In 2016, the SSVP National Council spiritual advisor, Rev Mike Nolan, together with a group of National Council members and their spouses, travelled to Cape Town to attend the 160th anniversary celebration of the establishment of the St Vincent de Paul Society in South Africa, where the first conference was founded by Count Alexander Wilmot at St Mary’s Cathedral in 1856.
Rev Mike and his wife took the opportunity to go on a tour of the West Coast to see the famed wild flowers. And so it was that he found himself attending Sunday Mass in a tiny dorpie called Graafwater close to the fishing town of Lambert’s Bay.
There was no church. Twenty or so parishioners were packed into a small “RDP” house like the pilchards that the fishing fleets of Lambert’s Bay and St Helena Bay of yesteryear caught for the canning factories.
After Mass, Rev Mike and his wife were proudly shown the chapel that the handful of Catholics was battling to complete. They were extending the back of the house into a chapel, able to seat about 120 people. Three of the walls were nearly at roof height.
The endeavour of this poor community touched Rev Mike deeply and he resolved to help them. He spoke to the members of the Cape Town Central Council and expressed his wish to help the poor in Graafwater. Sadly, God called Mike to rest in April 2017. But the Cape Town Central Council has undertaken to complete the chapel at Graafwater in memory of Rev Michael Nolan, and to establish and support a SSVP conference there, so that the poor in that area can experience the love of God through the work of our society.