Photo : Monnik met een baard, cropped | Johannes Bosboom, Rijksmuseum

“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…” Ps.23:4

Father Witmar (Albert) Metzger OSB

was born on 23rd of June 1930 in Main-Tauber-Kreis, Baden Würtenburg, Germany. On the evening of 1st August 2021, while surrounded by those who loved and cared for him for many months, he died peacefully at the age of 91. He was born in a small family of three children: himself, his brothers Eugen Metzger and one sister Helene Günther. His parents were Alfons Metzger (a farmer) and Agatha Metzger. The two got married in January 1927 and after three yeas of marriage the young Albert Metzger was born. In the monastery, he would be given a new name of Witmar.

Between 1937 -1941, the young Albert received his primary education in Gerlachsheim. This was followed by high school education between 1941 – 1946 in Tauberbischofsheim. After his high school he entered the Seminary in St. Benedict in Würzburg. This was between 1946-1949. Albert attended his early school years either during the second World War or just before it. His family was one of many which were badly affected by this war. He grew up during the reconstruction of Germany which had been devastated by the allied bombing. This was the time where life was difficult and food was scarce. In this time, Albert learned and understood the meaning and importance of working hard in life.

This tendency of working hard was manifested, not only by helping his parents in working in their small farm, but also in his future life as monk, student and missionary. His monastic journey began in 1949 when Albert knocked the doors of Münsterschwarzach abbey. In the novitiate he was given “Witmar” as new name. In October 1950 Brother Witmar made his first profession and immediately started philosophical studies in St. Ottilien until 1952. In the following year, 1953, Brother Witmar made his final profession and was ordained a priest in Münsterschwarzach in 1955. He received his priestly ordination from the hands of Abbot-Bishop Ebehard Spieß of Peramiho. For the next three years (until 1957), he studied theology in Rome where he obtained a doctorate in dogmatic theology. Soon after, in 1958 he went to London University in England where he obtained a postgraduate certificate in education in 1959. It was in October 1959 when his dream to become a missionary was fulfilled: at last his superior sent him as a missionary to Ndanda where he took the first position as mathematics teacher in Ndanda secondary school. This task was only done for one year. It then followed many other assignments around Ndanda.

Fr. Witmar became the community prior (1961 – 1968), a task which went hand in hand with his second task as financial administration for the education department of the abbey. After these years in the abbey, Fr. Witmar switched to parish work in Nkowe and Mbekenyera parishes between 1968 -1975. Still full of energy and new enthusiasm, Fr. Witmar accepted a totally new role in the diocese of Mtwara as its financial administrator. This was 1975 and he remained in this assignment for 35 years – until 2010. Under his leadership, several churches – big and small were constructed within the diocese. Some of them are: Shangani West in Mtwara, Mwena Church, near Ndanda; St. Benedict parish in Newala, Ruangwa Church, Namwombe Church, Mbekenyera Church, Tandahima Church and several other outstations. He will always be remembered for his central role in purchasing Narunyu farm for Ndolo Sisters and for the construction of Mtwara Sisters and Aquinas Secondary Schools.

Fr. Witmar was a man of multiple talents. Although he had doctorate in theology, he did quite different things in his life as a missionary. He was not only a mathematician, but a self-learned architect and construction engineer. He designed and supervised the construction of all the mission projects mentioned above. After his work in the diocese he returned to Ndanda in 2010. Between 2011 and 2013 he employed his constructions skills in Sakharani; where he renovated buildings, designed and constructed an administration wing and set up a new water supply. In 2013 he accepted a brand new mission in Imbuho, northern Mozambique. There, too, he did what he was best at: construction. His main achievements there were: new church, new Kindergarten, new parish house and new residential house for sisters.

Unfortunately, he did not live longer to accomplish his biggest dream yet: the construction of proper convent for the Benedictine Sisters from Ndolo, who wanted to start a foundation in Imbuho.

In April 2020, his health was getting worse and he had to return to Ndanda. Many years of hard work under the African sun had taken their toll on Fr. Witmar. Since he returned to Ndanda, Fr. Witmar never got stronger. He was moved from the monastery to the Tutzing Sisters’ Infirmary where he received loving care from the sisters. On 17th of July, following his poor condition, he was moved to the missionary ward of our hospital…

Fr. Witmar was a great man in many ways. He was person of unmatched intelligence, deep faith and practical ability. He was a teacher, community prior, pastor, administrator, architect and constructor – all in one. Through his life example, he has shown how effective one person can achieve in his life. Through his word and deed he demonstrated how monastic life can be fruitfully combined with active missionary life. He excelled in this. He helped many young people to recognize and develop their civil engineering talents. Some of them ended up forming a well-to-do construction company which is working together with our abbey today. Fr. Witmar may no longer be with us, but his spirit will always remain where he big heart was: Africa.

And now after a long life dedicated to the spreading and strengthening the gospel, we ask the God of life to reward him for all that he did for spreading of the Good News in the Tanzanian Church.

Abbot Christian and Ndanda Community, Abbot Michael and Münsterschwarzach community