Opening of the Care Centre
The time had come and the VIPs began to arrive - First the Chancellor of the Bohemian Grand Priory of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Frederic Count Strachwitz at 4am on Friday, then to Coordinator of the aid of Malteser-Hilfsdienst for South Africa, Dr. Albrecht Count Rechberg, and the manager of Malteser-Hilfsdienst in Bavaria, Mr. Manfred Schulz, in the evening. Fr. Gérard wore a path to Durban airport and back, because the Grand Commander of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Frà. Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein, arrived the next morning and the chairman of the International Committee of the Federal Association of the Order of Malta, Mr. Meehan, and his friend Msgr. Charleboix the next evening. Of course, our other VIPs - the Representative of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard in Germany, Mr. Johannes Lagleder, and Mr. & Mrs. Hans & Albertine Sporer had been here for some time already and had been very busy helping us prepare for the 3rd.
Our honoured guests were treated to a Zulu Holy Mass in Sundumbili on Sunday morning, they spent the afternoon having lunch in the countryside and then on Monday they were all taken on a tour of our projects - a guided tour of the Care Centre building;
- a warm welcome from the Friendship Club;
- an overwhelming greeting from the children at Blessed Gérard's Pre-primary school & Crèche in Whebede;
- and last but not least a visit to meet the teacher and students at Blessed Gérard's Community Development Centre (our sewing school)
- and to see the rooms of Blessed Gérard's Malnutrition Clinic in Sundumbili;
Then our guests were taken back to their lodgings to relax before the formal dinner in the evening.While all the guests were being entertained, the office in the Priest's House and the Care Centre site were hives of activity. The final countdown for the opening had begun.
No time to sit, no time to relax, no time to eat!!! Johannes Lagleder, Albertine & Hans Sporer, Caroline Beaumont and Sr. Elaine Taylor were the backbone of the team - without their help and co-operation we would never have managed.The day of Blessed Gérard's Feast had arrived, Tuesday, 3rd September, 1996 - the opening & blessing of the centre and the handing over of the relic of Blessed Gérard.The official activities began at 1pm with cultural entertainment for the VIPs.
It was a very happy and relaxed atmosphere which ended around 4pm. Everyone then started preparing for the big celebration in the evening. In the meantime Mr. Ferdie Rouillon was despatched to fetch Bishop Mansuet from Durban airport, having just been to a parliamentary session in Cape Town.Somehow the whole thing came together, as planned, at 5pm!!!
The Care Centre was full, there wasn't a chair to be had anywhere. The Sundumbili Choir was in place and the celebration could really begin. What a wonderful celebration it was!