By Seán O’Leary, M.Afr
Didier arrived in South Africa in September 1990 in answer to a call made to the Society, to minister to the displaced Mozambicans who had sought refuge on the South African side of the border; away from a devastating and crippling civil war. The place chosen for this new missionary initiative was Lebombo; a sprawling area of tin shacks and hunger, where the Church had not been established. This was pioneering missionary work and Didier took to it with an enthusiasm that never waned in his 25 years or so in South Africa.
He was a man of deep prayer, who loved community life and above all, a pastoral agent whose love for the people and his concern to help them was deeply appreciated. Lebombo carved out a special place in his heart and, although he would work in other places, Lebombo was his true home in South Africa.
He moved onto Siyabuswa in KwaNdebele in the Pretoria Archdiocese in 2001 to a situation very similar to what he had experienced in Lebombo. He brought to the people of Siyabuswa what he had brought to the people of Lebombo and was as much admired and appreciated. Open heart surgery in 2002 slowed him up somewhat but never dampened his enthusiasm and after a further eight years in Siyabuswa he returned for another four years to Lebombo.
It was in the Edenglen community in Johannesburg that he would see out his remaining years in South Africa; where he took on a shared responsibility of Guest-Master. The warmth of his welcome and the willingness to go the extra mile for guests became a hallmark of his caring nature. The choice to return to France in 2014 was his, aware as he was, that the weight of missionary life was slowly taking its toll. The man is gone but his memory will live on and be cherished by many in South Africa. We say ‘Hamba Kahle’ Didier, a Zulu phrase that simply means ‘Go Well’.