Father Benno (Bruno) Kufner OSB
Missionary Benedictine of Sankt Ottilien
5 June 1933 – 28 September 2020
On 28 September, Father Benno Kufner unexpectedly died in his sleep in his monastic cell in the 63rd year of his monastic profession. In spite of being 87 and having difficulty in walking, he was cheerful up to his last days and took an interest what was happening around him.
Our confrere came into the world on 5 June 1933 in Munich as the son of the tram conductor Georg Kufner and his wife Maria, née Gehrer; four years later a sister followed. Because of the war conditions with the constant bombardments of the Bavarian capital, his school days were quite in flux with Bruno attending various schools until he entered the St. Ottilien Mission Seminary in 1946. The versatile and talented father and a deeply religious mother supported the life’s journey of their son. The parish priest of St. Achaz in Munich wrote to the archabbey that his long-time altar server was provided with many “practical skills” that could be “very useful” for monastery and mission.
Shortly after graduating, Bruno entered the novitiate of the archabbey in September 1956 where he received the name Benno, the patron of the city of Munich. Temporary profession took place on 23 September 1957. Philosophy studies began at the Congregation’s college at the archabbey and then theology studies from the winter semester of 1959 at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, which Frater Benno finished in 1963. He professed his solemn vows on 25 September 1960 and was ordained a priest at the hands of Augsburg Bishop Josef Freundorfer in St. Ottilien on 23 September 1962.
Soon after, on 2 February 1964, he was sent to the East African mission of the Territorial Abbey of Peramiho whose mission territory was to be given over to the newly established Dioceses of Njombe and Songea in the following years. He was assigned to many mission stations: in 1964–65 in Ruanda, from 1965 to 1967 in Kitanda, from 1967 to 1969 again in Ruanda and in in 1969 for some months in Mikalanga. From 1969 he was assigned to Uwemba as the procurator and from 1973 looked after the Uliwa parish. The Diocese of Njombe requested him as an auditor in 1974 and from 1975 to 1980 Father Benno served in Lumbila. His longest pastoral assignment followed from 1980 as the pastor in Lugenge near Lake Nyasa until for health reasons he was forced to return to Europe in April 1997. These many changes already show his versatility and resilience and how much his organizational skills and reliability were appreciated by the superiors.
After returning to Germany, Father Benno took over the Voralberg parish of Viktorsberg in 1997 which up till then his former missionary colleague Father Marbod Häckl had looked after and was now going to retire. However, in July 1998 Fr. Benno was temporarily transferred to the parish in Terfens in Tyrol to help with a personnel emergency. In 2003, at the age of 70, Father Benno returned to his home monastery in Bavaria from which he been sent out nearly 40 years before.
The last period of his life ran smoothly for the versatile missionary, which corresponded to his own wishes, and he was relieved of old age complaints and illness. He undertook some smaller posts such as taking the minutes of chapter meetings, visiting the sick and looking after the extensive glass pictures of the early days of the mission. A beautiful friendship formed with Father Mathias Wetzel who had returned at the same time and with whom he did much together. He could now take time for his hobbies that included especially stamp collecting and extensive reading. Many confreres and the monastery library, to which he generously gave books, profited from his passion for crime.
His Munich origins could not be denied: quick-witted, original, humorous, sometimes somewhat prickly and sardonic, but never boring. His freedom was important to him and he combined that with an independent judgment that sometimes came across as sharp but not bitter. Thanks to his conscientiousness and well-organized way of working, he could carry out development work in many places in the world for which we are grateful to him! May he now rest in peace!
Archabbot Wolfgang Öxler and the community of Sankt Ottilien Archabbey