Photo : postcard from Erzabtei Sankt Ottilien web site

Brother Ansfried Maria (Werner) Machatsch OSB
Missionary and Monk
12 March 1935 – 30 April 2021

Brother Ansfried Machatsch died suddenly in a hospital in Fürstenfeldbruck, probably due to organ failure as he was there for biliary surgery. However, death was not unexpected for him: he had returned to Germany in October 2020 after sixty years of service in Zululand, South Africa, to receive intensive health care in the infirmary of St. Ottilien. In his own direct manner, he said bluntly that he had returned to the old homeland to die. As a last wish, he said that “the brothers should pray for him.”

Brother Ansfried was born in the former Moravian and now Czech town of Neutitschein (Nový Jičín) on 12 March 1935 and grew up in the nearby village of Seitendorf (Životice). His foster father Johann Kosubal and his mother Maria had two more sons. The father worked as a carpenter.

Major political changes took place during his primary school years: Moravia was occupied by the German Reich in 1938 and after the end of the World War, all German inhabitants were expelled. The expulsion took place under cruel circumstances and the traumas were to resurface occasionally in Brother Ansfried. Since the father was missing, the mother had to raise the children alone under difficult circumstances in their new Allgäu home of Bertoldshofen, Marktoberdorf District.

After finishing primary school, Machatsch transferred to the agricultural vocational school in Marktoberdorf in 1950 and worked part-time for various farmers. The parish priest of Bertholdshofen recommended the 16-year-old youth to St. Ottilien and wrote that the boy was “a bit cheeky, but not ill mannered.” For some time the boy had become serious about religion, which the priest had “not expected from him at all.” Perhaps he could become a “useful helper in the missions.”

In April 1952 he began an apprenticeship as a poultry farmer at the vocational school in St. Ottilien, which he completed in February 1956. After entering the monastery, which took place shortly after his 17th birthday, he made his temporary profession on 8 June 1954 and his perpetual profession on 10 June 1957. Brother Ansfried was versatile, so in addition to the poultry farm, he also worked at times in the cowshed and in the mission procura. On 21 March 1960, the feast of St Benedict, he was sent to the Zululand Mission as a farmer and station brother, i.e. with all-round responsibility for all practical activities.

Brother Ansfried began in South Africa with a three-month study of English with the Benedictine Sisters of Twasana. In January 1961 he was already working in the parish of Mahlabatini as a station brother.

In his early days he was very homesick. Possibly the loss of his first home in the Czech Republic had led him to identify particularly strongly with his second home in Bavaria. He was therefore allowed to return to St. Ottilien in 1963, but only a few hours before he was to fly he changed his mind, since, according to him, Christians must not avoid the cross. So the rainbow nation of South Africa became his third home.

In February 1966, he shifted to the parish of Fatima, where he worked as a farmer, and from February 1971, he was in charge of the sugar cane farm in Nandi. Then in 1982 he took over the monastery farm at Inkamana. There he built a small Bavarian kingdom in the farm building, which became a visitor attraction. After some time, he was in poor health. This was in good part due to his eating habits.

Brother Ansfried was undeniably a one-of-a-kind person with down-to-earth language, but with a noticeably good and even soft heart and a lot of humor. He helped numerous people in hardship situations. That’s why people didn’t hold it against him when he occasionally severely scolded and criticized, but also apologized afterwards. He was very sociable and maintained many contacts in South Africa and at home. He wrote several letters almost daily. His piety was deep and consistent. This was evident not only in his presence in choir, but also in an intense personal prayer life. Marian piety with daily rosary prayers played a major role. As a devotee of the Mother of God, Brother Ansfried also adopted “Mary” as his second religious name. With him, the Congregation of the Missionary Benedictines has lost a piece of missionary bedrock. May he now rest in peace!

The Funeral Mass is on Tuesday, 4 May 2021, at 10:30 a.m., in the abbey church of Sankt Ottilien. Archabbot Wolfgang Öxler and Community of the Archabbey of Sankt Ottilien.

Abbot John Paul Mwaniki and Community of Inkamana Abbey