John Randall Bradburne "The cause for the Beatification"

The 5th of September 2019 at Mutemwa Leprosy Centre in Mutoko, Zimbabwe, marked the solemn commencement of the cause for the beatification of the the Servant of God, John Randall Bradburne. He was a Third Order Tertiary of the Franciscan Order who was killed on the 5th of September 1977 during the armed struggle for the independence of Zimbabwe. John devoted himself to the risky care for people with leprosy who had been rejected by families in which they were born. Society at large had no obvious sympathies for them as well, hence the neglect that they suffered, save for John's extraordinary loving care for them. 


It is reported that John advocated for the rights of the lepers. They lost fields, land and even the right to exist at the hands of those who despised them. As such short of being killed by other people in order to get rid them, they were constantly abused because they were not considered a human beings. Perhaps one can think of them as having being considered as the scum of the earth. But John did not see in these disadvantages people anything less than other human beings. That is why he stayed with them, cared for them and spoke out for them and on their behalf. He earned himself the title "father", a term that is generally used to refer to priests in the Catholic Church, even though he was not a priest. He had a fatherly heart in defence of the vulnerable and despised. 


Some devotees to the cause of John Bradburne arrived at the centre a day before in order to help with the preparation for the Solemn Mass as well as for their own spiritual preparation in order to meaningfully participate in the celebration. The faithful from most parts of country travelled to witness the occasion, the first of its kind in Zimbabwe. In attendance was the Archbishop of Harare, Robert Christopher Ndlovu, who was the main celebrant; the Bishop of Masvingo and Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Gweru - Bishop Michael Bhasera; the Bishop of Hwange - José  Alberto Serrano; the Bishop of Gokwe - Rudolph Nyandoro and the Bishop of Chinhoyi - Raymond Mupandasekwa CSsR, who preached at the Mass. 


In the life of John Bradburne we recognise the amazing work of grace. Here is a man who came from England through the assistance of his Jesuit friend Fr John Dove, may he rest in peace, and who allowed himself to be used by God to defend the dignity of people who were considered less than human by the rest of society. His is a story that had an obscure plot which has now become the shining example for many who have gone and still go to Mutemwa either out of curiosity or religious devotion to the testified works of grace now associated with the place. 



Now that John's cause for beatification is official, we need to learn as Zimbabweans to defend each other against the powers of self-destruction. There is much clamour about the need for dialogue in the country, and it has taken over a year now before the main opposition leader joins others in an already existing platform for the much sought after dialogue, or put it differently it has taken as much time before the government bends its way to accommodate the main opposition leader. Whichever way one wants to consider this matter, the middle ground is that the poorest in Zimbabwe are bearing the brunt of the bickering of politicians. John, the Servant of God, whom the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe now celebrates would not have done this kind of thing in the face of a suffering people. Let us learn from him, for those who care to learn.  


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