The fighting friar. Father Jude, Father Judo, and the Holy Father.

23 September 2019 By Paul Martin

A Franciscan friar, Father Jude McKenna, is on his way back home, for maybe the last time.

Father Jude is crossing a bridge alongside the world’s greatest waterfall, known in the local language as The Smoke That Thunders. Or the Victoria Falls. The Zambezi River separates southern Africa from the Rest of the continent.

The pounding of the water on rock sends up spray from one hundred metres below.

On the Zambian side of the bridge Father Jude walks towards a Zimbabwean money trader, who has crossed over too. The trader, seeing Father Jude as a soft touch. is offering to sell him a wad of Zimbabwean dollars, which have been made virtually worthless through hyper-inflation.

Father Jude resists the purchase by showing the trader his white Catholic belt, which, he explains, contains “knots that bind me to poverty”.

Near the Victoria Falls lies the town of Livingston – where father Jude became the Parish priest in 1966, his first role in Africa. At his old church, the faithful are celebrating Pentecost Sunday.

Father Jude intersperses Catholic teaching with some lighter moments.

It’s the church where Father Jude, now 82 years old, started his overseas career. He was the only Catholic priest in the region.

There’s something very unusual about this Franciscan friar.

He’s best known not as Father Jude, but as Father Judo.

Here, at a local orphanage, the boys and girls are having a lesson that most priest do not give. Father Jude is a 9th dan judo master, the second highest accolade in the judo world, and he retains his passion to convert youngsters to judo.

The orphans are enthralled. The head-mistress feels these children are learning something important.


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