A Foundation in Egypt

The pre-history of the recent Benedictine foundation in Egypt started when Fatherr Maximilian Musindai OSB from Tigoni Priory was sent to Kairo for a doctorate in Islamic studies. During his studies he war repeatedly approached by Catholic Egyptians who were asking why the Catholic Church in Egypt did not have any religious house of the older monastic tradition. Their quest was understandable on the background of the important role which the monasteries have for the Orthodox Christianity in Egypt. Egypt is, after all, the cradle of monasticism, and a vigorous monastic tradition going back 1700 years provides the spiritual backbone of the Orthodox Coptic church. The small Catholic community, while culturally very much aligned with their Orthodox brethren, has had to do without that source of strength.

The Benedictine Congregation of Sankt Ottilien decided to answer this request and started the necessary preparations.

 

Coptic Benedictines

In March 2018 the first community was officially welcomed by the Coptic-Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria under the title of St Benedict of the Copts.

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Bischofssynode in Rom

Abt Jeremias Schröder OSB, Abtpräses unserer Kongregation, nimmt derzeit an der Bischofssynode teil, die im Vatikan zum Thema der Sendung der Familie stattfindet. Er ist einer der zehn Ordensoberen, die von der Vereinigung der Generaloberen (USG) gewählt wurden. Seinen Blog zur Synode finden Sie auf katholisch.de.

Am 6. Oktober hielt er im Plenum diese Drei-Minuten-Ansprache (übersetzt aus dem italienischen Original)

Heiliger Vater, lieber Brüder und Schwestern,

Mein Beitrag bezieht sich auf die Nr 28 [des Instrumentum Laboris] – Herausforderungen in einer globalisierten Welt.

Vor vier Wochen war ich in China. Dort habe ich mit Priestern und Diözesanverantwortlichen über diese Synode gesprochen. Sie haben mir erzählt, dass sie bedauern, dass aus Festlandschina an niemand an dieser Synode teilnehmen kann, deren Thema auch dort von größter Bedeutung ist. Was die Lage der Familien angeht, so haben sie mir erzählt, ist dies das größte Problem: in einer Kultur, in der die Autorität der Eltern noch derart groß ist, werden viele Ehen ohne innere Freiheit geschlossen. Dadurch entsteht viel Leid.

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“Any News from Cuba?”

Impressions gathered by Abbot Jeremias Schröder OSB, August 2015

 

This is the question I am asked most frequently. None of our recent foundations has provoked a similar interest. Answering the question is not easy. There is on the one hand the inner growth of our fledgling community. It is growing, not very fast but steadily. In March 2015 the first Cuban monk made his vows, others are planning to follow suit. The external growth is not exactly rampant; the construction of our first proper monastery requires approval statements from 7 government departments. And there are surprises. Recently we learned that the whole plot could be flooded and is therefore out of bounds for any construction. A few months later, after intensive research and Überzeugungsarbeit the objection was lifted – saving our future. It took us two years to get the permission to import a new tractor from abroad. The paper has now arrived and we can place the order. Meanwhile, we have managed to obtain an ancient Russian vehicle – at least something, so that the first roads into our future farm can be made. Sopmetimes things drag on, and everything appears bitterly bureaucratic, and then suddenly there is a leap forward, – often promoted “from above”, and in Cuba that is not a metaphysical category. Read more

Short Films

DOK-TV, a joint film production company owned by several religious congregations, has published a serioes of short films under the title “Lebensweisen” – ways of life. Three of these look at our monasteries:

Episode 3 introduces the St. Ottilien street art project.

Episode 9 describes Münsterschwarzach’s quest for sustainable energy generation.

Episode 11, too, was produced at St. Ottilien and presents the groundbreaking Recollectio-Haus , an institution for priests, religious and laypeople in need of recovery.

Our Congregation is a share holder of DOK-TV.

 

Vows in Cuba

On March 21st, the solemnity of St Benedict, the first Cuban monks has made his temporal vows at Havanna. Bro Sebastian (40) was born in the capital. During the next three years he will continue to undergo theological and practical formation, and already assume some responsibilities in the monastic community.

The monastery at Havanna was etablished in 2008. Currently the community consists of four confreres. It is still based in temporary quarters in the Vedado part of the capital. The construction of the future monastery, a farm and guest house is being prepared at San José de las Lajas, 35 km southeast of the Havanna.

News from North Korea

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports about a North Korea trip which involved Fr Tassilo Lengger of Sankt Ottilien. Fr Tassilo, a trained agronomist, joined a delegation led by parliamentarian Hartmut Koschyk. The delegation initially took part in a service at the Pyongyang catholic cathedral, but felt compelled to leave when the sermon developed into a political diatribe.

At this time there is no public Catholif life in North Korea. The cathedral which was dedicated in 1988, is occasionally used for services, mainly in connection with the visits of foreign delegations. There are no bishops, priests or religious resident in the country. The ecclesiastical superior is the Cardinal archbishop of Seoul who holds the office of apostolic administrator of Pyongyang diocese.

The Missionary Benedictines came to Korea in 1909 and have been working in the North of the country since 1914. 38 members of the Benedictine mission where killed between 1949 and 1952. The territorial abbey Deogwon (Tokwon) near the habour city of Wonsan currently only exists on paper. Given the long history of involvement with the country, the Congregation contiues to feel a missionary responsibility for North Korea. The Holy See has appointed the abbot of Waegwan Abbey in South Korea as apostolic administrator of Deogwon. Through the efforts of abbot primate Notker Wolf a hospital was built at Rason which is supported by the Benedictines.

Generation Change

In 2014/2015 six of our monasteries are changing their superiors.

On 24 Januar 2015 Tigoni Priory elected Fr John Baptist Oese Imai (37) as new Conventual Prior. His last posting had been the Nairobi City parish of St Benedict, after several years as novice master of the community.

On February 10th the monks of Inkamana Abbey elected Fr John Paul Mwaniki (47) as successor of Abbot Godfrey Sieber (74) who had been in office for 12 years. Fr John Paul hails from Kenya. He was elected Prior  Administrator for a period of three years. A prior administrator is a superior with all rights and duties of an abbot, but elected for a shorter period. He does not use the abbatial insignia.

Further elections are due soon in Venezuela and Tanzania.

Nairobi’s Prison Nursery

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung, a Swiss quality daily, reports on 3 January about the nursery which Fr Peter Meienberg of Uznach Abbey has set up in Nairobi’s biggest prison for women. Fr Peter has been working as a missionary in East Africa since 1961. He is the founder of Faraja Trust which maintains several charitable institutions in and near the Kenyan capital.

New Superiors

Just before Christmas 2014 the monks of Digos Priory in the Philippines elected their new Conventual Prior: Fr Patrick Mariano. He is the first Filipino to lead the community, making his election a historic landmark for the monastery. Fr Patrick (b 1959) succeeds Fr Edgar Friedmann who was prior 2002-2014. Previously, Fr Patrick was subprior, novice master and director of the retreat center.

On December 5th 2014 the community of St Georgenberg-Fiecht in Austria has elected Fr Raphael Gebauer Prior Administrator of the abbey. He succeeds Abbot Anselm Zeller who had been abbot since 1996 and resigned on December 1st. Prior Raphal (b. 1958) served the community as bursar and novice master, and attended to the mountain shrine at St Georgenberg. Fiecht was founded in  1138 and joined the Congregation of Sankt Ottilien in 1967. The abbey maintains a missionary monk in Mbulu archdiocese in Tanzania and supports many other mission activities.

Monasteries Receive Refugees

As countless refugees from the Middle East and other trouble spots knock at the gates of Europe, our monasteries have decided to open their doors. Abbot Michael Reepen of Münsterschwarzach refers to a “a genuine monastery task” as his community prepares to receive 22 refugees in a converted former boarding house of the abbey. St. Ottilien Abbey plans to have space for a similar number ready in February of next year. St. Georgenberg-Fiecht in Austria has been sharing the abbey building for several years with a growing group of “unaccompanied minors” – young people who have reached Europe without their parents and whose care is entrusted to Caritas Austria. In this way the monks also fufill a request of Pope Francis who shortly after taking office had admonished the church to make surplus buildings available for those who have lost their homes.