Spiritual Centre Zakeo

    IT WAS IN JULY 1988 when the former Abbot Siegfried Hertlein OSB asked Fr. Severin Pieper to prepare himself for a new apostolate—founding a spiritual centre in the former buildings of the then “Social Centre” in Ndanda. The Mother Superior of the African Sisters Convent, Sr. Pacida Maokola OSB, did not have the personnel to go on with the school. On the other hand, she was convinced of the importance of having a spiritual centre in the southern part of Tanzania and offered the buildings to Abbot Siegfried for just this task.


Because Fr. Severin himself had the same dream, he did not find it difficult to accept this new challenge. Luckily, Bishop Gabriel Mmole of Mtwara diocese was in favour of this idea and agreed to lend us these buildings to start with. However, he made it clear that he expected the abbey to erect its own buildings within a period of five years. Fr. Severin started with his new task in January 1990. At that time Fr. Michael Reepen OSB, now abbot of Münsterschwarzach, had a two-year missionary assignment to Ndanda.
He proved to be extremely helpful in starting this new project. From the beginning the aim of the centre was clear: to deepen the faith of our baptized—especially the lay people—and help them to understand their place and their role in the post Vatican II Church. For that reason emphasis was put on spirituality, because only through sound spirituality can one’s faith in the risen Christ grow. The beginning was not easy.  
This is because lay leaders in the diocese were not yet used to having a spiritual centre, let alone run seminars on their own. In the second year, however, the situation changed and the active participation of the laity in running seminars was evident. Different seminars were offered to the following groups: 1. Catechists, young men wanting to be catechists. 2. Leaders of parish councils, Catholic women, Catholic youth, young Christian students, church choirs. 3. Marriage Encounter. 4. Seminars and retreats for religious. 5. Seminars on Natural Family Planning, etc. From the very beginning, Bishop Mmole had asked the abbey to set up its own buildings for the Spiritual Centre.  
It took 1ears altogether until the abbey was ready to fulfil this. When preparing the centenary of the presence of the Benedictines in Ndanda (2006), the decision to construct the new centre was made. The work started just nine days after the centenary, on the 24th of August 2006. Altogether it took four and a half years to finish the buildings. In January 2010 Fr. Severin moved to the new centre and started work straight away. The new buildings have 21 double rooms, 12 of them self-contained. The site is much calmer, there is better ventilation in the bedrooms and there are more possibilities for spiritual exercises.  

Indoors there is a beautiful chapel and a meditation room. Outdoors there is a large labyrinth, 8 huts for Bible-meditation as well as a path leading to a cross on top of the hill just behind the buildings. Today, Zakeo Spiritual Centre is very well visited. The new buildings and the calm surroundings are a cause for much praise and appreciation. Those who visit the centre find it to be an ideal place for prayer and meditation as well as for other group meetings and discussions.

Our community hopes that many people will continue to visit and use this place in their quest of deepening their faith in the loving God.

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