On Saturday 17th January, 2009, we held our first election of a Conventual Prioress. As we said in our previous letter, for months we had been preparing ourselves spiritually with the help of P. Jean-Joachim Adjovi and so many others who had come to assist us. Mother Marie-Reine Hounsou was elected, and joy broke out, our hearts overflowing with gratitude. Thanks to all those who carried us with their prayers. The unity of the community and the peace which dwells in us are surely the fruit of it. We thank you for continuing to pray for us, for the work of sanctification which is being carried on in every baptised Christian is never finished.
In company with the rest of the country the community has lived through some reversals, with ceaseless interruptions of electricity (and surges which ruined many apparatus) and water, despite our precautions against lightning. The activity of the country suddenly comes to a halt, then begins again and stops again, plunging us into total darkness and complete dryness. The country is getting poorer and poorer, and we recommend it to your prayers. Of course all this upsets us, but we put up with it patiently, trying to share what little we have with our still less fortunate brothers and sisters, for many people come knocking at our door.
The holy scripture and the Rule of St Benedict agree in placing an important emphasis on work carried out in love, which makes us live in the presence of God in imitation of Jesus Christ. However our present workshops for cloth and handiwork are having difficulty in finding new markets. The cost of living puts us under strain no less than everyone in Benin. How can we improve our revenue? Find another revenue-stream? We are still looking !
This year we have tried to reduce our feeding costs by ourselves producing our staple food. Our land is very poor, but Sister Marie-Joseph with a team of workers has succeeded in producing 2,265kg of maize and 800kg of cassava flour. This covers our needs and those of the chickens.
We lack a crushing-machine costing 200 Euros which would make the crushing of cassava less exhausting. The water saved by these means has enabled us to make 200kg of tapioca. Our palm-trees produced 70 litres of oil this year. We are embarking upon the manufacture of soap, at least for the house. All this will tell you that we earn our living by the sweat of our brow to share and also to welcome our guests. This leads them to prayer by beauty, since, as St Benedict says, they are welcomed like Christ.
TANZANIA: THE ABBEY OF ST MAURUS IN FULL EXPANSION
Our new guesthouse, St Pirmin, is still under construction, and will have 80 rooms. We can already use certain parts of the house and we have been able to welcome guests from this country and also from the United States, Austria, Germany and Italy. When the building is finished it will bring in a good revenue to augment our financial independence. From 20th to 23rd September the first African Benedictine Conference on Formation was held in our house. It was a real challenge to house about 30 people in the building which is not yet finished, but we can say that all the participants were satisfied.
The dormitory of the monks is in the final phase of its construction. Our community is developing and, thanks to generous help, we can offer the monks more suitable accommodation. We will have 40 new rooms. At the moment some rooms of the old building house three or four brothers. We look forward also to beginning a building to house the boys of the secondary school St Benedict. At present the boys live in rooms rented from families in the village of Hanga. There is no electricity, and this makes studying difficult. We also have a project to build a new church for the abbey and an infirmary for elderly and sick monks.