Martyrs in East Africa


EAST AFRICA (1888 - 1905)

Setting Out in a New Land

The new missionaries first landed in Zanzibar January 22, 1888. On Sunday, January 29 Fr. Bonifatius Fleschutz, and several monks departed for the mainland and by early February they had already purchased a suitable spot for a future mission about 20 km southwest of Dar es Salaam in the village of Pugu. Construction of suitable housing began immediately. By March the first house was complete and the first four sisters departed Zanzibar to join the others at Pugu.

From the beginning the monks and sisters suffered from the harsh climate and tropical diseases. The superior's greatest concern was the poor health of his missionaries. They were sorely beset by the fever and nutrition was inadequate. Some of the first missionaries returned to Germany because of poor health. Br. Wendelin Schön was the first to die March 28, 1888, probably of heat stroke. Sr. Lioba Ellwanger was the first sister to die August 14, 1888, probably of malaria.


Convent in Pugu according to a drawing of our founder Fr. Andreas Amrhein

Bushiri Uprising

The new missionaries found their relationship with the residents of the area to be very positive. A village was constructed where freed slaves could live and work together with the missionaries. However, tension replaced the peace when the Sultan agreed to cede control of the East African coastal area to the German East Africa Society (GEAS) for an annual fee to the sultan. This so angered the Arabs that a revolt was fanned into flames by their leader, Bushiri in August 1889.

Unaware of the seriousness of the situation Fr. Bonifatius left Pugu and traveled to Zanzibar for business. The monks and sisters continued their work as usual. On Sunday, January 13, all seemed calm. However, a shot shattered the humid quiet of midday and several hundred rebels attacked the mission. Brother Petrus Michel, Brother Benedikt Kantwerg and Sr. Martha Wansing were fatally struck by bullets. Some of the children under their care were stabbed to death. Two brothers escaped but Brother Rupert Hochberger, Brother Romuald Hofmann, Brother Ildefons Kauer and Sr. Benedikta Sivering were fettered like slaves and led away as prisoners. The mission was burned. The remaining missionaries returned to Germany.

Sr. Martha Wansing

Date of Birth: 12 Dec 1864 in Hengeler-Stadtlohn
First Profession: 21 Nov 1887 Rome
Missioning: 11 Nov 1887 East Africa
13 Jan 1889 killed in Pugu / Tanganyika

From a letter from Sr. Martha:
“With joyful determination I gird myself with the red cincture that should remind me constantly to be ready to pour out my blood for the holy faith.”

Fr. Etienne Baur, the superior of the Society of the Holy Spirit in Bagamoyo, negotiated with Bushiri to release the prisoners. By March 11 all the missionaries were released in exchange for ten Arabs prisoners in German captivity and the payment of 6000 rupees.

It was in May of the same year that the GEAS led an expedition to Pugu. There the bones of Br. Petrus were found before the house of the brothers. The bones of Br. Bendikt and Sr. Martha were found in the chapel. Their remains were buried beside Br. Wendelin and Sr. Lioba.


New Foundation in Dar

By November 1889 the Bushiri uprising had calmed down and Fr. Bonifatius Fleschutz returned to East Africa accompanied by two brothers. Old buildings on the harbor were purchased and renovated to become St. Maria for the sisters and St. Joseph's convent for the monks. In June 1890 new missionary monks and sisters arrived.

People before S Maria and S Joseph adjusted

Santa Maria Convent in Dar es Salaam

Santa Maria Convent in Dar es Salaam

Santa Maria Msimbazi adjusted

Santa Maria Convent in Msimbazi

Burial for our Early Missionaries: Kurasini then Msimbazi

After the destruction of Pugu, our early missionaries were buried in the first cemetery of the city in the harbor area of Kurasini. When this cemetery was removed because of road construction, the remains of our missionaries were transferred to our convent in Msimbazi, also called St. Maria (built from 1911-1914) The sisters remained in this location until 1920.

Memorial Cross in msimbazi

Memorial Cross in msimbazi

When visiting the Msimbazi cemetery, one is shocked to see the 30 markers of the missionaries buried there, for example:

1890 Sr. Johanna Lammermuhle 26 years old Professed 1 year Mission - 1 year

1890 Sr. Pancratia Aldenhoevel 28 years old Professed 1 year Mission - 1 year

1891 Fr. Bonifacius Fleschutz 29 years old Professed 4 years Mission - 4 years

1891 Sr. Agnes Zierden 30 years old Professed 2 years Mission - 2 years

1891 Br. Joseph Jrrgang 32 years old Professed 4 years Mission - 4 years

1891 Br. Johannes Bapt. Leis 29 years old Professed 1 year Mission - 1 year

1891 Fr. Franciscus Mayer 25 years old Professed 2 years Mission - 2 years

1892 Sr. Winfrieda Wellmeyer 21 years old Novice Mission - 1 year

1893 Sr. Helena Kloppenburg 23 years old "Professed in death" Mission - 2 years

1895 Sr. Bertha Sirch 25 years old Professed 2 years Mission - 1 year

Maji Maji War

Already in 1905 the lives of our sisters and brother were again threatened in the Maji Maji war. On their journey by foot from Kilwa to Peramiho one Bishop, two brothers and two sisters were killed. In Ng'awa near Nyangao was killed Sr. Walburga while escaping from the rebels.

Celebration in Mikukuyumbu, where Bishop Cassian Spiess, Sr. Felicitas Hiltner, Sr. Kordula Ebert and two brothers ere killed.

The remains were brought to St. Joseph Cathedral in Dar es Salaam.