Travelling Abbot Francis Pfanner Terrain
Brian Commins, Cape Town – It is wonderful that The Southern Cross is highlighting the apostolate of the remarkable Abbot Francis Pfanner.
What a magnificent man! With fearless courage, deep piety and indefatigable energy, this visionary made a beautiful Mariannhill domain in the lovely hills of the Drakensberg.
My wife Brenda and I, on a University of the Third Age tour, were inspired by the mission field of the Mariannhill Trappist monks, Fathers, Sisters and Brothers who created holy places of great impact. These were stationed usually one hard day’s donkey ride apart and were built from bricks made onsite.
Missions Named For Famous Shrines
They were named after famous shrines like Lourdes and Emaus and were established by missionaries whom the Mariannhill religious attracted from all over the world.
Well-researched commentary by our guide, Natal historian Nicki von der Heyde, gave us a vivid account of the history of the area.
At Lourdes we spoke to a Polish nun who, with a group of religious, is working hard to uplift local people. Except for the church — which is beautiful, as are the churches at every mission station — the buildings at Lourdes (former workshops) have fallen into disrepair. This group of volunteers has a desire to restore them but funds are lacking.
Inaccessible (and Mysterious) Stations of the Cross
At Emaus, where Abbot Pfanner died, there are Stations of the Cross too steep a climb for most visitors to ascend. At the third station there is a shrine to Our Lady and at the summit a large silver cross — impressive, especially at night when floodlit. A nun from Malawi told us that the lights were stolen—but then mysteriously reappeared!
We enjoyed an interesting and inspiring few days.