Father Hermenegild (Helmut) Maier OSB
Missionary Benedictine of Sankt Ottilien
23 October 1941 – 24 August 2021
Father Hermenegild died in a hospital in Vryheid, South Africa. He was in the 80th year of his life, the 58th year of his profession and in his 51st year as a missionary in Zululand, South Africa.
Father Hermenegild came into the world on 23 October 1941 in the Upper Bavarian Bad Bayersoien. His parents, Josef and Anna, née Schröter, were given another boy two years later. His father was drafted into the military during this time and went missing in the war. The boys grew up on the large farm of their uncle where they encountered a large number of relatives. His young mother provided for the small family, which had to live very frugally, with a small widow’s pension and by assisting on the farm. Despite the modest living conditions, the mother supported the Liebeswerk of St. Ottilien and donated to the missions. The children attended the local primary school and then the mother enrolled them in the mission school at St. Ottilien. For young Helmut it was a matter of course early on that he wanted to become a missionary.
After graduating in 1962, Helmut entered the novitiate of the archabbey in September where he received the name of the Spanish martyr Hermenegild. He professed his first vows on 23 September 1963; solemn vows followed on 25 September 1966. As was customary at this time, Frater Hermenegild studied philosophy at St. Ottilien for two years and then theology at the University of Munich. He was ordained a priest with seven other confreres by Josef Zimmerman, the auxiliary bishop of Augsburg, on 1 September 1968. Like some other Ottilien monks, he was sent to increase the personnel at the Austrian Abbey of Fiecht that had joined the Congregation of Missionary Benedictines in 1966. He served as a prefect at the Tirolean monastery boarding school until he was sent to the mission in South Africa in January 1971.
He sailed around the African continent for several weeks until he reached the port of his destination in Durban. He began his missionary experience as an assistant priest on various and ever-changing mission stations. He spent longer periods as the pastor or helping out temporarily especially in the parishes of Inkamana, Nongoma, Richard’s Bay and Cassino. During visits to Malawi or Namibia, where he regularly went to fetch or bring monastic candidates, he occasionally covered thousands of kilometers in the Jeep. At Inkamana, he served at times as subprior or prior, managed the monastery finances as the cellarer and was responsible for the administration of donations from the mission procura. After the resignation of Abbot Gernot Wottawah in December 2002, he guided the course of the community for some time.
In November 2003, he was assigned a new place of work in Namibia: He served in the Waldfrieden priory there as superior until 2012. During this time, he experienced a robbery during which he was seriously wounded. A final area of responsibility opened up for the now 73-year-old in 2014 with his transfer to Twasana where he looked after the parish and served as chaplain to the sisters’ community. During this time, his memory rapidly deteriorated; this was eventually diagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease. After a long treatment at home in Germany, he returned to Inkamana in August 2016 where he now lived withdrawn but lovingly cared for by the confreres in the infirmary. He went back to Twasana again in August 2017 where the parish and sisters hosted a farewell celebration.
Father Hermenegild not only grew up in a mountain landscape but was also a great friend of the mountains. He liked to spend his vacations partly doing difficult mountain hikes in the local Alps, on Kilimanjaro or Mount Kenya. His athletic and tenacious disposition (as a youth he had played football and ice hockey with a passion) was to help him with the challenges of old age; likewise his mathematical talent was of help in organizational and financial tasks. By nature, he was rather withdrawn and taciturn but was very kind and reliable. Throughout his life he traveled a lot on the roads of this world. May the Lord now grant him eternal rest at the end of his journey.
The funeral Mass and burial were on Tuesday, 31 August 2021, at 10 a.m., in the abbey church of Inkamana.
Abbot John Paul Mwaniki and the community of Inkamana Abbey
A requiem on Friday, 3 September 2021, at 11:15 a.m., in the abbey church of Sankt Ottilien.
Archabbot Wolfgang Öxler and the community of Sankt Ottilien Archabbey