Joseph Gérard was an Oblate missionary in South Africa. Born in the French village of Bouxiérès-aux-Chênes, near Nancy, Gérard joined the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1851. In 1853 he was appointed deacon and was sent to the new Oblate mission in Natal, South Africa, arriving in January 1854 at Durban, where he was ordained a priest. He first worked among the white population, learning English and especially the Zulu languages. In 1862 he went to Basutoland (Lesotho), where the king, Moshoeshoe, welcomed him and gave land for a mission station. The place was called the Village of the Mother of Jesus and, later on, Roma. In 1865 he baptized the first Basotho; at his death the Catholic population numbered 15,000, plus 44,000 catechumens. His method consisted of simply talking to the Basotho, who called him “One who talks to the people.” He presented Christian doctrine in a lively way, paying special attention to solemn occasions such as baptisms, confirmations, and marriages. From the catechists he expected vocations of future priests and religious sisters. The Basotho consider him to be their apostle. He died in Africa.
Willi Henkel, OMI
Gerard O’Hara, Father Joseph Gérard, Oblate of Mary Immaculate (1988); A. Roche, Clartés australes, Joseph Gérard, O.M.I. le “prêtre bien-aimés des Basotho” (1951) and Le Cavalier de Malouti, Joseph Gérard O.M.I., 1831-1914 (1955) ; Francis Santucci, “Father Joseph Gérard, O.M.I.: An Over-View of His Life and the Background of His Times,” Vie Oblate Life 51 (1992): 259-278.
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.