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Secular Franciscans
  1. Family planning use and fertility desires among women living with HIV in Kenya
  2. Mutemwa Leprosy Settlement, Zimbabwe
  3. Background
  4. Search form

After the fall of Singapore, he and a brother officer had to survive for a month in the Malayan jungle before managing to escape.

Mutemwa Lodge, Zambia

During the war he began a lifelong friendship with his fellow Gurkha, John Dove, later a Jesuit priest, who has been the key guardian of his memory. He wanted to become a Benedictine monk but the Order would not accept him because he had not been in the Church for two years. In the ensuing 16 years, he tried to become a monk, twice in England and once in Belgium, but gave it up.

Family planning use and fertility desires among women living with HIV in Kenya

He fell in love and came close to marrying. He wandered across Europe and the Middle East with only a battered Gladstone bag. He was clearly holy, but equally clearly in the eyes of many, hopeless at sticking at anything, an impractical daydreamer. He joined what is now called the Secular Order of St Francis in Even there, he did not find a niche. He felt superfluous. They arrived to find a scene of dereliction. The lepers were dirty and hungry, the thatch of their tiny huts falling in.

A leprosarium had been established there by the colonial government in John Bradburne became the warden of the settlement and gave the lepers the care they had never had before. He improved their hygiene and housing, driving away the rats which used to creep in and gnaw their insensate limbs. He bathed them himself, cut the nails of those who had fingers and toes, fed them, and cared for them in bouts of sickness.

He wrote a poem about each one of them there were more than 80 patients. With his encouragement, a small round church was built at Mutemwa, where he taught Gregorian plainchant to the lepers.

Mutemwa Leprosy Settlement, Zimbabwe

When they lay dying, he read them the Gospel. After about three years, the Rhodesian Leprosy Association, the body responsible for Mutemwa, fell out with John Bradburne. They seem to have had a narrow view of their duties, and felt that Bradburne was extravagant. He was criticised, for example, for trying to provide one loaf of bread per leper per week. And he infuriated the Association by refusing to put numbers around the necks of the lepers, insisting that they were people with names, not livestock. The Association expelled him from the settlement. As difficult in his own way as the remarkable Arthur Shirley Cripps, another Christian and poet who had caused trouble for the colonial government.

But Bradburne would not go away. He lived in a tent on Chigona, the mountain hard by Mutemwa on which he was accustomed to pray. Then a friendlier farmer gave him a tin-roofed hut, with no electricity or water. There he lived for the next six years, and ministered to the lepers as best he could, often by night. He was more or less a hermit, praying long and regularly, writing religious verse, bathing in a pool on Chigona, living without cash or a salary and wearing the brown habit of a Franciscan.

He rose at dawn for Matins and ended the day with Vespers and Compline. This discipline provides the context for many poems written at the turning-points of the day. Through this period, the war intensified. Bradburne was uninterested in politics his naivety, said friends and only concerned with the welfare of the lepers. Friends tried to persuade him to leave, but he refused.

Another Catholic on the journey home.

The guerrillas were in an uncomfortable position. They had been inundated with local reports that their prisoner was a good man, and they were angry with the mujibhas for kidnapping him, but they were nervous of taking him back to Mutemwa now that he had seen so much. They interrogated him, some taunted and tortured him.


He seemed quite unconcerned, and after about ten minutes he knelt and prayed, which infuriated the guerrilla commander. He died instantly, on 5 September at the age of 58 and was buried in a Franciscan habit, according to his wishes, at the Chishawasha Mission, about 18 kilometres northeast of Harare. Given Bradburne's extraordinary life, his famous charm and oddity, and his martyr's death, it is not surprising that a cult of him quickly grew up.

Miraculous drops of blood were witnessed by many to fall from his coffin at his funeral. Many pilgrims come to his shrine at Mutemwa, and some claim to have been healed by his intercession.

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A service is held in Bradburne's memory at Mutemwa every year, drawing as much as 25, people each time. In a Mass commemorating the 30th anniversary of his death was held at Westminster Cathedral in London, England.

Father Slevin commented: "I have no doubt that John died a martyr in his determination to serve his friends, the lepers. If his martyrdom is accepted, his cause for sainthood could go quite quickly". The village has a clinic and clinic hostels for those unable to help themselves and two roomed houses for their patients and families.

A kitchen and laundry provide food and services and the Centre is managed by Mrs Marge Chigwanda and a dedicated team of helpers. Visitors are welcome, as are any donations, which can be made directly at Mutoko, or to the registered Charity website on www. Funds or gifts in kind are needed to provide for food and medicines and maintenance of the Care Centre. Some of their projects include installing new boreholes, solar power to the chapel, computers and printers old or new for the administration and the establishment of self-sufficiency projects such as a poultry project and a piggery so they can sell eggs to make the community sustainable.

Why Visit? Mutemwa Leprosy and Care Centre aims to provide physical and medical care to recovering leprosy patients, physically handicapped and destitute people.

John Bradburne was a lay member of the Order of St Francis, a poet who wrote thousands of poems and warden of the Mutemwa Leper colony at Mutoko. Although they occupy separate physical sites, John Bradburne and the Mutemwa Leprosy Care Centre are inextricably mixed and over thirty five years after his death. How to get here:.