The Benedictine Mission House focuses its efforts in four primary categories.
Caring for the sick has always been a priority wherever the Missionary Benedictines established a mission.
Today, in cooperation with the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing, and indigenous Benedictine communities of women, we operate hospitals, clinics, and dispensaries not only in Tanzania, but also in Korea and the Philippines.
For decades, almost all healthcare professionals, lay and religious, were expatriates coming from Europe. Today, doctors, nurses, aides, and administrators are natives, many of whom have advanced from our nursing schools to university and medical school. Specialized training is oftentimes in Europe or America.
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A great chunk of the annual budget of our monasteries in Africa which also operate a hospital or dispensaries goes to salaries for healthcare workers, even though the hospitals have special government status as “Regional Referral Hospital.” The Government promises financial support, however, the needed funds are not available. Health Insurance is minimal. Patients pay a minimal cost for care of medication, according to their means. Therefore, subsidies from our mission offices, through the generous support of friends and benefactors, make up the difference.
St. Benedict Hospital in Ndanda reported in 2012:
- 2011 was a challenging year, especially with the departure of key hospital staff, including the administrator, two surgeons, and several nursing staff
- The financial crisis was another challenge with an increasing burden to pay the salary increase and higher cost for medical supplies
- Compared to the past two years, the total number of admissions and major surgeries increased, as did the number of out-patients who received treatment
- In-Patient Department:
- Admissions: 10,708 with an average bed occupancy of 75.3% - many times both wards for male and female patients were overcrowded. Average stay is 7.7 days
- Maternity: 2,095 deliveries and 371 Cesarean sections – average deliveries per day: 7 and one Cesarean section
- Surgery: increase to be recorded, especially in the orthopedic department
Admissions: 64,631 – daily average 177patients, a majority with Malaria
392 cataract surgeries – with 62 out of the total done at Ligula Hospital. The clinic also provided eye health education, cataract and trachoma screening at its village visits
This is just one example. The statistics of the other major hospitals are similar. For several facilities a technology update is certainly in order, especially for operating theaters, x-ray departments and laboratories. Healthcare professionals often work in overcrowded areas and building additions are called for meet today’s standard, a level that cannot be compared with those found in European countries or in America.
Our pioneer missionaries realized early on that education is a very critical issue to help a developing nation in their struggle towards independence and economic stability.
The gathering place for children or adults, willing to learn the basics of the three “R’s” — reading, writing and arithmetic by a missionary monk or sister was under a tree; later on the one classroom buildings with crude furnishings and often without doors or windows could be found on the parish property. Today, the standard of a school building is advanced compared to those of years ago. More and more technology finds its integration into a school system so different from Western civilization.
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The “British School System” has influenced the structure of schools in Tanzania. Today, we Missionary Benedictines are involved on all levels of education. We operate or co-sponsor a great number of kindergartens, elementary and secondary schools, we are also involved in high school and university education. Statistics posted by the government show that our schools are among the top 20 of all schools in the country. Our monasteries, in cooperation with the local dioceses, also provide education at the Minor or Major Seminaries, forming indigenous priests. Peramiho Major Seminary has given the Church several bishops in its history. Our major medical centers in Peramiho and Ndanda operate nursing schools and also educate lab technicians.
For example: Fr. Damian Milliken, OSB, a native of Elmira, NY, entered St. Paul’s Abbey in Newton, NJ, and following his monastic profession and ordination to the priesthood was sent to the Abbey of Ndanda, Tanzania. Throughout his many years of missionary activities he has established many schools, particularly for women whose interest for education otherwise would have been neglected by the official school system of the country. Today, education of women is going strong.
The Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Peramiho also operate an all girls’ school that has strong connection to an American educator, Sr. Imelda Koch, O.S.B., while Ndanda Priory co-sponsors a High School for Sisters from various religious communities, preparing them for future ministries within the Church and their religious Orders. Sr. Andrea Polt, O.S.B., from the Norfolk Priory in Nebraska, has influenced teaching and administration with her expertise. In several schools operated by the Sisters, the Montessori approach to education has been implemented and proofs to be a success.
Education is not only for the young! It is important to train farmers in the various methods of agriculture. The use of modern equipment helps that better yields at harvest time can be recorded. Courses in home economics and the mother and child clinics empower women to be home makers and educators within their own family.
All our monasteries, under the leadership of brothers, operate the vocational training centers which today also include secretarial science. The list of trades offered at our schools is impressive and includes tailoring, carpentry, electrician, butcher, baker, shoemaker, bricklayer, and many more. Graduates from our schools easily find jobs and a great number has also advanced to government positions.
Education remains a high priority among all our ministries in developing countries.
Hunger Relief / Environment
Many African regions lack the needed moisture to irrigate fields and draughts are not unknown.
Seeds often cannot germinate and grow so that a plentiful harvest can be expected. Hunger is a threatening prognosis for a countless number of people.
The lack of adequate storage facilities add to the problem that crops of corn and beans, for example, cannot be stored properly and conserved for later usage.
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Pictures of starving children shock the civilized world!
As Missionary Benedictines we monitor the situation in the areas were we are represented and an Emergency Fund has been established by the Congregation so that supplies can be purchased at a moments notice to prevent hunger.
We purchase, if possible, locally and transport all food supplies with our own vehicles so that this help will reach the people in dire need.
At our kindergartens and schools we provide a free meal as part of our outreach to the needy and hungry.
We also educate the local farmers in methods of food storage and pest control so that spoilage can be prevented.
Inspired by Jesus’ teaching: “What you have done for the least of my brothers and sisters, that you have done for me”, we continue our work of feeding the hungry and bring relief and hope in time of famine.
“Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15) is the command Jesus gave to his disciples before his Ascension.
Proclaiming the Good News has and still is the mission of all the baptized. The witness of the faithful, and their example of living the Christian principles, inspires others to embrace the faith. In order to deepen and strengthen the faith, teaching and preaching are part of the process, as is the joyous witness that the Lord is the center of our life.
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Since 1886, Missionary Benedictines are involved in this ministry. The efforts of evangelization are manifested in pastoral ministry, especially in the celebration of the Sacraments. A major focus is faith formation and the outreach to people in our care.
At one time missionary work might have been coined as one of “mortar and brick” especially at the pioneer time when churches, schools, and hospitals were established. However, the human being was and always will be in the center as we share Christ’s message.