Jules, the good man from Schötz
Jules Greber came from a happy family of seven siblings. His feet were firmly on the ground and he was a happy confrere who laughed a lot. At home he learned to share, get along and to care for others – a good preparation for the priestly and missionary profession. He started his studies in Rebstein and Immensee, did the usual study of theology which concluded with his ordination. He went to London to study English as he wanted to go to Africa where Rhodesia was open to him. His good and healthy upbringing equipped him well for the impending task in Africa.
The zealous worker in the vineyard
What is the first thing a missionary does in another culture? He learns the language and Jules did just that. He became proficient in Shona and spoke and preached freely. Before long he worked as pastor in various parishes of the diocese of Gweru. Zhishavane, Moyo Musande, St. Joseph’s, Berejena, Beitbridge, Silveira, again Beitbridge (thirteen years) and Masvingo. Beitbridge on the Limpopo River, a terribly hot border town to South Africa, was his longest stay of fifteen years. Sunburnt and healthy, he came to SMB meetings in the Regional House in Driefontein with a big smile on his face – and that after seven hours of driving.
Jules was welcome everywhere so it was logical that he was chosen as dean for many years. He was also elected to the Regional and Bishop’s Council. The confreres appreciated his thoughts and sometimes bold and courageous statements. He later became the Regional Superior and from 1995 to 2003 was a member of the General Council of the Missionary Society – but based in Zimbabwe. He came twice a year to meetings in Switzerland as at that time skyping or telephone conferences were not available. Jules used his talents and happy nature to serve man and the kingdom of God. The education of young Africans was very important to him, especially in Beitbridge. He was able to build two schools there with the help of the parish of St. Mauritius in Bern. Throughout his life he was associated with this parish, and there were mutual visits. Different tribes live in Beitbridge: Shona, Matabele and Venda. He succeeded in uniting all of them – no matter how linguistically and culturally different – in a large parish. He celebrated the liturgy in three languages. This was particularly endearing about Jules, he was by no means clerical, but close to the people, loved them, was with them in mourning and at parties, shared their joy and sorrow. They could feel that and there will be many tears in Beitbridge at his Resurrection service.
Jules grounded and humorous
His role model for his almost carefree way of life and ease in making contact. was Joseph Stocker from Buttisholz. They were together in the same parish for several years. Stocker was a genuine original, a lovely person, simple and humble, with a heart for the people. You can say the same about Jules. It felt really good to be with him. There was always something to eat and drink and somewhere to sleep for the night in his house.
You could argue with Jules deep into the night – not only about Manchester United or Liverpool football or articles in Time Magazine. There were spiritual and theological books on his bookshelf or on his desk. Jules had an open mind and studied new things. He loved shopping in South Africa or going to Moçambique to visit his confrere and friend, Alois Graf, in Macheze, taking a good bottle of whiskey. There was a lot of laughter and stories were told under the moon. Really human, that did both good.
Unfortunately, Jules had to cope in the last few years with health problems. He moved from Beitbridge to Mazvingo, then to the Regional House in Driefontein and finally to the nursing department of the Motherhouse in Immensee. Here he suffered several strokes in recent months, lost more and more use of language and when he had to take to a wheelchair, the bitter realization dawned on him that he would never return to his beloved Zimbabwe. In the presence of Sr. Margrith Achermann, the housemother of Driefontein who is currently on vacation in Switzerland and some confreres, he was allowed to leave his ordeal and enter into the new world, which God gives to those who love Him and their fellow men,
We say: Bye, Bye Jules, we thank you for everything you have given us. We believe in a reunion with you.
The SMB Community recieived the letter below from the parish priest of Beitbridge Simbabwe, where Fr. Greber served for many years:
Our heartfelt and deepest condolences to the SMBs, family relations, friends, members of the Solidarity, the Bern community (Pfarrei Bern St. Mauritius) and all relations of our dearest Fr. Greber.
Masvingo diocese and particularly St. Joseph’s Beitbridge community is deeply saddened by the passing of Fr. Greber. Fr. Greber served Beitbridge more than 30 years. In diverse ways he influenced and transformed the Beitbridge community. He administered sacraments near and far. He made so many converts. With his simple way of life he attracted many to Catholicism. He loved and cared for the poor. He built churches and schools for the poor communities. Today we are proud of two schools i.e. St. Joseph’s Primary School and St. Mary’s Secondary School that he built in Beitbridge. The Beitbridge Town council recently indicated its desire to honour Fr. Greber by naming one of its roads after him. Fr. Greber was a courageous priest who lived alone for so many years, risking his life for the sake of preaching Christ.
At one time he was robbed at gun point in the parish house but he never left or had the desire to leave Beitbridge.
It was our strong desire to attend Fr. Greber´s funeral but circumstances could not allow us. We are with him and the entire SMB community in prayers. May his dear soul rest in peace.
Fr. Mutsvanga Samson
Parish Priest Beitbridge