Our History as Missionary Benedictines
There have been Benedictine Missionaries since the early Middle Ages. Almost the whole of Europe owes its faith to these missionary monks. St. Boniface was such a missionary monk who brought the gospel to Germany. St. Augustine and his monks proclaimed the faith in England. This work of evangelization was largely completed in Europe at the start of the modern era and the Benedictines turned more and more to contemplative expressions. During the era of the great discoveries, Christ’s call to go and teach all nations was taken up for the most part by the new religious orders.
The Benedictine missionary tradition found a new impetus in Fr. Andrew Amrhein, a monk of Beuron Abbey, who founded the Missionary Institute of St. Joseph in Reichenbach , Bavaria, an the Feast of the Epiphany, 1884. This establishment was the first of its kind in Germany and experienced great difficulties because of anti-clerical attitudes which were prevalent at that time. In 1887, this growing community moved to Emming – St. Ottilien where it continued to prosper. In 1896 the new monastery became a priory, an abbey in 1902 and an archabbey in 1914. The work of this community spread through Europe. Monastic houses which soon developed into priories and abbeys sprang up in Germany and Switzerland: Münsterschwarzach, Schweiklberg, Uznach, Königsmünster, Jakobsberg and Damme. The Austrian Abbey of Fiecht in Tyrol, founded in 950, joined the Missionary Benedictines and accepted a share in their work in 1967. Since 1924 foundations especially intended to support mission work were established in England and the United States (St. Paul’s Abbey, Newton, N.J. · Christ the King Priory, Schuyler, Nebraska). During this same period, the work of the Benedictine missionaries began in Venezuela.
As early as 1887, Pope Leo XIII entrusted the Benedictines with the Apostolic Prefecture of South Zanzibar in what was then German East Africa. One after another mission station was established from Dar es Salaam on the coast into the deep interior of the country. The most important of these, Peramiho and Ndanda, became abbeys in 1931. The abbots of the monasteries also served as bishops for these mission dioceses. This region is now the southern part of Tanzania and comprises four dioceses with local bishops, priests and religious. The Benedictine missionaries continue to work at their side. Noteworthy fruits of this effort are the monasteries of Hanga and Mvimwa whose membership consists of African vocations. (In 1983 there were 65 monks and 14 novices.)
The work of the Benedictine missionaries has also taken root in Zululand, South Africa. Since 1922 the monks have preached the gospel in the diocese of Eshowe.
The missionary monks undertook work among the semi-nomadic people of the Kerio valley, Kenya in 1972. In the monastery erected in Nairobi in 1978, monks from Europe and Africa pray and work together in the same priory.
The mission in Korea was begun in 1909. An abbey was founded in Seoul which was moved in 1927 to Tokwon (now North Korea). The field of work was extended to Manchuria (Yenki, 1934). Both monasteries became important centres in their dioceses. This flourishing church life was destroyed when the communists took over after 1945. Many of the monks died in concentration camps. A new beginning was made in South Korea in 1952 when the abbey of Waegwan was founded. As of 1983 this monastery numbered 77 monks. The monks of Waegwan were able to send two young members to the new foundation of Digos in the Philippines in 1982.
As of January 1997 the Missionary Benedictines consisted of 1104 monks: 2 bishops, 367 priests, 469 brothers, 168 monks with temporary vows, 87 novices and 11 oblates. It is a joy to realize that one fifth of the Benedictine missionaries are members of Third World countries. Their numbers and importance grow steadily.
Our History as Inkamana Abbey
On September 1, 1921, the Propaganda Congregation entrusted a new mission field to the Benedictine Congregation of St. Ottilien. It comprised Zululand and parts of Natal in South Africa. The first group of Benedictines arrived nine months later in Natal and on August 3, 1922, they started a new mission at lnkamana which was then just a farm with a few small buildings on it. These pioneers were experienced missionaries who had been working in East Africa before, until World War I forced them to leave that country. Within 25 years they managed to erect 10 major mission stations in Natal as well as 4 hospitals and a great number of schools. Meanwhile lnkamana became more and more the centre of the Benedictines. The priests there served growing Christian communities in a vast area, the brothers intensified their gardening and farming activities and began to train Africans in the different workshops. Together with the Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing the monks built up a High School at lnkamana which soon attracted African boys and girls from ail over Southern Africa. A proper monastery building was erected in 1949 and soon afterwards the brothers built an architecturally impressive church which was consecrated in 1953. The outward development of lnkamana as the headquarters of the Benedictines in Natal went hand in hand with a monastic consolidation. On October 10, 1961, lnkamana was declared a Prioratus Simplex and on June 21, 1968, was raised to the rank of a Conventual Priory.