Diocese of Keimoes-Upington

Bisdom van Keimoes-Upington

Map & History of the Diocese

Patrons: The Immaculate Conception & St. Francis de Sales



Suffragan Diocese of the Province of Bloemfontein - Republic of South Africa

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On the invitation of Bishop Leonard of Cape Town (1872-1908), the Fathers of the African Missions of Lyons, SMA, sent Father Gaudeul and Brother George to minister in the Northern part of the Cape. Father Gaudeul and Brother George took up residence at Springbok in 1872. In 1873 Father Gaudeul started a mission at a nearby mine, but when after one year the mine was closed, he returned to Springbok.

In 1874 the Apostolic Prefecture of the Central District was separated from the Vicariate of the Cape of Good Hope – the whole territory from Mossel Bay and George in the south, to the Orange River in the north. This became the responsibility of the SMA who commenced with 13 missionaries. Father Gaudeul and Brother George left Springbok and took up residence at Pella on land abandoned by the Rhenish Mission. Permission to stay on the land was granted by the Cape Government.

After struggling for ten years, it became clear that due to a shortage of staff, Father Gaudeul and Brother George could not continue. In 1880 the SMA decided to return responsibility of the Prefecture to the Apostolic Vicariate of the Cape of Good Hope.

In 1880 Bishop Leonard travelled to France and approached Father Louis Brisson, founder of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, OSFS, to send missionaries to the area vacated by the SMA.

The Missions of Namaqualand came under the care of the Oblates of St Francis de Sales in 1882. In 1884 the territory was established as a separate Prefecture Apostolic, and in 1898 it became known as the Orange River Vicariate. In 1898 Father Jean Marie Simon, OSFS, saintly pioneer, was consecrated as bishop of the territory. In 1940 the name of the Vicariate was changed to the Keimoes Vicariate.

On the establishment of the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy in South Africa on 11 January 1951, the name of the Vicariate was changed to the Diocese of Keimoes. Canonical possession of the new See was taken on 10 July 1951.

The borders of the Diocese are: the Atlantic Ocean in the West, Namibia and the Republic of Botswana in the North, the eastern part of Gordonia and Kenhardt districts in the East, and the southern border of Vanrhynsdorp, Prieska, Kenhardt, Williston and Calvinia-districts in the South. In 1985 the name of the Diocese was changed to the Diocese of Keimoes-Upington by the Sacred Congregation de Propaganda Fide .


 Area: 272 265 sq. km.

 Total Population: 331’980

(Census 2001)

 Catholic Population: 60’501

(census 2001)



Rt. Rev. Bishop Jean Marie Simon OSFS, Titular Bishop of Thaumacos. Ordained on the 21st of September 1898. Died on the 21st of November 1932.

Rt. Rev. Bishop Odilon Fages OSFS, Titular Bishop of Mulia. Ordained on the 30th of September 1928. Died on the 14th of October 1939.

Rt. Rev. Bishop Henry Thünemann OSFS. Ordained on the 3rd of October 1940. Resigned due to ill-health on the 12th of September 1962, and named Titular Bishop of Coridala. Appointed Assistant at the Papal Throne on the 16th of May 1965. Died on the 18th of August 1965.

Rt. Rev. Bishop Francis Esser OSFS. Ordained on the 30th of March 1949 – Vicar Apostolic of Keetmanshoop. Appointed Co-Adjutor to ailing Bishop Thünemann 1956; succeeded Bishop Thünemann – 12 September 1962. Died on the 8th of December 1966.

Rt. Rev. Bishop John Baptist Minder OSFS. Appointed on the 12th of October 1967 and Ordained on the 10th of January 1968. Resignation accepted on the 5th of July 2000. Died 13 August 2009.

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[Bishop's Coat of Arms & Photo] [Institutions & Religious Houses]

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