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Ndanda  Priory


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    Bell in Mtwara

    Ndanda Priory 
     / Tanzania

  • Ndanda Priory in Tanzania is our second oldest priory. Founded in 1908, it developed like Peramiho with hospitals, kindergarten, elementary and high schools, nursing schools, home economic schools, as well as workshops of all kinds.
    The large Mwena leper colony was famous through the years-long work of Sr. Lia Schwarzmueller.
    When it was no longer needed due to progress in the treatment of leprosy, it was changed to a High School. There was also built a new Kindergarten.
    The AQUINAS SECONDARY SCHOOL in Mtwara could be constructed and blessed in 2008 with the help from a TV-program 'Ein Herz fur Kinder' in Germany.
    There is a happy development of native vocations. From a mainly German Priory it changes progressively through an international community to become predominantly Tanzanian.

    In a region that is predominantly Islamic but socially and pastorally open, missionary service is still sought and appreciated. The priory regards a deepening of the faith among the Christians as of central importance in their work. Right from the start the formation of the young African women, the care for women and the entire health care service had been entrusted to the sisters. These same tasks are being seen anew in the light of dialogue, a communion of cultures and cooperation in pastoral venues.
    The first community in Tanganyika outside Dar es Salaam was Lukuledi, not far from Ndanda. Due to lack of clean water it had soon to be given up. Instead Nyangao was founded and is presently the oldest house of our congregation. When that was destroyed during the Maji Maji war the Missionary Benedictines were looking for a new location with sufficient clean water. Ndanda, a place at the foot of the Makonde plateau with many fountains nearby, was founded as a mission station in 1906 by St. Ottilien. The monks were joined by six sisters in 1908. Being a dependent house of the Peramiho Priory first, Ndanda became a priory in 1935. Even after the Maji-Maji rebellion, the mission was not spared sufferings and deprivations. Realizing that our service will always be imperfect we place our hope in the Lord, who will complete what he has begun. In faith we look forward to the coming of his kingdom in glory.

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    History of Ndanda Priory

    The Beginnings

    On February 2,1895 Fr. Maurus Hartmann together with two brothers and Sr. Birgitta Korff, Sr. Klara Essmann, Sr. Afra Gillot, Sr. Bernardine Hefele opened the first mission station in Lukuledi, Tanganyika Inland. Sr Birgitta was elected first Prioress General of the Sisters' Congregation in the same year and had to leave soon.

    Sr. Birgitta Korff, Sr. Klara Essmann, Sr. Afra Gillot, Sr. Bernardine Hefele

    In 1898 the community of Sisters was transferred to Nyangao due to shortage of water: Sr. Walburga Diepolder, Sr Hiltrudis Herz and Sr. Viola Albrecht. Their house of sun burned bricks survived the destruction of the mission during the Maji Maji Uprising. Our Sisters are still living in the oldest house of the Congregation.

    Sr. Walburga Diepolder, Sr Hiltrudis Herz, Sr. Viola Albrecht

    29 August 1905 the warriors of the Maji Maji war stormed the Nyangao mission and burned down all buildings. All missionaries took flight into the bush in order to reach Lindi at the coast. Sr. Bernardine Hefele, Sr. Walburga Diepolder, Sr. Avia Marschner and Sr. Helena Lettner were together with some orphan children. Sr Walburga prayed loud: "Beloved Jesus, take my life, save the others!" as Sr. Bernhardine reports.

    Sr. Walburga was wounded in the waist and could not follow. She was killed together with some orphans. Only part of her red belt and her Rule of Benedict were found at the site of her death, not her body. These relics are now in the archives in Rome.

    Sr. Bernardine Hefele, Sr. Walburga Diepolder, Sr. Avia Marschner and Sr. Helena Lettner

    Annual Pilgrimage to Ng'awa where Sr Walburga Diepolder was killed

    14 Sept.1908 The Ndanda Sisters Convent was opened with Sr. Bernardine Hefele,; Sr. Helena Lettner; Sr. Hieronyma Holtkamp, Sr. Hedwig Hirschberg, Sr. Evangelista Engelns and Sr. Candida Eisele. The Sisters were engaged in caring for the sick, giving education to girls, managing all the domestic chores for the monks.

    Sr. Bernardine Hefele, Sr. Helena Lettner; Sr. Hieronyma Holtkamp, Sr. Hedwig Hirschberg, Sr. Evangelista Engelns and Sr. Candida Eisele

    In 1912 the leper colony was started in nearby Mwena. The management was given to the Sisters by the monks. Later on Sr Lia Schwarzmueller became famous with her care for the lepers for 55 years.

    Sr Lia Schwarzmueller

    1914-1918 were difficult times during World War I. A Military Hospital was opened at Ndanda in 1916, all Missionaries were deported. The sisters were received by the Prioress at Mzimbazi / DSM. When in 1920 all Germans had to leave Tanganyika, 12 of our Sisters went to a new mission field in South Africa and South West-Africa, today Namibia.

    1n 1924 only two new sisters arrived in Ndanda, both Swiss, as Germans were allowed in 1926 only under the British administration.

    In 1926 Sr. Dr. Tekla Stinnesbeck arrived, the first medical doctor in our Congregation. She founded the St. Benedict Hospital in Ndanda in 1927 and started soon a network of health stations in a wide area and training of African nurses and midwives. Her last foundation was Nyangao St. Walburg's Hospital, where she died in 1962.

    Sr Dr Thekla Stinnesbeck OSB,

    first medical doctor of the MBS 1927 - 1962, Ndanda, Nyangao

    Photo taken 1959

    Ndanda Priory

    In April 1935 Ndanda was raised to a Priory. The first Prioress was Sr. Bernardine Hefele.

    1928-1944 the Hospital in Ndanda was built and expanded, run by Missionary Benedictine Sisters, working as doctors and nurses. A Nursing School was added. 1939 The Opening of the Girls' Middle School was a big step forward for women to take responsibility as educated persons. 1941 Nyangao was reopened again.

    1942 - 46 Deportation of Missionaries during World War II. The Sister Nurses, a cook and the old sisters were allowed to stay to care for the soldiers. After the war new Sisters came and opened new stations closer to the coastal Islamic area: in Mtua, Kilimarondo, Mnero, Nkowe, Lindi.: They served the sick, in Schools, Kindergarten and did pastoral work.

    Tanzanian young women wanted to enter religious life and our Sisters were asked to help with the foundation of a diocesan congregation. The Congregation of African Benedictine Sisters of our Lady Help of Christians was approved in 1946 and has now more than 300 sisters.

    The number of Sisters declined and all stations except for Nyangao were handed over to other congregations. It was only in the eighties that we started to recruit Tanzanian young women for our own congregation, sending them first to Nairobi for novitiate, then to Peramiho. We changed the language of the Divine office from German to Kiswahili and sometimes in English. For adapting and composing the complete Divine Office in Kiswahili for singing, Sr. Barbara Ruckert was borrowed from Tutzing for months at a time. Since 2013 we have our own novitiate in Ndanda.

    Sr Fides & Sr Elisa leading a blind old lady to the hall for the christmas party

    Sr Columba Kim - Providing Clean Bore Hole Water for four Villages where there are many Lepers

    Ndanda Priory in the 21st Century

    In spite of being a very small priory the Sisters have trusted in the Lord to make bold steps for new apostolates, new stations and towards more self-reliance. Much emphasis was given again to the education of young women.

    As of Jan 2015 Ndanda has 27 professed sisters, 13 junior sisters, 9 novices, 11 postulants. Today we are serving the Lord and the people in the following places:

    Ndanda Priory House

    Novitiate, care for our old sisters

    In St Benedict Hospital as nurses

    UZIMA Project, HIV/ AIDS

    Pastoral and social work, care for lepers

    Agriculture, Family Life Apostolate

    St. Agnes Convent Nyangao

    St. Walburg's Hospital

    Pastoral work

    Care for the poor and lepers

    St. Scholastica Convent Mtwara

    Health Centre with Maternity, X-ray and in-patients

    Stella Maris Hostel for 200 female students

    St Michael Education Centre with kindergarten established and a primary school in planning,

    St. Tekla Convent Mtwara

    Aquinas School with secondary and high school for girls and boys

    Hostels for girls and boys

    Sacred Heart Convent in Kabuhima,

    Kahama Diocese

    Area of fervent first evangelization

    Pastoral work, primary school and 4 kindergarden

    School apostolate, agriculture


    Aquinas Secondary School - Classroom

    Aquinas Secondary School - School Gathering

    Aquinas Secondary School - Computer Class

    St. Michael's Kindergarten - Graduation


    Sr Martha with mother & child and nurses attending to the under five years

    - St Mary's Dispensary

    Staff of St Mary's Dispensary Mtwara - January, 2015

    Sr. Raphaela in Ndanda Hospital

    U. I. O. G. D.


    Gallery of Ndanda Priory






    00255-78 524 0091 Prioress

    00255-25-260.2594 (Fax)

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    Newsletter of Ndanda Priory

    2020  / 2 


    2019  1 / 2


    2018  1 / 2 / 3




    2016  / 2 / 3 /


    2015  2 / 3

    2014  1 / 2 / 3

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