Thomas Spreiter

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Thomas Spreiter, OSB
(1865-12-28)December 28, 1865

DiedJanuary 27, 1944(1944-01-27) (aged 78)
Resting place Sacred Heart Abbey, Inkamana
Nationality German
OccupationMissionary, bishop
Years active1900 - 1943
Organization Ottilien Congregation

Thomas (Franz Xavier) Spreiter, OSB (28 December 1865 27 January 1944) [1] was a German missionary, one of the first of the Missionary Benedictines, who worked in German East Africa and later South Africa. He was the ordinary of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dar-es-Salaam in German East Africa, [2] and bishop of the Apostolic Vicariate of Natal and of the Vicariate of Eshowe.

Missionary member of a religious group sent into an area to do evangelism

A missionary is a member of a religious group sent into an area to promote their faith or perform ministries of service, such as education, literacy, social justice, health care, and economic development. The word "mission" originates from 1598 when the Jesuits sent members abroad, derived from the Latin missionem, meaning "act of sending" or mittere, meaning "to send". The word was used in light of its biblical usage; in the Latin translation of the Bible, Christ uses the word when sending the disciples to preach The gospel in his name. The term is most commonly used for Christian missions, but can be used for any creed or ideology.

Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dar-es-Salaam archdiocese

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dar-es-Salaam is a Latin Metropolitan archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church in Tanzania.

German East Africa former German colony in the African Great Lakes region

German East Africa (GEA) was a German colony in the African Great Lakes region, which included present-day Burundi, Rwanda, and the mainland part of Tanzania. GEA's area was 994,996 square kilometres (384,170 sq mi), which was nearly three times the area of present-day Germany, and double the area of metropolitan Germany then.



Back of prayer card signed by Thomas Spreiter Hess Boniface leaves England 21.jpg
Back of prayer card signed by Thomas Spreiter

Childhood, early education

Thomas Spreiter was born to a deeply religious Catholic middle-class family. From an early age, he had shown an interest in missionary work, but during the Kulturkampf no orders could engage in missionary activities. However, Benedictine visionary Andreas Amrhein had just begun his Ottilien Congregation and had opened up an institute in Reichenbach am Regen, not far from Regensburg. Spreiter began his novitiate there on 29 September 1886. The institute was housed in a former Benedictine monastery, and the first years, poverty reigned and the work was hard; additionally, Spreiter had become Amrhein's personal secretary. In 1887, the order transferred its activities to St. Ottilien Archabbey. [1] There, he professed on 2 February 1888, and was ordained on 28 July 1897. [2]

Kulturkampf is a German term referring to the conflict between the German imperial government and the Roman Catholic Church from about 1872 to 1878, predominantly over the control of educational and ecclesiastical appointments. More rarely, the term is used by extension to refer to the power struggles between emerging constitutional democratic nation states and the Roman Catholic Church over the place and role of religion in modern polity, usually in connection with secularization campaigns.

A religious order is a lineage of communities and organizations of people who live in some way set apart from society in accordance with their specific religious devotion, usually characterized by the principles of its founder's religious practice. The order is composed of laypeople and, in some orders, clergy. Religious orders exist in many of the world's religions.

Reichenbach am Regen Place in Bavaria, Germany

Reichenbach is a municipality in the district of Cham in Bavaria in Germany.

First mission

In 1900, he left for the mission in Zanzibar, [2] where the Benedictines of St. Ottilien Archabbey had been active after 1888. He headed the mission there in 1905, [3] until the Maji Maji Rebellion, during which Bishop Cassian and four other bishops were killed, threatened his mission and his life; they fled, and Spreiter went to Europe to learn of his future as a missionary. [1]

Zanzibar Semi-autonomous part of Tanzania

Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania. It is composed of the Zanzibar Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, 25–50 kilometres (16–31 mi) off the coast of the mainland, and consists of many small islands and two large ones: Unguja and Pemba Island. The capital is Zanzibar City, located on the island of Unguja. Its historic centre is Stone Town, which is a World Heritage Site.

St. Ottilien Archabbey abbey

St. Ottilien Archabbey is a Benedictine monastery in Emming near Eresing and the Ammersee in the district of Landsberg, Oberbayern, Germany. It is the motherhouse of the St. Ottilien Congregation, otherwise known as the Missionary Benedictines.

Maji Maji Rebellion Uprising in the south and east of German East Africa, 1905-1907.

The Maji Maji Rebellion, sometimes called the Maji Maji War, was an armed rebellion against German colonial rule in German East Africa. The war was triggered by a German policy designed to force the indigenous population to grow cotton for export, and lasted from 1905 to 1907. The war resulted in 250,000–300,000 total dead, mostly civilians from famine.

Second mission

Spreiter, on his return to Europe, learned that he was appointed as apostolic vicar on 13 March 1906, [2] succeeding Bishop Spiss. He was ordained in St. Ottilien on 1 May, and returned to Africa in 1906, now overseeing all missionary and educational activities in his vicariate: "Every year he undertook a pastoral journey through his mission territory. That meant he was on the road for up to six months and covered a distance of around 1500 kilometers on foot." [1]

Apostolic vicariate

An apostolic vicariate is a territorial jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Church under a titular bishop centered in missionary regions and countries where dioceses or parishes have not yet been established. It is essentially provisional, though it may last for a century or more. The hope is that the region will generate sufficient numbers of Catholics for the Church to create a diocese. In turn, the status of apostolic vicariate is often a promotion for a former apostolic prefecture, while either may have started out as a mission sui iuris.

When World War I broke out, all German missionary activities were forcibly halted, and Spreiter was under house arrest in Dar es Salaam until 1920, when he was made to return to Germany, [1] "resigning" his post in Zanzibar on 24 November 1920. [4]

World War I 1914–1918 global war starting in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the resulting 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

Third mission

On 27 August 1921 he was appointed as bishop (1st Apostolic Prefect [1] ) to the Apostolic Vicariate of Natal (Zululand). [5] In 1922, with the help of other German missionaries, he founded the Inkamana Abbey, also known as Sacred Heart Abbey, Inkamana. [1] Three years later, on 26 January 1924, he was nominated 1st Apostolic Vicar of the newly promoted Vicariate of Eshowe, [1] which had split off from the Apostolic Vicariate of Natal in 1921. He was described as "rigid and uncompromising." [6] He retired on 14 May 1943, and died in Sacred Heart Abbey, on 27 January 1944, where he is buried. [7]

The Vicariate Apostolic of Natal was a Roman Catholic missionary, quasi-diocesan jurisdiction in South Africa.

Zulu Kingdom Former monarchy in Southern Africa

The Kingdom of Zulu, sometimes referred to as the Zulu Empire or the Kingdom of Zululand, was a monarchy in Southern Africa that extended along the coast of the Indian Ocean from the Tugela River in the south to Pongola River in the north.

Inkamana Abbey

Inkamana Abbey, also called Sacred Heart Abbey, Inkamana, is a Benedictine abbey in Vryheid, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Eshowe. It belongs to the Ottilien Congregation.

Dinosaur bones

During Spreiter's tenure in Zanzibar, Werner Janensch and Edwin Hennig were conducting their expedition to the Tendaguru Formation. On May 30, 1910, Spreiter visited their camp, where Hennig met him. Spreiter showed him a bone fragment he had picked up in a village near the Mbalawala Plateau, and another fragment he had found in a village called Makangaga, west of Kilwa Kivinje, which proved that dinosaur bones could be found hundreds of miles from Tendaguru, the initial aim of their expedition. [8]

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Sieber, Godfrey (2003). "Thomas Spreiter (1865–1944), Bischof in Ostafrika (1906–1920) und Südafrika (1921–1944)". In Godfrey Sieber and Cyrill Schäfer (ed.). Beständigkeit und Sendung:Festschrift St. Ottilien 2003. EOS Verlag. pp. 345–50. Archived from the original on 20 February 2004. Retrieved 16 December 2010.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Herbermann, Charles George; Edward A. Pace; John Joseph Wynne; Andrew Alphonsus MacErlean (1914). The Catholic Encyclopedia: An International Work of Reference on the Constitution, Doctrine,discipline,and History of the Catholic Church. R. Appleton. p. 85. Retrieved 16 December 2010.
  3. Ludwig, Frieder (1999). Church and state in Tanzania: aspects of changing relationships, 1961-1994. Brill. p. 23. ISBN   978-90-04-11506-4.
  4. Cheney, David M. "Archdiocese of Dar-es-Salaam" . Retrieved 16 December 2010.
  5. Denis, Philippe (1998). The Dominican friars in Southern Africa: a social history, 1577-1990. Brill. p. 151. ISBN   978-90-04-11144-8.
  6. Sieber (1995) 389.
  7. Sieber (1995) 387.
  8. Meier, Gerhard (2003). African dinosaurs unearthed: the Tendaguru expeditions. Indiana UP. p. 55. ISBN   978-0-253-34214-0.