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 in returning to Ndanda was: “to prepare for the great journey to heaven”. As part of that preparation, Fr Ulrich wrote a short story of his life to be read out on his funeral day:
“I was born on 24 May 1930 and grew up in Pessenburgheim with my brothers and sisters. My school life was as follows:
On 1 May 1930, I entered the primary schools in Holzeim. Five years later in 1935 I took the entrance examination for the seminary in St. Ottilien. Since the seminary of St. Ottilien was abolished by the government of the time, I came to the Ottilien College in Dillingen. This college was also abolished on 29 April 1941. Therefore 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 the Gebrigsjäger (kikosi cha pekee cha jeshi la wajerumani) in Oberammergau and went to France for training. In June 1943 I came to Russia to the edge of the Caucasus and I went through the war to the end. I was wounded three times. Between May 1945 and 24 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 14 August. In November 1956 I came to England for half a year to learn English. A year later (1957) I was sent out from St. Ottilien to Ndanda in Tanzania.”
So after 50 years of active service in parishes, Fr Ulrich decided it was time to go back to the monastery in Ndanda and live 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 there: 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.