30 Jun

Views on Spirituality of Abbot Pfanner


By Mauricio Langa, The Southern Cross

THE “historical commission” which examined thoroughly the whole documentation of the life and work of Abbot Francis Pfanner, chiefly from a historical and archival
point of view, has ended its work.

Its report was handed in by its president, Br Philippe Denis OP, lecturer in Church history, to Mgr Paul Nadal, episcopal delegate of Stanislaw Dziuba of Umzimkulu diocese.

With this, an important phase of the diocesan inquiry in the sainthood cause of the Austrian-born founder of the Mariannhill Missionaries is over.

Fr Yves La Fontaine, the postulator for the cause, has published a booklet entitled The Spirituality of Abbot Francis Pfanner and Consecrated Life Today.

The booklet is based on a talk on Abbot Pfanner which Fr La Fontaine gave to religious at the Emaus Heritage Centre in Umzimkulu earlier this year.

“I simply got the idea that I should take this opportunity to make my contribution available to a wider public of religious,” he said.

“And it was by looking more closely at what Pope Francis expected from religious during this special Year of Consecrated Life that I began to prepare myself.”

In the booklet he draws from his own experience in the consecrated life through the spirituality of Abbot Pfanner.

“It did some good to me personally. Then I thought: ‘Why could it not help others then?’ ”

He described the booklet as “a kind of examination of conscience in the light of elements which can be found in any religious institute”.

“Such a soul-searching can certainly be profitable for any religious. With God’s grace it can lead to some conversions, to a greater conformity to Christ’s sentiments, to true joy, as Pope Francis hopes, and to a lifestyle that will really be an alternative way
of living in today’s world,” Fr La Fontaine said.

The Spirituality of Abbot Francis Pfanner and Consecrated Life Today can be bought for R40 a copy from the Monastery repository on 031 700 1031.

23 Jun

Once Again a Beautiful Experience!

The 2015 Yearly Pilgrimage to Emaus

Once more this year’s pilgrimage for the two provinces of Mariannhill and Mthatha of the CMM and CPS witnessed the participation of many lay people who joined us. Since the last few years we have progressively opened our pilgrimage also to lay people who have a true veneration for Abbot Francis. And to our satisfaction, many responded. In short, we had a good crowd.

This year’s theme was Abbot Francis, A Man Totally Committed to His Religious and Missionary Vocation. This theme arose from the special year of Consecrated Life, which is a privileged occasion for religious to renew themselves.

Verse 17 of the first reading “Brothers, be united in imitating me” pointed to Paul as a model; more precisely, to the model of a man totally committed to his vocation. In the same way we were invited to remain united to Abbot Francis who was also fully dedicated to his vocations as religious and missionary and to look at him as a special model for us. The gospel stated that Jesus’ commitment is rooted in or comes from his Father’s love; therefore he “remained in him.” This was a clear invitation for us to also remain in him. Just like Abbot Francis did. We were reminded therefore that this stability in God’s love lies in the Ora of the famous Ora et Labora or, in other words, in the contemplative aspect of our lives.

Part of the crowd beginning the stations of the cross

Part of the crowd beginning the stations of the cross

The president and homilist of the Eucharistic celebration was a great friend of Mariannhill, Bishop Emeritus Hubert Bucher – who lives at Mater Dolorosa. As to the choir it was made of the group of our CMM novices and of a group of young CPS sisters. Needless to say that their execution, which was great, helped a packed assembly to make of its prayer a radiant celebration. Among other things, right from the beginning they vibrantly connected us to Abbot Francis himself with their execution of O Francis Pfanner and inspiring words like “You told us once: The flame of your true zeal let it soar!” and “Each good and true grace and each good thought, Each holy hope of heart, all comes from God!


A few years ago we stopped ending our pilgrimage with the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament because the via crucis was taking a bit more time than before; we then opted for a more personal commitment. Each pilgrim was strongly invited to go to the “memorial room” – where Abbot Francis died – and there to take a few minutes of personal prayer to submit to Abbot Francis one or several personal intentions or to entrust to him the needs of other people, this just before leaving the place. This seems to be successful.

09 Jun

The Latest Concerning the Diocesan Inquiry in the Cause of Abbot Francis

After many efforts to get hold of every one of the members of the “Historical Commission” and of the tribunal – made of the episcopate delegate, the promoter of justice and the notary – I finally succeeded to organize a meeting of the tribunal on the 28th of May in Umzimkulu. It was the first time that such a meeting took place in Umzimkulu, which is the place where all the sessions of the tribunal must take place by law – the diocese where the Servant of God died. All were present except two members of the “Historical Commission”, Dr Joy Brain, historian, who is now too weak to travel and Fr. Pius Paul OSB, who was still on home leave in Europe.

This meeting of the tribunal was preceded by a very last meeting of the Historical Commission whose members still wanted to bring in some last minute minor and yet meaningful additions to their report. It went rather quickly and efficiently and all the members signed the report.

Afterwards the tribunal meeting began with a prayer and the countersigning of their citations by all the participants called for the meeting. Then the President of the Commission of Experts in Historical and Archival Matters – this is the official name of this commission -, Br Philippe Denis OP, lecturer in Church history, handed in the report (relatio), the notary took note of this handing in and the episcopal delegate ordered that this report be put in the acts of the inquiry. Afterwards, one after the other the 10 members of the Commission present all took the oath required after their work is brought to its end. Again the notary took note of all this and all those documents were officially put in the acts of the inquiry. Of course all the proceedings were noted in minutes, which are also part of the documentation.

On June 8 two other short sessions of the tribunal took place. Since the theological censors had not yet taken their oath after their work was finished, they did it then. It was, strictly speaking, a very technical session.

UntitledRight after this meeting the members of the tribunal headed for the house of Dr. Joy Brain to take her oath since she was not able to attend the 28 May meeting of Umzimkulu. Again a strictly speaking technical meeting.

With these meetings one can say that an important phase of the diocesan inquiry is over.

09 Jun


A new poster of Abbot Francis is now available. There are two dimensions: one is A1, that is, 59.4 x 84.1cm and the other is A3, that is, 29.7 x 42.0cm.
If you wish to have one you can order it from the Mariannhill Repository:
Phone: 031 700 4288
031 700 1031
Fax: 031 700 4244
E-mail: monasteryrepo@ionet.co.za


There are two phases in a process of beatification: the diocesan phase and the Roman phase. The process of the Servant of God Abbot Francis (Wendelin) Pfanner, founder of the Mariannhill Monastery and of the Missionaries Sisters of the Most Precious Blood, is still in its diocesan phase.



In the diocesan phase comes a time when the so-called “Historical Commission,” which is made of experts in history and archives, has to study all the writings of Abbot Francis as well as all those about him and his work. This is an important step in the whole process. The sum of this documentation is actually contained in 60 full boxes of documents – thousands of them.


This work progressed regularly and was even almost completed when it was discovered that the Nihil Obstat (a no-objection declaration from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Vatican) had not been requested by the previous postulator. This was then done. The Rt Rev. Bishop Stanislaw Dziuba, OPPE, the competent bishop, received the answer of the above-mentioned Congregation at the end of June 2013. This of course delayed considerably the conclusion of the work of the Commission. This, because it could not conclude its report before knowing if it had to study new documents coming from the archives of the Vatican.

The “Historical Commission” was actually able to conclude its report in January 2014 when it met for the last time. This could be achieved after the Superior General certified in writing that he had the moral certainty that all the various archives, including those of the CEP, had been investigated “rite ac plene” (duly and fully) and after the Commission had examined some new and recent documents published in the meantime, this to satisfy itself that nothing important had been missed. The final report was signed during that same meeting after a list of various questions and corrections were made, for the sake of accuracy, and after it was complemented with a substantial bibliography and footnotes.

The next step will consist in formalizing the whole work of the “Historical Commission” in a tribunal session (oath taking and witnessing of the members) to take place in a near future. The list of all the archives investigated will also need to be carefully checked to make sure all are listed.

After that step, the postulator will have to prepare carefully the closing of the diocesan process and the sending of its whole documentation to Rome.

Fr. Yves La Fontaine, CMM