Father Norbert Röhm, a jubilarian as monk, priest and missionary, died after a long illness on Saturday afternoon, August 27, 2005, in the hospice of Emoyeni, Zululand.
Born in 1923 in Sommerach near Münsterschwarzach, he attended high school and was conscripted into the German army at the outbreak of the Second World War.
He saw action on several war fronts and was shot in the leg which left him handicapped for the rest of his life.
After being discharged from the army he entered Münsterschwarzach Abbey and made his first vows on 25 September, 1947.
On Aril 27, 1952, he was ordained a priest.
A year later, on May 14, 1953, he received a mission assignment to Zululand where Rome had entrusted a mission territory to the Benedictines in 1921.
One of the missionary pioneers, Fr Ignatius Jutz (1897-1973), took Fr Norbert under his wing at Nongoma Mission in the heart of Zululand and introduced him to pastoral work among the Zulus.
After gaining fluency in English and in Zulu, Fr Norbert moved to Mbongolwane Mission in 1957 to become assistant priest to Fr Matthew Bruner (1898-1985).
In November 1961 he was appointed by Bishop Aurelian Bilgeri as parish priest and superior of Fatima Mission.
It was now his responsibility to organize the annual diocesan pilgrimage on the Feast of the Assumption which still attracts thousands of pilgrims each year.
He was also responsible for the management of the 400 ha sugar cane farm attached to Fatima Mission.
In July 1967 he returned to Nongoma to become parish priest and superior of the mission station which was by far the largest in Zululand.
No fewer than ten Benedictine monks and some forty Benedictine Sisters were stationed there.
It was a particularly challenging time for Fr Norbert as the priest-in-charge.
Nongoma had a string of outstation with a good number of schools run by the missionaries.
When the government enforced a regulation that allowed only Catholic children to attend Catholic educational institutions, the future of these schools was in serious danger.
Fr Norbert therefore decided to register these children as catechumens and to baptize them so that the government could no longer interfere in the school apostolate of the Benedictines.
Health problems forced Fr Norbert in 1974 to leave Nongoma and to take over a smaller parish.
For a little over a year he looked after Dumbe Parish and for another two-and-a-half years he was stationed at Kwambonambi.
In November 1978 he accepted a transfer to Twasana where the position of parish priest and chaplain of the Benedictine Sisters of Zululand had become vacant.
For the next eleven years he served both the Sisters and the parishioners with great zeal.
In September 1989 he returned to Inkamana Abbey and took care of the parish in the nearby township of Mondlo.
The pastoral engagement of Fr Norbert came to a sudden end in 1993 when one of his legs was amputated.
Although he recovered from the operation, he remained immobile as he could not get used to walking with the help of crutches or to moving around in a wheel-chair.
He went to Münsterschwarzach to be admitted to the abbey the infirmary.
For a while he even thought of spending his last years in the monastery where he made his monastic profession.
But his love of Zululand was so strong that he decided to return to South Africa where Sr Priscilla Dlamini, a member of the Benedictine Sisters of Twasana was waiting take care for him.
She took him into the Emoyeni Hospice which she had started and looked after him for more than five years with great dedication.
Although Fr Norbert could no longer celebrate Holy Mass in the last few years, he received Holy Communion regularly and was repeatedly strengthened by the sacrament of the sick which Fr Albert Herold, the parish priest in nearby Mthunzini, administered to him.
With the death of Fr Norbert, the community of Inkamana lost one of its oldest and longest serving missionaries in Zululand.
A Requiem Mass will be celebrated in our Abbey Church on Thursday, September 1.
It will be followed by the funeral in the abbey cemetery.
Please join us in praying that God may grant Fr Norbert eternal rest and reward him for the service he had rendered to the Church in Zululand.

Inkamana Abbey, August 29, 2005
Abbot Godfrey & Community

In Holy Cross starb heute, am 27. August, gegen 14.00 der Inkamana-Missionar

P. Norbert Röhm

nach langer und schwerer Krankheit im 83. Lebensjahr.

P. Norbert stammte aus Muensterschwarzach und war seit 1953 im Zululand tätig.

Möge er eingehen in den Frieden unseres Herrn!

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