arranged with the Department for African Affairs never materialised. These meeting were to make the Sisters’ dream of obtaining a House for the Elderly Africans a reality. Archbishop Naidoo then suggested that a House be built for Coloured people. The Sisters were excited to start looking around in Athlone for opportunities. Father Sylvius, Regional Superior of the Capuchin Fathers, told the Sisters of the available church ground beside St. Clare’s Church in Elsies River. This ground was purchased for R24 372, plus interest.
In May 1985, the first phase of the Elsies River project had been completed. The building could accommodate 12 elderly people and had a fully equipped kitchen, dining and TV rooms. Applications had been pouring in and the Sisters had high hopes that full occupation would be reached quickly. The road was named ‘Nazareth House Close’. A telephonic threat was made that the Sisters would be kidnapped the first night of their arrival – this threat was, fortunately, never carried out.
By 1986, the second phase of the Elsies River project had been completed. Sr. Columbanus, (Sr. Bridget Duffy), Sister Bridget Teresa McLaughlin and Sister Joan Margaret took up residence on the 19th February. On the 20th of February 1986, Mrs. S. Van Boomen was admitted as the very first resident.
On 6th April 1986, the first Nazareth House for the needy elderly people of the Coloured community was officially opened. The beautiful double-storey house could comfortably accommodate 30 people and had both double and single rooms.
One day, police chased a group of youths who were attending a court case nearby. The youths swamped the St. Clare’s Catholic Church. Teargas was used by the police and the youths fled into the Nazareth House property. The House was surrounded by police and tear gas seeped into the Convent. The St. Clare’s Church had been so violated that on the 25th May 1986, Archbishop Naidoo rededicated the Church.
For the next few years, Nazareth House Elsies River was part of the Cape Town House and was administered from there. It only became an independent Community on 15th October 1988. By 1989, it became necessary to build an extension to the House as it was so full. Even more extensions were carried out again in 1991 and this included a Doctor’s surgery.
In 1996, the following was recorded in the foundation book: “Although we live in an area where gangsters abound, we thank God for his constant protection. It is tragic to realise that many of these so-called gangsters are members of our Parish of St. Clare’s. We trust that our prayers may in some way help to put an end to the shootings and killings.”
On 21st October 2007, the Sisters transferred from Elsies River to Cape Town Nazareth House. Mr Ariefdien and his wife, who had previously worked in an Anglican Retreat Centre, were appointed as managers and the keys of the House were handed over.
The presence of the Sisters in the St. Clare community has been of the essence. A Sister continues going to the residents to let them know that they are cared for. The spiritual needs of Nazareth House Elsies River are seen to by the Parish Priest of St. Clare’s. The residents have fewer financial means and financial assistance from the residents is minimal. Nazareth House Elsies River seeks, with its very limited resources, to continue to create a sense of home for their older residents.