Photo : Erzabtei Sankt Ottilien, cropped | used with permission

Father Sales (Ludwig) Vollmann OSB
Missionary Benedictine of Sankt Ottilien
29 October 1939 – 22 January 2021

Quite unexpectedly, Father Sales Vollmann died peacefully in his monastery cell during the night of 21–22 January. Some weeks before his passing he had complained of increasing weakness and found it difficult to walk, but this did not seem to affect his usual vitality.

Our confrere came into the world on 29 October 1939 in the Bavarian-Swabian town of Illertissen as the son of the wine merchant Albert Vollmann and his wife Maria, née Langenstein. The pious couple had nine children, several of whom chose the priesthood and religious life. He attended primary school in Illertissen and at the age of eleven transferred to the mission seminary at St. Ottilien, graduating in July 1959. As his teachers noted, there was a constant, close contact with the “deeply religious parents” during his years in the seminary. Immediately after graduating, he entered the monastery where he was named after the gentle bishop of Geneva, Francis de Sales. Temporary vows on 19 September 1960 were followed in the usual way by studies at the philosophy school at St. Ottilien and from the winter semester of 1962, theology studies in Munich. As a student Frater Sales performed above average, but towards the end of his studies preaching turned out to be a problem child. His instructors acknowledged that he was humanly approachable, had breadth of knowledge, zeal and good will, but also a certain lack of concentration and an inclination toward erratic thinking. That made him a pleasantly unconventional conversation partner but reduced the options for pastoral ministry.

On 22 August 1965 he was ordained a priest by the Augsburg Bishop Josef Stimpfle. Soon afterwards, Archabbot Suso Brechter sent him to the priory at Jakobsberg for three years (1966–1969) where Father Sales gained his first pastoral experiences. He was sent to Tanzania as a missionary for Peramiho Abbey on 2 August 1970. There for over thirty years Fr. Sales served on many mission stations: in Lupanga (1971–1973), Lupingu (1973–1978), Matola/Lugenge (1978–1980), Lugarawa (1980–1986), Uwemba (1986–1992) and Peramiho (1993–1999). Disagreements over pastoral questions led to his return to Sankt Ottilien in 1999. He quickly reintegrated into the archabbey, took on help outs, heard confessions and worked as an editor in the EOS-Verlag. He was also open to unusual requests such as assignments in the priory at Rabanal, Spain and generally for the sake of variety. In his last years he worked in the second-hand bookshop where his work day (“Friday is book day”) led to increased visits from his circle of friends.

Father Sales loved the beautiful in life, especially everything that had to do with the arts. He liked to paint, sing and play the piano, although due to lack of training he taught himself everything. Eight volumes of poetry attest to his poetic talent. These include many unusual but also wise thoughts or a beautiful night prayer: “Night, in the end lower your dark wing over me so that the wheels, overworked, which did not reach their destination despite full speed, come to a stop.” In his verses and also conversation, even with all his sociability, there was a certain humor-colored pessimism that affected human ambitions and world history. His painting was honored with an exhibition in the Leitershofen retreat house. He had a special gift for foreign languages and in his old age even began studying Russian.

Father Sales was not only an Original, but also original with unusual ideas and insights. He often made decisions dependent on swinging his pendulum beforehand. There were those who did not take him very seriously because of his strange traits, but if you listened more carefully, you learned to appreciate his often-astute power of observation and unconventional wisdom. This combined with kindness, sociability, cheerfulness of heart and friendly manner so that he became an important point of contact for some people. Thanks to a complete lack of ambition, he never had to or wanted to hold leadership positions. Perhaps that contributed to his lasting youthful appearance and a joyful carefreeness that could be felt even in old age. We are grateful for the decades spent together in fraternal life that now lives on in another form.

— Archabbot Wolfgang Öxler and the community of Sankt Ottilien Archabbey