By Chrispine Nthezemu Kamanga
St. John of God Hospitaller Services in Malawi celebrated its Silver Jubilee from 29th October to 1 November 2019. Activities to mark the 25 years of existence took place in Lilongwe and in Mzuzu.
In Lilongwe, on 29th October, His Grace TG Ziyaye, who was the guest of honour and Br. Jesus Etayo the Order’s Prior General, blessed and officially opened the last phase of the magnificent buildings meant for clients, staff members and the Brothers of St. John of God.
The following buildings were dedicated during Silver Jubilee celebrations include the chapel (St. Josephine Bakhita), the Addiction and recovery rehabilitation centre (Molinos), the Brother’s community house (St. Augustine), the Administration block (The Lawrence Kearns building), and centre for Living (the Anton Martin building). The ceremony was well attended by the surrounding parish community (St. Patrick’s), co-workers, politicians, co-workers and invited guests both from within the country and abroad. In his teaching, His Grace Archbishop TG Ziyaye emphasised the need of helping the poor and the under-privileged without conditions. His homily was based on the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).
On Wednesday, the 30th of October, the celebrations focused on a mental health conference to celebrate and commemorate 25 years of hospitality in Malawi, a quarter of a century of active participation in Psychiatry in the Country. The conference had four main presentations: Addiction and recovery services, suicide and suicide prevention, maternal mental health and the collaboration of mental health services in Malawi between St. John of God Hospitaller Services and the government of Malawi through the Zomba Mental Hospital.
Dr. Charles Mwasambo, the chief of Health services in Ministry of Health, who was the guest of honour said that such academic conversation should open a window of more engagements among the mental health experts in issues that are affecting the country today.
He mentioned suicide, addiction and maternal mental health as current issues to be addressed seriously.
To crown the celebrations, there was a thanksgiving Eucharistic celebration at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Mzuzu which was presided over by his Lordship, Bishop John Ryan of Mzuzu diocese on 1st November 2019. Among the concelebrants of the Mass were the bishop of Karonga Diocese, Bishop Martin Mtumbuka and Br. Jesus Etayo the Order’s Prior General from Rome. All the Brothers of St. John of God present during the Eucharistic carried a script in a liturgical procession where their entry to Malawi and their work for the past 25 years was documented. Bishop Ryan, received the history and handed it over to Br Samuel Mithi to read to the audience.
The Eucharistic Celebration was followed by reception in the John Roche hall at St. John of God college of Health Sciences. Of particular importance, at this function, apart from sharing of the meal, the five Malawian pioneer co-workers were honoured and recognised. Of the five, three retired (Harris Chilale, Angelline Jenda and Maxwell Chirwa), one is still working with St. John of God Hospitaller Services (Esnart Lungu) and one was honoured posthumously (Rose Nyasulu)
The Jubilee celebrations in the Capital and in Mzuzu city can be rated as a very successful, based on the comments from many of the participants. The success is as a result of support and good will from the Bishop of Mzuzu, the Provincial of West European Province (Br. Donatus Forkan) and the Prior General, Br. Jesus Etayo from Rome.
The presence of Br. Brian O’Donnell, the former prior general who commissioned the first brothers and co-workers to come and start the mission in Mzuzu, spiced up the event. Further, the activities were not only attended by the co-workers and members of the Catholic Church but also religious leaders of other denomination. There were also two African Provincials (St. Augustine and St. Richard Pampuri), representatives from the French province, donors, government officials,the Mayor of Mzuzu city, clergy and Christians of other denominations, traditional healers and traditional leaders who graced the occasion.