Call within a Call: Fr. Frank Wirz becomes Brother Xavier after 57 years of active priesthood

By Br. Alfonce Kugwa

Br. Xavier relaxes with Sr. Lydia Fabian at the Manger in Harare as he narrates the story of his transformation.

Born on 30 August 1935, Fr. Frank Wirz, a Catholic priest under the Swiz based Bethlehem Mission Society (SMB) turned 85 years in 2020. He has been a catholic priest for 57 years after having received the sacrament of orders in 1963 in Switzerland. When he came to Zimbabwe in 1973, he served at different missions including Silveira where he spent seven years and St. Antony’s Zaka where he stayed for 15 years. He immensely contributed to the wellbeing of the local Church especially the Dioceses of Gweru and Masvingo through spiritual and infrastructural development.

Br. Xavier in his new SBJN habit.

On turning 65 years in 2000, Fr. Frank was granted permission by his Superior General, Fr Josef Meilli SMB to assist Fr. Antony Fischer in accompanying the Sisters of Jesus of Nazareth at Mariachiedza in the small scale farming area of Musengezi under Chinhoyi Diocese. Little did he know that he would develop yet another vocation within his priestly vocation. Fr. Frank is now Br. Xavier after he upgraded his vocation to become a monk in the locally founded Association of the Sisters and Brothers of Jesus of Nazareth. He made his final vows of poverty, obedience, chastity and stability on 8 September 2020.

Because of the increased demand by men to join the association, the Sisters of Jesus of Nazareth has changed their name to the Sisters and Brothers of Jesus of Nazareth. Before Fr. Frank now Br. Xavier developed the desire to become one of them, was Br. Joseph Dinala who joined already in 2015.

The Superior of the SBJN, Sr. Lydia Fabian said when the group introduced the male association in 2015, Fr. Frank had not made up his mind and was just a chaplain helping the Sisters in different ways.

Br. Xavier and his community of SBJN sisters pose for a photo at the grotto.

“In 2017, he expressed his interest in joining the monastery as a monk. We feel we have made a great impact on him such that he developed the desire to be one of us,” said Sr. Fabian.

Fr. Frank stated that he feels much happier and fulfilled as his new way of life is a manifestation of a deeper commitment to missionary work. He said his transformation also gives joy to his SMB community to which he remains a member.

“My SMB superior expressed joy at the new development and congratulated me for taking up the initiative. He said; “Now, we have a contemplative monk in the service of the SMB who is also a full member of the SBJN. He has no problem with my new status as an SBJN member because this is more to do with my spiritual belief,” Br. Xavier stated.

Br. Xavier joins the Sisters in prayer in the chapel at The Manger.

Br. Xavier said he has done his part in the active priesthood and has no attachments anymore but wishes to continue the missionary work in a deeper and contemplative way. He invites men who feel called to monastic life to join the SBJN to experience a close relationship with God.

Br. Xavier said: “This life helps one to create a deeper relationship with God and my wish is that more people especially men, come to experience this so that they know God better. Monastic life gives you ample time to discover the meaning of life.”

Adorned in a monastic habit, Fr. Frank feels more comfortable in his new community at The Manger, the association’s residents in Harare where he helps with community chores and spiritual renewal of the community.

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