Abbot Francis was born in the Austrian village of Langen, Vorarlberg, in 1825. At his baptism he was given the name Wendelin. After completing High School he studied philosophy and theology in Innsbruck, Brixen (now Bressanone, Italy) and Padua. On 28 July 1850 he was ordained priest in the Cathedral of Brixen. After working several years as a pastor in Haselstauden/Dornbirn he became chaplain to sisters in Agram, (now Zagreb) Croatia. During this time the desire to enter a contemplative monastery grew in him. In 1862 he made a pilgrimage to Rome and a year later to the Holy Land.
On 9 October 1863 he entered novitiate in the Trappist Monastery of Maria Wald in the Eifel (Germany) and was given the name Francis. He made his first profession on 24 November 1864.
In 1882 on the 26 December, Trappist missionary Fr Franziskus Pfanner established Mariannhill Monastery in the outskirts of the city of Durban, in South Africa. Moved by the ideal of promoting the integration of the native Zulu people in the white society of the Transkei region, Fr. Pfanner also promoted local development opening schools, health clinics, craft workshops, printing presses and farms providing work for hundreds of monks, lay missionaries, women religious and natives.
“Today is the feast of the ‘Finding of the Cross.’ I also have found a particle of the cross. I will embrace and kiss it and allow myself to be drawn up by it to the Father in heaven. I do not pity myself at all, but only my children, brothers and sisters, who will be troubled without my being there to help them. But I can pray for them, and do so daily; I can even do so when the right to say Holy Mass is taken from me. All for God!” Letter to Brother Nivard, 3 May 1893Abbot Francis Pfanner
“I am doing this after long and careful consideration; my thinking is completely rational…I do not seek to become rich, I do not want any high office. I do not want to become famous in this world. I would rather be poor and live totally unknown in a remote monastery somewhere, hopefully for the rest of my life, if they have need of me…”Abbot Francis Pfanner