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June 14 to June 20, 2006 - Page 16

Owen Williams

Life in the Church

A noble lady mourned after her murderous passing

With Shakespeare's king, we can well feel that we have supped with horrors. Recent newspapers have provided many a repellent meal.

There seems to me, though, to be a particular horror about the untimely death of Clare Ann Kalkwarf. She has been aptly described as a modern-day Florence Nightingale, and news of her death came to me from Michael A Smith, a Catholic of Nelspruit, who is himself a distant relative of the indomitable Miss Nightingale.

Mrs Kalkwarf was the manager of what has been described as the largest hospice in South Africa - that of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard in Mandeni, KwaZulu-Natal, which does an enormous amount of good with HIV/Aids patients.

Mandeni has the unhappy distinction of having been dubbed the Aids capital of the world.

This news reached me a little belatedly from Mr Smith, who includes several documents, including the annual newsletter of the Brotherhood of Bl Gérard.

Mrs Kalkwarf was laid to rest on April 18 at the hospice care centre, to which she had contributed so much.

Among the documents I have received is a photocopy of a letter to the press by Victor Claudius of Durban, who writes: "This month a friend of mine, Clare Kalkwarf of Mandeni, was hijacked by four armed men as she was getting out of her car on her return from work. Before the car was stolen, she was shot and died on the spot. The men also entered her house, took a television set and other valuables, and tied up her husband.

"What is so horrendous about this particular incident is that my friend was a very competent manager of South Africa's largest hospice, Blessed Gérard's.

"This beautiful institution accommodates 40 patients, most of whom have Aids: In addition, two floors up is a home for 40 children whose patents have passed on from Aids, were abandoned or abused."

Mr Claudius goes on to say Mrs Kalkwarf was so dedicated to her work that it will be impossible to replace her easily.

May God forgive the hijackers for the dastardly deed, he adds in admirable Catholic spirit.

Apart from her corporal deeds of mercy, Mrs Kalkwarf was a woman of distinction. I have before me the programme of her Requiem Mass and burial service which includes a photograph of a gentle face that radiates joy and calm, (I never met her.)

She was Dame of Magistral Grace of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (a title which for me has the magnificent cadence of an ancient roll of drums); bearer of the Silver Medal of the Order Pro Merito Melitensi of the Order of Malta; and co-founder and vice-president of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard.

I find it tragic that such distinctions were to end thus.

One can say, though, that without doubt she lived, in the words of the prayers of the Brotherhood of the Blessed Gérard "as an upright Christian, selflessly in the Spirit of Your Gospel, for the honour of God, for the peace of the world and the benefit of our community."

The newsletter of the brotherhood is an interesting document, both pious and rooted in the reality of suffering and all the hard work of caring for the extremely ill.

The newsletter gives details of the celebration or the feast or Blessed Gérard at Mandeni on October 16, an impressive occasion, as celebrations of the Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta always are.

The slogan of the order is Protection of the Faith and Service to the Poor.

It all belongs to the grand, impressive tradition of the Catholic Church, including due pageantry, faith and grimy, human work in poverty and suffering.

The special guest of honour was Dr Peter Freiherr von Fürstenberg, ambassador of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta to Lithuania and Latvia.

The late Mrs Kalkwarf paid tribute to the founder and president of the Brotherhood, Fr Gérard T Lagleder OSB.

Among the stories told in the newsletter is that of little Menzi, who died calling one of the sisters who cared for him, Sr Sheilagh Schröder, "grandmother" in Zulu.

An eight-month-old baby was found starving in the street of a local slum. He was cared for until by a near miracle his grandmother was found and now looks after him.

Children and adults: they find love and security there.

If you wish to make a donation to the Blessed Gérard Care Centre you can use their account at First National Bank, account number 529 4004 0349, Mandeni branch, branch code 220 429.

This page was created on 23 June 2006 and last updated on Tuesday, 23 August 2011 00:37:01

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