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Mabukuwene Nature Reserve
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With thanks to:- Editor, typist, distributor - Leon Wuyts
UNDER THE PSEUDOLACHNOSTYLIS MAPROUNEIFOLIA
The name Father Odilo Weeger needs no introduction to us members of the 1st Bulawayo
(Pioneer) Scout Troop, or the Scouts of Bulawayo, or indeed the public of Bulawayo and
Matabeleland in general. Regrettably, this well-known and respected Pastor passed away on
the 8th of June 2006, in his 94th year. Up to the time of his passing, he was still active in the
parish of Christ The King, Hillside, where he had been stationed since 1970. In regularly
administering to us Scouts, Father last celebrated Mass in Gordon Park, the Matabeleland
Scout Leader Training and Scout Camping Ground in the Matopos, on the 14th of May 2006,
Motherís Day. And so as a tribute to Father Odilo, the 1st Bulawayo is humbled and honoured to
produce this special edition of our Troop magazine, to record in a small way the unselfish
missionary work Father undertook, sometimes under trying conditions, for the people of
Although Father Odilo had never been a Scout in
his youth, as a young priest he became
acquainted with the aims, objectives and
methods of the Scout programme, and on many
an occasion he lamented the fact that he had not
had the opportunity of being a Scout. This is
understandable, for Father loved the outdoors,
was ready to forego many luxuries, had a strong
sense of self-discipline, was observant and
questioning, compassionate and appreciated the
sacrifices people made for the sake of others. He
would have been an ideal Scout, for he was
mentally and physically active and had great
leadership qualities. As much as he loved the
outdoors, he was equally at home in the arts,
sport and science worlds, being an
accomplished violinist and gymnast in his
younger days. His great passion for history came
to the fore during many an eveningís
conversation when a simple question was asked.
He was also a linguist, being fluent in German,
his mother tongue; Latin, the language of the
Church; to a certain extent Greek and Hebrew;
the English of his adopted country, Zimbabwe;
and also Zulu and ISindebele, in which he
regularly preached up to the time of his death.
Father became actively involved in Scouting in 1980, when he was appointed Chaplain of
Gordon Park at the commencement of the monthly church services. Although being parish
priest of Christ The King church in Hillside, as well as Provincial Superior of the Mariannhill
Missionaries in Zimbabwe, Father found the time to conduct the services at Gordon Park for the
Scouts, a role he continued to play up to the time of his passing. At first, he said Mass every
second month, with the intervening month being taken by an Anglican priest. After about five
years, a Presbyterian service was included, so reducing his commitment to every third month.
Apart from when Father was away on home leave, he never missed a service and his last
service was in May 2006, three weeks before he passed away. Besides these monthly services,
Father would come out to the Park and conduct services for special events, or he would say to
me -Donít come in for Mass this weekend, I will come out to the Park,- for he knew I spent my
weekends at Gordon Park and would come into town on Saturday evening just to attend mass.
Not content with this contribution to Scouting, Father volunteered his services as a member of
the Matabeleland Scout Council, and by the time he retired from the Council in March 2006, he
had been the longest serving member.
Scouting to Father was a practical activity, where he was always delighted to hear of the camps,
expeditions, competitions and general Scouting activities that the Scouts were involved in. He
would often question the Scouts about their activities, and extol them to continue taking
advantage of getting out to camp, especially to Gordon Park, which he treasured. On his
numerous visits to Gordon Park, he would take a keen interest in the water situation, the
animals, the current projects being undertaken, and anything else that had come to his notice.
Taking his interest in Scouting a little further, I think Father wanted to be a Scout for a few days,
although he was in his 70ís, when he joined a group of my Scouts on two hikes in the
Chimanimani Mountains. The first hike was in 1986, and the second in 1989. The following are
excerpts from his logbooks:
4th December 1986
"We were about halfway through the valley when
something extraordinary happened. Heavy mist
descended from the mountain range and travelled
with incredible speed into the valley, obliterating
both view and vision. We could hardly see our feet,
at the same time we head the roaring thunder of
mighty waters some distance away."
"The continuous thunder of the waterfall was awe
inspiring, and we could not help listening to it with every fibre of our whole being the whole
night. How nice it was stretching our limbs and relaxing after a very heavy day. The ground
was hard but at least we were safe from rain and any other element of nature."
24th January 1989
"At dawn we celebrated Holy Mass in an adjacent cave which reminded us of the Masses in
the catacombs by the early Christians. A mouse was wondering what was happening, and
jumped from rock to rock. This celebration was quite unique. A unique experience for me,
not only for the youngsters, as I too had never said Holy Mass in such circumstances and
surroundings, though I have said it often in the open air, under trees and on rocks whilst at
Another unique experience was when Father celebrated Mass on Lake Scott, Gordon Park.
When the Lake filled for the first time in 1996, a large raft was constructed, pushed out onto the
Lake, and connected to the shoreline with a catwalk. Father, with a Scout assisting him,
celebrated Mass on the raft, with the congregation sitting on the shoreline. (We were reminded
of Jesus preaching to the crowds after asking to be taken out like this on a fishing boat.)
His love for what Scouting offered the young man was deep, and he encouraged everyone to
aspire to a high level of Scouting. For his dedication he was awarded, over the years,
progressive Scouting awards, culminating in the highest, The Golden Lion.
And now, until the next time, itís back to my hammock beneath my favourite Pseudolachnostylis
Maprouneifolia, with a floppy hat pulled over my eyes as I reflect on the life of a man of
compassion and love, devoted to his vocation and a personal friend and mentor.
An Extraordinary Man - Father Odilo
Father Odilo was born in the historic farming village of Arberg, in Franken, Germany on 14th
October 1912. He died on Thursday 8th June 2006, in Mater Dei Hospital, with his nephew Max
Weeger there from Germany and the comfort of the Last Sacraments and prayers going up from
there and all over the world.
He learned the dignity and values of honest hard work and the finest of moral and religious
traditions from his modest but very good family. He was in the last group of missionaries that
was allowed to leave Germany in 1938, and he gave his whole life to mission work in
He was a wonderful man who committed
his life fully to God, and to serving the
many peoples of Zimbabwe. One of his
sermons, especially at baptisms, was
about living our lives like candles. He
certainly did exactly that - giving light and
warmth, and consuming himself in the
He had a genuine love for and interest in
people, across a most surprising and wide
range. He maintained contact personally
with so many people whom he considered
his personal friends, and those of us
fortunate to be included knew his concern
and felt his prayers.
He had a deep reservoir of natural and
acquired wisdom and human
understanding and he appreciated Godís
loving provision for us all in the beauty and complexity of creation, the earth and all life on it and
the stars and all of the ever-more revealed universe.
He appreciated the finer things in life, like art, music and etiquette and supported many
community presentations and efforts with his presence.
His strong sense of justice suffered greatly from the absurd removal of his own rights as a
Zimbabwean resident for over 65 years, as well as the growing culture of impunity and disregard
for basic rights that has done so much in our country.
He made friends from all races and religions and was especially committed to reaching out to
non-Catholic Christians and many Jewish friends and his memory for names and details was
extraordinary. He was a self-disciplined and totally dedicated Catholic priest, but he found an
amazing amount of time to attend to sick visits and the pastoral needs of innumerable people,
irrespective of race or creed.
Although we all feel his loss personally and keenly, we can be confident that he himself will be
granted his heavenly reward and that we have a unique ally who will intercede for our many
May his dear soul rest in peace.
John L. Sullivan
A Short History of Father Odiloís Missionary Life
Father Odilo was born on the 14th of October 1912, in a small
town called Arberg, near Nurnberg, in Bavaria, Germany. He
was the second youngest of seven children. While a young
boy, World War I was declared, and the world around him
descended into chaos. However, through all this, at about the
age of 11, he was confirmed, and he took his first steps along
his missionary path.
In 1925, he began his High School education at Lohr-on-Main,
lasting for 9 years. During this period, his country was again
falling apart, as Hitler began to come to power. He completed
his high school education in 1933, and in the same year, aged
21, he commenced his novitiate at St Paulís near Venlo,
Holland, close to the German border. In 1934 he began
university at Wurzburg, on Main River. After three years at the
seminary, Father took perpetual / final vows of poverty,
chastity and obedience.
On the 24th of April 1938, Father was ordained a priest in
Wurzburg. However, war was brewing in Europe, and
thankfully, Father was sent to Africa, along with 9 other
priests, to Mariannhill in South Africa. A year later he left
South Africa, travelling by train to Bulawayo, in then Southern
Rhodesia. In 1939 he was stationed at St. Maryís Cathedral, in
After four months at St. Maryís, he received his first
assignment: St. Patrickís Mission, as assistant to Fr Joseph
Kammerlechner. As Europe collapsed into war, Father continued with his missionary work,
moving from St. Patrickís to St. Maryís Mission in Lukosi, Hwange district. Here he stayed for
close to three years.
In 1942, Father was transferred back to St. Maryís Cathedral in Bulawayo. In December 1945,
he commenced his Fatima Mission Project, followed by St. Lukeís Mission Hospital, near
In 1948, construction began on the Fatima Hospital, but was only completed in 1951. Father
Odilo did a tremendous amount, and variety, of work from Fatima, and St. Lukeís, opening
numerous outschools and reaching many hundreds of people with education, health and the
Gospel of Christianity.
In 1950, Father had been transferred to Empandeni for less than four months, but was soon
transferred back to Fatima and St. Lukeís, to resume building and development. In 1951, Dr
Davis, the first Missionary Doctor, opened the hospital at Fatima. With the arrival of Dr Decker
at Fatima in 1952, Dr Davis moved to the newly established mission, St Lukeís, where she
opened this second hospital. St Paulís Mission Hospital was also established in this huge Nkayi
In 1954, Father Odilo went home to Germany for 6 monthsí leave, after 16 years in Africa.
Sadly, his mother had died in the intervening years, and he found his father thin and bent with
age. At the end of 1957 he returned to his appointment as parish priest of Saint Maryís
Cathedral in Bulawayo. There, in 1958, he began his radio programmes, which brought such
inspiration and joy to so many people all over the country. In 1970, he became the Provincial
Superior for Mariannhill Missionaries in Zimbabwe, and so had to move from the Cathedral to
Christ The King parish in Hillside, where he remained for the rest of his life.
He often made trips back to these missions and hospitals and kept in close contact with those
running them or working there. He also had occasion to make round-trips in recent years, and
took great delight in seeing the improvements in roads and bridges, buildings and electrification,
things that were almost unimaginable when he began his work there.
On the trip in October 2004, Father
Rozende was delighted to welcome him at
Kana Mission. A brief stop at Saint Maryís,
overlooking the Lukosi River, reminded
Father Odilo of many things. He recalled
the time he had walked on the northern
ridge to find how suddenly it had all turned
green with the oncoming rains. Then there
was the time when he had found people
beating fish to death as they leaped out of
the sand and water that preceded an
upstream stormís flood-wall as it coursed
down the semi-dry river bed. As it flowed,
enough water dissipated into the sand as it
went, so that the water travelled at a manís
fast walking speed.
At Tshotsholo he was again warmly
welcomed, now by Father Alphonso and he
visited Tshongokwe Mission, where he had
joined the community the year before to celebrate the missionís 50th Anniversary. He posed for
photographs at Johnís high-level bridge over the Shangani River, and Angeloís weir that dams
the Shangani River for the first time along its course. He took special note of the swarming red
ants that attacked him on the shore - a sure indicator of the impending rains.
He enjoyed keeping in touch with so many special people, and Dr Hans Sharlaz, the Doctor
running Saint Lukeís Mission Hospital, welcomed him on the last stage before Bulawayo.
Father Odilo & the Wednesday Walk-about Group:
I knew Father Odilo for more than 25 years. He used to be a regular visitor to our home,
"Coriolanus," at Douglasdale, and an ever-welcome guest at our dinner table. During Corrieís
last, long illness, he came to visit frequently to pray for him, and was a tower of strength. He
kindly consented to assist Father Noel Scott by taking the prayers at Corrieís funeral service at
the Church of the Ascension, Hillside. This was in November 1989. Two months later I moved
into town, settling in Hillside, and was invited by Father O to join the Wednesday Walking
Group. We walkers met at Christ the King Church at 7:20 am on a Wednesday, for departure at
7:30. Father was very strict about that, and we had to be on time or else.
Father would have decided on the venue for the day, and Geoff was the camera bearer. Geoff
Archer was one of Fatherís best friends, and was soon to become mine as well, as we had a
common love - trees. In fact, this preoccupation of ours frequently got us into trouble.
Routinely, we would find our picnic spot somewhere in the Matopos at about 8:30 am. There we
would have coffee and biscuits, put on our knapsacks, don our hats, and set off for a walk,
which would take anything from four to six hours.
It was not unusual for us to have our lunch at 3 or even 4 oíclock in the afternoon. A popular
lunch spot was at Lushumbi lookout in the Game Park. There we could nearly always see
animals and enjoy feeding the monitor lizards, whom Father delighted in teasing.
Frequently, Geoff and I would retard the outward bound walk by stopping to examine a tree
which we found particularly interesting, and in so doing earn ourselves a good- natured scolding
from Father O. Every year toward Christmas time, he would promise to give us each a tail for
Once, on the Arboretum walk, we were going through some very long grass, while still skirting
the Maleme River. Father was wearing his usual little red hat. I was just behind him, but all I
could see was the red hat bobbing up and down above the grass. Suddenly the hat
disappeared! Next thing I came upon Father O lying scrunched up in a huge ant bear hole. The
way he was lying made me think he had broken both his legs. However, he promptly extricated
himself, shook the dust off, declared himself fit and just waited to see everyone safely past the
danger spot before continuing.
He was particularly interested in caves and
bushmanís paintings. In fact, he was an avid
speleologist, and was invited to give lectures
at the Bulawayo Natural History Museum on
the subject of rock art: which he did very ably
and eruditely. He was also a good
photographer, and had numerous albums of
excellent photos of rock paintings. Also we
walkers had sometimes to climb trees, or up
near-impossible rock faces so he could get an
interesting feature for his albums.
Protestations got us nowhere, as he would
simply insist that we have more faith. On the
subject of the more obscure rock paintings,
some of the comments and interpretations
were amusing indeed, especially from Aubrey
We all thought that neither Geoff nor Father O could possibly get lost in the Matopos - many
people had from time to time suffered that considerable inconvenience. However, Geoff did get
lost once on his way back from a long walk. I still think he had suffered a touch of sunstroke, as
it was a very hot day. No one missed him till they got back to the vehicle. Father had to walk
27kms that day, as he first had to walk to the Matobo Mission to borrow their vehicle (Geoff had
our vehicleís keys in his pocket) then drive to town to get the duplicate keys, and then back to
the walking venue and continued to search for Geoff along with the rest of us. Geoff
materialised the next day, but never lived the incident down. As a longstanding member of the
Black Eagle Society, he was presented with a very fancy cowbell at their next meeting. An
honour he accepted somewhat red-facedly.
On another of our walks Father stooped to remove
a biggish rock from our path and underneath it
was a baby black mamba. The little snake quickly
slithered away towards the long grass, but Father
brought it back with his walking stick to its nesting
place in a shallow hole under the rock. The rock
was quickly replaced, and we were told to take a
detour around it and not disturb the creature.
One day, we had wriggled our way through a
crack between two huge rocks, and I had
scratched my arm. It was bleeding quite a bit, and
Father suddenly had a bright idea. We would have
a blood sacrifice! The country had suffered two
consecutive yearsí drought, and the bush was
looking dry indeed. My blood was placed on a porcupine quill I had picked up earlier, and we all
had to bow down and pray for an end to the drought. Lo and behold, the following day we had a
very good down pouring of rain. Coincidence? Faith? His sense of humour was boundless, and
sometimes paid dividends.
One of our regular walks was to a place where ancient torrents had created great erosion which
has left deep ravines in the red earth, snaking their way through a valley. Their perpendicular
sides are puckered, forming intricate patterns, and tree roots expose their filigreed tentacles as
they reach down in search of moisture. Father enjoyed this walk particularly well, and insisted
on calling it the ĎGrand Canyon of the Matopos.'
The erection of the Holy Cross on Mt. Inungu and its subsequent replacement was an affair that
involved most of the walkers in one way or another. Fatherís dedication to this project is well
known and I was also roped in, in a small way. When the original cross started to deteriorate,
Father went to see the then warden of the Matopos National Park. This man was an atheist, and
wanted the cross removed altogether.
One day, Father went to see this warden, and said, "I am about to have the cross removed.."
"About time," said that infidel, interrupting Fatherís speech.
"I am going to remove it so as to put up a better, bigger one, capable of withstanding all
weathers," replied our intrepid Father.
The warden protested vigorously. None-theless,
a few days later Father telephoned me.
"Clem, I want you to write a letter to the editor
of the Chronicle (a Bulawayo daily newspaper)
and expose the wardenís atheism and
unreasonable objection to the symbol of
Christianity standing on Mt. Inungu."
I complied. One could not refuse Father Oís
requests. Sympathy for his cause poured in,
and the new 33 foot high steel cross was
erected. It is there today and, hopefully, will
continue to stand for centuries to come as a
monument to a man of God and his helpers
who would not be defeated, no matter how
great the obstacles.
Sometimes we would involve Father in deep philosophical discussions, and one or other of us
would raise a controversial subject. Father would not necessarily reply there and then, but
would walk on, or even change the subject. However, he had not forgotten, and obviously took
his time to think about it. Later on, during the walk back, one would get his reply, or sometimes
he would go back home and phone you in the evening to make his observations, clearly well
thought-out and sound.
He took an interest in everything, particularly the animals in the Game Park, along with their
waterholes. At Tshabalala Game Sanctuary, he would check on all the waterholes, and report to
the authorities if any were empty. It was a great sadness to him to watch the deterioration of the
Parks, the neglect and the depletion of the animals in consequence, along with poaching.
When I was away in Cape Town for a spell during April 2003, I received a letter from him, from
which I quote the following extract:
"The Walking Group send their love and best wishes - we have been out a couple of
times, but canít go far as we have no fuel, and even Tshabalala is now unaffordable,
being $500 per person, added to the $500 for each car. It was always a nice little outing
As I write now, it is now 300 times as much..
On our outward walks, Father was fairly indulgent. We could sniff the flowers, admire the views,
and of course we also had to learn our lessons, such as the names of the hills, rivers and caves.
On the return walk however, Father would set a spanking pace, and woe betide the person who
then held things up. On our return drive in the late afternoon we would, invariably, encounter
some warthogs feeding on the green grass on the side of the road next to Tshabalala. Father
never could resist chasing them. Off the road we would go, the Kombi lurching and bumping
across the rough terrain while the warthogs fled in panic, their tails standing stiff and erect, and
Father grinning from ear to ear with wicked delight.
On his last walk, we visited Chipangali, the wildlife orphanage, where Father teased one of the
lions with his walking stick. At first the lion seemed to enter into the fun of things, but it suddenly
lost its temper, grabbed Fatherís stick, and bit the end clean off! Later, at our picnic lunch,
Father confessed to me that he had a pain in his right side. Three weeks later, he passed away.
He was certainly a most unforgettable person, a staunch friend, a strong ally, a keen walker and
a great man of God.
We shall all miss him; and whenever or wherever I walk I can see him in my mindís eye, striding
ahead, sure, confident and enjoying every moment.
Clem van Vliet
Father Odilo - Chaplain of the Order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem
The Military and Hospitaller Order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem was founded during the many
crusades to Jerusalem from 1098. It was founded to protect and care for the soldiers, who
fought in the Holy Land to regain the Holy City of Jerusalem, which had been captured by the
Saracens. I have been a Knight of the Order for over 20 years. When the previous Army
Chaplain left, I was very fortunate to be able to encourage Fr Odilo Weeger to become our
Since the end of the crusades, the Order has taken on humanitarian work in many different
forms throughout the world, specifically that of fighting leprosy. In Zimbabwe, each jurisdiction is
able to carry out whatever charitable work it can, and over the years we have helped a number
of various organisations. In all of these, Father lent a helping hand, and he took great delight in
giving of his own time and effort to help those less fortunate than himself.
We have fed the poor at
Entambeni, donated ice
cream to the children at
Centre at the King
George School for the
Disabled. We have
donated mattresses to
Island Hospice, cutlery
to Rhodes House,
Barham Green. We
have taken the patients
from the Disability
Centre next to Mpilo
Hospital on a dayís
outing to the Matobo
Hills. We have held tea
parties at the Salvation
Army and Edith Duly
Nursing Homes, and we
have fed the needy at
with stew and soup
during the winter
months. Each year, we
also hold a retreat to Kyle Dam or Lake Macilwane, to renew our Christian Faith.
Throughout all of this, Fatherís boundless energy and zeal for charitable work has been a great
example for both myself, and the many others who have come into contact with him. By his
every action he showed us how to live a life of giving, and a life of thanks and praise to God.
Frank Noble KLJ
Lieutenant of Matabeleland
Father Odilo and the Catenians
I first met Father Odilo in the early 1960ís. I had been working for the Native Affairs Department
of the then Southern Rhodesian Government, and had for part of my stay been in the Lupane
area. Here I had heard a lot of things about this great priest who had worked in the area just
before I had been posted there. When I returned to the city I became a member of the Cathedral
Parish, and it was there that I first encountered Father Odilo. The man that I met there was a far
cry from the man that I really got to know in later years.
Many years before that, when I just a young pipsqueak, I remember my father leaving the
Boksburg Parish Church of St Dominic, all because of the priest, who was very dogmatic in his
way, always calling attention to late comers and stopping in mid-sentence during his sermon if
somebody coughed. My dad could not handle this and so we left Boksburg Parish and joined
the OMI Parish of Benoni.
Well, the priest I found
at the Bulawayo
Odilo, was the
reincarnation of the
priest I had left behind
so many years ago. In
those early days I did
not have much to do
with Fr Odilo, but as
time progressed, I
married and had
children of my own.
Sylvia and I decided
that it would be to
their advantage if they
enrolled in the
This they did, and it
was here that I once
more encountered Fr
Odilo. To say that this was an interesting experience would be understating the fact. For
suddenly here was a man who was at the same time the pillar of gentleness and understanding,
yet still domineering in his pursuit of doing things the correct way, and that, to him, meant doing
it Godís way.
Whenever the 8th Hillside Scout Group had a function or meeting Fr O would be there, talking to
the kids and their parents. He showed great interest and was always available for lending a
well-defined opinion. We soon got involved in going out to Gordon Park for the monthly
services, and it was here that I think Fr O showed his true self in the way he conducted a multifaith
service that made all in attendance feel that the service was for them only. Well I
remember how Fr O would always check his watch at the beginning of a sermon, then look
directly at Scout Leader Ed Hall, and say, "Iím keeping time!"
About the time that I became involved with Scouts I also joined a Catholic Menís Group known
as the Catenians. With its meeting base at the Elmar Schmidt Hall at Christ The King, we were
always coming into contact with Fr O. Although the Catenians do not have spiritual directors, Fr
O was in fact the "de factoí spiritual director of the circle. With his connection with the Scouts,
and his three-monthly Mass at Gordon Park, the Catenians have become regular attendees of
the wonderful Gordon Park services.
The Catenian Association is a Catholic menís association primarily aimed at the maintenance of
social and spiritual contact between Catholic business and professional men. It was formed in
the United Kingdom in 1908. The associationís Bulawayo Circle (the first Circle outside of the
UK) was inaugurated in the then Rhodesia by the late Dr Bernard Pepper, in 1957. One of the
dignitaries that attended the inauguration dinner was Fr Odilo, and since that time, up until his
death, he maintained a very close and personal interest in the Circle and the Association. Fr
Odilo was a very close personal friend of the Pepper family, and after the tragic deaths of Dr
and Mrs Pepper and their daughter, Judy, in a road accident, he was one of the priests
officiating at their Requiem Mass.
Every year the Bulawayo Circle commemorates the death of our founder with a Mass celebrated
on his old farm, now Zindele Safaris, owned by the Paul family. The farm is situated on the edge
of the Matopo Hills, off the old Gwanda Road, past the Matobo Mission. Fr O was always called
upon to celebrate these masses, with the venue being out in the open on the huge granite
dwala known locally as Shumba Shava, overlooking the Umzingwane and Mtshabezi Valleys.
Here Fr O was in his element, in the wide open expanse of the bush with the mighty canopy of
the brilliant blue sky for a roof, and it was here that he inspired us all with a feeling of closeness
to God and one another.
Recently the Bulawayo Circle celebrated its 500th meeting and at the celebratory dinner Fr O
was the guest speaker. He was in fact the only person present that had attended the
inauguration dinner in 1957.
Catenian Circle meetings are privy to the members only, but this did not worry Fr O and, if he
wanted to address the members on some subject, he would simply come into the meeting hall,
excuse himself to the President, address the gathering on the topic he wished to put across,
excuse himself and leave. Whenever possible, Fr O would attend the social functions of the
Circle and could always be relied upon to drop in for a quick brandy and coke with the members
after a Circle meeting.
Fr Odilo engendered a wonderful respect and sense of total awe in all that he met. You did not
have to be a Catholic or a member of the Scouting movement to have been able to find an
immediate bond with this self-effacing, generous, happy, humble man. He was a man who,
without a doubt, cast a spell on all that he met, not a spell of mysticism, but a spell of immense
love and feeling that here was the one man that you could really trust and believe, without any
doubts or misgivings.
After all those years with us, it is not difficult to say that with the death of Fr Odilo, the Scouts,
the Catenians, his close circle of friends, the Matopos, Bulawayo, Matabeleland and in fact the
whole country has lost a true Champion and Friend.
Without doubt, we all know that each and every time we gather out at Gordon Park, he will
always be with us.
Let us always remember one of his favourite injunctions: "Always be ready for the call of the
To Father Odilo - In Tribute
It was a gorgeous evening last month, May, a few of us were sitting with you on top of one of
the kopjes in Gordon Park looking down on the kaleidoscope of colours of the beautiful
Mtsheleli River Valley and the lengthening shadows on the sun kissed kopjes.
We watched in wonder as the brilliant full moon rose and the orange/red sun set behind the
darkening Matopos gomo's.
I told you then, as I had frequently told you before - "Father Odilo, the Good Lord he donít want
you in heaven".
Guess I was wrong, after
94 years the Good Lord
suddenly decided he
needed you in heaven and
found a vacancy for you -
we canít think why.
You didnít need a pulpit to
put the fear of God in your
congregation. All you
needed was your VW
Converter) Combi with
yourself at the wheel.
Driving precariously fast
and wildly along the rough
winding Matopos bush
roads, rosary in one hand
and on occasions, it
seemed, with your eyes
closed in deep meditation while your passengers were all in deep petrified prayer.
Thanks for the many times we were all able to enjoy the Matopos with you, walking, attending
Boy Scout functions and just appreciating the spirituality and serenity of that special place.
Remember the time you were marrying my son and forgot his name and nearly married me to
my daughter in law.
Thanks for blessing our little chapel on our farm in the Matopos, and Les and my marriage
Thanks for being our friend.
The sun has set - "a kopje has fallen".
Malcolm and Les Ross.
Matopo Conservation Society
The Society records with great sorrow the passing away of our Honorary Life Member, Rev Fr
Odilo Weeger CMM on Thursday 8th June at the age of 93 years. An outstanding man, who led
by example and enjoyed an incredible life, he will be missed not only by the Society, but by the
people of Bulawayo in general. As a tribute to Fr Odilo, we copy below the citation given to him
by the Society when he was awarded Honorary Life Membership on 23 October 1998 -
June 2006 Newsletter
"The members and committee of the Matobo Conservation Society in General Meeting,
proposed and approved unanimously, that Fr Odilo Weeger be appointed as an Honorary
Life Member of the Matobo Conservatrion Society in recognition of his considerable and
exemplary contribution to the objectives of the Society.
"Fr Odilo was born in Arberg, Germany, in 1912, and following his ordination in 1938 he
travelled to South Africa to take up his missionary vocation. He was posted to Bulawayo
in April 1939 and so his association with this city, and with the Matobo Hills in particular,
was established. Whilst Fr Odilo was posted to numerous missions in Matabeleland he
frequently served within the Bulawayo Diocese, and has been permanently based at
Christ the King Catholic Church, Hillside, since 1970. During this period he has built up a
considerable understanding and knowledge of the Matobo Hills, its people, culture,
history, rock art, flora and fauna. He is perhaps best associated with the great cross
erected on Mt Inungu in 1982, and the annual pilgrimage there every 25th May.
"Fr Odilo has served as chaplain to the Boy Scouts at Gordon Park, and was instumental
in the building of an outdoor chapel there. Since 1990, Fr Odilo has served on the Matobo
Committee, which oversees the management of the Matobo National Park. He supported
the establishment of this Society from the first meeting held in December 1992, and whilst
his Sunday duties preclude his involvement in our field trips he continues to visit the hills
weekly, and as such has been able to provide a constant flow of information on the
various sites and areas visited. He continues to take a keen interest in the Black Eagle
Survey, and with his wealth of knowledge of the hills, frequently accompanies visitors
from all over the world to our beloved hills. We the members wish to record in public our
appreciation and respect for the services rendered by Fr Odilo.
"We therefore declare Fr Odilo Weeger duly elected as an Honoarary Life Member of the
Matobo Conservation Society. Approved at the Annual General Meeting of the Matobo
Conservation Society, 23 October 1998."
As a missionary in Matabeleland North, Fr Odilo founded 32 schools and 3 mission hospitals
(Fatima, St Lukeís and St Maryís), all of which are operating today. In those early days, he
cycled much of the the area of Matabelena North, travelling between Victoria Falls, Wankie,
Dete, Matetsi, Lukosi and other remote and far flung locations on his bicycle. Flooded rivers
proved no obstacle as he would swim across and on one occasion he rescued a boy from the
croc infested Lukosi River. He was well known amongst the Bulawayo hospitals, probably
visiting every patient who ever stayed overnight! Fr Odilo was the reipient of the Cross of Merit -
First Class (German Federal Republic), Civic Honours (City of Bulawayo), Silver Elephant
(Matabeleland Boy Scouts) and the Golden Lion (Zimbabwe Boy Scouts) amongst other
awards. However, it was for his love and knowledge of the Matobo Hills that Fr Odilo held a
special place in the MCS.
Fr Odilo retired from the Matobo Comminttee in 2002, but was an ardent supporter of the
Matobo Hills World Heritage Bid, which was successeful in June 2003. He continued with his
regular outings to the hills, but sadly this year, was prevented from holding the annual Africa
Day Service at Mt Inungu.
He will be sorely missed by us all, but never forgotten.
Rev. Fr. Odilo Weeger - Requiem Mass
"I have spread my dreams under your feet.
12th June 2006
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams."
Father Odilo - a complex man - an intellectual; a practical man; a man of compassion and love
for his fellow human; a man of simple needs; a self disciplined man; but above all a man
devoted to God with a deep love for Mary, the Mother of God.
In serving God in his missionary life of sixty-eight years, Fatherís dreams for us were the
strengthening of our love for one another and the deepening of our personal understanding and
acceptance of our spiritual lives. Is not our life here on earth a mere flash in time in our eternal
life with God?
Fatherís parish was here at Christ The King, Hillside; it was at St. Maryís, Bulawayo; it was the
Hwange District with its many mission stations; and if we take his radio broadcasts of the 1950ís
to 1970ís in mind, it was the whole of Zimbabwe. Yes, he touched the hearts of many thousands
of people, Catholic and non-Catholic alike.
What of the man in the eyes of a parishioner; in the eyes of a friend?
Father knew me before I knew him, for he knew my parents, and knew me from the time I was
born. I only became aware of him when I was four or five years old, and only really got to know
him when I was at Junior School. As a young boy at Hillside School, Father, who was based at
St. Maryís Cathedral in town, used to come to the school first thing on Friday mornings to take
the Catholics for religious instruction. He was hard on us, for we had to learn of our faith, our
prayers, and if after fifteen minutes of instruction we could not answer his questions, well we
were in deep trouble. We would be summoned forward and given a flick on the ear, whilst at the
same time he would tell us the answer. The flick was not hard, but he built up the scene so
dramatically, tensioning his finger as if he was winding up a spring, and his facial contortions
were so scary, he looked as if he was about to eat us alive. This treatment was reserved for the
boys only. The girls were treated much more gently. Of course boys were boys and we would
on many occasions purposely give the wrong answer, just to get a flick on the ear. We didnít
know that he was aware of our trick, but he played along with us and the build up for the flick
was even more dramatic. We all passed and took our first Communion at the end of the year.
In those days, Christ The King parish had not been established, and I used to ride my bicycle to
St. Maryís from Burnside, a distance of ten kilometres, for the early morning service. It was
really great fun, for I loved riding everywhere on my little bike, more so when I was alone. I think
this impressed Father, and as you are all aware, Father had a fantastic memory down to the
smallest detail and on numerous occasions for years after he used to comment on how as a
little boy I would ride so far to attend mass.
Father saw the good in everyone. If he disagreed with you during a discussion he would bide
his time and wait for an opportunity to find a positive aspect and build up on that. He would also
say very quietly, "Sir, I disagree with you," and then continue with a convincing explanation as to
why he disagreed. In the end, through his remaining cool, calm and collected the dispute would
be resolved. Even though some disagreement may remain, he had given enough for one to
think quietly about.
No task done, however small, escaped his notice. He always commented upon it and thanked
those involved. On the other hand, he was not a "Yes" man, for if one did something that he did
not condone, either personally or for the good of others, he would make his feelings known, but
not in a demeaning way; always in a positive way. This was an expression of his self-discipline,
where he encouraged others to discipline themselves for the good of all.
Father Odilo loved the company of people and he always ensured that he was kept up to date
with the news of what was happening in the world, right down to the news of individuals and
their families, and he never forgot a name. This he accomplished by reading newspapers and
magazines, regularly attending meetings of the many societies he was a member of, and talking
to people directly. I am not sure of all the societies he was a part of, but I do know he was
involved in The Wildlife Society of Zimbabwe, Rotary, The Matobo Conservation Society, for
many years he was a member of the Matobo Committee, the Boy Scouts Association, he was
Chaplain of the Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem, he was a member of the Rotary Club of
Bulawayo and was awarded a Paul Harris Fellowship, along with his frequent support of the
Bulawayo Performing Arts Society, and visited Hwange National Park on numerous occasions.
His love for the outdoors was not confined to the Matopos, which, with his ĎWednesday walk
about groupí he visited just about every week; or to Hwange National Park, which he visited as
often as possible; but he also undertook two hikes of several days duration in the Chimanimani
Mountains, and these when he was well into his seventyís.
For his missionary work, which translated for Father into not only looking after the people of his
parish, but his many hospital visits and active support of the many societies he belonged to and
the attendance of Municipal functions, he was awarded Civic Honours by the Bulawayo City
Council. His name was inscribed in the Book of Civic Honours on the 6th day of August 1980.
For his missionary work in Zimbabwe, he was awarded
the Verdienst Kreuz - Erster Klasse (Cross of Merit -
First Class) by his home country, Germany, in 5th May
Bavarians are known for erecting crossed on
mountaintops, and so Father brought this trend to
Zimbabwe. Nestling at the base of a small hill of about
forty metres in height, is Fatima, one of the missions
Father established in 1947 in the Hwange District. On
the top of this small hill stands a large metal cross.
The cross, which most people know about, is the one on
Mount Inungu in the Matopos. Father Renk erected the
original cross, a small wooden one, in 1964. Wood is not
a very durable material when exposed to the elements or
to vandals, and so Father Odilo persuaded a number of
parishioners of Christ The King to design and erect a
more substantial cross. Who was brave enough to say
no to Father? In 1982, the Centenary year of the
founding of the Mariannhill Congregation in Africa, a mass was celebrated at the foot of the new
cross, eleven metres in height and made of metal.
Fatherís interests were wide and varied. Not only could he recognise and name the large and
small animals of the bush, but he knew the major stars in the heavens, the numerous caves and
bushmen painting sites in the Matopos were frequently visited, so much so that if I dared to
show him a photograph of a particular painting and ask him which cave it was in, he would say,
"Sir, we visited that cave on such and such a walk," and then give the name of the cave.
European history was one of Fatherís favourites and he delighted in talking about events of
hundreds of years ago. Some of these talks put our present situation into perspective. So, not
only was Father up to date with what was happening here and now, he would relate similar
events, which happened centuries ago.
Fatherís friends were of all colours and religious persuasions. He respected them for their
beliefs, provided they were in harmony with peace and the acceptance of love for one another.
At funerals, Father would say "One day I will be in that box, when that will be I do not know, but
when God calls me I will be ready. One day you too will be in that box. Donít think that because
you are young that that day is a long way off. It could be tomorrow. Are you ready?" As humans
we mourn the passing of Father Odilo, yet as Christians we celebrate his passing, for to be
seated next to God in Heaven is our highest reward.
You all knew Father Odilo. Remember him, as you knew him. I have only given a glimpse of a
great man, a great friend and a great mentor.
To use one of Fatherís endings to a sermon, "Take one thing with you - are you ready?"
Eulogy given by Norman Scott on behalf of the parishioners of Christ The King, Hillside.
One night I had a dream.
I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in
one belonging to me and one to my Lord.
When the last scene of my life shot before me
I looked back at the footprints in the sand
and to my surprise,
I noticed that many times along the path of my life
there was only one set of footprints.
I realized that this was at the lowest
and saddest times of my life.
This always bothered me
and I questioned the Lord
about my dilemma.
ĎLord, you told me when I decided to follow You,
You would walk and talk with me all the way.
But I am aware that during the most troublesome
times of my life there is only one set of footprints.
I just donít understand why, when I needed You
You leave me.í
He whispered, ĎMy precious child,
I love you and will never leave you
never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints
it was then that I carried you.í