Farewell to Brother John Kränzlin †

Hans_Kraenzlin-1Born 18.5.1921
Entry into the SMB 23.9.1949
Mission Seminary Schöneck/Emmetten as farmer
Diocese Gwelo, Driefontein 1953-1954
Bondolfi  1954-1956 Mukaro  1956-1960
Holy Cross  1960-1961
Driefontein, dairy farming  1962-1975
Immensee, stamp-collection department  1975-2000
Retirement  2000-2016
Deceased   29.5.2016

Dear Confreres, dear relatives and friends of Brother John Kränzlin,

Brother John began his own brief CV with “In the name of God”. That was his life motto. Two weeks ago, we celebrated John’s 95th birthday when we were able to drink a toast with him. So we can look back on a long, full life that embraces three quite distinct periods.

John was born on the 18th May 1921 in Sattel SZ as the son of master baker Franz and Elisa Kränzlin-Hediger. In 1926 his father bought a bakery with fodder trade in Mühlau where John attended five years of primary school followed by 2½ years of secondary school in Sins. Early on, he liked to read missionary magazines and when Fr. Edwin Baur of Immensee gave a promotion talk in the school at Sins, John signed up for studies at the SMB Progymnasium in Rebstein. The special course there encompassed two years of Latin in one year, which was very difficult for him. He also struggled with Greek and Algebra and wanted to give up. But Kaplan Adolf Schmid in Sins persuaded him to continue his studies in Altdorf where he attended the fourth grade. But when he suffered from continuous headaches and a hospital stay, he gave up his studies. He wanted to be out in nature and became an apprentice on a farm in Reussegg, Sins. After about 1½ years he could attend the Agricultural School in Pfäffikon. During the years of World War II, his life was a blend of being a farm hand and doing military service. He did his agricultural service in Reussegg, Mühlau, Chêne-Bougerie in Geneva, Stadelmatt ZG and again in Reussegg, interspersed with military service.

John decided to become a lay brother so that he could go to the missions. In 1948, he did his novitiate in the Mission Seminary, Schöneck. As he had finished the Agricultural School, he ran the seminary farm for several years. In 1953, in preparation for a mission assignment, he took a six-month language course in London. In October he traveled to Rhodesia. In Driefontein he received an introduction to the mission routine and learned Chikaranga, the native Shona language. The following year he was the first brother assigned to Bondolfi mission, then after two years he transferred to Mukaro. After 3½ years there he moved to Holy Cross. In January 1962 Bro. Benedict Erni requested that Hans should go to Driefontein in order to build up a dairy herd. Within thirteen years he bred from a few cows, a herd of about 50 cows and cattle. By that time, in addition to the SMB personnel and the Regional House, Driefontein Mission comprised of many other establishments for which milk and meat had to be provided by the Mission farm. That included the Novitiate and Motherhouse of the African Sisters of the Infant Jesus, the TB Sanatorium with 340 patients, Muvonde hospital with 120 beds, the school kitchen for the primary school as well as the trade school for tailors, carpenters and carvers. Besides the actual dairy industry, John was also responsible for the work with the young cattle and tick control.

It seems that the workload finally became too much for John. In 1975 he packed his belongings, as he put it, and came home to the Mission House. Sr. Mauritia sought help and relief in the stamp-collection department. As stamp-collecting had already been a hobby of his in Driefontein, from now on he worked full time in the stamp-collection department. From 1979, John became the head of the department, until its closure. Even after the closure, he continued to collect stamps from friends and Confreres and forwarded them to the Cité ST-JUSTIN – a genuine, passionate stamp collector

John was interested in many things. In his own brief CV he professed to be a fan of folk music and also liked to dance. Wrestling festivals and brass band concerts inspired him, but he also loved beautiful orchestral music. In younger years he enjoyed hiking in his spare time to get to know his country better, as he said. In recent years though, his trips became shorter and shorter, eventually just around the house. Johns last months were marked by suffering. A few days before his 95th birthday he confided to one of his Confreres: “to live to 95 is not without cost.” Whereby he grabbed his aching arms.

John was characterized by a deep faith. The beatitude of Jesus in today’s Gospel: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”, certainly also applies to him. May God give John his promised hundredfold reward and us hope and strength for our own life witness.