How it all started
- Father Gérard reports: I came to the area of Mandeni as the
parish priest in 1990. In this position and especially as a
missionary, I was, of course, approached by everybody,
especially when people were in need of any particular care.
- One day I was called to take Communion of the Sick to a
dying lady. I visited her as I had done so before regularly.
When I arrived I noticed that she was in a very bad condition.
She had terrible bedsores and she was totally emaciated. I gave
her Communion of the Sick and I gave her the Anointing of the
Sick. Then I said to her: “I really would be glad if you would
allow me to take you to a good doctor.” “But I don’t have any
money”, she said to me and I said: “Let that be my worry,
because I think, that you really need to see a good doctor.” She
agreed and then I put a mattress on the back of my pick-up, I
laid her on it and I took her to the doctor. The doctor was Dr.
Paul Thabethe from Sundumbili. When we arrived he said: “For
heavens sake, she must go to hospital immediately.” She was
transferred to hospital and died there on the same night. When I
met Dr. Thabethe again he said to me: “Father, can’t we do
something? There are so many people here who simply die from
malnutrition or from being totally neglected at home and that
should not happen. This kind of thing should not be a cause of
death. By saying so he was knocking on open doors with me.
- The second event, which was very impressive, was this: There
were two very poor families in Mandeni, living in one house. The
father had no work. They could not feed their seven children and
the landlord, who they had rented a house from, had threatened
to evict them. They had nothing to eat and nothing to wear: A
totally desperate situation. As usual when people are desperate,
they come to the Catholic Church, even if they are not
Catholics. So on Sunday, after the service, I made an
announcement in church and I asked “Is there anybody who could
possibly help to get these totally desperate families back on
track again?” A member of the pastoral council, Mrs. Kalkwarf,
responded and said: “Oh yes, we can do something to organise
help.” She went off and a day later she had organised the whole
parish and other people, too. Some brought food, others brought
clothes, others got the children back to school and others even
found jobs for the men, so that within three months the need of
the families was alleviated. This was most inspiring: “Well,
there are people here who know how to organise help!” And this
was exactly the spark I needed.
- As I had been involved with the work of the Order of Malta
in Germany since 1969, where organising help became my second
nature, it struck me and I said: “Let’s plan and do something to
help the people in this area of Zululand on a long term basis.”
Then I said to myself: “It would be good to found an
organisation within the country, where South Africans make plans
on how to give help to South Africans who are in any kind of
need.” Therefore, on 28 October 1992, I founded the Brotherhood
of Blessed Gérard, an organisation of South Africans, which is
based in South Africa and works with local people.
What we now are
- a group of close to 1500 idealists with the aim to enable and
empower people to help themselves and to provide direct aid in cases
of emergency and immediate need.
- the South African relief organisation of the Sovereign Military
Order of Malta, which was founded as a nursing brotherhood by
Blessed Gérard more than 900 years ago.
- a faith based organisation (FBO) putting into action what our
motto "tuitio fidei et obsequium pauperum" means: "Protection of
faith and service to the needy".
- a "Private Association of Christ's Faithful" in the Roman
Catholic Church, open to members from all different faiths and
- a community based (CBO) non governmental organisation (NGO)
based on the voluntary service of its members.
- a "public benefit organisation" (PBO) operated not for profit (NPO)
and dedicated to the welfare of all people.
- a nondiscriminating and nonexclusive organisation, which serves
the needy irrespective of their creed, colour of skin, political
affiliation or social status.
We strive to maintain a high standard of professionalism in the
care provided to our patients.
Let Pierangelo Cerana, Director of WHIRLPOOL, explain to you:
“My motivation why we strengthen the relationship with Blessed Gérard
is very simple. I am coming from an idea that big ideas need big wings
to fly, but in the meantime they need big wheels to land and I think,
that there is a good combination here: Big heart and big pragmatism so
they are able to have a good marriage with heart and quality and this is
what impresses me the most. In this structure people is taken with a lot
of heart but also with a lot of professionalism.”