Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God

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The Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God are a Roman Catholic order founded in 1572. They are also known commonly as the Fatebenefratelli, meaning "Do-Good Brothers" in Italian. The Order carries out a wide range of health and social service activities in 389 centres and services in 46 countries.


St. John of God saving the Patients of the Royal Hospital from a Fire by Manuel Gómez-Moreno González. (1880)

Saint John of God[edit]

John of God, the founder of this religious Order, was born 8 March 1495 at Montemor-o-Novo in Portugal. Twice he enlisted in the Spanish army against the French and later the Turks.[1] After years of living a highly religious way of life in Spain resulting from a conversion experience, in 1535 he founded his first hospital at Granada, where he served the sick and afflicted. After ten years spent in the exercise of charity, he died 8 March 1550, of pneumonia, after he had plunged into a river to save a young man from drowning.[2] He was canonized by Pope Alexander VIII in 1690 and was declared the patron saint of the dying and of all hospitals by Pope Leo XIII in 1898.[3]

Order of the Brothers Hospitallers[edit]

John of God's first companion, Anton Martín, O.H., was chosen to succeed him as Prior General of the order. Thanks to the generosity of King Philip II of Spain, a hospital was founded at Madrid, another at Córdoba and several others in various Spanish towns. Pope Pius V approved the Order of the Brothers Hospitallers in 1572 under the Rule of St. Augustine. The order spread rapidly into the other countries of Europe, and even into the distant colonies. In 1584, Pope Gregory XIII called some of the Brothers to Rome and gave them the Hospital of St. John Calybita located on an island in the Tiber, which then became the motherhouse of the whole order. Brother Sebastiano Arias founded the Hospital of Our Lady at Naples and the famous Hospital of Milan. Another Brother Hospitaller at this time was John Grande, O.H., who was beatified by Pope Pius IX in 1852.[3] The fist general of Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God was Pedro Soriano.


Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God in the world

The first hospital of the order in France was founded in Paris, in 1601, by Queen Marie de Medici. In the stormy days of the French Revolution the Brothers were expelled from the forty hospitals where they were caring for 4,125 patients. But since then some large new hospitals have been established.[3]

The house at Scorton, North Yorkshire, England, was founded in 1880 for the reception of male patients suffering from chronic infirmities, paralysis, or old age, supported by charitable contributions. This developed into a hospital and nursing home. In 1930 the Brothers started a work in Potters Bar caring for people with learning disabilities.[1] In the early days, the St John of God Hospital had its own farm of about five acres of land which supported cows, pigs and poultry, along with a couple of horses. In addition, a hospice of the order has been established at Nazareth.

In 1882, a home for demented[clarification needed] men was founded at Stillorgan near Dublin, Ireland. The Irish postal authority recognised and honoured the contribution to society by the order by issuing a special commemorative postage stamp in 1979 for the order's centenary in Ireland.

The Hospitaller Brothers were established in the United States in 1941, where they operate health care facilities in southern California offering a continuum of care including: Independent Living, Assisted Living, Skilled Nursing, Residential Care, Retirement Living and a specialized Alzheimer Unit. A large school and training center was established by Brothers from the Irish Province in New Jersey to meet the needs of the mentally and physically challenged.[2][2]

The membership of the Order consists of over 1,250 Brothers who come from 50 countries. The Co-workers who partner the Brothers in their activities number approximately 40,000. The Order has bases in over 40 countries, including a base in Celbridge, County Kildare, Ireland, helping people with disabilities in the area. The Order also has many health projects in African countries, such as Malawi, Ghana, Kenya and Sierra Leone. The Brothers operate the Saint-Jean de Dieu Hospital in Tanguiéta, in northern Benin. When first built it had sixty beds. Now it is a reference point for the entire region and has 290 beds, serving people from neighbouring countries such as Burkina Faso, Togo, Nigeria, and Niger.[4]


The charism of the order is caring for the sick, as a way of living the beatitudes of Christ.[5]


A particular apostolate of the order is the Special Needs Faith Formation Program, which serves children and adults with special needs in preparing to receive the sacraments within the Roman Catholic Church.[6]

The Brothers undergo a special course of training in order to fit them for carrying out their various works of charity to which they devote their life. In some provinces some of them are even graduates in medicine, surgery and chemistry. The members are not in holy orders, but priests wishing to devote their sacred ministry to the Brothers and patients are received. To the three solemn vows of religion they add a fourth vow of serving the sick for life in their hospitals.

They assist daily at Mass, meditation, the recital in choir of the office of Our Lady and spiritual reading. The order accepts applications from men between the ages of fifteen and thirty-five. The religious habit is usually given to postulants after three months. The time of novitiate is two years, after which the novice pronounces the vows which, although simple, are perpetual. Three years later, he can be admitted to solemn profession.

Sex abuse in New Zealand[edit]

The St. John of God order ran the Maryland's School, which taught pupils with learning difficulties, in Christchurch, New Zealand. Occurrences at the school during the 1970s lead to a high-profile scandal with sexual charges being laid against three members of the order.

Ebola outbreak[edit]

The outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa in 2014 had a major impact on the medical centers run by the Hospitaller Brothers in that region. As of September, sixteen members of the staff at St. Joseph Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, and St. John of God Hospital in Lunsar, Sierra Leone, died. Of these, three were members of the Order who served at the hospital in Liberia. The first two to die were Patrick Nshamdze, O.H., a native of Cameroon and the director of the hospital, and George Combey, O.H. A third member, Miguel Parajes, O.H., a priest from Spain, contracted the disease while caring for Nshamdze, who had not tested positive for the disease initially. He was airlifted at his request by the Spanish government for treatment in his native country.[7] He later died, becoming the first victim of the disease to die in Europe.[8]

Also returned to Spain with Parajes was Sister Juliana Bonoha Bohé, M.I.C., a native of the former Spanish colony of Equatorial Guinea, was one of a group of Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception who worked with the Brothers at the hospital. Once in Spain, she tested negative for the virus.[9] Spain, however, refused to transport her colleague, Sister Chantal Pascaline Muwamemem, M.I.C., from the Congo, who later also died of the disease.[8]

In September, a fourth Hospitaller Brother, Manuel García Viejo, a native of Spain and the medical director of the Brothers' hospital in Sierra Leone, was nursing Brother Patrick Nshamdze, before he had tested positive for Ebola. He himself later fell ill. Initially he wished to remain but he eventually asked to be repatriated to Spain.[10] He too died several days after his arrival in a hospital in Madrid at the age of 69. [11]

See also[edit]


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. 

External links[edit]