Thursday, July 16, 2015

130th Jubilee of the Congregation and the Year of Consecrated Life: Windhoek 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.


An urgent need for new missionaries arose in South West Africa, now Namibia, after World War I. The only female congregation at that time, the Franciscan Sisters of Nonnenwerth, was requested by their Generalate to leave “Maria Hilf Hospital” in Windhoek, now called “Roman Catholic Hospital”.

Fr. Eugene Klaeyle, the Apostolic Prefect and Fr. Damian Arnold, his representative in South West Africa, looked for other Sisters to take over the hospital and other mission stations. As early as 1917, Fr. Arnold tried to request for the German Sisters, former missionaries in East Africa who were detained in Camp Tempe near Bloemfontein in South Africa, for mission work in South West Africa but instead the Sisters were repatriated to Germany in April 1919.

Fr. Arnold wrote the Bishop of Augsburg in Germany, Bishop Maximilian von Lingg, who submitted the concern to the Prioress of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters on February 24, 1920. On the same day, the Bishop received the response of Mother Birgitta Korff, OSB that the Congregation was open to send some Sisters to the mission in South West Africa.

Eight Sisters left Tutzing on November 7, 1920, the first ones to travel to Africa after World War I and the last ones sent out by Mother Birgitta as Prioress General. On November 11, 1920, they boarded the “Baltika” in Hamburg, the first German steamer that would cast anchor in Namibia. Among them were former East African missionaries and a new missionary. They landed on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean at Walvisbay and began their “Service that Saves and Heals” in Swakopmund. They were: Sr. Beatrix Biefel, OSB, Superior, St. Anselma Schnitzbauer, OSB, Sr. Constancia Mayr, OSB, Sr. Gabriela Reiter, OSB, Sr. Ingridis Meiller, OSB, Sr. Franziska Mövenkamp, OSB, Sr. Relindis Bessinger, OSB and Sr. Sophia Ohnmacht, OSB.

Within a short time, mission stations in Kavango and Owamboland were opened. On April 16, 1923, the Sisters took over the administration and work in the Roman Catholic Hospital in Windhoek. On June 26, 1926, the Holy See approved the canonical erection of St. Benedict Priory of Windhoek. The decades that followed were dedicated to the expansion and consolidation of the work begun under mostly troublesome, arduous, poor and difficult conditions. Sisters in 17 missions in Namibia and also 2 missions in Angola (Cuchi and Serpa Pinto/Menongue) until 1975 served the people in education, health care, pastoral work, farming and many others.

A turning point was reached in 1993. A Novitiate was canonically established in the Priory. The first aspirant was a Filipina followed by three Namibians.

The Priory marked another milestone in its history when Sisters from the Congregation of the Benedictine Sisters of Oshikuku requested for integration. The process was done in different phases and Sisters were accepted on the following dates: 2 Sisters were accepted on January 15, 1994; 1 on May 19 1998; 53 on August 29 1999, and 5 on July 1, 2000. 

Due to expansion of the Roman Catholic Hospital and the growth in membership in the Priory, the Priory House was transferred to Nubuamis, Windhoek and was blessed on July 15, 2000.

To date, the Priory consists of 80 Perpetually Professed Sisters, 28 Temporary Professed Sisters, 5 Novices, 5 Postulants and 3 Aspirants. From the 108 Professed Sisters, there are 88 Namibians,  6 Germans, 1 South African, 4 Filipinas, 3 Koreans, 1 Australian, 1 Angolan, 2 Nigerians, 1 Ugandan and 1 Tanzanian. The Sisters serve in 11 mission stations and 1 outreach station in the fields of education, health care, pastoral work, farming, catechism and first evangelization, apostolate of prayer, parish work, hostel management and feeding.

The following are the stations:
  • In Windhoek: St. Benedict’s Priory House in Nubuamis and St. Scholastica’s Community at Roman Catholic Hospital (RCH) in the City of Windhoek
  • In Swakopmund: Haus St. Benedikt
  • In the Kavango Region: Bunya Community at St. Eugene Roman Catholic Mission in Bunya; Shambyu Community at the  St. Joseph Roman Catholic Mission in Shambyu; Tondoro Community at the St. Laurence Roman Catholic Mission in Tondoro; St. Scholastica’s Community in Namuntuntu.
  • In Owamboland: Regina Pacis Community in Ongha and Christ Our King Community in Ruacana
  • In Tsumeb: Tsumeb Community in St. Barbara Parish
  • In Outjo: St. Michael’s Community at the St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Mission
  • Outreach station: St. Anne Roman Catholic Mission in Omega, Kavango Region


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Meet Our Sisters: Sr. Fidelis Marie Lanowich, 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: Pembroke Pines, Florida.
First Profession: July 31, 2010
I was always attracted to religious life ever since I was a young child. I grew up knowing religious priests and sisters. They were wonderful role models for me and had such a zeal for life. They were young and cool and weren’t afraid to be passionate about their faith. I was intrigued by their commitment to the Lord and their relationship with Him. I knew their joy was stemming from their intimate relationship with God. I wanted what they had.
So after I graduated high school I started to discern the religious life. I was in contact with different religious orders and began visiting all types of religious communities. I didn’t know much about Benedictines but was introduced to their way of life and charism by one of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters. I found that I had a very strong connection with the Benedictine way of life and so decided I would start focusing on discerning with the Missionary Benedictine Sisters. The balance and structure of the monastic schedule, the strong community life and community prayer, the times of silence, the love for missionary work, the care and respect for the earth, the cultural diversity and all ranges of ages among the sisters; these aspects spoke to my heart. During my first visit to NE I was filled with such peace, I knew that the Lord was calling me to be a part of this Congregation. After a few years of visiting and communicating with the sisters I decided I would enter the monastery. I joined the community on January 16, 2007. 
Since I have entered I have found that I love this life more and more. It has been wonderful to grow in my faith and as a person. It is encouraging to have a whole community of sisters helping each other and supporting one another in our walk with the Lord. I feel blessed to have had many new experiences and I know that many of them would not have happened if I were not a Missionary Benedictine Sister. I find that new assignments I am given reveal different gifts and talents I was unaware of having. Community life has shown me how to love my sisters’ despite their wounds. It has taught me a lot about what love really means and forgiveness. It challenges me every day to grow as a person, to be Christ for my sisters, and to deepen my relationship with the Lord. I love my life as a Missionary Benedictine Sister and I am excited to see what the Lord has in store for my future!
To anyone who may be considering the religious life I would say don’t be afraid! If God is calling you to this life it will be the place where you will be most fulfilled. The Lord will not disappoint you and He can never be outdone in generosity! Take time to discern the religious life, frequent the Sacraments, find someone you can trust to journey with you while you discern like a spiritual director or vocation director, give yourself times of silence to think, and most importantly pray! Know that you are not alone if you are feeling called to the religious life and I will be praying for you.