What Christians do in SA in the name of St Lazarus
A hard-working body of volunteers performs charitable good works in the name and spirit of St Lazarus, as part of a global ecumenical order of chivalry dating back to at least 1073. Jennifer Crocker, a member of the International Order St Lazarus, explains.
Earlier this year, Pope Francis decreed that Ss Mary, Martha and Lazarus – who as siblings, lived in the town of Bethany outside of Jerusalem during the time of Christ – be added to the General Roman Calendar on their combined feast day, July 29. This feast day will now appear in the Church’s calendars and liturgical texts as an obligatory memorial, which means it must be observed in the Catholic liturgy.
The news was received with joy by the International Order of St Lazarus, which is both an ancient global Military Order of Mercy and a Hospitaller Order, dedicated to the care and assistance of the poor and sick. Its aims are to preserve and defend the Christian faith, to guard, assist, succour and help the poor, the sick and the dying, to promote and maintain the principles of Christian chivalry and to follow the teachings of Christ and his Holy Church in all its works. The order took part in the Crusades and funded a crusader leprosarium outside Jerusalem. It was recognised by Pope Alexander IV in 1256, and internationally, has close ties with the Catholic Church.
The International Order is headquartered in Spain and active across the world,. It’s ecumenical, which means membership is open to all in the Christian faith. In South Africa, this wholly voluntary group has been working for nearly 60 years in the country through commanderies in Johannesburg and the Western Cape. It raises funds, works with partner organisations and does a great deal to aid designated beneficiaries typically in severely marginalised and threatened communities. It is a strong fellowship of people who also have fun.
St Lazarus was a leper and over the centuries – from the times of the Crusades – the Order of St Lazarus has been the forefront in supporting the eradication of leprosy and in the upliftment of leper communities. Because leprosy has been eradicated in so many countries, its efforts are now focused on “social lepers” – those who are materially disadvantaged through poverty or illness.
The variety of humanitarian projects undertaken by Lazarite jurisdictions around the globe has become important – and in many cases, life-saving – humanitarian work. Just in 2020, during the Covid pandemic, the international order has contributed to seafarer missions, homelessness programmes, kidney disease research, child abuse shelters, assistance for Syrian refugees, adolescent psychiatry, orphanages, a free baby hospital, victims of domestic abuse, food aid and the handicapped, amongst many others.
The “Grand Bailiwick of South Africa” was founded in 1963. 100% of all funds raised are used in partnership with various organisations such as the DisChem Foundation and Rotary. We take nothing for ourselves, but give freely of our time, energy and expertise.
Volunteers either help raise funds or contribute “sweat equity” – directly helping those who need it most.
It’s not just vast charitable donations and financial support, but many hundreds of thousands of volunteer man-hours, personal contributions and partnerships that have made this all work.
For example, the Western Cape Commandery currently has three main beneficiaries:
Christine Revell Children’s Home provides full-time care for up to 49 babies and children from birth to five years of age who have been referred by social workers and placed there by order of a children’s court. The children are either neglected, abandoned, abused or orphaned and are accepted at the home irrespective of HIV status, race or gender.
Over the years, we have been involved in the supply of a wide range of child healthcare items, helped with the Home’s maintenance and own-fundraising projects and currently drop off a monthly supply of disposable nappies and Lactogin as well as – seasonally – a range of healthcare and sanitiser items.
Ikhaya LOXOLO LASE is a pivotal shelter for over 100 mostly terminally-ill people from some of the poorest of the poor communities in Gugulethu. With various partners and our own fundraising, we provide bedding and towels, PPC equipment, building maintenance necessities and security infrastructure. A successful campaign we recently ran was the substantial collection and delivery of no-longer-required wheelchairs, walkers, bath seats and the like from suburbs across the Cape.
Sisters Incorporated, a vibrant organisation that aims to help women, teenagers and children in crisis heal physically, emotionally and spiritually. The organisation offers accommodation, counselling and assistance, skills training and a safe haven. We have only recently started on this journey with our first project to provide feminine hygiene and healthcare items.
The Western Cape Commandery builds reserves through involvement with a gala charity-raising event each year and through the sale of tartan teddies at the Rotary Christmas Carols at Kirstenbosch event.
“Whether in the developed or the developing world, there will always be an increasing need for people to reach out to help others less fortunate,“ said grand bailiff Tamra Capstick-Dale. “St Lazarus is an outstanding opportunity for Christians to come together and contribute their time and expertise, in the true spirit of Christian charity. Importantly, we are an Order of Chivalry, which has time-honoured traditions for those who enjoy history, and we make sure we have fun while doing good.
To join St Lazarus or to contribute, contact Will Carter, commander of the Western Cape Commandery, at 082 377-7830 or e-mail email@example.com
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