While on a recent visit to relatives in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, we were able to respond to the kind invitation received from Clare Kalkwarf to visit the Hospice of Blessed Gérard at Mandeni, which she runs together with Father Gérard Lagleder OSB. Many of you will remember them both as helpers with the recent Lourdes pilgrimages of the British Association of the Order of Malta. We arrived for Sunday Mass and had a great welcome, both being seated on the Sanctuary and Mark being invited to proclaim the Gospel. The inspirational Chapel has suspended above the altar, a large golden Maltese Cross and the wonderful Zulu carved Crucifix, also using the eight-pointed Cross.
There are also many banners, pictures and stained glass windows with representations of Blessed Gérard and other early members of the Order. The congregation consisted mainly of patients and helpers and some were brought in, in their beds, possible due to the design of the building. Many of the children sat on little plastic chairs close to and surrounding the altar. The helpers looked purposeful, practical and caring not to mention smart, in uniforms embellished with the Cross of the Order. During the beautiful Mass we were particularly touched by the bidding prayers said on behalf of the British Association. Afterwards we were taken to a private Dining Room for an excellent meal during which we were shown a video explaining the work of the Brotherhood. This covers a number of areas, apart from running the Hospice and Children’s Home, and includes a Community Development Centre (Sewing School), Pre-Primary School and Crèche, Malnutrition Clinic, AIDS Education, Poor-Sick-Fund, Disaster Relief, First Aid and Emergency Service, a Club for the elderly and a Bursary Fund.
We were taken on a tour of the Hospice building which is on three floors but with only two being in use at present. It was built like this to allow for future expansion as there is no extra land for extensions outwards. All the furnishing are “state of the art” from the kitchens, the medical facilities to the lift and all are spotlessly and immaculately maintained by cheerful helpers. On the ground floor there is accommodation for adult AIDS sufferers, male and female, several in terminal stages of the illness. On the top floor are the children, the healthier ones engaged in playing games with the helpers. Many of them before coming to the Home had been neglected, abused and abandoned, not to mention malnourished. Some are orphans. With funding the number cared for could be doubled as the surrounding area is one of great need with over 50% unemployment and 80% of the population HIV positive.
All the voluntary helpers at this centre of care and charity exercise cardinal works of mercy in the name of the Order and our founder Blessed Gérard. The courage and commitment of Father Gérard and co-founders of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard in building up this work, in the short space of 10 years is impressive. It was a happy and memorable visit for us and we are deeply grateful to Father Gérard and Clare for their kind hospitality and we set off back to Umhlanga with a great deal to think about. It had been inspiring to see the Order at work in this relatively remote part of Africa and still pursuing the principle of our Founder Blessed Gérard. His words reach out to us over the centuries “Our brotherhood will be everlasting, because the ground which this plant is rooted in, is the misery of the world – and because, God willing, there will always be people, who want to work towards the alleviation of these sufferings to make this misery more bearable”.
This page is part of the Newsletter No. 24 of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard
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This page was last updated on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 12:49:56