THE DIOCESE OF MARIANNHILL
MARIANNHILL, PINETOWN, DURBAN KWAZULU-NATAL, SOUTH AFRICA
In memory of Bishop Paul Themba Mngoma(1920 - 2005)
ABBOT FRANCIS PFANNER
FOUNDER OF MARIANNHILL
1825 - 1909
Abbot Francis was born in Austrian village of Langen, Vorarlberg, in 1825. At his baptism he was given the name Wendelin. After completing High School he studied philosophy and theology in Innsbruck, Brixen (now Bressanone, Italy) and Padua. On the 28th of July 1850 he was ordained priest in the Cathedral of Brixen. After working several years as a pastor in Haselstauden/Dornbirn he became chaplain to sisters in Agram, (now Zagreb) Croatia. During this time the desire to enter a contemplative monastrey grew in him. In 1862 he made a pilgrimage to Rome and a year later to the Holy Land.
On the 9th of October 1863, he entered the novitiate in the Trappist Monastrey of Maria Wald in the Eitel (Germany) and was given the name Francis. He made his first profession on the 24th of November 1864.
During the year 1867 he joined the work of re-establishing the ruins of the church and the monastrey of Tre Fontane in Rome which had been donated to the Trappists. Two years later he founded Maria Stern, the Monastrey in Banjaluka, Bosnia.
In 1879 Fr. Francis, now aged 54 and Prior of the Monastrey, attended the general chapter of Trappists in Sept Fons, France. Bishop Ricards from South Africa visited the chapter and requested the Trappists to establish a monastrey in Southern Africa. Without hesitation Fr. Francis said:'If nobody goes, then I will go!'. The chapter approved his decision.
In 1880 Fr. Francis together with 30 companions reached Dunbrody in the Cape Colony. The area was very infertile and after two years they left Dunbrody. Fr. Francis bought a farm near the South African harbour Durban. A day after Christmas in 1882 the travellers and their heavy loaded ox wagons got stuck in the mud.
Francis Pfanner exclaimed:'Unload! We stay here. Here we will build our Monastery.'
This was the foundation of the monastery and the missionary centre Mariannhill (Maria-Anna-Hill). Very soon the monastery began founding new mission stations. The monks built schools and churches and young African boys were trained in their work rooms.
In 1885 Francis Pfanner founded the Congregation of Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood. On the 27th of December that year he became Abbot of the Monastery of Mariannhill.
Not very long after this Abbot Francis experienced trouble with his superiors. As it was extremely difficult to combine missionary activity and the strict Trappist rule, in 1892 Abbot Francis had to resign.
He moved to the mission station Emaus but remained loyal to his ideals. Until an advanced age he was fi;;ed with missionbary zeal, wrote encouraging letters and missionary reports and counselled all who were working for the spreading of the good news. He died on the 24th of May 1909, at the age of 84 years. The same year Pope Pius X granted seperation of Mariannhill from the Trappist Order and approved the foundation of the Congregation of Missionaries of Mariannhill.
Mariannhill Mission Press - 364 Mariannhill, KZN