On Wednesday morning, June 16, 2004, shortly after midnight our confrere
died in the infirmary of Schweiklberg Abbey at the age of 89.
Br Nicolas was born on June 2, 1915, in Frauenburg in East Prussia. After finishing school he trained to become a tailor. At the outbreak of the Second World War he was conscripted into the German army and served as soldier on the Russian front. When the hostilities were over he was unable to return to his home town as the Russians had occupied East Prussia. Like thousands of other compatriots he fled with his family to West Germany. It was there that he met Fr Cyprian Meier, a monk of Schweiklberg Abbey who worked at a parish in northern Germany. He became very friendly with Fr Cyprian and Fr Cyprians mother both of whom were instrumental that Br Nicolas decided to try his vocation in Schweiklberg.
On March 13, 1948, Br Nicolas pronounced his monastic vows at Schweiklberg Abbey. Soon after making his final vows, he received a mission assignment for Zululand. Abbot Willibald Margraf issued him and Br Adalbert Plőtz with the mission cross on January 6, 1951. The two of them booked a William Dempster flight to South Africa because this airline offered special rates to missionaries. There were other Zululand missionaries on the same flight. Before take-off in Frankfurt they received a special blessing from Mgr G. Mund, the mission representative of the Catholic Church in Germany. The journey from Frankfurt via Rome and Khartoum to Johannesburg lasted three full days with several unplanned touch-downs in between because of mechanical failure. Br Ethelwold Hettrich (1906-1969) was waiting for them as they arrived in Johannesburg and took them in a bakkie to Inkamana.
Br Nicolas joined the Benedictines in Zululand at a time when the missions were about to expand. Additional parishes were opened, new churches and schools were built and farming activities were intensified. Newcomers were expected to help wherever help was needed and to learn new tasks simply by doing it. Although trained as a tailor, Br Nicolas was needed as a helping hand when the church at Inkamana was built. He therefore had to join the building team at Inkamana. In December 1951 he moved to Eshowe where Bishop Aurelian Bilgeri put him in charge of the kitchen. Until February 1953, he cooked the meals for the bishop and his assistants. Then he received a transfer to Cassino Mission where he had to look after the garden and the farm.
The St Benedict Mission in Cassino was to become the second home for Br Nicolas. He stayed there for nearly half a century, working like one of the proverbial mission brothers who, in the course of time, acquire a variety of skills. He rendered his services with great dedication and unfailing loyalty under no fewer than eight superiors: Fr Wolfgang Stelzer (1947-1955), Fr Heribert Ruf (1955-1960), Fr Cunibert Reisinger (1960-1980), Fr Richard Multerer (1980-1984), Fr Michael Mayer (1984-1987), Fr Victor Makhethea (1987-1988), Fr Albert Herold (1988-1993) and Fr Severin Pschorn (1994 - 2002).
Br Nicolas did not only show great interest in the outward development of the mission the opening and blessing of the new church in 1962 being of special significance , he was equally interested in the growth of the parish community. Knowing many parishioners personally, he was concerned with the well-being of their families, especially those who lived close to the mission. Many a child who was unable to pay the school fees sought and found help through Br Nicolas who used to raise funds among his benefactors in Germany so that he could pay the school fees for boys and girls from poor families. It gave him great pleasure when they were successful at school.
Particularly joyful occasions for Br Nicolas were the liturgical feasts as well as the baptism and confirmation services at Cassino Mission which were always celebrated by the whole mission community with due pomp and circumstance. One such occasion stands out. It was the priestly ordination of Fr Gerard Khena, a member of the parish. He celebrated his first Holy Mass at Cassino in July 1965.
Br Nicolas was a quiet and somewhat withdrawn person who avoided the limelight, always preferring to stay in the background. He enjoyed when confreres came for a visit to Cassino. On such occasions he could open up and relate stories from his early time as missionary, stories that contained a wealth of information about pioneers and places of the Zululand mission. He used his leisure time to collect stamps. His collection, neatly arranged according to countries and special subjects, has increased considerably in value over the years. On account of his deteriorating health, he returned to Germany in May 2002. He was granted two more years in his home abbey Schweiklberg before God called him home. May He reward his faithful servant.
Requiem Mass will be celebrated for our deceased confrere at Inkamana on Wednesday, June 23.
Inkamana Abbey, 16 June, 2004
Abbot Godfrey and community
In der Nacht auf den 16.Juni 2004 ist unser Mitbruder
im Alter von 89 Jahren im Frieden des Herrn entschlafen.
1948 hat er in Schweiklberg seine Mönchsgelübde abgelegt.
1951 wurde er als Missionar nach Inkamana/Südafrika ausgesandt.
Am 01.Juni 2002 ist er wieder nach Schweiklberg zurückgekehrt.
Der Herr sei ihm der ewige Lohn!
Wir beerdigen unseren Mitbruder nach dem Festgottesdienst zum Herz-Jesu-Fest am Freitag, dem 18.Juni 2004 um 10.00 Uhr auf unserm Klosterfriedhof.
Die Klostergemeinschaft von Schweiklberg
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