Inauguration of Blessed Gérard's Care Centre:
ALMANAC OF THE BLESSED GÉRARD'S CARE CENTRE FOR THE PAST YEAR:
|September 1995||The authorities in Mandeni approve the building plans|
|October 1995||Start of the construction work: The plot is levelled, the foundations are staked out and the excavation for the foundations begins.|
|February 1996||A large container of hospital equipment arrives from Mr Meehan in Milwaukee.|
|March 1996||The foundation stone is laid in the middle of the soon to be concreted floor of the chapel.|
|Juny 1996||Sr. Elaine Taylor from the Irish Order of Malta Ambulance Corps comes to South Africa to train our Active Helpers|
|July 1996||Start of the first course in home nursing for our members|
|August 1996||Final stage of the construction work|
|September 1996||the opening|
This is of course only a very abbreviated summary of the main events.
THE OPENING OF THE BLESSED GÉRARD'S CARE CENTRE
The time had come and the VIPs arrived one by one - first the Chancellor of the Bohemian Grand Priory of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Fritz Graf Strachwitz at 4°° on Friday, then the Coordinator of Malteser Relief Service's aid to South Africa, Dr. Albrecht Graf Rechberg, and the Country Manager of Malteser Relief Service in Bavaria, Mr. Manfred Schulz, in the evening. Father Gerhard's car found its way alone to the airport in Durban because the Grand Commendator 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 Federated Association of the Order of Malta, Mr Meehan, and his friend Msgr. Charleboix arrived the next evening. Our other VIPs - the representative of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard in Germany, Mr Johannes Lagleder, and Mr and Mrs Hans and Albertine Sporer had been here for some time and had their hands full, helping with the preparations for 3 September.
Our guests of honour attended a Zulu Holy Mass in Sundumbili on Sunday morning. They spent the afternoon in the countryside and were invited to a barbecue in the evening.
This was followed on Monday by a visit to our projects -
- a guided tour of the Care Centre building;
- a warm welcome from the Seniors' Club;
- an overwhelming welcome from the children of Blessed Gérard's Pre-primary school & Crèche in Whebede;
- and a visit to Blessed Gérard's Community Development Centre (our sewing school).
- and the rooms of Blessed Gérard's Malnutrition Clinic (hunger relief project) in Sundumbili;
In the evening, the guests of honour were invited to a festive dinner. During the entertainment programme for the guests of honour, the parish office and the Care Centre were like a beehive of activity: the final countdown to the opening had begun.
No time to sit down, rest or eat anything!!! Johannes Lagleder, Albertine and Hans Sporer, Caroline Beaumont and Sr Elaine Taylor were the backbone of the team - we could never have done it without their help and cooperation.
The feast day of Blessed Gerhard had arrived, Tuesday 3 September 1996 - the opening and dedication of the Centre and the reception of a relic of Blessed Gerhard. The celebrations began at 13°° with a cultural entertainment programme for the VIPs. The Mandeni Primary School Choir, Zulu dancers from Dr Ardington's Farm, the children of Blessed Gérard's Pre-primary School & Crèche and some young dancers from Khululekani Primary School performed what they had prepared. In between the performances, Frà. Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein, Count Rechberg, Mr Manfred Schulz and Mr Michael O'Donovan expressed their thanks and appreciation in their speeches. Fr. Gerhard, Mrs. Kalkwarf and Dr. Thabethe presented traditional gifts to our guests.
It was a very happy and relaxed atmosphere and the 1st part ended at 16°°. Everyone started preparing for the big celebration in the evening. In the meantime, Mr Ferdie Rouillon drove to the airport in Durban to pick up Bishop Mansuet, who had just returned from a parliamentary session in Cape Town. Somehow everything went according to plan and at 17°° everything was ready. The Care Centre was full, no chair was free. The Sundumbili choir had taken its place and the celebration could really begin. What a wonderful celebration it was! The festive High Mass began with the blessing of the chapel and the altar by Bishop Mansuet Biyase of Eshowe. After the homily, the new Associate Members received their medal and the Bishop's blessing. Then the new 1st class honorary members were ceremonially robed. The Bishop blessed the capes for Mr Johannes Lagleder, Mr Hans and Mrs Albertine Sporer and Mr Daniel Meehan and the Grand Commendator of the Order of Malta, Frà. Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein presented them together with the members of the 1st Class. Subsequently, His Excellency, the Venerable Bailli Frà. Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein, together with the other members of the Order of Malta present, took the relic of Blessed Gerard on a red velvet cushion and brought it in procession to the chapel where it was awaited by the Bishop of Eshowe, Fr. Gerhard and the 1st Class members of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gerard, and presented it to the Bishop who placed it on the altar. A most moving ceremony for all of us. The Mass then continued with the offertory. After Holy Communion, the Grand Commendator transferred the relic to a reliquary that had been given to us by Fr Gerhards family and presented the reliquary with the relic to the President of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gerard who placed it in a display case in the wall of the chapel which was then sealed by our contractor, Mr Luigi Haglich. At the end of the ceremony, the Bishop blessed all the rooms in the entire centre. This is the first time in the 900-year history of the Order of Malta that anyone has ever received a relic of Blessed Gerhard, and our chapel is the first church to have been dedicated to Blessed Gerhard. We consider all this an unspeakable honour.
A very special honour was also bestowed on two very important personalities, without whose help the Care Centre would not exist. Frà. Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein presented two Orders of Merit awarded by the Grand Master of the Order of Malta, His Highness and Eminence, Frà Andrew Bertie:
The first was the Grand Cross Pro Piis Meritis for Bishop Mansuet Biyase and the second was the Commander's Cross Pro Merito Melitensi for Mr Daniel E Meehan. After all the celebrations, everyone was invited to a dinner.
We consider all these events a great honour for our country and our community.
A heartfelt THANK YOU to all who contributed in any way to make the celebration so wonderful:
- the ladies and young people who helped to clean the whole centre,
the ladies who served the afternoon tea,
Mrs Patricia Thompson and her team for the flower arrangements,
the ladies who helped serve the evening meal,
Mr William Yeo for his guardianship,
the altar boys who spent so much time rehearsing,
Mr Karl Schmidt who had trained the altar boys and assisted as an acolyte himself,
Br Bernhard Pachner OSB of Inkamana Abbey, who videotaped the celebration,
Mrs Caroline Beaumont, for whom nothing was too much.
and all those whom we have not mentioned personally.