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Farewell to Fr. Albert Plangger †

Albert Plangger

Albert Plangger

Albert Plangger was born on the 9 of June 1925 in the village of Oberuzwil in Switzerland. He was the oldest son of Austrian parents which meant that he was proud to become a citizen of Europe when Austria became a member of the European Union.

He had a sister who became a religious nun, and a younger brother. He attended the college of the Bethlehem Mission Society in Immensee. On 23 September 1945 he became a member of the Bethlehem Mission Society and did his philosophical and theological training at its seminary. On 18 March 1951 he received his priestly ordination by Bishop Francis Demon of Aliwal South Africa and celebrated his first Mass. In preparation for his missionary ministry he was sent for further studies in New York and Fribourg Switzerland and obtained the Master of Arts in Anthropology. In November 1954 he arrived in Southern Rhodesia and began missionary work in the Diocese of Gwelo. After work at the mission stations of Driefontein and Holy Cross, the Bishop of the diocese appointed him as his secretary and made him Diocesan Education Secretary. As such he was responsible for the organisation of its education at primary and secondary school level. As resident of Mambo Press in Gwelo he became 1972 Managing Director of its printing and publishing establishment. Mambo Press became known throughout the country through its numerous publications in the local Shona and Ndebele languages, its series of missio-pastoral and economic papers etc. Its newspapers ‘Moto’ (=Fire) and ‘Kristo’ reached a wide readership. Of lasting influence was the publication of a Shona prayerbook ‘Mupiro Wedu’, later expanded under the new title ‘Minamato’.  The directors of Mambo Press had to submit increasingly under the censorship of the white Rhodesian government and to fear legal persecution. Father Plangger published a collection of the pastoral letters of the Rhodesian Catholic Bishops under the title ‘Rhodesia – the Moral issue’. During all the years at Mambo Press in Gwelo he served as a priest in the Catholic parish St. Mary’s in the Senga township.

In 1992 Father Albert moved to the capital Harare into Mambo House where he kept himself busy as free journalist and where he served the local church and the community of the Dominican Sisters. He also used to give introductory courses to new missionary staff, particularly to the medical staff of the Swiss organisation Solidarmed. His home remained a place where the Holy Eucharist was celebrated daily.  He remained a critical observer of the political happenings in the country and gave a written report on the Catholic writings on the ‘liberation war’ in Zimbabwe.

He had in mind to remain in Zimbabwe until the end of his life. But complications in his health (urinary problems) made his medical advisers in 2016 decide the return to Switzerland for the rest of his life. He accepted the decision. Together with one of his fellow missionaries he published still the fascinating history of the Gwelo mission from 1946 up to 1977, the date when the first local African priest was ordained as Bishop of Gwelo. Father Albert lived in the medical care section of the Motherhouse of the Bethlehem Mission Society in Immensee where he died peacefully on the 8th July, 2019 at the age of 94 years.

Publications and Articles of Father Albert Plangger:

  • Plangger & Mordikai Hamutyinei. Tsumo – Shumo. Shona Proverbial Lore and Wisdom. Mambo Press Gwelo 1974
  • Versuch in afrikanischer-christlicher Kunst. Mambo Press Gwelo 1974
  • Rassenfrage und Missionierung in Rhodesien(1890-1930). In: Jakob Baumgartner ed. Vermittlung zwischenkirchlicher Gemeinschaft. 50 Jahre Missionsgesellschaft Bethlehem Immensee. Schöneck-Beckenried, 1971.
  • 20 Jahre Mambo Press: 1958-1978. In: Neue Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft 1978, S.207-218; 264-290.
  • Zur Ehrenrettung von Eduard Biehler (1861-1927). In: Neue Zeitschrift für Missionswissen­schaft 1971 S.54-.
  • Georg Höltker zum 70. Geburtstag. In: Neue Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft 1965, S.61-.
  • Malawi Lilongwe. Klarissinnen. In: Neue Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft 1968 S.206-.
  • Hamitischer Mythos und Minder­bewertung des Afrikaners. In: Neue Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft 1971, S.138-.
  • Catholic reactions to the Liberation War in Zimbabwe. In: Neue Zeitschrift für Missions­wissenschaft 1994, S. 237-.
  • Sind die Missionare schuld an Zerstörung und händlerischer Ausbeutung der Makonde-Kunst? In: Neue Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft 1971, S.56-.
  • Papua-Neuguinea. Kruzifix. Tatsachen und Gedanken. In: Neue Zeitschrift für Missionswissen­schaft 1961, S.293-.
  • Praktische Völkerkunde für den Missionar. In: Neue Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft 1956, S.141-.
  • Shona-Gebetsbücher. Beitrag zur Geschichte christlicher Shona-Frömmigkeit und Liturgie. In: Neue Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft 1970, S.28-; 127-.
  • E. Evans-Pritchard warnt Übersetzer. In: Neue Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft 1971, S.223-.
  • Missionsstudien-Tagung Fordham University New York USA (24./25.1.1953). Sommerkurs des Mission-Institute. In: Neue Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft 1953, S. 147-; 1954, 59-.
  • 15 Jahre Kath. Univ. Lovanium Kinshasa, Zaire 1969. In: Neue Zeitschrift für Missionswissen­schaft 1971, S.139-.
  • Shona Kirchenmusik und -Katechese auf Schallplatten Zimbabwe. In: Neue Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft 1970, S. 278-.
  • Annual Statistical Table on Global Mission 2000 (D.B. Barrett). In: Neue Zeitschrift für Missions­wissenschaft 2000, S. 262-.
  • International Bulletin of Missionary Research (IBMR) 50 Jahre alt. In: Neue Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft 2000, S. 262-.

Fr. Josef Elsener