Gérard, Josef Valencia, Bl.

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Oblate missionary priest; b. March 12, 1831 Bouxières-aux-Chênes (near Nancy), France; d. May 29, 1914, Roma, Lesotho, Africa. Josef, son of peasants Jean Gérard and Ursula Stofflet, studied at Pont-à-Mousson and Nancy seminary (185152) before pronouncing his final vows as an oblate of Mary Immaculate (1852). After completing his studies at Marseilles, he left for Natal (1853), South Africa, where he was ordained nearby at Pietermaritzburg (February 1854). His first efforts as a missionary among the Zulus were unsuccessful. In 1862, he traveled on horseback to establish a mission in Basutoland (now Lesotho) at the "Village de la Mère de Jésus" (also known as Roma). There he won the heart of the great warrior king Moshoeshoe, baptized his first converts (1865), and established a flourishing school and convent. He labored alone to found St. Monica's Mission in the northern part of the country (1876), before returning to Roma in 1898. The Basuthos remember Gérard as a man whose prayer led him to care for the sick and weak. After praying at his tomb in Maseru, Lesotho, Pope John Paul II beatified Gérard on Sept. 15, 1988.

Bibliography: Father Joseph Gérard, O.M.I., Speaks to Us from South Africa and Lesotho, 18541914, ed. m. ferragne, tr. g. brossard (Maseru, Lesotho 1980). j. morabito, Jamais plus comme lui!: vie et vertus du serviteur de Dieu, le père Joseph Gérard (Rome 1980). Acta Apostolicae Sedis (1988): 961.

[k. i. rabenstein]