About the Abbey
Hanga Abbey stands out prominently in Tanzania as a unique spiritual institution, based on the Benedictine tradition and accented by an African-culture humanism. Our community lives according to the Rule of our Holy Father St. Benedict, therefore, our way of life is summed up by the motto “Ora et Labora”, i.e. pray and work. By adhering to this motto, we see our role in the Catholic Church and Tanzania as being to meet the spiritual and material demands of the people who live here.
Since our foundation in 1956, our community has grown rapidly. We have professed a total of 144 monks and new applications for candidacy continue to arrive monthly. On average we accept 10-20 of these applicants each year and as we continue to grow, our influence as a monastery continues to be felt farther and farther outside of Hanga and even Tanzania.
Because our monastery is a well known center of genuine Christian life, education, and culture, we are continually being asked to offer our Benedictine services by the Catholic Bishops of Africa. We earnestly attempt to meet these demands and contribute to the building and strengthening of the Catholic Church in Africa. Apart from our mission work in stabilizing Christianity in the non-Christian parts of Southwest Tanzania, we also attempt to bring development to these areas with the many social services we provide, including, education, health care, and employment. The goal of these services are to help people help themselves.
A Short History of Hanga Abbey
Hanga Abbey belongs to the St. Ottilien Congregation. The late Fr. Eberhard Spiess, the Bishop of the Peramiho Diocese, founded the Monastery on January 15, 1957. The Monastery was founded with the permission to adapt itself according to the African mentality, culture, and way of life, and was to be an “all-African” monastery.
In order to put this special permission into effect, the Monastery was given a period of ten years to experiment and work at adapting itself to the African way of life. During this period of time the Monastery was run under four German missionaries from the Benedictine Monastery at Peramiho: Fr. Chrysostomus O.S.B (prior), Fr. Ingbert (formation director), Br. Nonnosus (master builder), and Br Hermann (agronomist).
On June 18, 1965, after their completing our trial period, the Monastery was approved by the Holy See. Over the next six years the Monastery gained internal independence under the local Prior, Fr. Gregory Mwageni. Finally, on October 15, 1971 the Monastery was given full independence under the same leader, but with the title, “Prior Conventualis.” Since then the community has been officially known as: “COMMUNITAS MONACHORUM BENEDICTINORUM AFRICANORUM – THE COMMUNITY OF THE AFRICAN BENEDICTINE MONKS.”
The Start of Our Independence
During our experimentation period (1957-1965), there were five Benedictine Missionaries of Peramiho living with us in order to orient us in the monastic life. In 1965 these missionaries went back to their Monastery of Paramiho.
The previously mentioned Prior, Fr. Chrysostomus OSB, then went on to lead us diligently and prudently, safeguarding the African values until 1986 when he retired due to weaking health. Fr. Basil Ngaponda OSB then took over as the Abbey’s Prior up until 1989, when we elected the second conventual Prior, Pr. Winfred Mlowe OSB. Under Fr. Winfred’s guidance, the monastery was elevated to the status of Abbey on December 13, 1993.
On January 2nd, 1994, Fr. Alcuin Nyirenda OSB was elected Abbot. He was the first African Abbot of the St. Ottilien Congregation of which also the Hanga Abbey belongs. Fr. Alcuin served our monastery as Abbot for 9 years, at which point Fr. Thaddeus Mhagama was elected to become our second Abbot.
Other Benedictine Monasteries in Africa
Apart from Hanga Monastery and her foundation, there are also other monasteries which have been founded by the missionaries of St. Ottilien here in East Africa. The larger of these communities in Tanzania are Peramiho and Ndanda. These monasteries continue to be run by the monks of St. Ottilien, but are also receiving young Africans into their Abbeys. The missionaries of St. Ottilien have also founded monasteries in Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Congo, and Togo. This is not an exhaustive list of Benedictine monasteries in Africa, since there are many Benedictine Convents in Africa which are purely diocesan.
What Does a Hanga Monk Do Each Day?
5:30 am – Wake Up
6:00 am – Lauds
6:25 am – Meditation
6:40 am – Mass
7:30 am – Breakfast
8:00 am – Work
12:40 pm – Noon Prayer
1:00 pm – Lunch
2:00 pm – Work
5:40 pm – Spiritual Readings
6:00 pm – Vespers
7:00 pm – Supper
8:45 pm – Compline
Sundays and Feast Days
5:45 am – Wake Up
6:15 am – Lauds
7:00 am – Mass
8:30 am – Breakfast
11:00 am – Singing Practice
12:30 pm – Noon Prayer
1:00 pm – Lunch
3:00 pm – Vespers
4:15 pm – Sports
6:35 pm – Vespers
7:00 pm – Supper
8:00 pm – Compline
8:30 pm – Movie
10:15 pm – Bed Time
Interested in Joining Hanga Abbey?
If you are interested in learning more about becoming a monk at St. Maurus’ Abbey Hanga, here are the steps that we ask you to take in exploring this interest.
Having a good education is an important part of our service to the people of Tanzania. This is why we ask that those interested in joining the monastery to have at least completed one of the following: secondary school, high school, college, or university. If you have graduated from any one of these institutions, we then ask you to answer, in writing:
- What is your desire in wanting to join our monastic community?
- What purpose do you hope to serve as a monk?
- What qualifications do you possess to become a contributing member of our monastery?
In addition to your own writing, we ask you to send a letter from your parish priest, concerning your general capabilities, character, and health.
These two letters may be sent to:Vocational Director African Benedictines of St. Maurus’ Hanga Abbey P.O. Box 217 Songea, Tanzania East Africa
You may also contact us via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Upon receiving your letters of interest, we will contact you and invite you to join us as a guest for a monastic experience, in hopes of furthering your desire to become a member of Hanga Abbey. During your visit with us, you will have the opportunity to advance your vocational training as well as immerse yourself in the Benedictine way of life. If after your monastic experience you still wish to continue on your monastic journey, we will ask you to apply for candidacy.