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Quote: Gal 2: 19-21
Issue 5, August 2008, Highlights:
Obituary - Fr Seraphim Sanz de Galdeano OSB MBE OAM
Father Seraphim Sanz de Galdeano OSB MBE OAM
Seraphim (Serafín) was born in Villatuerta, Navarre (Spain) on 28 October 1913, to the very devout couple Francisco Sanz de Galdeano and Valentina Mañeru Laseras. He was the eighth of ten children, two of whom died before he was born. Two older sisters joined religious congregations; one of them, Luisa, spent years in Venezuela nursing lepers. His brother Ramón, three years his senior, joined the Benedictines in the monastery of El Pueyo in the early 1920s and was killed by the Communists with the other eighteen monks of the community in 1936.
It was while visiting his brother in El Pueyo that Seraphim first ‘caught the bug’ of monastic vocation. He was admitted there as an aspirant to do his secondary studies in 1924. The next ‘bug’ was the missionary one, which he caught when Abbot Catalan of New Norcia visited El Pueyo to call on the several youngsters there already recruited for New Norcia and in the hope of adding to their number. Seraphim fell in love with the idea of being a missionary-monk and volunteered for New Norcia.
A few months later, Fr Seraphim was on his way to the real missionary work he had so much looked forward to since his early years. He was assigned to the Benedictine Mission at Kalumburu, where he spent from March 1939 to October 1949. His name is associated with the rescue of the passengers and crew of the state ship Koolama when it was bombed by the Japanese in 1942. His services to Australian Army and RAAF personnel when they were located at or near the Mission from 1942 to war’s end in 1945 were much appreciated.
In 1949 he was recalled to New Norcia and was stationed at Wyening ‘Mission’ before returning to Kalumburu as Superior in May 1955. There followed years of intense and sustained activity in which he was inspired and inspired others to build the Mission into a model self-supporting community. Houses were built, trial crops planted, the fruit and vegetable garden expanded considerably, cattle raising and horse breeding introduced, and water and electricity supply greatly enhanced.
Fr Seraphim retired to New Norcia in 1981 and fitted in perfectly to life in the Monastery as though he had never left. He subsequently lived for two years in Spain, 1998-2001, and after some time again at New Norcia went to Kalumburu in 2004, with the intention to publish his work on the Pela language. In 2007, however, after an on-going illness, he retired first to New Norcia and then Perth where he took up residence at the Little Sisters of the Poor home for the aged.
Fr Seraphim’s end came more quickly than anticipated. In the morning of Monday 2 June 2008 he had a severe attack of the asthma that he had suffered from for many years. Later in the day there followed a severe heart attack that required his admission to Royal Perth Hospital. It was there that he died the following day at 11.30pm after another heart attack.
Fr Seraphim was very devoted to the Blessed Sacrament and the Mass, to Our Lady and the Rosary, and led a very disciplined priestly and monastic life. He was sometimes hard on himself and could be hard on others, setting himself very high standards of consistency and perseverance. Fortunately he was not lacking in a sense of humour, and could be said to have mellowed in his later years. From boyhood he had an extraordinary way with birds, animals and even reptiles like snakes and crocodiles. He was a very keen observer of their behaviour, and from Kalumburu sent a number of bird specimens and reports of sightings to the West Australian Museum.
He was awarded the MBE in 1970 and the OAM in 1995 for his outstanding services to the Aborigines of Kalumburu. May he rest in peace.
Photo: Courtesy New Norcia