Wednesday, December 16, 2015

130th Jubilee of the Congregation and the Year of Consecrated Life: Torres Novas Priory

 In 2015, we look back upon 130 years of our history, with more than 1300 women living as Missionary Benedictine Sisters. Over the coming months of the Year of Consecrated Life we will bring to you the histories of our Priories and Sisters across the World.



Our mission history in Angola is marked with lots of hard work and sufferings.

On March 6, 1931, the pioneering Sisters, Sr. Alberta Fischer, Sr. Adriana Kästle, Sr. Anthusa Kindl and Sr. Veremunda Fürst, arrived in Ganague, South of Angola. On the following year, with our Sisters, Ildephonsa Behr, Nazarina Lechner, Frowina Hutter and Isberga Gruber, Cuchi mission was founded, followed by the Cuvango community: (Sr. Dietlinde Kleinlein, Sr. Gebtraud Grimminger, Sr. Hadmunda Hollik and Sr. Regulinde Reiter). The Sisters were invited by the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, to take care of the orphans and the intern girls and their formation, as well as catechism, pastoral and nursing care. These communities were part of the Windhoek Priory.

The three communities worked with the priests of the Holy Spirit and later on with the Redemptorist priests. At the beginning of the World War II, the German Sisters were expelled. But because the Superior of Cuchi hid all their passports, it was impossible for them to leave.

After WW II, the community of Cuchi was strengthened with the presence of other Sisters. In 1967, four of our Sisters, invited by The Singeverga Abbey and the Bishop of Luso, who was also Benedictine, started one community in Cazombo, east of Angola, near Congo. This foundation was done from Portugal and the community belonged to the Baltar Priory.

In the year 1972, the mission in Serpa Pinto, now Menongue, capital of Kuando-Kubango province, was opened.   

It was very difficult that time because of the fight for independence which was everywhere. After the declaration of Independence, twenty-seven years of civil war followed. In 1975, our Sisters were advised to leave Angola. Then the Sisters of Cazombo community left followed by the Cuchi and Serpa Pinto communities.

In 1977 three Sisters returned to Angola and were working in Menongue. Meanwhile, the need of having a house in Luanda was getting stronger. How could it be possible to install a community in the Capital? Thus in 1982 a community were opened on the 10th floor of a building which was not very easy due to the prevalent lack of electricity. The Sisters worked at the Episcopal Conference and the National Caritas. In 1991, St. Andrew’s convent was founded in Petrangol district, periphery (outskirts) of Luanda which served as the formation house. Later on, the sisters were able to acquire two small houses, annexed, at the center of the city, where the sisters of St. Benedict community lived until 2013. From the sale of St. Andrew’s house, it was possible to acquire a land in Kikolo where a convent and formation house were built.

Already at the time as the Sisters were living in Cazombo, there were young ladies interested in our way of life. The fruit of work on vocation promotion is our Sr. Teresa Maria Umba Cutaneguera, the first African vocation in our Congregation. On the 80’s the Angolan formandees had their formation in Nairobi. In after years, the formation was moved to Luanda. Recently, the plan is that part of the formation of Angolan young formandees is to be spent in Windhoek, for them to experience at the very beginning of their formation the internationality of our congregation.  
The communities of Angola were part of the Generalate District in 1983. Since 2003 the Region of Angola is affiliated  to Torres Novas Priory.

Our Mission in Angola at present


Kikolo is an area of 2,4ha acquired in 1998. At that time it was outside the city, but like Luanda, it’s growing rapidly. Now the community is at the middle of a very poor population. It is the only religious community present in St. Elisabeth parish. The sisters are very much involved in many pastoral works. In our terrain there is a school functioning for the formation of the youth and adults, which was initiated by Caritas. We assumed the running of the said school from 2014. Since then, seven classrooms were constructed and some other improvements were being made, so much the construction as well as the pedagogical organization.  



The community is composed of seven Sisters who are dedicated in pastoral education in our school with more than a thousand students. One Sister is working as a nurse in the public hospital. Apart from their collaboration in the Cathedral parish, some of the Sisters travel to Cuchi every Saturday to gather the people for Catechism and prayers, in the middle of the ruins of our old houses.


In 1998, the community in Kuito, Capital of the Province of Bié, was opened. The city was devastated during the civil war. The fact that in Kuito there are plenty of schools wherein the sisters as well as the young formandees who are preparing for consecrated life, could study, is beneficial for the small community.


 The Bishop of the Sumbe Diocese invited us to work in Waku-Kungo. In 2011 a land was given to us. After a long process to obtain the land title, we began to construct a convent. Waku-Kungo is situated between Luanda and Menongue, which favors the easy communication of the communities. The plan for this community is to dedicate to the human and religious formation of the village population, with its preference on the women formation.
The beginning of our mission in Portugal is connected with the history of the Congregation in Angola.

The Sisters of Cuchi wanted to have Portuguese speaking sisters in the community.  Sr. Cristina Eloy da Rosa, a junior Sister, was sent from Sorocaba Priory to Cuchi, where she had her perpetual vows. The Abbot of Singeverga, who was visiting the monks in Mexico, came for the preparation for Sr. Cristina’s final profession. D. Gabriel de Sousa witnessed the dedication of the Sisters and appreciated their good spirit. Thus he asked from the Mother General, Mother Maria Lucas Rauch, to send Sisters for the foundation in Portugal, to prepare vocations for Angola.

On June 9, 1961, feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the “new” convent in Bande was inaugurated. The pioneering Sisters were Sr. Liobolda Fetsch, Sr. Martinha Rodrigues, Sr. Regina Lansang and Sr. Wiltrud, now Monika Zahnbrecher. The farmstead of Bande was given in testament to the Singeverga Abbey with religious finality. There were existing two small farm houses, two houses for the caretakers and 11.500m2 of land. The Abbey would only hand it over to us with the condition of opening a novitiate for the formation of missionaries. And the first candidates have come.

In 1967, four Sisters on board went to Cazombo, Angola, for the foundation of a community.  Consequently, the Congregation is recognized as Missionary Congregation in Portugal.

The Sisters have had struggled so much to obtain their sustenance. They opened a school in Paços de Ferreira, a neighbouring place of Bande. The Sisters collaborated with the Social Center in Baião and gave lessons in one “telescola”, a way of learning via television wherein the pupils are accompanied with a “teacher” as they followed a program in the TV, giving lessons on basic subjects. But these two initiatives ended in frustrations.

In 1967, a new offer arose in Paredes, 17 km from Bande that promises a better future. They started a school and some of the Sisters transferred from Bande to Paredes. A year after, the sisters bought a house in Baltar with vast terrain where they can construct a new school.

In 1972, the three communities, Baltar, Bande and Cazombo formed as one Priory with Sr. Lúcia Jörger as the first Prioress.  April 25, 1974 – the military coup brought down the government. The new regime of the government threatens the existence of private schools. In our neighborhood a state-owned secondary school began to function. In June 1977, the sisters were obliged to close the school.

In 1975, the Cazombo community have had to withdraw due to civil war. The Priory of Baltar was suppressed and the community directly was made a dependent  of  the Generalate District. From 1977 to 1983, only the community of Baltar existed in Portugal. Two sisters, Sr. Plácida and Sr. Maria Goretti, were working at EMAUS, center for the mentally handicapped.  Other sisters were dedicated to pastoral work or studying.   

In 1983, Sr. Edhilt Fasel was nominated Superior and in charged to search for another place of work. D. António Francisco Marques, bishop of the Diocese of Santarém, invited the Sisters to administer “Casa de Repouso”, the Nursing Home in Torres Novas, pertaining to Santa Casa da Misericórdia. They worked here from 1984 to 2011.

The sisters received a land beside the Casa de Repouso for the construction of the Monastery and a Nursing Home.  In 1966, Torres Novas became the Priory house. A year after, the communities of Spain integrated to the Priory. 
Our mission in Portugal at present
Torres Novas
St. Benedict’s Monastery is the Priory house. The community is dedicated in taking care of the elderly. Our nursing home has its capacity of 37. It is a service that requires lot of dedication and it responds to the great necessity of a society which is more and more aging.

In our garden, we have plenty of fruit trees, legumes and vegetables. Every Sunday, our Chapel is filled of Mass goers. We are in good relations with the parish, the Diocese of Santarém and the city.
The four sisters of the community in Baltar are all retired. They are active in pastoral work: Catechism, Liturgy, Parish Council and Ministry of Communion; Visiting families, Vicentinos, Sacristy and Feasts. The sisters are very much appreciated by the population.
(with Mother Angela Strobel-center)
The history of our community in Spain is very special.
In 1914, a group of Spanish youth who were working in the Abbey of New Norcia, Australia, formed a religious association, which transformed into a “Pia Unio” in 1921. These young ladies, with private vows, called themselves “Benedictine Oblate Sisters”.
In 1933, two Sisters from this group went to Belgium and had their Canonical Novitiate in the community of the active Benedictines in Maredsous. Two years after, which was in the year 1935, the “Benedictine Oblate Sisters” were approved as Diocesan Congregation. Since 1962, their name was changed to “Missionary Benedictines of New Norcia.” From 1978 the Congregation became part of the Benedictine Confederation.
In the Abbey, the Sisters had been working with children. Three of them, formed one community in the mission in Kalumburu (North of Australia) and dedicating themselves to the evangelization of the aborigines, together with the Benedictine Priests.
In 1964, six of the Sisters returned to Spain. They worked with special children in Madrid. From 1968 to 1979, there was an existing community in Barcelona.
In 1973, a day care for children on the ground floor of the building was opened in Parla, a neighbouring city of Madrid. The Sisters were living on the third floor of the same building. After four years, a residence for students was opened in Carabanchel, Madrid, with a community of the Sisters at the house next door.
Due to absence of vocations, the Congregation of the Benedictine Missionaries of New Norcia, decided in their General Chapter on 1981, to ask for integration to the Congregation of the Missionary Benedictines of Tutzing. The petition was accepted in our General Chapter of 1982.
After the probation period of two years, the integration was made, with the approval of the Holy See.
The Sisters of the Manila Priory helped a lot during the integration period. They started on pastoral work with the Filipino migrant workers in Madrid and Barcelona. There were then three communities in Spain: in Madrid where the residence for female students is; in Parla with the day care for children and in Barcelona, very much dedicated on pastoral work with the Filipino migrant workers.
In Barcelona, they formed a group of Oblates of St. Benedict, very faithful to us, even though there were no resident Sisters since 2000. A Sister from Madrid or Portugal regularly visits the Oblates for their formation. In Madrid there is also a continuous contact with the Filipino community and a group of Oblates.
Three countries, three histories, one Priory –great challenges, lot of efforts, big differences within one and the other reality, but the same ideal that unites us.
(Priory Chapter Council)


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Meet Our Sisters; Sr. Inviolata Mukhaabi, OSB

(Meet Our Sisters will be a Blog Series to get to know our Sisters from the Missionary Benedictine Sisters in Norfolk, NE. Each month we will feature a new Sister and her journey to become a Missionary Benedictine Sister.)


Born: Kakamega, Kenya on June 4th 1978
First Profession: January 25th 2002
Final Profession: July 11th 2007
Feast Day: December 8th
Mission Experience: Kenya (Spent 7 years in USA for studies)
I first wanted to be a nun when I was in 2nd grade. I thought it was the coolest thing ever!! What brought this on? My aunt (my Mother’s sister) joined religious life at this time and I heard the family talking about it. As I listened, I thought that one day I would also like to be a Sister. Honestly I had no idea what it all contained but hearing my Mother describe it made it sound like heaven. That desire stayed with me and as I grew and matured so did my thoughts about being a Sister. Dimmed for a time, this desire resurfaced when I was in high school and by then I knew that this is where God was calling me to live. During my high school years, I was exposed to so many religious Sisters and of course so many priests that I knew what being a Sister would be like. I wasn’t naïve to think that it was all milk and honey, but I knew that since God was pulling me towards this consecrated way of life, then he will see me through. At the core of my discernment was the desire to be available to God’s mission in my life and help touch lives and make a difference not so much by what I do but what I am.
My greatest grace in this life has been seeing how God has transformed me over the years. Living in community has brought me into deeper appreciation of not only my fellow Sisters but especially who I am as an individual. TO fully live community life, I have discovered that one has to be fully conscious of here giftedness and constantly aware of how God is calling her to use those gifts. It is also about knowing those areas that need some ‘pruning’ to enable abundant fruits.
Community life has also been at the root of my challenges as a Sister. I joined the convent straight out of high school, so one can say I did not have enough adult experience of independence to struggle with. However I was very independent growing up and I have no trouble at all expressing myself. In a community, that can be trouble at times and I have plenty of those. I have had to learn that it doesn’t have to be as I see it and it is OK to be wrong. Another challenge for me has been staying away from my family for too long. Back in Kenya I was able to visit my family every year, but it is so hard to see everyone in just 10 days. As a student in the USA, I was away from home for 7 consecutive years. That was tough, though I have the best family in the whole world and they were so supportive and understanding. That made it easier for me to be away for that extended period of time.
To those discerning religious life, I would encourage you to be open to the voice of God. Sometimes He gets drowned by the many voices around, but listen to your feelings, thoughts and desires. Take a risk and cast into the deep waters for a catch. You won’t be alone but the Lord will be right there with you.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

130th Jubilee of the Congregation and the Year of Consecrated Life: Seoul Priory

 In 2015, we look back upon 130 years of our history, with more than 1300 women living as Missionary Benedictine Sisters. Over the coming months of the Year of Consecrated Life we will bring to you the histories of our Priories and Sisters across the World.

God granted the German Sisters who survived years of life in the cruel concentration camp in communist North Korea, the faith and courage to return to the war-torn country, the land of the martyrs, South Korea. Their self-sacrificing dedication was rewarded by numerous numbers of young vocations which gave new foundation in Daegu a rapid growth. It was already in the priory chapter in 1971, the suggestion to make a new independent priory in the hope that true Benedictine spirituality could be better lived in smaller community, was up for discussion. After 15 years of deliberations, the priory chapter in 1986 finally came to a decision to establish a new priory in Seoul. On Nov. 16, 1987, Seoul Priory dedicated to St. Gertrud was born with 72 Sisters and 9 stations, mainly located in and surrounding area of Seoul, the capital of South Korea. It started as an independent priory with its novitiate which opened with 3 postulants from the Daegu Priory immediately.
On Oct. 13, 1989, the construction of Seoul Priory House located in the compound of SanJi Retreat Center which had served as the seat of the new priory, was completed and blessed. The Church in Korea needed Sisters in many fields of apostolic work, and the Lord sent us a good number of vocations for the new priory to expand and develop.

Since the founding year, we have established 7 stations for parish ministry and a clinical pastoral center in the Seoul National University Hospital. We also founded the first oversea station in respond to the spiritual need of Korean immigrants in USA.  Sisters of this station take care of Korean nationals in New Jersey and New York areas.

In 1991, we built a socio-pastoral center in the periphery of Seoul to welcome the children from broken families. This center has recently been renovated to house a counseling center after being used as a temporary shelter for North Korean refugees for some years. In 1993, St. Joseph House for the elderly with hearing impairment was constructed in Wongog, southern province of Seoul. Caritas Children’s Center started offering special education to the children with multiple handicaps, and Suyu Soup Kitchen opened to distribute free hot lunch for the poor elderly since 1998.
In 2000, Seoul Priory House was finally able to extend its space with new annex connected to its main building. Thanks to the Passionist Fathers who had generously rented their seminary house for our young Sisters of growing community for 8years!
In 2004, Bundo Village, a nursing home, was built in Pocheon. Two years later, in the compound of the Priory House, Seoul Benedict Kindergarten started providing Catholic education to the children of the neighborhood of the convent which was then surrounded by newly built apartment complex. Counseling services by our Sisters for the children were followed. Benedict Education Center in beautiful countryside of Gicheonri was set up in 2010. It aims to offer nature-friendly experiences as well as cultural and spiritual programs.
Upon the invitation of Bishop Peter Kang of Jeju diocese, Benedict Counseling Center was blessed in 2014. In 2015, we built Benedict Center in the compound of the Priory House to accommodate a counseling center, a Bible school, and a place for our oblates.

28 years after its beginning, 133 Sisters (128 final professed, 5 juniors) actively engaged in prayer and work in the Priory House and 15 local houses. We thank God for giving us still some good vocations, though rapid decline in number as almost all religious congregations experience nowadays in Korea.

We proclaim the good news in 10 parishes, a retreat house, a Bible school, a pastoral center in a hospital, and a mission center for hearing-impaired persons. We care for the disabled in a children’s center, a special school, a house for the hearing-impaired elderly. Every day the aged and the poor are welcomed in our nursing home, and in our two soup kitchens. Sisters endeavor to lay Christian value education in 5 kindergartens and an education center. We work for spiritual need of Korean immigrant communities in NJ and NY areas in the States, while trying to give assistance to immigrants in our own country. We are proud of two renowned artist Sisters who design and adorn many chapels and holy shrines with their sacred artistic works. We have sent 8 missionaries to 4 priories, and always give serious considerations to respond to the need of inter-priory sharing.
Recently we put our special efforts in counseling ministry mainly by means of Sandplay therapy.  It is an answer to the urgent need for spiritual and psychological healing ministry in Korean society and a fitting way by which aging Sisters can effectively help clients based on their life-long experience of faith and human understanding.  We opened 4 centers with one more in preparation.

From the foundation days, Seoul priory intended to have solidarity with the poor, giving more considerations for them as prescribed in its Priory Statutes. Thus we respond to the need of the poor in caring for the hearing-impaired persons, mentally handicapped, and children with multiple disabilities in special facilities. We feed free hot meals in two soup kitchens. In parishes, Sisters visit and help the poor and lonely.  Our kindergartens and counseling centers provide favors to children from multi-cultural background, poor or disadvantaged families. Children from broken families are being taken in our two group-homes.

We are grateful to the Lord that invitations for more fields of apostolate do continue to arrive, and we know that one of the important criteria for a discernment process should be whether the new work would benefit the poor.


Monday, November 9, 2015

Update from Sr. Rosann Ocken's New Mission: Jinja, Uganda

Dear all!
Loving greetings from Paradise!  Well!  The weather and surroundings are about as perfect as one can imagine. The sun shines gently; I think because it is “winter” now.  Temps range usually between 75 and 83.  The humidity is generally around 50 %.  It rains at least something every day.  Sometimes the rains are very strong, but mostly, it is a nice shower.  

This first photo is the front of the convent.  The second photo is of the front yard looking away from the convent.  You see we have such nice green and beautiful flowers.  The third photo is the view we have from the back of the house out to Lake Victoria.  
We had our official (once-in-six-years) visitation from our leadership in Rome.  The photo below is taken of the two “Romans” with our community.  Two of our sisters are missing from the photo because they are out of the country.

This gives you a sense of our community.  There is only one Postulant in the photo (on the left).  The other five are in Kenya having their formation (Postulancy and Novitiate) there.  

We took our guests to “The Source of the Nile”.  It is just 20 minutes-drive and a small boat ride away.   The photos are on the next page.  It is an amazing experience.  I feel like I’m at the naval of the earth!!! The visitation has taken up most of our energy.

The visitors left on Thursday, so we are only now trying to get into a normal sense of life here.  On the whole, it is going far better than I imagined. 
 I am sure your prayers are helping us.  Please keep them coming!  I will tell you more about the ministries as I get more acquainted.  For now…to thank you for your loving support and prayers and to let you know that things are going well-enough. For today…almost time for prayer.  Love and prayers to all of you! 
Sr. Rosann

Friday, November 6, 2015

Meet Our Sisters: Sr. Philomena Roche, OSB

(Meet Our Sisters will be a Blog Series to get to know our Sisters from the Missionary Benedictine Sisters in Norfolk, NE. Each month we will feature a new Sister and her journey to become a Missionary Benedictine Sister.)

Born November 17th 1931, Christchurch, New Zealand.
First Profession: December 8th 1949
Final profession: December 8th 1952.
Feast Day: August 11th
Mission Experience: Philippines, Australia, Winnebago, Norfolk

Religious Journey:

I entered the enclosed Contemplative Benedictines in Sydney, Australia at the age of 16. I was there from 1948 till 1970 when I changed to the Benedictine Missionary Sisters in New Norcia, West Australia. These mainly Spanish Sisters had 2 orphanages, one for girls and one for boys. They returned to Spain in 1974 and Sr. Veronica Willaway and I went to Spain. We both helped in Casa del Nino for children of working mothers. When more help was needed where 3 of the Spanish Sisters had remained, Sr. Veronica and I went back to Australia to help there. I was put in charge of the Kindergarten, took the weather reports for the Perth Meteorological station (transmitted via radio), I had care of the poultry (ducks and fouls); I helped with the religious instruction in the government school there. I was in Kalumburu for 8 years (1978-1986). In 1982 we all transferred to the Tutzing Missionary Benedictine Sisters.

In 1986, I was assigned to Marikina in the Philippines for two years as one of the 4 helpers to the librarian in the grad school library. I was also the sacristan (with a good helper) for the chapel where there were many masses (weekly) for the 6,000 students. Some masses were held in the gymnasium.

In 1988 I was assigned to Baguio where more help was needed for the aged Sisters. I was in charge of the laundry and gave weekly religious instruction to the many domestic helpers. July 16 1990 was the big Baguio earthquake and the guest area was badly damaged, so not much work for the laundry. More help was needed in Kalumburu, West Australia and I was asked if I was willing to return there. So I was back there from 1990 until 1995 when I came here to Norfolk.
I was in Winnebago from 1996 till 2003 when I was diagnosed to have cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart) so I needed to do less work. I came back here to Norfolk where I visit the sick and ageing and write letters to prisoners. I thank God for all these missionary experiences.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Abby in the Abbey: "Forever" Vows

Whew!  It has been a long time since I sat down to write something to everyone.  This past week-end I was sooo busy helping the Sisters because two of my bestest friends, Sr. Fidelis Marie and Sr. Madeleine made their “forever” vows.  That means they will stay here forever and gosh does that make me happy!  There were so many friends here and I tried hard not to bark and to be on my best behavior.  After all of this I just got to thinking….

How many people in this world can just say “yes” to doing something forever?  I think there is a word called “commitment” that people use.  I really don’t know what that means, but Sr. K says it means that when you say you’ll do something that you stick with it and don’t give up when things get hard.  That is something difficult for me to understand because us dogs just move on when things don’t work out for us.  For people it is different because they are supposed to know what commitment means. 

In the meantime as Sr. K says, “stay the course, keep your eyes on God and have faith that everything will work out” because God will never let any of us down.