On 21 September the Conventual Priory of Prince of Peace at Tigoni (Kenia) was raised to an Abbey, 42 years after its foundation. The community has ca. 50 monks, of which 26 are in solemn vows. The abbey maintains dependent houses in the city of Nairobi, in the foothills of Mount Kenya and in the Northern Desert. Tigoni has also been essential for the Ottilien foundation in Egypt, and currently supplies the Congregation Secretary who works at St. Ottilien Abbey in Germany.

On 24 of September the monks elected Fr John Baptist Oese Imai OSB, hitherto Conventual Prior, their first abbot, for a period of 12 years.

The First Benedictine Abbey in Kenya

A long history bears fruit

In 1972 the Missionary Benedictines came to Kenya. In Tanzania the handing over of the mission to the local clergy had begun, and some younger Fathers were looking for new tasks. A few years later they founded a monastery in Nairobi – the most important center of East Africa. The monastery later moved to the countryside to Tigoni, 20 km from the city. The European founders recruited young men from Uganda and Kenya, and gradually an impressive priory with large agriculture, tea plantation and guest house was established. In the tradition of the Missionary Benedictines, they took responsibility for a large city parish and developed a Bible center on the foothills of Mount Kenya. In 2005 they started the first mission with the Dassenech, a nomadic people in the north of the country.

The growth of Tigoni was not unclouded. In the more than 40 years of the monastery’s history there were also setbacks. The tense and sometimes violent history of the country was also reflected in the development of the monastery. But gradually, the community, which had been entirely African for many years – only one German still lives there, in the Dassenech mission – attained the long-awaited stability. Today, monks from Tigoni are also responsible for the new foundation in Egypt and help out other monasteries. A priest is active in the congregation leadership in St. Ottilien. The time seemed ripe to finally elevate this monastery to the status of an abbey – the full form of a Benedictine monastery.

On September 21, 2020 the time had come. The Abbot President carried out the elevation to the abbey in a simple ceremony during the vespers of the Evangelist Matthew. The next day the first abbot election began. Of the approximately 50 monks of the community, 26 were eligible to vote and finally chose Fr. John Baptist Imai OSB, who had previously led the monastery as prior for almost six years. That speaks for continuity!

Tigoni is the only monastic community of men in Kenya. As an abbey, the monastery will probably play an even greater role in the future. The brothers have good vocations and many projects. They are planning further foundations and the Missionary Benedictines are confident that the youngest abbey of our order will continue the mission of the Missionary Benedictines in Kenya and also in other countries.

Photos courtesy of Tigoni Abbey and Br. Wenceslaus Omamo