HIV/AIDS Clinic in Africa to be named after late Canadian priest

TORONTO, June 8 /CNW/ - On June 11 the Clinique Father Martin Royackers, S.J., assisting HIV and AIDS patients will be inaugurated in Bujumbura, Burundi, in honour of the late Canadian Jesuit who was murdered 10 years ago in Jamaica.

Fr. Yamuremye Désiré, S.J., director of Service Yezu Mwiza (SYM) says of the new clinic's namesake, "Martin's is really the name to give to the clinic - a young Jesuit, engaged in the social apostolate, who died for his ministry and work for the poor."

Fr. Martin Royackers was raised in the tight-knit community of Strathroy, Ontario. He entered the Jesuits in 1978 and was ordained a priest in 1988. In 1994 Fr. Martin was sent to Jamaica, to serve as pastor of St. Theresa's Parish. He was keenly interested in promoting faith and justice which lead him to defend the rights and protect the land claims for various poor families. As a result, certain land-developers became more hostile in their attacks against the Jesuits in Jamaica. Fr. Martin was shot on June 20, 2001, at point-blank range outside his parish in Annotto Bay.

Fr. Désiré adds,"Yezu Mwiza means good compassionate Jesus, and such caring compassion is addressed to the poor, and is what the service of Martin Royackers continues to be about in the clinic which bears his name."

Along with the late priest's friends, Fr. Martin's mother Joanne and sister Mary-Ann will also attend this week's inauguration.

Although the SYM started operating in 2008, it was officially launched in January 2009. Around this time the program was caring for 922 people with HIV and nearly 1000 OVCs (orphans and vulnerable children.) Another significant change was that SYM was qualified to be a centre for the provision of antiretroviral drugs. With this change came many challenges including the government's requirement that the clinic needed beds to assist patients. This was a problem since the location SYM was using was leased. Fortunately, with the generosity of benefactors in Canada and Holland, funding was raised to purchase the compound and build the clinic that will bear Fr. Martin's name.

Burundi, one of the world's poorest nations, has been hit hard by HIV and AIDS. According to the UNAIDS 2008 Epidemiological Fact Sheet on HIV and AIDS, an estimated 110,000 people in Burundi are living with HIV and the disease has left 120,000 orphans in the country.

The Jesuits, an order of priests and brothers in the Roman Catholic Church, have worked in Canada for more than 400 years. There are currently more than 160 Jesuits in English Canada and almost 20,000 worldwide.


For further information: For further information: Erica Zlomislic, Communications Officer, The Jesuits in English Canada, (416) 962-4500 x225,

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