Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Namibia


On the 17th of February 1826 the Holy Father Pope Leo XII approved the society founded by St. Eugene de Mazenod. It was given the name “The Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.” Today the sons of St. Eugene, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate work in over 70 countries in all parts of the world.


NB.: A short, but rather precise summary can be found in - Zwischen Namib und Kalahari, 1971 and a more detailed history in Angelus, May 1996.

We, Oblates established ourselves for the first time in Namibia, in Windhoek in 1896. Step by step we spread out to the different regions.

The whole area north of Rehoboth of the German Colony of Deutsch-Sudwest-Afrika was entrusted to the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1896 under the title of `jus commissionis'. The missionaries first had to pastorally care for the German Catholic soldiers. Only hesitantly the Catholic church was allowed to do missionary work amongst the local population:
1896 Father Alois Schoch, the Apostolic Prefect of the Transvaal made an exploratory visit to Namibia. He met Chief Tshaanika in Owamboland who invited the Oblates. Fr Bernard Herrmann reached Windhoek on December 4. Fr Joseph Filliung and Bro. Gerard Havenith arrived at Mission Hill on December 13.

 1897 Fr B. Herrmann was appointed Apostolic Pro-Prefect on April 4. The first expedition to Owambo failed. Fr Herrrnann fell sick with malaria.

1898 Fr Filliung received for his service as chaplain of the Schutztruppe the farm Bergeck (480ha) 60km South of Windhoek.

1899 The Oblates bought 13 acres at Klein Windhoek. The Brothers cleared this ground and planted a vineyard of 6000 vines. In October, Fr Augustinus Nachtwey started a mission station at Swakopmund. Ever since their arrival in South West Africa, the Oblate missionaries had attached great importance to schools.

1900 The second expedition to Owambo failed. All the oxen died of cattle plague at Otavi.

1901 Scouting trip of Fr Nachtwey with Governor Leutwein to the east: Gobabis and Aminuis.

1902 The mission station at Aminuis was founded.

1903 The third expedition to the North was undertaken. Fr Hermann Biegner, Fr Ludwig Hermandung, Fr Joseph Filliung, Bro. Joseph Bast and Bro. Anselm Reinhard reached the Kavango near Nkurenkuru. Fr Biegner died (15-04­1903) at the Kavango. After returning to Windhoek Bro. Anselm Reinhard died (02-05-1903). Another expedition with Lieutenant Volkmann reached Andara. Chief Libebe granted permission to found a mission.

1904 The German colonial war against the Herero broke out. In October the Franciscan Sisters of Nonnenwerth arrived. Foundation of the mission of Usakos. The mission station Epukiro was founded on a 30,000 ha farm. The Dobra farm was bought. Fr Franz Jager was killed on March 2, at Aminuis. The Epukiro mission station was destroyed. After the war, the restriction on the missionaries were abrogated. Prisoners of war, women and children and orphans were entrusted to the mission stations. The Oblate Brothers started training artisans at Windhoek.

1906 On July 15, the mission station at Omaruru was founded and on August 2, the one at Okombahe.

1907 The third expedition in March to the Okavango lasted from June 11 to November 11. Chief Libebe renewed his consent for establishing a mission at Andara.

1908 The expedition in March to the Okavango failed. The December expedition was successful. In the meantime, on September 8, the foundation stone of the mission at Grootfontein was laid.

1909 At the end of April, Fr Joseph Gotthardt and two Brothers followed up the expedition of December. At Andara, all they found were two graves, those of Fr Franz Lauer (+ 19 March 1909) and Mr Georg Kurz (+ 10 March 1909). They had died alone and forsaken. The training of artisans among the black population was officially recognized.

1910 On May 21, Fr Gotthardt and four other Oblates established, with the permission of Nyangana the Chief of Ihc Geiriku, a mission station at Nyangana. 520 children among the 2,141 Catholics were being taught in mission schools.

1913 The Mission of Andara was finally, established by Fr Gotthardt. The Oblates started work in Tsumeb and Kokasib.

1915 The Commander-in-Chief ordered the closure of the mission station at Nyangana and Andara. But this order was not carried out. It would have meant the temporary end of all mission work. South West Africa officially ceased to exist. Its government was taken over by South Africa.

1920 A request to establish a Catholic mission in Owamboland was refused by the government in Pretoria. At the end, the Owamboland was divided into three sectors of religious adherence. The Catholic Church was allowed to establish missions in two of the following places: Uukwambi, Ongandjera, Ombalantu. Uukwaluudhi and Uukolonkadhi.

1921 Fr Joseph Gotthardt OMI was appointcd Apostolic Prefect.

1924 August 15, Otshikuku, the first mission stations in Owamboland was founded. A Teacher Training College was opened at Döbra. For the Catholic Mission the years between the two World Wars were a time to concentrate on Mission work among the Namibians. Schools were built and medical care was improved. Through schools and hospitals, the foundation stone was laid for the social activities of the Catholic Church. St Joseph's School at Döbra and the Girls' school at Waldfrieden were among the best in the country. Döbra became an important centre of resistance thanks to the thorough training of many Namibians. The Catholic hospitals were places of health care of Namibians though entangled in the apartheid system.

1925 On June 23, Fr Otto Fuhrmann died in a tragic way in Owamboland. If an ambulance could have been available, his life would have been saved. The death of his friend inspired Fr Paul Schulte to establish 'MIVA'.

1926 The administrator from South Africa abolished the territorial limitations on the Missions fixed in 1920. From now on, missionaries could evangelize wherever they wanted to. 1926 became the year of new foundations: Tondoro at the Kavango with Fr Gregor Weilhöfer as founder. Walvisbay on the west coast; Mariabronn near Grootfontein, as a farm and depot for Owambolandd and the Okavango. The Prefecture of Lower-Cimbabasia became Apostolic Vicariate of Windhoek. On September 5, Fr Joseph Gotthardt OMI was consecrated bishop at Hünfeld by Archbishop Augustin Dontenwill 0MI the Superior General of thc Congregation.

1927 Oblate Brother Frany Ebert reached the Okavango at Nyangana for the first time by car. Foundation of Ombalantu mission station in Owamboland.

1929 Oniimwandi in Owamboland, now an outstation of Okatana, and Bunya at the Okavango river were established.

1930 Shambyu mission station was founded.

1931 Now Cathedral was built (12 July 1931 to 23 April 1932) in Windhoek.

1932 Foundation oF Okatana mission station.

1936 Foundation of the mission station Otjiwarango, Father A. Biesel becoming its first director.

1939 Because of the outbreak of World War II, the Goas sheep farm was bought to be economically independent from Germany.

1942 December 3l, Deacon Gerhard Molelekwa, the first Namibian Oblate ordained priest.

1943 The Waldfrieden farm was bought and a girls' school opened there with Father Franz Schlottbom as its first director.

1946 Golden Jubilee of thc Catholic Church and of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Namibia. The Apostolic Prefect, Bishop Joseph Gotthardt was appointed Archbishop. June 16, Edward Kangootui, the first Namibian of the diocesan clergy, ordained priest. The Noodweide farm, called St Michael's was bought and a school was opened for children coming from families working on farms.

1948 The Oblate province of the Netherlands sent its first missionaries: Frs Anion Goossens, Mathias Baetsen, Harry Baeten, Willem Bouwmann and August Lamm.

1957 May 11, Fr Rudoif Koppmann was ordained bishop at Hünfeld as coadjutor to Archbishop Gotthardt with right of succession.

1959 December 10, Human Rights Day women organised a protest march in 'Old Location' against the re-location programme of the apartheid regime. 11 persons were killed. Later, the people of "Ou Lokasie" were removed to Khomasdal and Katutura. Only St Boniface Church and house were left standing.

1960 Okahandja established as a mission station.

1961 Fr Alfred Zaby started an organisation for Catholic boys 'Jungwacht'; an organisation for girls, Blauring, already existed. March 15, Archbishop Joseph Gotthardt resigned and handed over the administration of thc Apostolic Vicariate of Windhock to Bishop Rudolf Koppmann.

1963 A monthly news magazine ANGELUS was launched. The first issue with a Circulation of 4000 appeared in the languages: Afrikaans, Otjiherero and Nama. Before, OMUKUNI for the Owambo people and KATHOLICHES FAMILIENBLATT also monthlies were published, Fr Horst Ueberall became the chief editor: The Dornfeld-Gunichas farm was bought and a school (starting with two classes) was established. (Today, Ganichas school has 1100 pupils form Grade 1 to 10)

1964 Erection of the new OMI Provincial House in Döbra.

1966 South Africa divided the country into 10 homelands, according to the Separate Development Policy. The Old Location at Pionierspark was completely destroyed. The armed struggle by the liberation movements began. Hainyeko was the first freedom fighter of SWAPO to be killed. St Andrew's Catholic School opened at Khomasdal with a hostel for children from the farms. June 29, Deacon Bonifatius Haushiku ordained priest at Sambiu.

1967 ANGELUS PRINTING, mission printing-press was set up at Döbra; all church publications are printed by ANGELUS PRINTING. Gottlieb Sheimi, the first Oblate Brother from Owambo made his perpetual vows. The celebration was held at Otshikuku.

1968 Foundation of the mission station Rundu on the Kavango.

1971 Over 75 years more than 140 Oblates worked as missionaries in Namibia. The Catholic Church numbered 90,000 members. 2300 children were educated in well-run mission schools.

1972 A new mission station founded it Khorixas.

1973 Fr Nordkamp starled at Tsumeb to train permanent deacons and prepare lay people for their roles in the Liturgy.

1978 Fr Philip Pöllitzer took over the Pastoral Department and introduced the Lumko material for training in lay ministries and the TEEC programme at Gunichas. July 14, Heinz Hunke was deported because of political aclivities. In November, Fr Hermann Klein-Hitpass was deported. He went to the enclave of Waivis Bay. As prison chaplain he exposed the torture and systematic abuses by the security forces. Fr Gerard Heimerikx had to leave the country under cover of night. The Secret Police wanted to put him behind bars because he had taken a series of photos showing the victims of a massacre in Owambo, Northern Namibia immediately after the crime had been committed at dawn. These photos were sent by him to the foreign press and to offices of the United Nations.

1985 Father Bernhard Nordkamp appointed as new Vicar General in succession to Fr Heinz Henning who had served for 25 years under three bishops. March 17, Blessing of St. Augustine's Church Soweto/Katutura.

1987 Bro. Norbert Uwis has served for 12 years as Youth Leader. Opening of Döbra Vocational Training School with Bro. B. Heil as Director.

1988 Oblate Pre-Novitiate was opened in St Boniface Mission, Pionierspark with Fr Franz Houben as Director. April 30, Fr Mathias Baetsen and Fr Harry Baeten knighted as 'Ridders van die Orde van die Oranje en Nassau'. Fr. Provincial H. Steegmann was involved in works for the RRR (Repatration-Resettlement-Reconstruction) programme of the CCN. June 25, Deacon Liborius Ndumbukuti Nashenda, OMI, ordained priest at Otshikuku.

1990 March 31, Döbra Passion Play organized by Bro. Manfred Pietsch.

1991 August 15, Pilgrimage to the shrine of 'Our Lady of Döbra'.

1994 Fr Josef S. Shikongo was ordained Bishop for the Apostolic Vicariate of Rundu on 22 May. Parish Spiritual Renewal Programme by Bro. Norbert Uwis in Katutura. Bro. Norbert Uwis started this missionary programme in 1990; he has been visiting many, parishes in Windhoek.

1995 January, Oblate Pre-Novitiate re-opened with 9 candidates and Fr Maurus Kantana as Director. May 21, commencement of De Mazenod Year-Publications in ANGELUS, Youth Rally at St Boniface, Pionierspark. December 3, Canonization of Bishop Eugene De Mazenod by Pope John Paul II in Rome. December 10, Centenary Celebrations of the Catholic Church in the Independence Arena, Katutura.

1996 May 25, performance of the Döbra Passion Play as part of the Centenary Celebrations. May 26 to 28, Centenary Celebrations of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate at St. Boniface Mission, Pionierspark, at Döbra and at Holy Cross Convent, Windhoek.

1999 Ordination of Bishop Liborius N. Nashenda OMI on 7 January.

2003 Inauguration of the OMI Centre.

2004 Installation of Bishop Liborius N. Nashenda OMI as Archbishop on 14 November. Opening of the International OMI Novitiate.

2005 Ordination of Fr Lukas I. Mosemedi OMI on 26 February. Staging of the fourth Döbra Passion Play....
To be continued

Overall Assessment: The Oblates can be seen as the founders of the greater part of the church in Namibia. The German Oblate Province has made and still makes an immense effort in personnel and finances to support the missionaries in their pastoral and social tasks. The missionary component of the personnel is over-aged on one hand; on the other hand the local vocations increase substantially. Because of old age of the missionaries many mission stations had to be entrusted to other congregations and to the diocesan clergy - for the benefit of the faithful. Oblate Mission accomplished! Immense Hope prevails

OMI in Namibia  | info@ominamibia.com