In 1884 Andreas Amrhein, an ex-monk of Beuron, established a ‚St Benedictus Mission Society’ at Reichenbach in North-East Bavaria. This first mission house in Germany was transferred to a hamlet called Emming in 1887. The place was later renamed ‘Sankt Ottilien’ in honour of St Odilia to whom a local shrine was dedicated. In that same year of 1887 the fledgling community was entrusted with its first mission territory in East Africa.
The first years until the departure of Amrhein in 1895 where marked by crises and setbacks in Germany and Africa. In 1896 Sankt Ottilien was formally constituted as a Benedictine Conventual Priory and the East-African missions became the Apostolic Prefecture of Daressalaam.
After further consolidation St Ottilien was raised in 1902 to an abbey and the mission to an Apostolic Vicariate with a bishop at its head. Already in 1901 another German foundation had been started which later became Münsterschwarzach Abbey. Two more German abbeys at Schweiklberg and Meschede, Uznach abbey in Switzerland and the transfer of St Georgenberg-Fiecht to the congregation added to the European base of the congregation which today consists of six abbeys (including St. Ottilien, an archabbey since 1914 and see of the congregation curia), 2 dependent priories and 2 smaller monasteries.
In 1909 the Congregation accepted a missionary call to Korea and the result was the establishment of an abbey in Seoul. This was later transferred to Tokwon (present day North Korea) and it covered a part of North Korea and North-East China. In 1922 Yenki (Yanji, Yongil) Abbey was erected with its extensive mission area. This mission success in East Asia was later destroyed by the communist regimes of China and North Korea. In the process, about 40 monks and sisters were martyred. Those monks who survived did not lose heart though. In 1952 they founded a new monastery of Waegwan (South Korea) which is at the moment the biggest Abbey in Asia.
As the consequence of the First World War, the East African Mission was badly affected and hence limited itself in the southern part of the present day Tanzania in the territorial abbeys of Ndanda and Peramiho. 7 Dioceses were born out of these major missionary centers. As the result of the war, missionaries of German origin were driven out of their stations and this resulted to the taking over of the Zulu Mission (between 1921-1924) as well as founding of new monasteries in the USA and Venezuela. The foundation in Colombia came later.
Nazi policies with its eventual Second World War in Europe as well as destroying monasteries in East-Asia had very negative effect to the Congregation. However, after the War the old mission territories started to prepare themselves to become independent under their own local bishops. At the same time Hanga Abbey – a community with more African tone – was founded in Tanzania. Hanga Abbey founded another community in Mvimwa which become an abbey later. In the following years the mission-oriented monasteries started to recruit local vocations which later led to a gradual africanization of monastic life in Africa, a process which still goes on.
The 1980s was characterized by founding other different monasteries. Communities in Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, and Togo as well as on the Philippines were founded. In 1985 new efforts were made to renew the old missionary ties in North-East China in order to work with the local church there. Thanks to many religious vocations in Korea which made several foundations within the Peninsula possible. In 2002 the Korean Benedictines took over Newton Abbey in USA which had suffered a serious lack of new vocations. Other smaller communities emerged in Spain, North Korea, Kazakhstan and Cuba.
From the very beginning of the Congregation, the missionary work has been always been supported by Sisters. Amrhein grounded a women’s branch known today as Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing. Other sisters’ communities whose existence directly or indirectly goes back to Amrhein’s foundation or the work of the Missionary Benedictines are the Benedictine Sisters of St. Agnes and Ndolo Sisters in Tanzania; the Congregation of St. Alban with houses in Germany and South Africa; the Sisters’ Congregation of the Eucharistic King on the Philippines and the Olivetine Sisters of Pusan in South Korea as well as the Oshikuku Sisters in Namibia and the Secular Institute of St. Boniface in Detmold.