By Nthezemu Kamanga, Pastoral Care Coordinator
The year 2019 will be remembered forever in the history of St. John of God Hospitaller Services in Malawi. This is the year that the service has clocked 25 year of its existence among the people of the country since its inception in 1994. Five core values of the order have been instrumental in this journey: Hospitality, compassion, respect, excellence and Justice.
We read in history of the Hospitaller Brothers belonging to West European province and also hear from those who were there in 1988 that the mission to Malawi is a fruit of a resolution at a General Chapter in Rome that “the most urgent call on Hospitaliy today is from the developing area of the world, namely Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania.” With this call, the brothers in Ireland responded positively to come and start the mission in Malawi.
Monsignor John Roche, who by then was the Apostolic Administrator of Mzuzu Diocese formally invited the brothers to respond to the great social need of the diocese, that is psychiatry. Indeed by early 1990’s Malawi had only one government mental health facility in Zomba which is at a distance of approximately 800 KM from the north.
From the humble beginnings within the premises of St. John’s Mission Hospital, St. John of God has grown massively in the past 25 years. Currently, St. John of God is caring and treating people with mental illness on residential and domiciliary care basis, the elderly, children found in and on the street of Mzuzu, children with disabilities, and people with different addictions. Further, the organisation is running Institute for Vocational Training (IVT) in order to give a skill to clients recuperating from mental illness and the vulnerable youth. This is done in collaboration with Technical Entrepreneurial and Vocational Education and Training (TEVET). Related to this, the Order is running the college of health Sciences having 2 diplomas and 2 degrees. Apart from treatment, some clients have also been assisted to furthers their secondary and tertiary education.
Situated in Mzuzu, St. John of God expanded its service to Lilongwe by first opening a community program treatment centre within the premises of Likuni Mission Hospital in 2012 before moving to its own residential unit in Area 43, next to Immanuel Teachers Training College (TTC).
As we celebrate 25 Years of our existence in Malawi, 305 co-workers and many volunteers are involved in the hospitality mission on daily basis, we have more than 250 students in the college, 9 candidates for brotherhood, 3 postulants, 6 novices, 5 temporary professed brothers and 1 brother in final vows.
We remember with fond memories the initial steps and foundation of the Hospitaller Order in Malawi which were set up by Br. Aidan Clohesy and the laity personnel he came with From Ireland. Upon their arrival, they recruited five first Malawians to be involved in the work of Hospitality. One of these pioneers (Esnart Lungu) is still working at the OPD clinic in Mzuzu. The other three (Harris Chilale, Angeline Jenda, and Maxwell Chirwa) retired from the service and one (Rose Nyasulu) died. We Honour and celebrate the lives of our pioneers.
The event to mark the 25 years of existence will be celebrated in three days: on 29th October, the Archbishop T. Ziyaye together with the Prior General, Br. Jesus Etayo will lead the people in blessing the new buildings which include the brothers community house (St. Augustine), the chapel (St. Josephine Bakhita), the administration block (Lawrence Kearns Centre), Centre for Living (Anton Martin) and the addiction and Recovery (Molinus Centre). On 30th October, there will be a mental health conference entitled “No Health Without Mental Health” where three main presentations will be made on Maternal Health, Addiction and recovery, and Suicide. To climax it all, there will be silver Jubilee thanksgiving Mass at the Cathedral in Mzuzu led by Bishop John Ryan followed by a reception at John Roche hall at St. John of God college of Health Sciences.
Let us celebrate the gift of hospitality this year. We look back and smile at the successes as we are filled with the current determination of seeing our future with hope.