Photo : The Benedictine Abbey of Münsterschwarzach, cropped | By Holger Uwe Schmitt – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
“Now, O Lord, you let your servant go in peace,” became the personal prayer for our beloved confrere Brother Edmar (Alwin) Schäfer OSB at 4:50 in the morning of 2 February 2021. His life’s journey and his life’s work were seamlessly interwoven with our abbey to that it is no wonder that Br. Edmar was one of the most well-known names of Münsterschwarzach.
He came into the world on 31 July 1942 in Obergeiersnest in the Rhön as the 12th child of his parents. His father Anton and mother Wilhelmine ran a farm. After primary school and a year in the agricultural vocational school, Alwin Schäfer entered our St. Placidus Brothers Seminary on 1 March 1957. He learned the blacksmith’s trade from Br. Cletus. The journeyman’s exam on 6 September 1959 was followed by the postulancy. He was admitted to the novitiate on 15 September 1960 and given the monastery name of Br. Edmar.
The first training was followed by an apprenticeship as a plumber from September 1961–63 that concluded with the journeyman’s exam on 13 August 1963. Parallel to these steps was the introduction to the monastic life with temporary profession on 21 September 1961 and then on 10 September 1967, solemn profession. Two months before Br. Edmar earned the title of master as a plumber handling gas and water.
Equipped with a wealth of specialized knowledge, which he constantly expanded, and gifted with a calm conscientiousness, Br. Edmar headed these departments since 1970. In 1973 he took over the responsibility for the entire heating operation. Coal was replaced by heating oil and meantime by 100% renewable raw material in the operation of the biogas plant the woodchip heating system. Br. Edmar was a frequently consulted expert and also a preacher of environmentally friendly care for creation. His enthusiasm for this came across clearly to his hearers during tours for guests and visiting school groups.
As if all this couldn’t fill his life, since 1961 Br. Edmar grew into serving on the voluntary fire brigade so much that from 1980 to 2005 he was the commandant of the monastery fire brigade and finally of the Kitzingen District based fire brigade. His service was honored with high distinction by the municipality and district.
A good picture of his character and spiritual demeanor may be his daily rounds. With calm but vigorous steps he went to the important mechanical control points. Br. Edmar carefully looked after everything that concerned water and fire until 2017. In panic situations he remained calm and assured others time and again with the same words: “There must be a way!” He spoke little of the terrible scenes of rescue operations he had to deal with.
He could recount endlessly sayings and anecdotes from everyday life in the monastery. That showed how very much he was connected with the life and feelings of the confreres. That also suited his hobby as house photographer.
Br. Edmar was connected many times with the missionary orientation of Münsterschwarzach through his professional work. His departments placed countless orders for Africa. He came to know Tanzania for two months in 1985 and in 1989 the work of the confreres in South Africa. And thus he also knew who benefited from the numerous weekend clothing collection campaigns.
When Br. Edmar pulled back from his professional tasks because different illnesses very much hindered him, he became quieter and quieter. At the end of 2020 he transferred to the infirmary. A short hospital stay only confirmed a further decline in his strength. Quietly, like a fire burning out, surrounded by his confreres, he went into the salvation that Simeon’s prayer has promised him.
Münsterschwarzach, 4 February 2021
Abbot Michael and the community of Münsterschwarzach