Photo : Ndanda Abbey buildings and Secondary School, cropped | By Grahamcole – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Fr. Ulrich (Vitus) Stöckl OSB
Monk and Missionary
24th May 1924 – 24th April 2021

After being blessed with a fruitful life as a monk and missionary, our beloved Fr. Ulrich Stöckl OSB passed away peacefully at Ndanda Mission Hospital on 24 April 2021. Fr. Ulrich will have turned 97 in May 2021. After working in various parishes and outstations for more than 50 years, Fr. Ulrich returned to the community in Ndanda about 12 years ago. He said his goal for returning to Ndanda was: “to prepare myself for the great journey to heaven.” As part of that preparation, Fr. Ulrich wrote a short story of his life which he expected to be read out upon his death. He wrote:

“I was born on 24th May 1924 and grew up in Pessenburgheim with my brothers and sisters. My school life was as follows:

“On 1st May 1930, I entered the primary schools in Holzheim. Five years later in 1935 I took the entrance examination for the seminary in St. Ottilien. Since the seminary of St. Ottilien was closed by the government of the time, I went to the Ottilien College in Dillingen instead. This college was also closed on 29th April 1941. As a result, I went to Munich, where I lived with the sisters Maria and Dora Häfele – sisters of the then parish priest of Holzheim. In January 1943 I was drafted into a military unit “Gebrigsjäger” in Oberammergau and went to France for training. In June 1943 I came to Russia to the edge of the Caucasus and I took part in the war until the end. I was wounded three times. Between May 1945 and 24th July 1949, I fell into Russian captivity in Gorki on the Volga in a prison camp. Three months later (October 1949) I re-entered St. Ottilien and studied philosophy there and theology in Munich. On 7 August 1955 I was ordained in St. Ottilien and held my First Mass in Pressenburgheim on 14th August. In November 1956 I went to England for half a year to learn English. A year later (1957) I was sent out from St. Ottilien to Ndanda in Tanzania. Between 1957 until 2005, I worked in five different parishes. The parish I spent longest time ever was Ndanda were I worked for twenty-three years. On 15 August 2005 I was able to celebrate my Golden Jubilee as a priest back home.”

So after 50 years of active service in parishes, Fr Ulrich decided it was time to go back to the monastery in Ndanda and lead a fully monastic life of prayer and work. In those fifty years he built churches, kindergartens and health centres. He led many young people to priestly and religious life. Under his mentorship, more than fifteen young people were ordained priests. Many young women were also inspired by him to join the religious life. He encouraged hundreds of young people to have a Christian marriage. He was a great advocate of the Legio Maria, the youth apostolate and religious education in schools. We can say with certainty that Ndanda Abbey, the Congregation and his family have lost an admired and exceptionally life-affirming man. The same can be said by so many diocesan priests, religious and lay people who knew Fr. Ulrich over more than six decades as a spiritual father, friend, guide and supporter. He will certainly be greatly missed by many.

After his return to the monastery in Ndanda, Fr. Ulrich led a very exemplary life for the young confreres. He was a person who was always present: be it at prayer times, community meals or meetings. After 90 years, he could hardly sing. Yet he never missed a single singing practice. His life has inspired the younger generation of the Ndanda community in a very special way. His life has taught us in a very concrete way how a Benedictine can be a good monk and an effective missionary. And that is his legacy of which we are proud and grateful for. May the Lord grant him eternal life. Amen.

Abbot Christian and the Community