Norbertine Spotlight

Fr. Norbert N’Zilamba, O. Praem.

Fr. Norbert N’Zilamba, O. Praem., a native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said he “immediately felt at home” upon first arriving at St. Norbert Abbey a few years ago.

“The fact that people from different backgrounds and walks of life live together because of their faith under the rule of St. Augustine is very appealing to me,” he said. “Our Norbertine canonries are mandated to pray together and also minister to God’s people in various ways under the leadership of an abbot. St. Norbert Abbey is a good example of that spirituality.”

Fr. Norbert, 68, lives his faith every day, serving as the Abbey’s assistant formation director under Fr. Tim Shillcox, O. Praem., the formation director. During his free time, Fr. Norbert often can be seen walking the 160-acre grounds of St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere, Wisconsin, which is more than 7,000 miles from his native Democratic Republic of the Congo. The former Belgian colony is situated in the heart of Africa.

Fr. Norbert was born in a hospital in Musyenene, in the far eastern reaches of his home country, and he was raised in the town of Luotu along with his seven brothers and one sister. He misses aspects of his home country – especially dancing and Congolese music – but he stays connected with family and friends as much as possible via WhatsApp. He also flies back to Africa when the opportunity permits; last year he visited Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

He received schooling at St. Peter Casmisius as well as Catholic University of Congo in Kinshasa. He also earned a Doctorate of Sacred Theology from the Gregorian University in Rome. 

Fr. Norbert joined the Norbertine Order as a member of the priory of Notre Dame de l’Assomption de Kinshasa. Key dates in his formation journey were:

* Vestition: October 30, 1977

* Simple Profession: October 15, 1979

* Solemn Profession: August 15, 1985

* Diaconate Ordination: November 17, 1986

* Priesthood Ordination: August 2, 1987

In 1996, Fr. Norbert traveled to America and began serving at the Norbertine Priory of St. Moses the Black in Mississippi. About 24 years later, he made a transitus to be a member at St. Norbert Abbey.

“The Abbey grounds are wonderful,” he said. “I can’t imagine another abbey like this. The way it was designed reflects how abbeys should look.”

Fr. Norbert’s favorite saint is St. Therese of Lisieux.

He enjoys watching YouTube videos to learn about an array of topics, including gardening.

Interestingly, Fr. Norbert’s birth name is indeed Norbert. And he noted that when pronouncing his last name, the N’ is silent.