EWTN Vatican
Reviving the Faith in Europe's North

EWTN Vatican highlights the work of the Bonifatius Association (Bonifatiuswerk) by listening to the testimonies of those affected by its work. 

Sister Gilchrist Levine, a Cistercian Nun of the Tautra Mariakloster, speaking of her monastery, said, "The architecture was special and won many prizes. The benefactors who made this possible were primarily Bonifatiuswerk in Germany and our own order. But Bonifatius couldn't have done enough for us." 

Bishop Erik Varden of the Diocese of Trondheim, Norway, said, "Bonifatius Association is sort of embedded in the structure of the church in this country. And we owe that very generous and creative foundation a great deal." 

Founded in 1849 in Germany, the Bonifatius Association supports the Catholic Church in Northern Europe. Once Catholic territories are now considered modern-day mission territories. Monsignor Georg Austen is the secretary general of this Catholic foundation. In April 2023, Pope Francis appointed him a consultor to the Dicastery for Evangelization. 

“The Bonifatius Association,” Mons. Austen noted, "was founded 175 years ago in Bavaria, in Regensburg. And you know the name of our patron, Boniface. 'Boni-factius' means 'to do good things.'" 

Digging deeper, Andreas Thonhauser, EWTN Vatican Bureau Chief, asked, "Could you explain a little bit why the church in Germany has such an interest in the northern part of Europe?" 

"The Pope was asking us, it was before my time, now 50 years ago," Mons. Austen replied, "We have the relationship and collaboration to support these parts." 

"And how is the situation in the Northern Countries?" Thonhauser asked. 

Mons. Austen explained, "In the Nordic countries for some years, it's a very international immigrant church, young but small, and they don't have so many resources for financial things. We are supporting different projects, one of which is building. We have helped to build, for instance, a new cathedral and parish halls in Trondheim." 

Trondheim's new cathedral in Norway, funded by the Bonifatius Association, serves as a key rallying point for re-evangelization. EWTN Norway and the Diocese of Trondheim recently launched "Mission 2030," an annual conference and initiative pointing to the 1,000th anniversary of the Martyrdom of Saint Olav, the Viking king and patron Saint of Norway, who died in battle in the year 1030 and whose remains can be found nearby at Nidaros cathedral. The Gothic-style church was Catholic at the time of its construction but became Lutheran in 1537 during the Reformation. St. Olav's legacy has continued to attract pilgrims. 

"The legacy of Saint Olav," Bishop Varden noted, "is deeply embedded in the history and, I think, in the spirituality in the heart of our country. And it's rather astonishing and fascinating to see this legacy coming to life again and blooming." 

"I'm constantly touched," he continued, "by the sheer amount of kindness and generosity and the willingness, ready to roll up one sleeves and get stuck in." 

Participants at a recent event in the diocese consisted predominantly of immigrants from Catholic countries and Scandinavians who have converted from Lutheranism and agnosticism. 

Louis & Frøydis de Damas, a Norwegian & French married couple, shared, "I think the Catholic Church has really great possibilities, but we have to act. And I'm really excited that this evangelization is now coming to life. And we're really, really happy to be a part of that." 

Another man present said, "I see it like the spring coming back into Norway. After the long and dark winter, the sun comes up, and the birds start to sing the same way. The Lord decides, the Lord commands, and proclaims that 'Now it's going to be evangelization.'" 

Monks and sisters who have returned after a long absence are cultivating this re-evangelization in the diocese of Trondheim. The Bonifatius Association provided financial support to build new monasteries for these needed orders. 

"We had been in farmhouses for six years," Sister Levine explained. "And then, we learned that the Boniface Association had a special mission for Norway." 

"To come into a monastery, back into an enclosure, having a cloister," Sister noted, "You can imagine what it means for us. It opens our soul. It makes us pray. It makes us alive." 

Father Joël, a Cistercian Monk of Munkaby Monastery, shared, "I was in Tautra by the nuns, in 2006, for a while. And the idea came at this time: the nuns came back to Norway, why not the monks?" 

And thus, Father said, "They followed the project and what it means for the church. For them, monastic life contributes to the mission." 

Mons. Austen concluded, "Many people say that the faith is going away, but the spirit... you still feel it in the air." 

Adapted by Jacob Stein

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Author Name

Anthony Johnson is a filmmaker at the EWTN Vatican Bureau and is Senior Video Producer of the office's Projects Incubator. He is from San Jose, California and a graduate of Gonzaga University where he studied both Classical Civilizations and Broadcast Journalism. He joined EWTN as a Video Editor in 2017 for the "Vaticano" program, and still contributes to the program while working on a variety of multimedia initiatives and documentaries in Rome.

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