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Obituary: Abbot Robert Mawulawoe OSB
Abbot Thierry Portevin OSB En Calcat Abbot Robert Mawulawoe Kossi Yawo, Abbot of Dzogbégan, died on 3rd January 2006. Born in 1949, he entered Dzogbegan in 1968, was made Prior in 1986, elected Abbot in 1993, and Visitor of the Africa-Madagascar Province of the Congregation of Subiaco from 1999. His sudden departure has saddened his Community, his Congregation, all African monks and nuns and his many friends throughout the world. Here is an extract from the homily preached by the Abbot Thierry Portevin OSB, at the time of his funeral: 'See, in His loving kindness, the Lord showeth us the way of life. Therefore, having our loins girt with faith and the performance of good works, let us walk His ways under the guidance of the Gospel.' (Prologue of the Rule of St Benedict, 20) Abbot Robert had indeed girded himself with the belt of the faith. Although his was the only support, he left his family to enter the monastery 'by fidelity to his baptism'. He already 'preferred nothing to Christ' and although he could have continued his studies in Abidjan, he returned to the monastery at the behest of his Superiors to serve his Community which needed him. Thereafter he was never able to continue his studies, but he never complained. He was a capable and reliable cellarer, a task he found exacting, but nevertheless he took his work seriously whatever it might be, whether he found it congenial or not. He was the first African Prior of Dzogbégan, even though he was not the eldest Brother. He did not find it easy, but devoted himself to it wholeheartedly. Therefore he had to accept priestly ordination although this had been far from his mind, He even feared it because of what 'promotion' means to some. He accepted it while comparing himself to 'that donkey on which Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem'. Yes, it is Jesus who is important and not the donkey! Whilst he was Prior, the attack on the monastery by the young people of the village took place; he then made the courageous and correct decision to leave the place. When, at the request of the elders of the village and their plea for forgiveness, the monks returned, all of the brethren heeded his call: the Good Shepherd lost none of the sheep entrusted to him. Under his Priorship, the Community gained its independence. But to his great relief the Community elected another Brother, and at last he could breathe freely and go to help out as Cellarer at Bouaké. Two years later He was elected Abbot, and remained so for twelve years until his death. The task was hard. The gathering of the brethren around him took quite some time. At first, because of monastic and Community demands the young professed left. Confidence was established little by little, and the brethren were honoured with the outsiders' view of the monastery which the Abbot conveyed, not only to the monastic world where he was asked to give retreats, or asked to talk at General Chapters and Abbots' Congresses, but also to the world outside, as testified by what the Togo Consul in Paris said: 'Dzogbégan! What that monastery does for our country ...! 'His main concern was the common good, and he suffered through people's dereliction, negligence, laziness, and mediocrity, but without ever despairing of his brethren. He trusted implicitly and was never suspicious. But when evidence was apparent it saddened him greatly. While living in Africa for years in difficult financial straits, he used all his imagination and competence to find suitable activities, not only to keep the monastery going, but also to help the people round about, whether it were for their livelihood or for the education of the young. He leaves with us an example of a true monk, a good Abbot, a Brother who, full of faith and service to his brethren, guided by the Gospel, pushed himself through love to the limit. He leaves us too with a wonderful image of an African, of Africa. He was obsessed by the dignity of Africa, and so was always pained when its image was belittled or distorted. If he expended all his energies without counting the cost to establish organisations like Sichem for the formation of young people, co-operatives producing coffee, honey, fair trade, l'Amorsyca for the creation of an African liturgy, the manufacture of essence of citronella to give women work, the building of St Anne for the formation of Brothers and Sisters, it was to set men and women on their feet in as many ways as possible, so that Africa might change and show itself in a different light. 'Mawulawoe' means 'God will do it'. And He did it! Translated from the French by Fr Nicholas Broadbridge OSB, Douai Abbey, Upper Woolhampton, Reading, England.