INKAMANA NEWSLETTER 3/2015 1 June 2015
There has been once again a fair amount of movement in our community. Fr Gérard Lagleder left for Germany on April 8 for his annual fund–raising campaign which will last until August 7. He has to do this to cover the costs of running the Blessed Gérard Care Centre which he started at Mandeni, Zululand, in 1992. It is the year when he founded the Blessed Gérard Brotherhood. It is an organisation of the Sovereign Order of Malta, commonly referred to as the Order of Malta. The centre offers a whole range of services and includes a hospice where terminally ill patients receive medical and spiritual care.
After having spent ten months on sick leave in Germany, Br George Ostheimer returned to Inkamana on April 25. As a result of the two operations he had to undergo, he is now almost free of pain when he walks but he still struggles negotiating the many steps in our monastery, which is built on a slope. He has now moved into a room closer to the church and the refectory so that he does not have to climb up and down so many steps when he participates in the daily monastic exercises with the rest of the community. 83-year old Fr Peter Blue, the chaplain to the Nardini Sisters at Maria Ratschitz Mission (120 km from Inkamana), has even greater problems walking than 75-year old Br George. He therefore has to rely on a walker to make it to church and to the dining room. Several weeks ago his health suffered a setback and he had to spend some days in hospital. He is still recuperating in the hospice of Maria Ratschitz Mission. As there was no priest for a short while at Maria Ratschitz, our Fr Ambrose Mshengu had to help out so that the Sisters could have Holy Mass every day. Fr Prior Administrator John Paul went to Mariannhill on Saturday, May 9, to conduct a day of recollection for the novices there and came back the next day. Fr Godfrey was at Mariannhill at the same time. He was invited by Sr Agnes Grasböck, a Precious Blood Sister, who celebrated her golden jubilee with the German speaking Catholic community of Durban.
Our senior monk, 84–year Br Benedict Ntshangase, is also battling with health problems. Although he is physically still relatively strong, his memory is no longer what it used to be. Until recently he used to take long walks, even the 12–kilometer walk to Vryheid and back was no problem to him. He still has a strong urge to go for walks and, indeed, his physical condition would allow him to give in to that urge but he is now in danger of losing his orientation. Therefore he has to be prevented from leaving the monastery environment. With the assistance that he enjoys from his confreres there is little chance that he would get into a situation that could cause any harm to him.
Fr Prior Administrator John Paul took Fr Boniface Kamushishi to Johannesburg Airport on April 16 to catch the plane to South Korea where Fr Boniface participated in the workshop for novice masters held at Waegwan Abbey from 20–30 April. He was back at Inkamana on May 1 and soon afterwards gave us a comprehensive report on the lectures that were presented at the workshop. He was particularly impressed by the lecture which Professor Dr Johannes Mahr gave on “New Aspects of the early History of the Ottilien Congregation.” We use this lecture at present as table reading and have to admit that many of the details which Professor Mahr mentions in his writing about the beginning of our missionary work in East Africa and in Korea were unknown to us. We are learning a lot about our own history.
Fr Pius Paul left for Germany on April 17, followed by Fr Leo Eireiner who boarded an EMIRATES plane in Durban on May 19 that took him to Munich. Both went to their respective home monasteries to celebrate their golden jubilee of priesthood. Fr Pius was ordained at Münster–schwarzach Abbey on 29 June, 1965, and Fr Leo at Holy Trinity Abbey, Schweiklberg, on 11 July 1965. Fr Godfrey Sieber went overseas on May 25. Two other confreres, Fr Oswald Gomani and Fr Pacificus Mwale are at present also not at Inkamana. The former is studying at the Catholic University of East Africa in Nairobi for a degree in Administration and the latter is on a two-year assignment at the Benedictine Monastery of Katibunga in Zambia.
The list of monks who are temporarily absent from our monastery includes also several junior monks who are enrolled in courses at different training colleges. Br Polycarp Taukondjele is doing his training as electrician and Br Vincent Ngwane as cook and catering manager. Both are at Newcastle, 110 km away from Inkamana, while Br Bonaventura Johannes at present does a practical stint at Nongoma to gain a diploma in farming. Two other junior monks, Br Isidore Mabaso and Br Damian Mkhwanazi go to Vryheid every afternoon to attend classes for adults in an effort to upgrade their matric certificates which will then allow them to embark on special training courses for the benefit of our community.
Br Clement Sithole, too, is away a lot on account of his engagement at the University of KwaZulu–Natal. The African Music Department of the University has employed him as Makhweyane teacher. Makhweyane is a traditional Zulu string instrument consisting of a bow, with a calabash in the middle, whose ends are connected with a string. This string makes a sound when hit with a light stick. This simple music instrument has been very popular in the past. A singer usually played it to accompany his song. It lost its importance mainly because the whole entertainment culture changed with the introduction of modern music with its international flair. Br Clement has to be credited for the revival of interest in this string instrument in Zululand. During the after–lunch–entertainment at the Feast of St Benedict, Br Clement had arranged a Makhweyane performance where five girls played the instrument to the great delight of the many visitors who had come to Inkamana on the Feast of St Benedict. Br Clement may not be the only expert able to teach how to play this bow instrument but he is certainly one of the best known experts in Zululand. This is why even an institution such as the University in Durban is making use of his skill.
With a good number of our confreres being away, either working or learning outside the monastery, we were happy to have some visitors staying with us during Holy Week and Easter and filling our choir stalls. On the weekend after the Feast of the Ascension we had ten Grade 10 boys from our High School as special guests in our monastery. They wanted to get a first–hand experience of life in a monastery and were invited to participate in praying the Divine Office with us and eating with us in the monastery refectory. They even remained overnight in the monastery as they were accommodated in the dormitory on the ground floor under the refectory. Asked afterwards what they enjoyed most, they said it was the food which was much better (at least on that particular weekend, we have to admit) than the food which the hostel kitchen provides for the boys and girls who are boarders at Inkamana.
Arts and culture are extra–mural subjects which are highly rated and actively promoted at our High School. The school has a junior and a senior choir and several music and drama groups. On April 30, the school organized a cultural evening of a special kind in the school hall. Not only was it an evening where the students showed their skills in dancing, singing and drama, it was also an evening where those who came to the show could enjoy delicious food and South African wine, provided by the teachers. The income from the tickets that were sold went to the school fund.
On May 21, we welcomed a team from a South African film company. They made recordings of our High School students participating in Holy Mass. As they were particularly interested in the story of Sr Reinolda May (1901–1981) who founded the Shrine of Our Lady at Ngome and who is buried at Inkamana, they interviewed one of the monks who had known Sr Reinolda and some of the students to find out what they know about this Sister whose name has become quite famous among the Catholics in South Africa.
Over the last thirty years, since the death of Sr Reinolda, the Shrine of Our Lady of the Tabernacle of the Most High – which is the official title of the shrine – is probably the best known Marian shrine in the country. Almost daily pilgrims from all over South Africa and beyond arrive there in private cars and buses, pray in the chapel and go to the nearby “Seven Springs” to fetch water which, allegedly, has healing power. Ngome is situated in the Diocese of Eshowe which has thirty parishes. Time and again, parish groups organize pilgrimages to Ngome. The Diocese of Eshowe has another Shrine of Our Lady at Fatima Mission, near Empangeni. This shrine was established more than eighty years ago. The annual diocesan pilgrimage to “Our Lady of Fatima” attracted regularly 10 000 people and even more, but it lost its status when Ngome came into the limelight. In the last diocesan pilgrimage to Fatima which was an all–night affair starting in the evening of May 9 and ending the next morning, which was a Sunday, only a few hundred faithful participated.
We were again able to welcome a number of visitors over the last two months. Peter and Anne Hehl, retired teachers from Germany, arrived on April 7. They had been here many times before, This time, they brought along a friend, Karl Georg Wartold who is also a retired teacher. While Peter was once again busy updating and fixing, where necessary, the computers in the school and in the monastery as well as at several other institutions and Anne helping our Br Edward Namwiri in the tailor shop, Karl Georg completely stripped the bathroom, put tiles on the walls and put in new fixtures in one of the flats of the monastery. In between, Peter and Karl Georg also managed to fell a few trees that needed to be cut down because they had died on account of the drought. On April 29 they returned to Germany. Fr Edgar Friedmann, retired prior of Digos Conventual Priory, flew to Germany on April 7, after spending nearly three months with us. We enjoyed his presence at our abbey and hope that he took with him many happy memories of Inkamana and of Zululand in general.
As always, we played host to a good number of pilgrims during April and May. Most of them were on their way to Ngome or came from the Ngome Marian Shrine.
Autumn has meanwhile come to this part of the word. On May 18 we have started harvesting maize. As our field is not large enough to warrant the use of a harvesting machine, we organized a few extra hands to pick the cobs from the stem.
With kind regards to all who read this newsletter, Fr Godfrey Sieber