Walter, Georg Fr. (1865-1939)

Prepared by: 
Regina Ganter
Birth / Death: 

born 13 January 1865 Würzburg

died 25 April 1939 Würzburg, age 74

Energetic founding figure of the Pallottine presence first in Cameroon and then in the Kimberley (1901 to 1908) but not inclined to the communal monastic life.




Georg Walter came from a well-to-do family who purchased one of the icons of Würzburg, the Vogelsburg vineyards and castle, and were turning it into a profitable business. Georg and his younger brother Friedrich (born 1867) entered the Pallottine novitiate together in 1885, received their habit in 1886 and took their profession in 1887. Georg was ordained in 1888 and Friedrich in 1890.1


Fr. Georg Walter directed the Pallottine house at Masio in Italy for a few years before he left with Apostolic Prefect Fr. Heinrich Vieter to establish the Pallottine mission presence in Cameroon in 1890. Walter considered Vieter ‘a person who relied on brute force’ and became his successor as Apostolic Prefect in Cameroon.2


Cameroon mission


To garner financial support in Germany for the Cameroon Mission, a Herz-Jesu-Verein (sacred heart club) was formed levying a monthly subscription from its members who received a printed icon (Aufnahmebild), a small medallion, and newsletters (Vereinshefte) and pledged to make a small sacrifice daily and say the daily club prayer. They could sponsor, or 'liberate' (loskaufen) a heathen child for 21 Mark and choose the baptismal name to be bestowed on that child.3


With a good eye for publicity, Walter returned in May 1893 with four boys from Cameroon, Andreas Toco, Mundi Mucuri, Petrus Mungeli und Josef Mandene. Their attendance at the Limburg cathedral and service as altar boys attracted much media attention. Walter also took one of them along to a summer semester seminar in Eichstatt, and this was widely considered a special event.4 The German public had not been much exposed to contact with dark-skinned people like the Spanish and British had. On 3 November 1893, the first anniversary of the Pallottine presence in Limburg, Mundi Mucuri was baptised as Franz in the Limburg cathedral amidst much publicity. Walter wrote about them from the Vogelsburg that


Andreas left from here for Masio today .... Black Josef [Mandene] will come to Limburg tomorrow noon. ...... The blacks don’t seem to learn anything in Limburg, because little Andreas knew more a year ago in Cameroon than he does now. If they don’t learn by choice then the rod has to help along a little. Incidentally, they should be allocated a proper teacher, a student is hardly sufficient. ....5


Walter wanted to recruit at least another four Sisters and two Fathers for the Cameroon mission, and was impatient to return, therefore if the ordination of Sebastian Bachmaier was going to be held up much longer, he’d leave without him.6


The Cameroon mission was beset with tropical diseases including dysentery, black fever, malaria, and ‘Croko fever’. In their first fifty years the German Pallottines lost 27 members in Cameroon and 3 in Australia.7 Walter also succumbed to disease and on his return his yellowish-black looks invoked the pity of his Brothers. He was also smoking, a habit he maintained despite the disdain in which the Pallottines held such weaknesses.




As his recuperation Walter was appointed director at Ehrenbreitstein (1895 to 1901), a property near Koblenz donated to the Pallottines in 1893.8 The estate was still inhabited by the two benefactresses Paula and Maria Reinhard, who kept an eagle eye on everything. They complained that there was laughing, joking, chatting and smoking in the courtyard. Among their frequent reproaches to Superior General Kugelmann in Limburg was that Walter’s sermons were a fiasco, and that his room on the estate was in such a state of untidiness that it looked like it was used for nothing but smoking and card-playing all day long.9Walter conducted a series of public lectures about the Cameroon mission and about the plans for the Ehrenbreitstein training institution.


Kimberley mission


When the Pallottines extended into Australia by taking over the Trappist mission in the Kimberley, Walter was designated to lead this new enterprise and selected the candidates in consultation with ‘Brother Max’ (Kugelmann). The mission commenced with a massive debt, as the Trappists expected to be paid £3740 for property in Broome and stock at Beagle Bay within five years – although some thought that such an enterprise -supported by public subscriptions for the benefit of indigenous people - was not really the Trappists’ to sell. 10


Fr. Walter arrived in April 1901 with one of his former students, Fr. Patrick White,and the Brothers Sixt and Kasparek. Walter is described as an ‘abrasive personality’11 and rifts occurred very quickly, especially with Br. Sixt. Relations with the Trappist Fr. Nicholas Emo in Broome also became brittle and Emo subsequently left Broome and only resumed his collaboration with the Pallottines after Walter had left.


When the second consignment of three Brothers (Graf, Zach, Hoffmann) and a Father arrived in December 1902, Fr. Rensmann took over the school and Fr. Patrick White moved to Broome. Walter was in Germany to recruit more staff and in 1903 brought three more Brothers for Beagle Bay, Wollseifer, Labonte and Wesley.


Some pointed comments about Walter travelling in second class and the Brothers in third are in a letter from Wollseifer, who had made contact with an Italian Catholic priest travelling in third class, ‘two below deck’


I am really sorry for this poor priest …. only sheer poverty finds him in this undignified position. Pater Walter has also spoken to him but is travelling in 2nd class and not much interested in conversation with him. … We haven’t found the ship as lovely as some who have come from Cameroon have told us. In third class there is a great deal of unusual and uncomfortable to tolerate especially the miserable company … at least we can get a little used to life on a mission. So far none of us are sick yet …12


With the new staff Walter’s mission now had sufficient artisans and farmers to produce an income, and finally fulfilled a condition of the lease of a minimum staff of 12. The government subsidy was increased from £185 to £250 per annum based on the one-shilling-per-person formula, and about 25 indigenous people were employed at 20s per month. After Fr. Rensmann’s death in January 1904 they also employed a school teacher, Mr. Randle. But the debts weighed heavy on the mission during these years. The 1903 cyclone sank the mission boat, the chapel burned down, and they entered into pearl-shelling without profit. When the Trappists inquired about an overdue instalment for Beagle Bay in 1904, Limburg General Superior Kugelmann offered to return the property to them, because the Limburg Pallottines suffered their own financial difficulties arising from the bankruptcy of their master builder.


The royal commissioners visitng the mission in october 1904 heard comjplaints about the food rations, particulalrly the scarcity of meat, and their final report had not a single word of praise for the German mission, one of only four in the State. Walter was insulted.  But Fr Bischofs, arriving in early 1905, explained that Fr. Russell 'drank over his thirst', and the schoolteacher was not much better, and that the station really needed to be staffed with Pallottines.


In 1906 Walter wrote that things looked more prosperous and it would be ‘a pity to give up the mission’. With a government subsidy, donations from the Cardinal in Sydney, and its own income stream from by now 2,500 cattle, the mission ‘will soon be able to pay off debts and will be ‘able to give financial support to Limburg in the future’. But Walter also mentioned his failing health and announced that he would not accept an extension of his appointment as mission superior after its expiry in August. ‘I cannot hold out any longer, or I’ll be dead. 13  He arranged for Fr. Bischofs to succeed him and embarked on a fundraising tour with Fr. White.14 By November 1907 he could report collecting about £1,000 but warned that he will not travel the ‘Via Collecte’ again unless Fr. White specifically requested it. 15


Walter returned to Germany 1908 with the intention of obtaining a separate Kimberley Vicariate. Instead he was offered a position in Baltimore and felt that he was being ‘shafted’.16 He resigned his rectorship of the Beagle Bay mission and never returned to Australia. His leadership of the mission had not been harmonious. He had driven away Emo from Broome, had come to blows with Sixt (possibly the reason why Walter shifted to Broome), and Brothers Hoffmann, Labonte and Wesley also left within a few years. Of the first eight Brothers only four stayed.


Brother Wollseifer reflected about Walter’s leadership of the Beagle Bay mission:


The times of the Rev. Fr. Walter are long gone and were sometimes made out to be worse than they really were. There were deficiencies on both sides. One tends to think of a superior as more perfect than oneself, and that was the main thing at the time, dissatisfaction.17



Back home


According to Schützeichel Walter served as superior in London and Olpe for a while.18 By 1914 he was already staying at the Vogelsburg now managed by his sister Philippine and derived a weekly stipend from three mass collections (Messintentionen). In March 1914, months before the outbreak of World War I, there were some deliberations in Rome about whether or not to continue the Beagle Bay mission, and Walter intervened, citing favourable statistics and asking Kugelmann to back him up.19


Fr Walter's house
 The house at Vogelsburg

In 1924 Hermann Skolaster published a history of the Pallottines in Cameroon based on access to the diaries of Heinrich Vieter. It gave Walter the idea of writing the biographies of the second and third Generals of the Pallottine Society, Dr Faa di Bruno and William Whitmee, but there was no resonance to his proposal. (Years later the Rev. Michael Carmody was asked to write these, and Kugelmann, the fourth General, was asked to write his own memoirs.20) Walter instead focused on an introductory text to the Australian Pallottine missions, published in 1928 as Australien: Land – Leute – Mission. Several Brothers, particularly Wollseifer, contributed stories and reminiscences. In 1982, in time for the Centenary of the Catholic Church in the Kimberley (1884), Bishop Jobst had it translated by Inge Danaher and published an English version. Walter died at age 74 at the Vogelsburg. The property was gifted to the Augustine Sisters in 1957.


Memorial plaques in the cemetery of the Pallottine monastery  
Memorial plaques in the cemetery of the Pallottine monastery, showing an egalitarian treatment of Brothers, Fathers, and Leaders: Vincenz Kopf (Provincial), Georg Walter, as well as several Brothers from Beagle Bay and Cameroon are commemorated.

Source: RG 2012.




1 Antonia Leugers Eine geistliche Unternehmensgeschichte – Die Limburger Pallottiner-Provinz 1892-1932, St. Ottilien EOS Verlag 2004:524 541.

2 Walter to Kugelmann, 1932, Nachlass Kugelmann- Korrespondenz BVI o.(r.) 5, ZAPP.

3 Antonia Leugers Eine geistliche Unternehmensgeschichte – Die Limburger Pallottiner-Provinz 1892-1932, St. Ottilien EOS Verlag 2004:437.

4 Antonia Leugers Eine geistliche Unternehmensgeschichte – Die Limburger Pallottiner-Provinz 1892-1932, St. Ottilien EOS Verlag 2004:436.

5 Walter in Würzburg to Kugelmann, 2. 9. 1893 Australien- Kugelmann Nachlass A2 d. ZAPP.

6 Walter in Würzburg to Kugelmann, 2 September 1893 and 14. 7. 1893, Australien- Kugelmann Nachlass A2 d. ZAPP.

7 Antonia Leugers Eine geistliche Unternehmensgeschichte – Die Limburger Pallottiner-Provinz 1892-1932, St. Ottilien EOS Verlag 2004:129.

8 Antonia Leugers Eine geistliche Unternehmensgeschichte – Die Limburger Pallottiner-Provinz 1892-1932, St. Ottilien EOS Verlag 2004:389, 358, 363.

9 Antonia Leugers Eine geistliche Unternehmensgeschichte – Die Limburger Pallottiner-Provinz 1892-1932, St. Ottilien EOS Verlag 2004:358.

10 Margaret Zucker From Patrons to Partners, A history of the Catholic church in the Kimberley, Broome, University of Notre Dame Press, 1994:52.

11 Margaret Zucker From Patrons to Partners, A history of the Catholic church in the Kimberley, Broome, University of Notre Dame Press, 1994:51.

12 Wollseifer in Aden to Kugelmann, 20 February 1903, in Australien 1900-1907 B7 d.l.(3) ZAPP.

13 Walter to Provincial from Broome 11.3. 1906 (typed) Australien 1900-1907 B7 d.l.(3) ZAPP

14 Bischofs at Beagle Bay to Provinzial (typed) 4.2. 1907 Australien 1900-1907 B7 d.l.(3) ZAPP

15 Georg to Provincial from Ballarat, 16 November 1907, Australien 1900-1907 B7 d.l.(3) ZAPP

16 Walter to Kugelmann, 30 March 1914, Nachlass Kugelmann- Korrespondenz BVI o.(r.) 5, ZAPP.

17 Wollseifer to Kugelmann 15 Juni 1910, Nachlass Kugelmann, B7d.l (1) ZAPP.

18 Wilhelm Schützeichel Totenbuch der Regio Australien bis 1984. N1 Nr. 19 ZAPP (continued as Pallottine Necrology).

19 Walter to Kugelmann, 30 March 1914, Nachlass Kugelmann- Korrespondenz BVI o.(r.) 5, ZAPP.

20 Walter to Kugelmann, n.d. (ca. 1932) Nachlass Kugelmann- Korrespondenz BVI o.(r.) 5, ZAPP.