The Monastery of Christ the Word celebrates 25 years of existence in Zimbabwe

Front view of the Monastery of Christ the Word in Macheke.

In 1992 a conference of Southern African Benedictines held at Chishawasha seminary outside Harare raised the possibility of having Benedictine monks in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean Bishops went on to invite the monastery of Ampleforth in the North of England to found a monastery in Zimbabwe. 

The neighbouring Precious Blood sisters offered a building in their grounds at Monte Cassino mission near Macheke as an initial location and thus the Monastery of Christ the Word was founded in 1996 under the leadership of Robert Igo who was the Prior of Superior. This year we celebrate 25 years since our foundation. 

The main work in any monastery is the Mass and the regular prayer services (the Divine Office). In addition to Mass we meet together seven times a day to pray in our Church. Each day we spend time reading the bible slowly and prayerfully (we call this lectio divina).

Three monks who form the Community of Christ the Word Monastery. From Left to right; Brother Placid, Father Barnabas, Father Terence

Like most Roman Catholic monasteries, we follow the Rule of Saint Benedict. This Rule was written in about 1500 years ago to share the wisdom that Saint Benedict had gained through many years of living the monastic life himself. It is a way of living the Gospel vocation to grow in the love of Christ so that we may share in his kingdom.

Prayer, lectio divina, manual work and attending to the needs of our guests fill our days. We also go out to lead retreats for diocesan clergy, religious communities and other groups. At the Monastery we grow a lot of our own food, fruit and vegetables as well as raising our own livestock. We have goats, sheep, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys. We also do our own cooking, cleaning, washing and general monastery maintenance.  During the main meal of the day we listen quietly to a reading. In the spirit of Pope Francis’ letter Laudato Si’, we have solar cells for electricity and solar geysers for hot water.

Brother Placid Mavura takes his final vows during his solemn profession.

In 2021, Fr. Robert was elected Abbot of Ampleforth in England, but while he was at Christ the Word he wrote a book on the pastoral care of those who are HIV Positive and one on the Theology of AIDS. 

There are three monks in the community at the moment: Father Barnabas Pham is the Prior, and the other monks are Father Terence and Brother Placid. We hope to welcome a new aspirant to join us soon.

We aim for deeper understanding about the care of those in need in Zimbabwe, and to welcome people who would like to come for the day, or to stay for a retreat. This invitation is open to everyone, including priests, lay people, young and old. You can come for just a couple of days, or a week, or more.  

One of the monks joining a retreat group enjoying their lunch.

Because of Covid-19, our guest house is closed at the moment. But when regulations allow it, all our guests are welcome to join us for the Divine Office and Mass. We ensure that retreatants are given an hour or so with a member of the Community each day, for the duration of their stay. Retreat accommodation consists of a room to yourself and meals are provided.

People remark on the peace, quiet and spirituality experienced on retreats. Should you wish to join us please ring, email or write to us giving the dates you would like (with alternatives if possible). We suggest a $US 15 a night donation but you can give more or less as you are able. 

Inside the Monastery of Christ the Word Chapel

We try to serve God by our prayer and work in the monastery. Our vow of Stability means that a monk normally spends his entire life in the same monastic Community meaning we invite you to spend time understanding your calling and getting to know us should you be interested in trying a vocation. 

Although we have no set requirements, we look for an ability to read, write and speak in English, which is the language of this Community, and good intelligence rather than particular academic standards. You should also have an aptitude for reading and learning as well as work, both manual and intellectual. It is important to note that, although some monks become priests, most do not. The monastic vocation is complete in itself and ordination is not the normal goal of monastic life.

The goats being kept at the Monastery provide meat for the monks.

If you have taken advice and prayed about it and you feel drawn to monastic life, you should write to the Director of Vocations, (at Monastery of Christ the Word, Monte Cassino Mission, P. Bag 902, Macheke, Zimbabwe) or call 077 283 1827 or email Fr. Barnabas at asking to come and see us or stay with us for some time. 

Brother Placid Mavura, the first Zimbabwean to take his final vows, came to the monastery in January 2007 and made his solemn profession seven years later in 2014. We look forward to the time when, God willing, the Monastery of Christ the Word will be an entirely Zimbabwean community.

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