History

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The name alone arouses curiosity. Its founder, Abbot Francis Pfanner fascinates. Its history offers something amazing. Thomas Merton has spoken about the missionary work of Mariannhill in these terms:

Here was the astonishing spectacle of a Trappist mission in which the contemplative monks had achieved in few short years, a success more spectacular than many active order had dared dream of. The most astounding thing about this new mission was that it was operating on purely Benedictine lines. It was an apostolate of prayer and labour (ORA ET LABORA), of liturgy and the plough. What was taking place in the outposts established by Dom Francis Pfanner was exactly the same process that had marked the Christianization of Germany and all northern Europe by the Benedictine monks hundreds of year before.(1)

Furthermore, after having visited the Mariannhill mission Mahatma Gandhi sang its praises.

In time this missionary work of Abbot Francis and of his monastery, dedicated to Mary and Saint Ann, brought about “an Order within an Order”. Contemplation and intense missionary activity meant a marriage that the Order of the Reformed Cistercians could not bless.

So in 1909 Pope Pius X decided to separate Mariannhill from this Order. The Congregation of the Missionaries of Mariannhill was thus born. A providential birth that would make the expansion of this remarkable work possible! The new family will draw its fundamental inspiration from Abbot Francis. this great missionary monk, and from his monastic community, missionary like him. Everything had started in 1882 with the initiative of this courageous apostle: when he founded his monastery that year, he had already received from Rome the mandate to go and “spread the light that enlightens the nations.”

1999 was the year of the 90th anniversary of the death of Abbot Francis Pfanner (May 24). It was at the same time the 90th anniversary of the separation of Mariannhill from the Order of the Reformed Cistercians (February 2), in other words of the birth of the Missionaries of Mariannhill. Can we blame the spiritual sons of Mariannhill for being proud of their origins? For wanting to talk about their family? Obviously, it is out of the question for them to claim as their own the merits of the generous years of the beginning. Nevertheless, “noblesse oblige”: they ought to go and draw from these roots of theirs the sap of a new spring shoot. They ought to permeate the present with the dynamism of their past. They cannot keep for themselves alone the wealth of their heritage, while always remaining open to the Spirit who “blows where he wills.”

Here are the yesterday and the today of the Missionaries of Mariannhill. This Web page is in some way an identity card. May it give rise to other encounters with our religious community! Maybe to friendly regular contacts! Maybe – who knows? – to an active cooperation! May God make the prophetic vision and great power of attraction and of persuasion of Abbot Francis still bear fruit today! The Kingdom of God has no end. Nothing can hinder its expansion.

(1) In The Waters of Siloe, Harcourt, Brace and company, New York, 1949, (1st edition), page 1157.

Abbot Francis

The Trappist Prior, Father Francis (Wendolin) Pfanner, founded a monastery during the Christmas season of 1882 in the English colony of Natal in South Africa. He called it Mary-Anne-Hill (Mariannhill). The energetic son of a farmer, born in 1825 at Langen in the Austrian Vorarlberg, had got the necessary experience by founding Mariastern in the then Turkish Bosnia. A forceful speaker and writer, he inspired many young people for the austere life in mission land.

Already in 1885 the monastery was made an abbey. Francis Pfanner, its first abbot, chose as his motto the word of St. Paul: “So run that you may obtain the prize!”. He spread a net of mission stations over the southern part of Natal and beyond, with his monks and with the assistance of the community of the Sisters of the Precious Blood, which he founded.

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© Ivo Burkhardt CMM

A great problem was the conflict between mission activity and the Trappist rule with its long prayers in choir, partly at night, its absolute silence and rigorous fasting. The conflict became so acute under his successors that the Trappists saw the dismissing of its greatest abbey from the order as the only solution. Pope Pius X made the separation in February of 1909, shortly before the founder died. Then Mariannhill developed step by step into a mission congregation. Now it was possible to erect places of formation in Europe and America, and to train candidates in the homeland.

Mariannhill

The name alone arouses curiosity. Its founder, Abbot Francis Pfanner fascinates. Its history offers something amazing. Thomas Merton has spoken about the missionary work of Mariannhill in these terms:
Here was the astonishing spectacle of a Trappist mission in which the contemplative monks had achieved in few short years, a success more spectacular than many active order had dared dream of. The most astounding thing about this new mission was that it was operating on purely Benedictine lines. It was an apostolate of prayer and labour (ORA ET LABORA), of liturgy and the plough. What was taking place in the outposts established by Dom Francis Pfanner was exactly the same process that had marked the Christianization of Germany and all northern Europe by the Benedictine monks hundreds of year before.(1)
Furthermore, after having visited the Mariannhill mission Mahatma Gandhi sang its praises.

In time this missionary work of Abbot Francis and of his monastery, dedicated to Mary and Saint Ann, brought about “an Order within an Order”. Contemplation and intense missionary activity meant a marriage that the Order of the Reformed Cistercians could not bless.

So in 1909 Pope Pius X decided to separate Mariannhill from this Order. The Congregation of the Missionaries of Mariannhill was thus born. A providential birth that would make the expansion of this remarkable work possible! The new family will draw its fundamental inspiration from Abbot Francis. this great missionary monk, and from his monastic community, missionary like him. Everything had started in 1882 with the initiative of this courageous apostle: when he founded his monastery that year, he had already received from Rome the mandate to go and “spread the light that enlightens the nations.”

1999 was the year of the 90th anniversary of the death of Abbot Francis Pfanner (May 24). It was at the same time the 90th anniversary of the separation of Mariannhill from the Order of the Reformed Cistercians (February 2), in other words of the birth of the Missionaries of Mariannhill. Can we blame the spiritual sons of Mariannhill for being proud of their origins? For wanting to talk about their family? Obviously, it is out of the question for them to claim as their own the merits of the generous years of the beginning. Nevertheless, “noblesse oblige”: they ought to go and draw from these roots of theirs the sap of a new spring shoot. They ought to permeate the present with the dynamism of their past. They cannot keep for themselves alone the wealth of their heritage, while always remaining open to the Spirit who “blows where he wills.”

Here are the yesterday and the today of the Missionaries of Mariannhill. This Web page is in some way an identity card. May it give rise to other encounters with our religious community! Maybe to friendly regular contacts! Maybe – who knows? – to an active cooperation! May God make the prophetic vision and great power of attraction and of persuasion of Abbot Francis still bear fruit today! The Kingdom of God has no end. Nothing can hinder its expansion

(1) In The Waters of Siloe, Harcourt, Brace and company, New York, 1949, (1st edition), page 1157.

Martyrs

The Martyrs of Zimbabwe

The Mariannhill „Martyrs“ of Zimbabwe (Missionaries murdered as a result of the violence during and after the war of liberation – 1976 to 1987)

“thanks God we do not only have martyrdom in our past history but also in the present. There are priests, nuns, catechists, and simple peasants who have been murdered … persecuted because they remained true to their faith and to their one and only God” (Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero).

Although the motives of the killers are not always clear, it can be said that the murdered mission personnel of the Bulawayo diocese in Zimbabwe belong to the modern ‘martyrs’ of the Church.

Before shooting Bishop A. G. Schmitt CMM, Father Possenti A. Weggartner CMM, and Sr. Francis van den Berg CPS, the killer exclaimed: “Missionaries are enemies of the people”. Brother Peter E. Geyermann CMM, Brother Andreas G. von Arx CMM, Br. Matthias Sutterlüty and Br. Killian Knoerl were only working in the service of others. They were aware of the danger to their lives, but remained at their mission posts. Some of them were ambushed, one of them cruelly murdered.

What were Sister Ferdinanda Ploner CPS, a midwife, and Hanna Decker, a missionary doctor, doing other than helping people in their hospital and clinics? Why were they murdered? Nobody knows. Perhaps the killers were seeking publicity with their senseless and cruel murders of defenceless people. Or was it, as in the case of Fr. Edmar Sommerreisser, just plain robbery? One thing is certain, they were all witnesses of their missionary vocation and therefore they deserve our respect.

The Archbishop of Bulawayo, Henry Karlen, at the funeral service of one of them, said: “We all have to go the way of the Cross, we all have to learn the meaning of the dying grain of wheat. This will give us new strength, to start again and to carry on”.

“If the grain of wheat does not fall into the earth and die, it remains alone. If however, it dies, it brings much fruit” (John 12.24). In these words, the death of these missionaries is explained in a Christian and Messianic perspective.

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Fr. Engelmar Unzeitig

Fr. Engelmar Unzeitig CMM
(1911- 1945)

11304263008330736Many well-known people joined Francis Pfanner’s two foundations. Naturally some were, and still are, better known than others: for example, Fr. Engelmar Unzeitig and Fr. Bernhard Huss, and Mother Paula as well, but also missionaries like Bro. Nivard Streicher, Bro. Ägidius Pfister and so many others. Let us look at the lives of a few of them, always remembering, however, that they are merely representatives among all the others who carried out their work, day in day out.
Father Engelmar Hubert Unzeitig (1911 – 1945)
Father Engelmar has been called the “Angel of Dachau.” He was arrested by the Gestapo on 21 April 1941 and sent to the concentration camp of Dachau in the same year. In the autumn of 1944 he volunteered to help in the typhoid barrack. He had studied Russian whilst in Dachau in order to be able to help the prisoners from Eastern Europe. He died on 2nd March 1945. He was regarded as a holy man. In his desire to help the typhoid victims he contracted the disease himself. His beatification process was initiated on July 26. 1991, in Würzburg, Germany. And its second stage was officially opened at the Vatican in May 1999.
Father Engelmar was born in Greifendorf in 1911. At the age of 18 he entered the seminary of the Mariannhill Missionaries in Reimlingen. He spent his student days in Würzburg, was ordained to the priesthood in 1939 and spent 1940 as parish priest in Glöckelberg.
In a letter from Dachau to his sister, he wrote: “Whatever we do, whatever we want, is surely simply the grace that carries us and guides us. God’s almighty grace helps us overcome obstacles … love doubles our strength, makes us inventive, makes us feel content and inwardly free. If people would only realise what God has in store for those who love him!” He also wrote from this hell of suffering: ‘Even behind the hardest sacrifices and worst suffering stands God with his Fatherly love, who is satisfied with the good will of his children and gives them and others happiness.’


Commemoration of the Death of Fr. Engelmar Unzeitig, CMM

Meditation

Brothers and sisters in Christ,

I do not have anything new to reveal to you about Fr. Engelmar. You know his exemplary life. You also consider him as a saint. Yet it is certainly beneficial to meditate again and again on the lives of the saints, especially of one’s own family models; they are the real interpreters, in the flesh, of the Gospel of life and love of Christ.

If at the end of our lives people can observe saying, “he was a nice person,” “a good religious,” or “she was a pious and generous person,” “a zealous missionary,” or still “he/she has been a faithful CMM or CPS,” and the like, this will already amount to an achievement. Or if people do not whisper in a corner “she has been a ‘problem’ or a ‘burden’ for her superiors and companions” or “he has ‘scandalized the people of God,’ by his shameful behaviour and acts,” this will be equal to some success. Faithfulness must never be taken for granted. It is actually, in the words of the Community of Taizé, a miracle. A miracle of God’s own loving action in our miserable lives! He is the one who does everything, who carries us on his shoulders. Yet we count among the consecrated in the Church, that is, the “experts” of holiness so to say.

And so if people do not find anything more remarkable to comment about us at our death, it will mean that we will not have past the acid test not of common, but of distinctive holiness; of the specialists in Christian life we were called to be! This test is passed when all, especially journeying companions and family members and close neighbours and collaborators can point to us as notable models, as real icons of Jesus himself and attractive figures in the Church. It is passed when one has emerged among many as a truly life-giving person.

Well, many witnesses testified to the heroic, even saintly life of Fr. Engelmar. They used suggestive expressions that allow us today to easily brush his portrait in broad outline. Our chewing over one or the other today should bring back to our memory his whole life and help us let ourselves be captured again, at the level of our innermost self, of our heart, by his sanctity; and with the help of the Spirit it should serve to rekindle the fire of our youth. Here are some quotations containing such expressions.

  • “He was a saint! Without a doubt! I do not use this word lightly. But in Father Engelmar’s case it fits; he was a holy priest” (Fr. Clemente Pereira, S.J.);
  • “He always seemed to think only of how he could help others. He always thought of himself last” (Fr. Josef Witthaut, Brügge, Westphalia);
  • “His genuine priestly form stands very alive before my eyes; I would be very happy if Father Engelmar Hubert Unzeitig were raised to the honors of the altar, for the advocatus diaboli would most probably hardly be able to produce anything against him” (Fr. Eugen Weiler, 1981);
  • “Father Engelmar…radiated something holy. …He was so modest that there is almost nothing to say about him. Father Engelmar Unzeitig offered a wonderfully pure life’s sacrifice in the following of Christ…He can certainly be put in the same line with Father Maximilian Kolbe” (1981)…He impressed me from the beginning, for he radiated simplicity, humility, and modesty, as well as a continual inner happiness (Fr. Hermann Scheipers, East Germany, 1984);
  • “In my opinion, this martyr of brotherly love also deserved to be raised to the honors of the altar” (Fr. Heinz Römer, 1982);
  • “He was a very dear, precious person. Love in person. More I cannot say. That he was: love!” (Mgr Emil Kiesel, 1982).
  • “In him, I really had an especially zealous collaborator in all charitable undertakings. Our Father Engelmar was a quiet, selfless helper, a genuinely priestly victim soul…Modesty was his nature. He could be very energetic, however, as soon as the truth, objective grounds, were at stake. He was never interested in pushing himself forward, and he never lost his calm, even when standing up ruthlessly for the truth. Such selflessness does not know any injury to love…Hubert was a man who did not shun any sacrifice. But the most valuable thing about him was his supernatural, priestly attitude of soul…(he) sacrificed all of his free time for the poor comrades of various nations” (Fr. Johannes Maria Lenz to sister Adelhilde Unzeitig in 1947).

In short, he has been called a “Saint,” “the German Maximilian Kolbe,” the “Martyr of Brotherly Love” and occasionally also the “Angel of Dachau.” This may suffice.

Nonetheless to consider the horrendous character of Fr. Engelmar’s last four years in the concentration camp of Dachau can contribute to a still more efficacious re-vigourizing of our roots as consecrated. We also live in a dramatic world situation, on a globe thorn apart by injustice, violence and war, but at the same time we move in a cocooned world of material well-being and warm comfort. This stimulates our resistance to profound spiritual reawakening; it certainly does not make it easier.

There is the general air of Dachau, which Fr. Engelmar did certainly not breath with pleasure, like all the other prisoners. The camp was after all a “factory of death.” It was for its inhabitants a grisly laboratory of the human possibilities. The prisoners were faced with the possibility of getting sick, very sick, even of catching the deadly illness of typhus, with constant uncertainty about their future, with boundless despair and the continuous threat of death from SS always at their heel to mention only some elements of this indescribable situation. This was Fr. Engelmar’s daily ambiance at the beginning.

Later, after he volunteered to care for the prisoners with typhus, he was faced day after day with a most distasteful, repulsive, dreadful and shocking situation where the danger of infection was constant, “the vermin seemed to be immortal“ and “the cold wind blew pitilessly on the dying.” Thus he consciously and willingly put himself in direct danger of death. A fateful decision requiring a high level of heroism!

What keeps us apart from our saintly confrere? He has passed the acid test of distinctive holiness within the space of a short life of only 34 years and we are still struggling terribly, after many more years, to live decently our consecrated life. Fr. Engelmar was only one of the 3000 priests who spent terrible years in the hell of Dachau. But he distinguished himself among them. Also by his fervent desire to mission among the Russians prisoners who were searching religiously. His special concern for them even made him take part in the translation of parts of Holy Scripture, passages of the Imitation of Christ and texts from the catechism into Russian. It is no surprise to read that Peter, the Russian who in this way got to know him well, venerated him as a saint. His pastoral zeal had no limits indeed; he missioned in an exemplary, self-sacrifycing way.

Fr. Engelmar reached the goal! We still have a lot of trouble keeping in the race and running! Of course God’s grace does not let itself be constrained by anything. Our hour may have not come yet. There is no age for conversion. But we can surely work at opening wider our hearts to Christ’s love.

Today we honour Fr. Engelmar’s death, better still the day of his birth in heaven. Thus we warn ourselves, the living. The heroic laying down of his life for his friends is a provocation for us; to give witness to the God of boundless love and the dignity of human life.

Amen.

Rome, Generalate, 2 March 2007


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Mariannhill in Canada

1947 marks the beginning of the first Mariannhill foundation in Canada. Brother Eucharius Dinkel and Brother Jordan Himmelman were already in Canada as German prisoners following the victory of the Allies over Germany. The two Brothers discovered a Church where the vocations to the religious life and to the priesthood were very abundant. They encouraged this new Mariannhill foundation, especially since the situation was too unstable in Europe to open up new houses there. The Mariannhill Missionaries already admired the apostolic zeal of the Canadian Oblates in South Africa, with whom they were regularly in touch. In September 1948, this new foundation called MONT-SAINTE-ANNE received its first students. It is just outside the Sherbrooke city limits, in the Province of Quebec.

The Mariannhill Missionaries in Canada have always been part of the same religious Province as their confreres of the United States. The American region became a religious province in 1938. That same year, for security reasons, the Generalate was transferred from Austria to England. In 1954, the first Canadian candidates for the Congregation went to Brighton, USA, in order to make their noviciate. In May 1961, the ordination of the first Canadian Mariannhill, Fr. Gervais Giguère, took place in Sherbrooke, Quebec. He later was in charge of the MONT-SAINTE-ANNE, as rector, for more than twenty years.

In the beginning of the sixties, the Province of Quebec, underwent deep social changes. It was called ” the peaceful Revolution “. That peaceful revolution brought about some important changes in education. Among other things, it set up a Ministry of Education. What was called the “classical course”, given in minor Seminaries like Mont-Sainte-Anne, ended. After the classical course, the students could go on to University. Now all of that was replaced by 5 years of secondary school, or high school. Then the students still have to go through 2 or 3 years of College or “Collegial” before going to the University. So, because of this new situation, ten religious Congregations, including the Mariannhill Missionaries, got together in order to found, in 1965, an institution of college level being the continuation of our minor Seminaries. That new corporation was called SÉMINAIRE SAINT-AUGUSTIN and located close to Quebec City. The Mariannhill Missionaries had their own Residence where they could welcome about forty students. Because of an important decline in the number of students which also caused serious financial problems, the SÉMINAIRE SAINT-AUGUSTIN had to close down in 1996. However the Mariannhill Congregation kept its Residence.

The Mariannhill Missionaries, in the province of Quebec, have often closely cooperated with other religious Congregations. For example, in 1967, they welcomed, for a few years, the Assumptionist Fathers and their students in Mont-Sainte-Anne, after the closing down of their own institution. In 1974-75, the Consolata Missionaries, together with their students, lived with the Mariannhill Community, at the SÉMINAIRE SAINT-AUGUSTIN. The Mariannhill Missionaries also would like to express their deep gratitude to the LITTLE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY for having benefited by their services and their dedication for many years.

From year to year, many important changes occurred in the history of MONT-SAINTE-ANNE which, in 1998, celebrated its 50th anniversary. In 1963 it added a new annex which included a wonderful Chapel and a gymnasium. In 1972, it built the MONT-SAINTE-ANNE ARENA. The following year, they installed the necessary equipment for artificial ice. This gave the students the opportunity to play hockey, their national sport. In 1983, even if the Mariannhill Community remained in charge of the school, they decided to entrust to a team of lay people, the direction and the operation of the institution. Mr André Bessette became the first lay rector of the school.

Up until 1991, the Mariannhill Community was living within the walls of the MONT-SAINTE-ANNE. But as the number of students was increasing, it became important to have more space. So the Mariannhill Missionaries decided to build a new Monastery, on the other side of the road, in front of the school. In August 1992, the Community moved into its new home.

Now the Mariannhill Missionaries dedicate themselves mainly to the missionary animation and pastoral work. That is why the MARIANNHILL MISSION CENTRE takes an important space in the house.There is also a PUBLICATIONS OFFICE where two magazines are published : RMM, in French, and LEAVES, in English. A VOCATION CENTRE also gives a chance to some young or not so young people to discern their vocation in the Church along with the Community.

Finally, two important events, concerning the whole Congregation must be mentioned. First, in 1990, Fr. Yves La Fontaine, a Canadian, was elected as Superior General of the whole Mariannhill Congregation. And, in 1996, the General Chapter of the Congregation was held in the MARIANNHILL RESIDENCE in Saint-Augustin, near Quebec City. In 2000, there are eight Mariannhill Missionaries working in the Province of Quebec. Eight Canadian confreres are also working in foreign mission countries. And a group of 15 associate members are helping the Community to accomplish its missionary mandate.

Mariannhill in Germany

Monastery Moenchsdeggingen

With Moenchsdeggingen the Mariannhillers own an old former Benedictine Abby, over a thousand years old and a baroque pilgrimage church, famous among other things, because of its two organs. For a long time Moenchsdeggingen was the seat of the generalate of the Mariannhill Mission society. Besides, it was the novitiate for the German clerical novices. Today, the Mariannhillers take care there of the shrine ( or pilgrimage, as well as three parishes. An inn and rooms for groups, beside the beautiful monastery establishment, with its far view of the Ries-crater attract many visitors.

Pius Seminary, Wuerzburg

The Pius Seminary was dedicated in 1929 as priest seminary of the Mariannhillers. For 40 years, the students of the order from Germany, Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland and the U.S.A. went from here to the Julius-Maximilians University.
Today the Pius-Seminary serves the following:
+ Seat of the Provincial;
+ Seat of the provincial government;
+ Mission procura (Mission mailing department, handling of donations, Mission magazine and calendar, contact department to missionaries);
+ Postulate and Novitiate for the German province and Poland;
+ Seminary for the religious students of the German province, who, at the local University, now as before study 6 years of philosophy and theology;
+ Pastoral work (confessions, hospital priests, parishes, retreats, prayer circle);
+ Guest house, e.g. for the missionaries.

Mission House St. Joseph Reimlingen, near Nördlingen

The Mission House was established in 1922. Its main objective has always been to accept and train young men as brothers for the Mission and the home country. In the establishments and workshops of the monastery the following professions and trades were taught: carpentry, shoemaking, mechanics, tailoring, gardening, printing, typesetting, bookbinding, baking and farming. Besides, there is in the Mission House, in third generation, with Brother Wolfgang Hainz, a brother, who is working as non-medical practitioner. Since 1979 there is in Reimlingen also the Old Folks and Nursing home. It is for those confreres, who, because of illness no longer can live in a local community. The youth rooms of the monastery are open to religious youth groups. In April 1999 the new printing building with two big printing presses will be dedicated. Not only Mariannhill printing orders are there done to full satisfaction, but also many orders from outside. There, for example, the Mariannhill Mission Magazine is being printed.

Maria Beinberg ­ Pilgrim Church Near Augsburg

Beside the Mariannhillers, who live together in a community, there are confreres, who live alone in places. They are attatched to a community and work as pilgrimage priest, pastor, doing pastoral work for sisters and hospitals. Fr. Mario Muschik and Fr. Jörg Thiemann are taking care of Maria Beinberg, near Augsburg. They ares doing pastoral work at the shrine church, and in two parishes. Seminary Aloysianum In Lohr am Main
The “Alo” was built in 1911 to get around the laws of the politic-cultural struggle, and is the oldest existing establishment of the German Province. The naming of the building after the saint for Youth, Aloysius of Gonzaga, was and is a programme. The Aloysianum proves as a religious boarding school for the education of young boys. At the present there are about 40 young boys in the boarding school . They attend the local High school, secondary school and principal school. In the course of time about 165 priests came out of the Aloysianum among them many Mariannhill missionaries.

Mission House Maria Veen In the Muensterland

To the monastery of Maria Veen at present belong nine (9) Mariannhill confreres and three sisters of Missionary Congregation of the Sisters of the Precious Blood. They all work:
+ In the school (Gymnasium) owned by the order, with 900 students, as teachers of religious and pastoral care of the students;
+ In the Youth Formation House, for example, through “days of religious orientation;
+ As House manager;
+ As pastor of Maria Veen and the community of Huelsten;
+ In the pastoral care of the community of Hochmoor;
+ As pastors in an establishment for handicapped;
+ At the church tribunal of the Diocese of Muenster;
+ In the house: Kitchen, Door and laundry.

Annually, the students with their teachers organise a school festival. Beside sport and theatrical presentations, things made by the students are offered for sale and the money given to Mariannhill Missionaries.

Mariannhill in USA

First monk in the USA

The experience at Dunbrody taught Abbott Francis Pfanner that to establish a monastery in South Africa he would have to rely on the material and financial support of overseas benefactors and that to increase his number of monks he would also have to recruit new members overseas. And so already on January 4, 1883, only nine days after the foundation of Mariannhill Monastery, he dispatched a monk to the United States to raise money and draw new members.

Permanent presence

For three years this brother traveled about without a place here to call his home. For only a short while two others succeeded him, but when in 1899 another one arrived, it was the beginning of Mariannhill’s continuous presence in this country. Operating from a rented apartment in Detroit, Michigan, this brother traveled widely too, personally visiting Catholics in their homes, a technique of soliciting their prayers and alms in support of the African missions after the personal example of Abbot Pfanner traveling in Europe that became traditional with us here until well into the second half of this century. He also began to sell Americans our German and Polish mission magazines printed in Europe. The brothers who succeeded him continued this work.

Printed publications

When in 1920 Mariannhill severed its last monastic ties and began in earnest to assume the shape of a modern missionary institute, it expanded its American base. The first priest arrived the next year to join three brothers already here. They purchased their first residence (Detroit, Michigan) and immediately made plans to produce their own mission magazine. From its very beginning Mariannhill learned from Abbot Pfanner the advantage, even necessity, of the printed word to publicize its mission work and garner wide support of it. It also saw, when World War I interrupted the flow of magazines from Europe, the necessity to print its own American magazine. Mariannhill Missionary began in 1922 with four editions each a different language: English, German, Polish and French. Within two years the French and German editions were discontinued because of insufficient subscriptions. The magazine was renamed The Apostle after three years and gradually changed its viewpoint to that of a Catholic family periodical. The Polish edition ceased in 1968, and the English the following year. In 1938 Mariannhill began a second publication, Leaves magazine, a bi-monthly devotional periodical. Popular with many American Catholics from the start, today it counts almost 250,000 subscriptions.

Missionary training

In 1923 already, when it purchased a farm near Brighton, Michigan, Mariannhill entertained the hope of opening its own training center for Americans who wished to become members. Not until 1936, when the Diocese of Sioux Falls, S. Dakota, made it an attractive offer for starting a minor seminary there, was its hope realized. But before it could begin, Mariannhill assembled a teaching staff mostly of its own priests from Europe. The number of members here more than doubled in two years: from thirteen to thirty. They were enough to become in 1938 the American province. School began at St. Bernard Seminary in 1937. When the diocese sold the school building to the American government at the end of 1943, Mariannhill moved its staff and students to temporary quarters in Brighton. Six years later the seminary was in a new building in Dearborn Heights, Michigan. In 1943 Mariannhill also began its own instruction of its major seminaries in Brighton (St. Benedict Seminary), but twelve years later it ended this. In 1969 it also discontinued St. Bernard Seminary. The first American novice, a brother candidate, opened the novitiate in 1937; the first American-born priest was ordained in 1948.

American region today

The house in Dearborn Heights, first opened in 1934, includes the magazine and publicity office, the office of the vocation director, a formation center for future priests and brothers, and a youth retreat center.

The challenge today and tomorrow

Since 1899 and 1938, significant beginnings in our province, our ways of supporting Mariannhill’s overseas missions have in many ways changed, but basically our work is still the same: training new members and presenting them for service in mission lands, publicizing their work and supporting it with our prayers and alms. The needs of today call for new methods more so than ever before. Confident of God’s guidance, we adapt to the times so that we may be effective tools in His hand for extending His Church to the ends of the earth.

Mariannhill in Zambia

Today Mariannhill missions are full of life and flourishing in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia. The work of the Mariannhillers in Zambia began in 1982, exactly 100 years after Abbot Francis started Mariannhill. Fr. Ivo Burkhardt left Mariannhill in South Africa and became a teacher of religion at Kasama Boy’s Secondary School in the Diocese of Kasama, which is in the Northern Province. Some boys soon showed great interest in joining Mariannhill. There was indeed a promising harvest of vocations and in 1985 the General Chapter agreed to start a Mariannhill community in the Archdiocese of Kasama.

This was based at St. Margaret’s Parish, Mungwi, 25 km from Kasama Town. In February 1990 the first two Zambians entered the Novitiate in Mariannhill, South Africa. Later a House of Formation was established at Kasembo Farms in Kasama. After finishing their Novitiate in Mariannhill, candidates pursued their philosophical and theological studies at St. Joseph’s Theological Institute, Cedara near Pietermaritzburg. But this practice has since stopped as they now do their philosophical and theological studies at St. Bonaventure’s and St. Dominic’s, a national Major Seminary in Lusaka, Zambia.

The first Zambian priest, Fr Aaron Chituta was ordained on the 4th January 1997. Meanwhile Zambia has become a fully-fledged province of its own with several houses: the postulancy is in Kasama, at Kasembo farms and there are two houses in Makeni and Woodlands, both in Lusaka. These are houses of formation, the former for philosophy and the latter for theology, as well as for the brothers who are doing some studies in various trades and professions.

At present there are a good number of Zambian brothers either in temporary or final profession, in postulancy and in the novitiate each year. Several Mariannhill priests from various countries work in Zambia together with a growing number of Zambian priests.

Mariannhill and the Press

Without FrancisWendelin Pfanner (1825-1909) there would be no Mariannhill Mission Society. If this “Adventurer Monk” or this “Drummer for God,” as he was called, had never existed, the German- speaking world of the printed word, at least, would be much poorer. For 13 years he was a parish priest, first in his home province of Vorariberg, western Austria, and then in what is now Croatia. Then he became a Trappist in the monastery of Mariawald in the Eifel of western Germany because he wanted to prepare for death. Ironically, this silent monk turned out to be a real genius of public relations.

The once sickly pastor and convent chaplain soon became a press magnate like few in modern history. The strict monastery diet in Mariawald did him good. He soon got better and was not thinking any longer of death. Already in 1869, after only a few years in religious life, he founded a Trappist monastery in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which at that time was part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire.

Ten years later at the bidding of a South African bishop, he volunteered to start another monastery on the Cape of Good Hope. This happened three years later when he laid the cornerstone for the Monastery of Mariannhill near Durban, Kwa Zulu-Natal, which has since become a mission center known far beyond South Africa. In 1885 it was raised to an abbey. Neither of these two monasteries could have been built without Father pfanner’s conscious and skillful use of the printing press to further these projects right from their beginnings.

In Mariastern, his monastery near Banja Luka, Bosnia, he already used the press to win friends. His “Letters from the Vrbas Valley” were reprinted in many newspapers. Some of the letters even found their way into German and Austrian school readers. Then came pamphlets from his hand, with such catchy titles as, “Are You a Chimney Sweep?” or “Something for Unbelievers.” By the time his SouthAfrican project got underway, he, the self-made man, was already an accomplished publisher. Among the 30 monks who accompanied him to South Africa in 1880, there was also a layman, a printer. Father Pfanner also brought along his own manual printing press. He understood the importance of modern media. During the first year after their arrival in Africa, the first issue of his Flying Leaves appeared to report on the progress of the new venture. When Mariannhill was founded at Christmas 1882, the fourth issue was ready to go to press under the date of Dec. 27, 1882.
The magazine continued under the title Flying Leaves from Mariannhill. Later its title was changed to Forget-Me-Not. It still exists in the German-speaking world as Missionsmagazin Mariannhill. Soon other publications followed. A short historical survey of the mission publications of Mariannhill in southern Africa will show us how much Father Pfanner and his immediate successors were committed to remaining in the forefront of printed publications and how they set out on new ventures to improve their position. In 1888 two experiments with Zulu newspapers were made: Izwi laBantu (The People’s Voice), and Ingelosi yeNkosi (The Angel of the Lord). Unfortunately both experiments soon failed, but the monks were not discouraged. In 1902 another attempt was made with Umhlobo wesi-minya (Friend of Truth). This attempt also failed. In 1910 they finally succeeded in starting a newspaper that lasted. It was called Izindaba zaBantu (Bantu Affairs). At first it came out twice a month, but by 1932 it was already coming weekly. Mariannhill was the owner and publisher. The paper had two editions, one in Zulu and the other in Sesutho. When the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (O.M.L) in Roma, Lesotho, started their own newspaper, Mariannhill continued publishing only the Zulu edition of the paper. To make sure it would not be thought of as connected with the Communist party in southern Africa, they decided to change the name of the newspaper to UmAfrika (The African), the name it still has in this 21st-century. Mariannhill also published The Natal Record, an English-language news magazine for five years from 1885 to 1890 that had to be discontinued because of lack of subscribers. From 1901 to 1904 Pastor Bonus, a magazine for missionary pastoral matters, was published four times a year. Not content with all these diverse publications, Abbot Pfanner even considered building his own paper mill on the property of the Mariannhill mission center. Nothing came of it, but the idea lingered for a long time and shows once more how grandly the once silent monks of Mariannhill thought.

Still more popular than any of the foregoing publications was, and is, the Mariannhill Mission Calendar, a kind of almanac begun by Prior Pfanner in 1889. Its popularity is due to its larger circulation and uninterrupted appearance since 1889. In the beginning it too was printed in Mariannhill’s own print shop in South Africa. Later when it became impractical to print and mail the calendar from there, ways were found to have it printed and mailed in Germany. To this day the mission calendar remains one of the most· popular publications of the Mariannhill Missionaries in Germany and Austria. For years now both publications, the mission magazine and the calendar, have been printed by our congregation’s own modem printing press in Reimlingen, Germany, near Augsburg.

The spirit of Abbot Francis Pfanner still lives among the members of the religious congregations he started – Mariannhill Missionaries and the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood. Wherever these missionaries work, whether it is in Europe, North America, Africa or the South Seas, they always take seriously the apostolate of the press. They publish newspapers, calendars (almanacs), magazines and internal bulletins in the U.S., Canada, Germany, Austria, Spain, and Switzerland, as well as in South Africa and Papua New Guinea. By the way, until some decades ago our Leaves magazine had a companion publication called Apostle. For many years the Apostle also had a Polish edition for the benefit of the Polish immigrants to the U.S.

We Mariannhill Missionaries are very grateful to all our friends and benefactors, for without their generous help we could not have supported in the past the many projects of our missionaries in the Third World. Besides that, our Leaves magazine has not only been a means of contact between our missionaries and the home Church, but it has also inspired us individually to commit ourselves to the service of the whole Church. We are happiest when the magazine, like Abbot Francis, inspires even young people to dedicate themselves to evangelization. By means of his original publications and public relations work, he won some four hundred men for his monastery and about the same number of women for the sister congregation he founded. This is more than anyone else has done in the Church since the days of St. Bernard of Clairvaux in the Middle Ages. Abbot Francis Pfanner’s motto was: “If no one will go, I will.” His second motto was: “We are part of the Kingdom of God, and it has no boundaries.”
[Fr. Adalbert Balling, C.M.M., was the editor of our MMM mission magazine in Germany for many years and is the author of the book Abbot Francis Planner: A Missionary Who Made History and other books.]

Fr. Adalbert Balling, C.M.M.

Return to East Africa

According to the Chronicle of the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood (CPS), in 1897 Mariannhill had already sent some Trappist monks to East Africa to start a mission in Neu-Koeln, now Gare, in what is nowTanzania. Abbot Francis himself, together with Brother Nivard Streicher, paid them short visits in 1901 and 1902 in order to encourage them during their difficult time – five Trappists died within the first half year! In 1907 Abbot Obrecht, visitator of Mariannhill Monastery, demanded the withdrawal of the Trappists from East Africa. But the CPS sisters, who had joined them in 1898, remained behind.

It was under the guidance and the assistance of the CPS sisters that our CMM Province of Mthatha, in the person of Brother Pierre Ferland, got involved in an intensive vocation drive in East Africa in 1995. During his several visits to East Africa he also heard about the Social Ministry Program at Tangaza College, Nairobi, Kenya, a program geared towards a good training of Brothers and Sisters, helping them to understand their profession of vows as an essential ministry in the Church of today. It happened that our African provinces were looking at that time for such a program for the spiritual formation of their brothers.

Then Father Robert Deshaies, provincial superior, and Brother Yvon Bourret, both of the Province of Mthatha, joined the trek to Nairobi in order to finalize the arrangements for a CMM presence there. Eventually a suitable property with a house was purchased and officially opened in May 2000 by Brother Yvon and two young brothers as the Mariannhill house of formation, an inter-provincial residence where brother candidates of the four Southern African provinces could receive appropriate training for their future ministry. Soon an additional house on an adjacent property had to be purchased and enlarged to provide more rooms and space. Our CPS sisters proved to have been very helpful during these initial stages.

Not only were we present here in two houses, but in the meantime the Mariannhill Missionaries received their legal incorporation in Kenya, allowing them seriously to plan future developments.

In 2001 the new provincial superior of the Mthatha Province, Father Dieter Gahlen, asked Brother Yvon to become postulant master of the East African aspirants. In the meantime Father Philip Voorn arrived to give some help. But soon it became clear that a house of formation was not the ideal place for a postulancy. Another place was needed not only for the postulancy but also for the emerging East African community to constitute a complete home base in East Africa.

In May 2003 Brother Yvon and the postulants moved out of the formation house (Nivard House) and rented a building in the vicinity of Karen till we could find an appropriate property for the East African community project.

In November 2003 we found a suitable property and in March 2004 we moved in. On it there were an old farmhouse, servant quarters, another old house and some sheds for chickens. We renovated what we could to suit our needs for sheltering the community and the postulants. Our new home was named Christ the Prophet Community. In 2007 we built another house for the community, and in May 2009 we finished the building of the students housing complex, which can accommodate 24 students in a new candidacy program of three years.

Not long before our establishment in Kenya in 2000, the archbishop of Nairobi approached us and requested that we get involved pastorally in one way or another in the archdiocese. After some time we decided to accept his proposal of taking charge of a newly created parish at Juja Farm. The new parish presented many challenges: it is situated in a remote area that had been neglected for a long time, and it is becoming more and more attractive to the urban people, as it is not far from Nairobi and has high development potential. Father Robert Kaiza, a Tanzanian confrere, has been appointed to look after the needs of this new parish under our care.

East Africa has opened a new chapter in the history of Mariannhill. Not only is it favorable for vocations and the good spiritual and educational training of our young candidates and brothers, it also offers a lot of new opportunities for the work of evangelization. As this territory has at the same time Moslems, Christians and those of traditional African religions, the evangelization fields are here. The geographical position of East Africa also opens up opportunities for new missionary projects in neighboring countries like Sudan, Somalia, DRC, Congo, etc.

After eight years of hard work and the support of a good number of benefactors and people praying for us, we can say that a lot has been achieved. But this is only the beginning. The infrastructures we have put in place should allow us now to look forward, to get more involved and to open new fields of evangelization. Let Us thank God for the resources He has put in our hands up to now, and let us meet the numerous challenges we are called to face. May these new mission fields He shows us witness our commitment to the work our Trappist forefathers first started here more than a century ago, but had to abandon.

[Brother Yvon Bourret, C.M.M., a pioneer of our presence in Kenya, is the superior of postulants at Christ the Prophet House.]

Brother Yvon Bourret, C.M.M

Missionary methods in Papua New Guinea

The first Catholic missionaries arrived in Papua New Guinea in 1848. Priests and brothers of the newly founded Society of Mary (Marists) settled down on Woodlark Island and Rooke Island, the main island of what is now called Siassi Islands in the Diocese of Lae. A long period of technical and logistic preparations preceded the departure of Bishop Collomb and his team of Marists from Le Havre (France). Sailing via South America to Chile and from there zigzagging through the Pacific Islands down to New Zealand, Bishop Collomb and his team of two priests and one brother arrived after a long voyage of one year and three months in the region of New Guinea.
How were these zealous missionaries going to meet the challenges of their mission to a totally unknown and alien people and culture? How to pass on the Good News of Jesus Christ to the Melanesians dispersed over thousands of islands? The enthusiasm of the missionaries got a severe blow when, a few weeks after their arrival at Rooke Island, the leader of the mission and the Vicar Apostolic of the extensive Vicariate of Melanesia died of fever. Four months later one of the priests died also, leaving only one priest and one brother behind.

In spite of the great loss of two lives, the two remaining missionaries made the first attempts of evangelization by contacting the people. They operated from their house on the shore that the crew of the ship had built and went out to meet the people living in their surroundings. But it soon appeared that the European missionaries were ill-prepared for the challenge to communicate with the Melanesians, who observed the strangers with curiosity and scepticism. The two had first of all to try to survive in the harsh climate and lacked the skills to cope with practical things of daily life and particularly with health problems. They suffered much from malaria and fever. After all, the indigenous people looked upon them as poor men who were not able to face the many challenges of daily life in a tropical climate. They had little respect for them because they had nothing to offer them. It is understandable that in such a context nobody was interested in the attempts of the missionaries to proclaim the Good News. Their missionary method was also doomed to fail because the missionaries had the idea of planting a type of Western Church in an environment and culture that was totally strange to them. The bridge between Melanesian and the Western world was too big. After two years a ship came and the missionaries closed the station and left.

A second attempt by a team of missionaries of the Milan Mission Society, who arrived in 1850 and reopened the mission station at Rooke Island, remained also unsuccessful. The mission in New Guinea was abandoned two years later.
At the end of the 19th century French Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC) and German Divine Word Missionaries (SVD) restarted the mission in New Guinea. They were better prepared for their task and aimed with their mission methods among the Melanesians more at the cultivation of the whole person. Intellectual education through schools and practical training in agriculture and various trades were the ways to improve the quality of life in which the Christian values of the Gospel could better develop to maturity.

It was especially in the period between the two world wars that large mission stations were erected with big plantations and all kinds of establishments and institutions for various groups of people: children, youth and adults. This method contributed much to a higher self-esteem of the people and to becoming more deeply rooted in their new way of Christian life.

At a later stage after WWII, many mission stations were rebuilt and new ones established. The Catholic Mission began opening up to new missionary understandings. The need was felt to make the people more aware that they are the Church – not the missionaries with their big stations and institutions – they are the People of God as Papua New Guineans. This increasing self-awareness resulted in more local people taking up responsibilities in their own church on various levels of their communities.

The great importance given to education on a higher level also resulted in the development of a young generation of Catholic leaders who became the founding fathers of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, proclaimed in 1975. Many of the first generation of intellectuals and political leaders had gone through Catholic high schools and also seminaries, and contributed substantially to the drafting of the National Constitution that is expressly based on faith in God and on Christian and Melanesian values and principles. Today Papua New Guinea is 90% Christianized. The time of first evangelization of geographic territories is over. How does the Church understand her mission today and what methods are being used?

Instead of evangelizing tribes and territories, the challenge of missionizing lies in the many areas of the present society of Papua New Guinea. It is a matter of discerning, reading and interpreting the signs of the times, as mentioned in the Constitutions of the MariannhilI Missionaries. In this view there are many areas in Papua New Guinea that can be identified as challenges for missionary action. To mention only a few: priority of primary, secondary and tertiary education. The Divine Word University bas become a professional and highly appreciated institute for formation of future leaders. The importance of religious education, especially in high schools but also of the younger generation (Sunday School), as well as the spiritual accompaniment of university students, is being stressed. Work with and for women is being taken seriously as a method to improve family life. The Church supports actions against violence against women and children. Care for the sick especially AIDS patients, evangelization of prisoners, projects and actions of justice and peace, care for street kids, animating movements and organizations as the Legion of Mary, Couples for Christ, Antioch Youth, Women’s Association, Men’s Club – all of these are areas for missionary animation of the Christian way of life on various levels of society.

The role of the mass media and social communications has yet to be developed further as a missionary method to keep the Gospel values alive among the people. There is a weekly newspaper in Pidgin published by a Catholic Press, and a number of dioceses have their own broadcasting facilities in service of proclaiming the Good News and animating a Christian way of life. Much still has to be done in all these areas of missionary activities.
[Father Frans Lenssen, C.M.M., the author of the book The Missionaries of Mariannhill in Papua New Guinea: A Documentary of Their Mission in Lae, began to serve in Papua New Guinea in 1971.]

Father Frans Lenssen, C.M.M.

Films/Videos

Beginnings of the Missionaries of Mariannhill in the USA

Mariannhill Missionaries – Seminary in USA

Mariannhill Missionaries – St. Bernard Seminary 1951-1964

Mariannhill Missionaries – Vocations from the USA

Mariannhill Missionaries – Publications in USA