A crowdfunding campaign has been launched to support the Cause of John Bradburne, a lay missionary and poet, who was shot dead, almost certainly by guerrillas, while working at a leper colony in Zimbabwe in 1979.
Born at Skirwith, Cumbria in 1921, John Bradburne was a charismatic figure. He was received into the Catholic Church in 1947. He once walked to Rome, lived for a year in the organ loft of a church and tried to live as a hermit on Dartmoor. He also served as a sacristan at Westminster Cathedral. On Good Friday in 1956 he joined the Secular Franciscan order of St Francis. Throughout his life he wrote poetry.
In the 1960s he travelled to Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, as a missionary helper. From 1964 he was caretaker of a new centre near Harare. Then in 1969 he was appointed warden at Mutemwa Leprosy Settlement.
The single-minded loving care he gave the residents eventually brought him into conflict with the management committee. He refused to put number tags around the patients necks and reduce their already small diet, so he was sacked. He then lived in a tin hut, lacking water and sanitation, just outside the leprosy compound. From there he continued to help the lepers as much as he could.
As a lay Fransciscan, he sang the daily office of Our Lady and lived its hours, rising at dawn for Matins and ending the day with Vespers and Compline. This discipline provides the context for many poems written at the turning-points of the day.
During the Zimbabwean civil war, his efforts to prevent exploitation of the leprosy patients brought local hostility and suspicion. Friends urged him to leave the country but he wanted to stay with the lepers. On Wednesday 5 September 1979, his body was found by the roadside near Mutemwa. He had been shot.
Up to 25,000 people attend a service in his memory in Mutemwa each year.
The John Bradburne Memorial Society was founded in 1995 to support the work of the leper settlement. Celia Brigstocke, director of the Society, is also leading calls for John Bradburne's beatification. Since Bradburne's death there have been at least two miraculous cures linked to him.
Celia writes: "We have a Postulator, and it will mean a lot of research and checks which costs money to make him a saint at the Congregation of Causes for Saints. He could become the first saint for Zimbabwe and the first in England for a very long time. Please support this cause and do read the information on the JBMS website www.johnbradburne.com
To donate to the Cause see: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/celia-brigstocke