Extract from an article published in the book of the fiftieth anniversary of AIM "So far yet so near"

BECOSA

Benedictine Communities of South Africa

Godfrey Sieber, osb

The Benedictine presence in South Africa dates back to 1906 when the Abbot of Affligem, Belgium, sent a team of monks to the Transvaal at the invitation of Bishop William Miller, the first Vicar Apostolic of the Transvaal. After purchasing a farm at Magoebaskloof, the monks began to do missionary work in the northern parts of South Africa. Their mission territory became an Abbatia Nullius in 1939, and the Benedictine monks elected Fr Willibrord Van Rompaey to become their abbot. Their abbey had meanwhile transferred to a place some 40 km east of Pietersburg and been given the name of Subiaco.

Abbot Willibrord intensified the contact that existed between the Benedictines of Subiaco and Missionary Benedictines of Inkamana who had come to South Africa in 1921 to take over a mission field in Zululand. Abbot Gernot of Inkamana and Abbot Willibrord of Subiaco pursued a further goal. They wanted the various communities of Benedictine Sisters in Southern Africa to join them in founding a Benedictine Association.

There were several female branches of the Benedictine Order in the southern part of the African continent. The Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing, Germany, had arrived already in 1920, starting foundations in Swaziland and in Namibia. The convent in Mbabane, Swaziland, was transferred to Zululand in 1922 and was raised to the rank of an independent priory while the foundation in Namibia became the priory of Windhoek. The Tutzing Sisters were also instrumental in establishing two Diocesan Congregations of Benedictine Sisters, the Congregation of Oshikuku Sisters in Namibia (founded in 1932) and the Congregation of Twasana Sisters in Zululand (founded in 1934). The Benedictine Sisters of St Alban, a relatively small branch of the Benedictine Order in Germany, whose members are mainly engaged in social work, came to Zululand in 1955 and opened a convent in Eshowe.

Apart from these four Congregations of Benedictine Sisters who have their origin in Germany or were started by German Sisters, there is another one which was founded in 1931. Their members are now known as the Benedictine Sisters of Christ the King in Polokwane.

In 1991, Abbot Gernot of Inkamana and Abbot Williborord of Subiaco contacted all these communities and invited them to send a delegation to Inkamana to discuss ways and means of closer cooperation. The first meeting was held in March 1992. It marked the beginning of BECOSA. Since then meetings have taken place regularly every year.

At the seventh BECOSA meeting, which was held at Inkamana in February 1998, the Benedictines of Ampleforth, who had just opened a house in Macheke, Zimbabwe, were represented for the first time. In the following year, the Order of the Holy Cross (OHC), an Anglican Benedictine branch with its motherhouse in USA, joined BECOSA. Their representative was Brother Timothy Jolley. He and his confreres had started a monastery near Grahamstown in 1998. The ecumenical character of BECOSA was further emphasised at the tenth annual General Meeting in 2001 when the Sisters of the Holy Paraclete (OHP), a Benedictine Convent of the Anglican Church in Johannesburg, sent a delegation. Today, BECOSA comprises of 4 male and 7 female Benedictine communities.

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