Interview of Fr. Martin Trieb O.S.B. with Fr. Gérard T. Lagleder O.S.B.
One day I was called to bring Communion of the Sick to a dying lady. I visited her as I had done regularly during the previous months. 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 the Anointing of the Sick and said to her: “I would be glad if you will allow me to take you to a good doctor.” “I don’t have the money”, she replied and I went on: “Let me take care of that, because I think, that you really need a good doctor.” She agreed then and I put a mattress in the back of my pickup, laid her on it and took her to the doctor. The doctor was Dr. Paul Thabethe whose surgery is in Sundumbili Township. On our arrival he said: “For heavens sake, she is in such a bad state that she has to go to hospital.” She was transferred from there to hospital and died 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 fathers had no work. They could not feed their seven children. The landlord who they had rented a flat 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. On Sunday after the service I made an announcement in church and asked “Is there anybody who could 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 entire parish and other people. Some brought food, others clothes, others got the children back to school and others even found a job for the men, so that within three months the need of the families was alleviated. That was an inspiring revelation to me: “Well, there are people here in South Africa who know how to organise things!”
I had been aware of the urgent needs of the people. When I came to Mandeni I saw that the charity work of the Church was far from well organised and on the other hand there were people who were aware of the need, people who have their hearts in the right place and people who know how to organise help. That was my ignition. As I have been involved with the work of the Order of Malta in Germany for more than 30 years, where organising help became my second nature, it struck me: “Let’s plan and do something to help the people here in Zululand on a long term basis.” We missionaries are always accused of establishing gigantic projects which totally depend on foreign entities and funds and on our person as a missionary and when the funds would dry out one day, when the missionary dies or is transferred, everything would collapse. I said to myself: “No, we do not want to make this mistake. We want to try to get the South Africans to help the South Africans in South Africa. It would be good to found an organisation within the country, where the indigenous people make plans on how to give help to the local people who are in any kind of need.” Therefore I founded an organisation of South Africans, which is based here and works with local people.
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