“Keep watch for you do not know the day when the Son of Man will return” (Lk. 12:40)
Abbot Alcuin Maurus Nyirenda OSB was born on 9 October 1953 in Lugagara village at Mgazini Parish in the Archdiocese of Songea. His parents were Maurus Nyirenda and Theodosia Kihaule. He was baptized in December 1953 and later was confirmed by His Grace Jacob Yefuni Komba, archbishop of Songea Archdiocese.
Abbot Alcuin Nyirenda OSB received his elementary studies from Standard One to Four at Ruhuwiko and Mfaranyaki Primary Schools from 1965 to 1968; after that he joined Hanga Primary School for Standard Five to Seven from 1969 to 1971. After Standard Seven he was selected to join the Government Boys Secondary School at Songea. But since he was persuaded by the desire to join religious life, he refused to go on with Government schools. Instead his formators sent him to Likonde Minor Seminary in the Diocese of Mbinga from 1972 to 1977 when he completed his Form Six. Thereafter, he was recruited for national military service training for one year.
Since Abbot Alcuin wished to join monastic life when he was still young, he was admitted first to the monastery as an oblate on 16 April 1969. Then he was advised to continue with studies at Hanga Primary School and then secondary education at Likonde Minor Seminary as already cited above. Abbot Alcuin did his one year canonical novitiate in 1979, and on 15 August 1980, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, he made his first profession. Immediately his superiors sent him to Kibosho Junior Seminary, Moshi for philosophical studies from 1980 to 1982. From 1983 to 1987, he was at Peramiho Major Seminary for theology. It was during his theological studies that Abbot Alcuin made his perpetual vows on 1 January 1986. One year later, January 1987, he was ordained deacon, and on June 16 the same year was ordained a priest by his Lordship Bishop Emmanuel Mapunda, who was by that time the diocesan bishop of Mbinga.
After his ordination, Abbot Alcuin was asked to teach the novices some of the basic monastic courses and perform many other priestly duties in the monastery. In 1991 Abbot Alcuin was sent for further studies in Rome. There he pursued a licentiate in monastic studies for three years from 1991 to 1993. On 2 January 1994, just as he arrived from Rome, he was elected the first African abbot of Hanga Abbey. His abbatial blessing ceremony followed on the 15th the same month. He held this position for ten years then resigned as an abbot on 2 January 2004.
After his resignation, he went to Rome where he worked at Sant’Anselmo University as rector and chaplain from 2004 to 2018. At Sant’Anselmo he utilized the opportunity to advance his studies, and on 4 May 2018 was awarded a doctorate in monastics studies. Towards the end of 2018, he completed his term at Sant’Anselmo and then went to visit St. Maurus and St. Placidus Abbey in Waegwan, South Korea. After a year Abbot Alcuin decided to come back Tanzania and on 3 March 2020 arrived in Dar es Salaam where for two weeks he went through the process of the renewing his passport.
Abbot Alcuin Nyirenda could rightly be described as a highly gifted monk with many talents. Some of them were in church music and writing books. He was also good at organ, violin, flute and drum playing; he would spend sleepless nights making sure his self-composed songs and ideas were put into writing. He liked studies and this was why during his reign as abbot he invested in education, sending many confreres for studies in different places as a preparation for missionary responsibilities in the monastery. He was a spirited person; he always wanted to see things moving in and for the monastery. He would look for people of good will beyond the continent to support people in need. Abbot Alcuin was also talented in learning international and local languages and could speak them fluently. Apart from all the talents he had, Abbot Alcuin loved his vocation as a monk and priest, loved his community which was evidenced by his selfless attitude when it came to prayers, advice, communal life and his good wishes for the prosperity of our monastery.
The end all began on 18 March 2020 when he started off from Dar es Salaam heading to St. Bernard House in Mbeya. Upon arrival in Mbeya he was not feeling well, and he informed the confreres about the condition of his health. Soon was taken to Mbeya Referral Hospital for a checkup and put under observation by the doctors. After some days he recovered and was discharged. On 31 March 2020, he moved from Mbeya to Songea and arrived in Hanga around 21:45 in good health. The following day he got into the communal routine as he was accustomed to do.
On 2 April 2020, around 17:30, he went to the chapel in preparation for Vespers, but after a few minutes he walked out and started complaining to some confreres that he was not feeling well and so went back to his room to rest. While in his room, he continued complaining of a headache with high fever. Our medical nurses were consulted and attended him carefully and after prior diagnosis it was realized that his body temperature and sugar were far above normal. Our nurses continued helping but he was not improving. Then early next day, on 3 April 2020, around 3:00 a.m., we decided to rush him to Peramiho Referral Hospital for a further checkup and treatment. Upon arriving at Peramiho Hospital, he was immediately admitted to an Intensive Care Unit room. At the hospital the doctors diagnosed him once again and realized that he had a diabetic complication, but he also had severe typhoid which led to high blood pressure. The doctors tried to the best of their ability to help him and there was an improvement.
Early in the morning on Saturday 4 April 2020, the face of hope shown and he was able to speak with the doctors and those who were taking care of him. Such situation did not last long; he suddenly changed, groaned for a while and breathed his last at 8:30 p.m. According to the doctors’ report, the demise of our beloved Abbot Emeritus Alcuin Maurus Nyirenda OSB was due to a diabetic problem which led to kidney failure and high blood pressure. He died at the age of 66 and 40 years of monastic vows.
The funeral and burial ceremonies were held at Hanga Abbey on 8 April 2020.
Thank you for accompanying in prayer the soul of our beloved Abbot Emeritus Alcuin Nyirenda OSB.
Abbot Octavian OSB and the Community of Hanga Abbey