Monday, October 8, 2012

Zimbabwe: John Bradburne, Leper Settlement and Orphanage in Mutemwa

On Monday 24 September I accompanied Fr. Liam on the two and a half hour drive to Mutoko, the town outside of which the John Bradburne Memorial Site, the Mutemwa Leper Settlement and Queen of Peace Orphanage are located. Fr. Liam is on the board of the Mutemwa  Leprosy and Care Center and promoter of John Bradburne's cause for beatification.

Painting of John Bradburne in Mother of Peace orphanage chapel.

Following several years as a a British soldier in Asia, John entered the Catholic Church. He tried monastic life but instead became wandering pilgrim in Europe and the Middle east, eventually ending up serving the residents at Mutemwa. Hence the title given him by his biographers: "The Vagabond of God." He was a lay Franciscan, a musician and a poet who advocated for the dignity and well-being of the lepers. He was abducted and killed in 1979 during the civil war.

The hut where John Bradburne lived (above), and an adjacent one
from which he was abducted on the night he was killed (below).

Beginning at his funeral many extraordinary happenings have been associated with John Bradburne and his intercession. Many pilgrims come to the sites associated with his life, especially on the first weekend of September, close to the anniversary of his death. They pray in his hut and climb the mountain behind the settlement, as John did every day, praying the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross as they go. For more information about him, visit:

The wagon in which John used to take the lepers to church.

It was a privilege to visit this graced place of faith, love and mercy, and to be able to celebrate Mass for the residents and staff, as well as some of the religious and lay people who serve at Mother of Peace orphanage, not far across the plain at the base of Mutemwe, another mountain.

The Catholic chapel in the leper settlement.

Mass with the lepers, the staff and members of Queen of Peace community.

The small homes of the lepers, arranged in circles.

Fr. Liam and Margaret, the leprosy care center manager,
climb Chigona mountain, something John did daily.

Stations of the cross are marked along the way for the many pilgrims who come.

The cross at the Thirteenth Station, the Crucifixion, erected by a man
cured of blindness through John Bradburne's intercession.

View of the leper settlement from the Cross atop Chigona mountain.
John planted the jacaranda trees that line the street.

Mother of Peace Orphanage, run by lay members of the Mother of Peace community, was established to help care for the many orphans and deprived children left in the wake of Zimbabwe's war for independence.

Mother of Peace orphanage with a view of Chigona mountain across the plain.

Especially at its beginning it cared for some of the many children left orphaned by AIDS, often themselves HIV positive. Before antiretroviral medications were widely available in Africa, many of these children died and are buried in the orphanage cemetery, a somber place and yet a testament to love and hope.

Some of the children who live at Mother of Peace orphanage.

We're hoping to help both the leper settlement and the orphanage get an electrical transformer to provide enough energy to a water pump located near a small reservoir not far from Mother of Peace. Right now they can only pump late at night when usage on the power line is very low, and there's only enough voltage to get the water to the orphanage and not the extra 4 km to the leper settlement. The transformer would allow them to pump at any time, and reach the settlement, too. Please consider helping with this effort.

The cemetery at Mother of Peace where many of the first orphans died
before HIV medications were made available in Africa.

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