INKAMANA NEWSLETTER 2/2015 1 April 2015
The election of a new superior was, without doubt, the main event of the last two months as far as Inkamana is concerned. The election became necessary as Abbot Godfrey Sieber’s 12-year term of office came to an end on February 7. Abbot President Jeremias, the superior general of the Benedictine Congregation of St Ottilien, arrived on February 5 to prepare and supervise the election. The 28 members of the community – 9 Germans, 9 South Africans, 6 Malawians, 2 Namibians, 1 American and 1 Kenyan – who had already pronounced their life-long commitment to the Benedictine way of life had the right to cast their vote in the election. According to the Proper Law of the Congregation of St Ottilien, an abbot can be elected either for life or for a period of 12 years. In addition, the Proper Law also allows a community to choose a prior–administrator instead of an abbot if this seems preferable under the prevailing circumstances. After thoroughly discussing all implications, the 28 electors decided to choose a prior–administrator for a period of three years..
The election was held on February 10, which happened to be the Feast of St Scholastica. After solemn mass to the Holy Spirit, Abbot President Jeremias and the monks with voting rights proceeded to the Chapter Hall. When the result of the election was made known all the church bells began to ring and the whole community of Inkamana gathered in the abbey church where the Abbot President presented Fr Prior John Paul Mwaniki as the new head of Inkamana Abbey and each monk exchanged the sign of peace with the new superior. The 47–year old newly elected Prior–Administrator was born in Kenya. He entered the Benedictine Monastery of Tigoni outside Nairobi and took his vows in 1994. On finishing his studies at Cedara in South Africa he was ordained a priest in 2001. In 2009, he was assigned to Inkamana where he became prior and bursar of the community. In his new position as the head of the abbey, he now represent Inkamana at all inter– national meetings of the Ottilien Congregation which has houses in twenty countries world wide.
On the Feast of St Benedict, March 21, we honoured our confreres who are celebrating a special jubilee in 2015. Bishop Thaddeus of Eshowe, the main celebrant of the festive mass, was assisted by twelve concelebrants. In his sermon, the Prior–Administrator stressed that not only Inkamana Abbey but the whole church in South Africa faces the challenge of recruiting and training young people who are called by God to dedicate their lives to the service of the church by becoming priests or joining a religious community. He added that the fact that Inkamana has always had novices in the last 25 years and that two of the local monks could already celebrate their golden jubilee shows that the abbey has taken root in Zululand.
After the sermon, the Prior–Administrator, standing in front of the altar, called out Br Benedict Ntshangase and Br Clement Sithole who commemorated the 50th anniversary of their profession. They reconfirmed their commitment to monastic life by reading out aloud the profession formula which they had read out for the first time in the monastery church of Inkamana when they pronounced their vows in 1965. The beautifully designed documents with the handwritten text on it were then placed on the altar by the two jubilarians. Immediately afterwards they sang together with all the other monks the traditional “Suscipe me, Domine (Accept me, o Lord). The ceremony ended with the handing–over of the “staff for old age”, a symbol of honour and a visible acknowledgement of fifty years of faithful service to God in monastic life. This was the moment when the whole congregation started clapping their hands and ululating as is customary in Zululand on such an occasion. After the two-and-a-half hour mass the guest who had come to the jubilee function, some 300, were invited to the monks’ refectory and the guest dining room for an elaborate luncheon.
Four other Inkamana monks joined 84-year old Br Benedict and 74-year old Br Clement on the Feast of St Benedict in celebrating a special jubilee. 66-year old Br Mark Govender could look back on 25 years of monastic life. He took his vows at Inkamana on 19 January 1990. Fr Pius Paul (78) and Fr Leo Eireiner (77) are able to celebrate their golden jubilee of priesthood this year. Both will soon leave for Germany where celebrations will be held in their honour at the monasteries which they had entered 56 years ago. Special mention must be made of another confrere, Br Ansfried Machatsch. It was on 21 March 1960, exactly 55 years ago, that Archabbot Suso Brechter handed over to him the mission cross for Zululand at St Ottilien. Br Ansfried, who is 80 years old, has not been on holiday overseas since 2005 and he says he has no intention of travelling overseas. When failing health made him retire as manager of the monastery farm a few years ago, he opted for remaining at Inkamana instead of returning to the Archabbey of St Ottilien, the monastery that he joined in 1952 when he was still a teenager. We are grateful for his presence in our community. The rosaries that he prays each day for his confreres as well as for the many friends and benefactors of Inkamana are bound to turn into a source of blessing for all concerned. Every morning he is the first one in church, long before the bell rings at 5am for the rest of the community to get up.
Several confreres embarked on travels over the past two months. Abbot–Emeritus Fr Godfrey left Inkamana on January 26. Accompanied by Hans and Elfi Braunmüller, two visitors from his home parish in Germany, he went by car to Waldfrieden Mission, our dependent house in Namibia. During their stay at Waldfrieden, Hans and Elfi engaged in repair and maintenance work at the mission. All three were back at Inkamana on February 26. Fr Boniface Kamushishi and Br Sub–prior Kevin Thumbalabwazi attended the annual meeting of the Benedictine communities in Southern Africa (BECOSA) which was held at Benoni near Johannesburg from February 23–27. Immediately afterwards, Fr Boniface went to Johannesburg Airport to catch a flight to Munich. Being a member of the Council of the Congregation, he had to participate in the Council session which took place at St Ottilien at the end of February. He returned to Inkamana on March 6.
After a three–month stay with the interdenominational monastic community of Taizé in France, Br Leonard Dlamini came back to Inkamana on March 5. While he was at Taizé, he participated in the annual New Year’s Taizé Convention which took place in bitter cold weather in Prague, capital of the Czech Republic. These gatherings attract young people from all over Europe. Br Leonard was the only African among the roughly 30 000 youths that followed the invitation of Frère Alois Löser, the prior of Taizé. On March 22, Br Leonard travelled to Cape Town to continue with his studies.
From March 10–21, Fr Gérard Lagleder was in Europe where he attended the Communicators’ Forum of the Order of Malta in Rome and participated in a pilgrimage to France. On April 8, he will leave for Germany to start his annual fund–raising campaign which will last until 7 August. Fr Pacificus Mwale, who had returned to Inkamana in December last year after his two-year assignment at Tororo Priory in Uganda, left South Africa once more on March 31. This time he went to Zambia to begin another two–year assignment at Katibunga, a dependent monastery of Hanga Abbey in Tanzania. In June last year, Br George Ostheimer’s health had deteriorated so much that he was advised to consult the doctor in Germany who had performed an operation on him a few years earlier. Br George is still in Germany to recuperate from his latest operations.
Since the beginning of the year, a good number of visitors had come to Inkamana. On January 19, we welcomed Fr Edgar Friedmann, Prior–Emeritus of St Benedict’s Monastery in Digos, Philippines. He came to us to spend part of his sabbatical at Inkamana. Apart from compiling the chronicle of Digos, he also used the opportunity to do a bit of traveling around Zululand to get to know the major mission stations and parishes in the Diocese of Eshowe. Immediately after Easter he is due to leave for Germany. Abbot President Jeremias arrived on February 5 to prepare and preside over the election of a new superior. After the election Fr Gérard took him to Mandeni to visit the Blessed Gérard Care Centre. The Abbot President left South Africa on February 13.
On February 7, we received a surprise visit from Mgr Rudolf Voderholzer, the bishop of Regensburg in Germany. Accompanied by his Vicar General, Fr Michael Fuchs, and several other dignitaries of his Diocese, he had come to South Africa at the invitation of the Nardini Sisters who have been working as missionaries in Zululand for sixty years. They are still engaged in teaching, nursing and social work. Bishop Voderholzer also went to Mariannhill to visit Mgr Hubert Bucher, Bishop–Emeritus of Bethlehem, and Mgr Fritz Lobinger, Bishop–Emeritus of Aliwal North. Both are originally from the Diocese of Regensburg.. When Prior–Administrator John Paul returned from the BECOSA meeting, he brought along three very special guests: Abbot Primate Notker, Abbot Jean–Pierre Longeat who became president of A.I.M (Inter-Monastic Alliance) after retiring as abbot of Ligugé, and Fr Mark Butlin, the secretary general of A.I.M. We were very grateful that they included a visit to Inkamana even though they had a very tight schedule.
Time and again we are able to welcome friends from overseas who are closely associated with our abbey. As mentioned already, Hans and Elfi Braunmüller arrived in January and spent six weeks with us. It was already their third visit to Inkamana. Peter and Maria Nothofer arrived on February 13. Unfortunately, they were only able to stay a few days with us. On March 31, we said good–bye to Franz and Gertraud Dankl, a retired couple from Munich, who owned a house in Vryheid where they had spent the European winter months of they last twenty years. Health problems made them decide to sell their house in Vryheid and return to Munich for good.
Fr John Doran, a Mill Hill Missionary from Bothaville in the Free State, came to us on March 23, bringing along three youngsters who wanted to learn more about the Benedictine way of life. When Aphelele Zeka from Matatiele in the Eastern Cape arrived at Inkamana early in January, he came with the intention to stay and has meanwhile received the postulant’s habit. He joined us on March 15 on the pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Ngome where Bishop Thaddeus Kumalo of Eshowe had invited all religious of his diocese to celebrate the Year of Consecrated Life.
We wish all readers of this newsletter a blessed Easter!
Fr Godfrey OSB and the community of Inkamana