Estate manager of Frauenthal convent to retire

Sebastian Meier, aged 77, is about to retire as estate manager at the Frauenthal convent in Cham where he has lived and worked for the past fifty years.
He can still remember that day, a fine spring morning on 1 April1968, when he started work there, not knowing then that he would remain there for half a century.
Along with his wife, Helen, he moved into the house provided for him, the house where they brought up five children. One major event he recalled in the time they were there was a major storm which raged over the area in 1992 and caused much damage.  Another event he has never forgotten is the one in 1984 when 64 cows had to be slaughtered as a result of a bovine epidemic.
Meier paid great tribute to his wife for all she had done to help over the past 50 years, assisting with the nuns’ shopping or taking them to the doctor’s and dentist’s when necessary. They had not been married long when they had to make up their mind whether to keep on a small farm they owned in Wettingen in the canton of Argovia or take on this job at the convent. On the advice of one of the nuns, Meier’s sister, they opted for the latter, a decision they have never regretted.
In the Sixties there were as many as 43 nuns at the convent and they used to help out on the farms, too, especially at harvest time and in hay-making. Now only ten nuns remain. Of course, Meier’s job changed during the many years he was there, especially since the convent’s agricultural land was leased out in 2003, actually to Meier’s eldest son Thomas and his business partner Adrian Arnold. This meant the end of a very long era, a 700-year-one in fact, and not one Meier senior found easy to accept. One of the reasons was because the state stopped direct payments to such estates, something the manager fails to understand to this day. Not that his activities were totally confined to the convent; he was also active in politics and sat in the cantonal parliament for the CVP party between 1983-1992.
Even now, with the agricultural land leased out, the income it generates is not enough to maintain the convent and church properly. By properly, Meier also means doing things to the highest standards, not just settling for second best. It was only by selling off land to the canton that the last renovation was able to be financed, not that the convent owns any land which could be used for development.
As to its future, this is up to the Catholic church, with Rome having actually decided the convent is to remain. And who is take on Meier’s job? None other than his son, Raphael, though only on a part-time basis as he also works in a bank. As he has lived there himself for many years, it is not expected he will be as apprehensive as his father was when he took over on that first day of April in 1968.     

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