The abbey started out as a mission on 3 August 1922, after the Ottilien Congregation received permission to do missionary work in the Apostolic Vicariate of Natal. The mission was headed by apostolic vicar Thomas Spreiter, who had been working in German East Africa since 1900. With the help of the Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing, a high school was built, where Spreiter taught religion. A newly built monastery building was finished in 1949, and a church was consecrated in 1953.
On 21 June 1968, the mission was promoted to the rank of conventual priory, and on 25 February 1982 it became an abbey. Since 29 June 1998, the abbey’s monks also oversee the former mission house of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the St. Boniface House Waldfrieden, 50 km north-west of Windhoek, where they work with the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing. A training school for Inkamana’s young monks was founded in 1992 in Howick, and moved in 1998 to nearby Cedara.
Situated in the heart of the Zululand, Inkamana High School was started February 2 in 1923 as an intermediate School with only one class of grade 5 by Benedictine Missionaries from Germany. The new school had 15 pupils, four boys and eleven girls. They paid sixpence a month for school fees and brought farm and garden products to pay for their boarding accommodation. Presently the student enrolment is 200 with one class for each grade.
Inkamana High School provides a holistic education and besides providing a good academic training, the school aims at education learners to live as a community founded on mutual respect and responsibility. It is expected that learners look at their education not only as means of their personal advancement but also as a trust and responsibility to work for the good of their fellow men.
Corona-Camino (Suffering and death)
“Corona” – this is the other name of the virus Covid19. “Corona” in Spanish and in Italian, “Krone” in German, “crown” in English, “couronne” in French, “coroa” in Portuguese. How strange – that was my first thought: a destructive virus carries a name that is a sign of the power and dignity of a ruler, a circlet, jagged, often richly decorated with precious stones, a broad hoop of precious metal, usually made of gold. Under the electron microscope it becomes clear why the virus has this name: a spherical structure, on the surface of which there are small crown-like buds on countless short stems: these are the places through which the virus can then attack healthy cells. These short stems with their buds are moreover coated with a layer of sugar. This layer makes it difficult for our immune cells to even recognize the danger beneath it. The virus is really well camouflaged!
Foto: Surface of the CoV-2 virus. One molecule of the spike protein is shown translucently to emphasize its complex spatial structure. © MPI f. Biophysics
As the situation in China demonstrated just how destructive the virus was, I had a first intuition that this would also affect other countries, including Europe. And, as on other occasions, I thought: the path ahead is likely to be a difficult one. I makes me remember my Camino, many years ago. Walking in beautiful, gentle landscapes, only a few hours later, the terrain can change into a rugged massive rocky mountain, or into a seemingly endless barren plateau, hot, without water. And: to walk with the uncertainty of whether I will make it.
Foto: CDC / Unsplash
Farewell to lovely landscapes: this was my feeling when I said goodbye to my mother in March. She lives in a nursing home for the elderly. A few days after my visit, relatives were no longer allowed to enter the premises. She is over 90, seeing and hearing are difficult for her despite her glasses and her hearing aid. Talking on the phone we can manage a sentence or two, three, no much more. She can read the newspaper’s headlines with a magnifying glass. The lady who usually reads to her is also unable to go into her room. My mother is limited to her room, no contact. I am thankful to the nursing staff working there. And yet: for my mother and for many old people this seclusion resembles solitary confinement in a prison.
Farewell to familiar surroundings: this was my feeling when my company sent all employees to work from their home office, all of us not “essential to business”. From that moment, any contact was limited exclusively to telephone and computer.
Farewell to familiar, tried and tested equipment: I was never a big fan of video conferencing. The direct, personal equivalent has an unsurpassable quality. No technology, visual or audible can come close. And yet: just like on the Camino, when the seams of comfortable, well-worn hiking boots become loose or the sole suddenly breaks, you try to find comfort in what is possible as a replacement. A cobbler is not available, the sandals in the backpack don’t provide your foot with a stable grip, small pebbles might sometimes slip inside. Then, each and every step is an attentive sensing, the steps become smaller, more careful. I place my foot on the ground with more attention. I take my steps more precisely. I have to walk much slower – although, at the same time, I would prefer to leave this area the quickest way possible. And in my home-office situation, I am suddenly satisfied and even grateful for the possibilities video-conferencing grants me. And I appreciate: I can continue to work, I may work.
“I can make it,” I tell myself, I talk myself into it, I want to prove it to myself:
I work more than usual: it’s good to be distracted. And: working from home, I can demonstrate that I’m working only if I “produce” something. And thus, I produce: long emails, analyses, lectures. I take courses in video conferencing techniques, I participate in video meetings, I develop strategies, I pass on information, I make phone calls until my ears go red … At the end of my first week working from home I realize: this is not the way to go on. I realize: In order not to feel just how scared I am, I am working to the limit and beyond.
On my Camino, I remember, initially, I had a strict schedule: at least 25 km every day, otherwise I would not make it to Santiago in time! Also: I rise early, before dawn, as I’m afraid I won’t get a bed otherwise, at the end of the stage. Only two weeks later I have to realize: I can’t go on like this, I’m exhausted, this is not why I set off on the Camino. So, I pause, in Burgos. I stop for a couple of days in a monastery. And when I resume the Camino: I walk at leisure, sensing when my body gives me the signal to stop. And I know: Santiago will still be there next year. I take my time. Now I am with myself. The Divine smiles on me.
After a week of working from home, I realize: If I work to the limit, I am not with myself, I am not present. From next week, I will start the day with the Pope’s mass on TV. I will not work more than eight hours. Now I am with myself. I am present. The Divine smiles on me.
“I can make it “, I tell myself, in these Corona days, I talk myself into it. I want to prove it to myself: Then comes the news of corona infections at my mother’s nursing home. I am overcome by helplessness. For the first time in this pandemic, I feel fear. There’s nothing I can do.
On my Camino, many years ago, I once took a shortcut across a field. Far from the path, I came across a strip of low-slung blackberries at the edge of the field. I took a run-up to jump over it – and landed a metre and a half down, in a dry irrigation ditch with smooth concrete walls, in the middle of dense blackberry bushes. Thorns on thick branches protruded into my legs and arms. Each and every movement: an ocean of pain. There it was: fear. And helplessness. There’s nothing I can do.
As in the ditch, fear now spreads inside of me: Will I survive this pandemic? Will my mother survive this? In the ditch, after minutes eternal, I remembered: I have a small pocket knife with me. I cut myself free, for an endless-seeming half hour. I eventually managed to escape: with an arrow prayer and the help of a dry tuft of grass at the edge of the ditch where I could pull myself up. And now, as I did then, I know: I will not fall deeper than in God’s hand. And neither does my mother.
The Corona epidemic continues. The restrictive measures will one day be relaxed. Then, little by little, first with masks, we will go out again. And, if there is medication, if there is a vaccine, we will return to a different “normality”. We will sense more clearly what is really important, what we really need.
After finishing my Camino, many years ago, I knew for myself: I can live well with just eight kilos of luggage. We will see clearer: all that is given to us. Above all: the gift of closeness, the gift which is our neighbour, the one next to us. And for many of us, perhaps also: the gift of closeness to the Divine.
Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Thank you for joining us “in Camino,” for being a part of our humble project, for your prayers, for your assistance and for your company.
With your support you will contribute with food bags, sanitary material, water supply, cleaning kits…
See you next week!