AWiB Updates Focus Sebeta Getesemani Bete Denagil Tebabat Nunnery
Tuesday, 31 October 2017 17:51

Sebeta Getesemani Bete Denagil Tebabat Nunnery

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Sebeta Getesemani Bete Denagil Tebabat Nunnery was established in 1953 E.C.; located 24km south of Addis Ababa on the road to Jimma. It was established after the visionary Queen Empress Mennen, who had an ardent love and commitment for her religion, conscious of the reality that worldly possessions are transitory, eventually donated her palace in Sebeta to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The Empress used the palace as a retreat and space for her spiritual devotion time. She was the first queen to donate her palace for a covenant to Ethiopia.

After the palace was converted to a nunnery five monks were transferred here form Ziquala Monastry outside Addis Ababa, and thus communal life of the nunnery began. The nunnery has been progressing since it was handed over to the church after his Imperial Majesty approved transfer of the palace to the church with his signature in 1953 E.C. and the church converted it to the nunnery. After the palace was donated for a nunnery it was put under the administration of the Holy Trinity Cathedral with the responsibility of Haile Selassie I Foundation for its development, which at the time used to supervise the Holy Trinity Cathedral.

After operating under this system its existence was put in question when the Derg came to power. This was because as mentioned above the nunnery was under the Haile Selassie I Foundation with budget support from two sources, The Holy Trinity Cathedral and from the Beata Monastery. The sources of income for the nunnery were from house rents which Empress Mennen donated to the church from other properties such as its big garden, livestock farms, and the school, which all constituted as property of the former palace. As the revolution heated up the nunnery was almost closed, as most of the palace’s property was sold and some even vandalized. Many of the cattle were sold out, and the school was condemned to nationalization. The last remaining 3 nuns left the nunnery as they encountered many different and insurmountable problems.

It was assumed that those who wanted the palace nationalized, destroyed all indications of how the palace was turned into a nunnery. A request was made to Ato. Tekabe, who was the administrator of Sebeta’s Local Administrative Unit at the time to nationalize the palace that Empress Mennen donated to the church. Ato. Tekabe reported the case to the Holy Trinity Cathedral pledging that the palace would not be nationalized while he was still alive. Archbishop Abba Timothewos, just a newly appointed administrator of the Holy Trinty Cathedral at the time, contacted Abba Meaza, now His Grace Abuna Natanael to discuss the case. Both appeared before His Holiness Abune Theophilos to discuss the matter and request for evidence proving that Empress Mennen donated her palace to the Church for Sebeta Nunnery.

With this information, persistent effort and momentum was placed in putting the nunnery’s operation back on track. All the displaced orphans were moved back with the help of the German Humanitarian Organization providing the necessary budget for the support of the children and all the nuns who were dispersed returned to the nunnery. The school had been down graded to the 6th grade form the 8th grade at the time of the political interruption. This is when Emahoy Fikerte Bekele was introduced to the nunnery whose leadership has attained the current level of development. The school upgraded class levels again and dormitories expanded. The nunnery’s farm developed ten-fold increasing their dairy production as well. A branch of the nunnery was opened in Dire Dawa. The number of nuns has grown four times over. A church was also built within the nunnery grounds, serving the community of the nuns and the people of the surrounding areas.

During the initial years, Emahoy Welete Birhan Mekuria, Emahoy Negede Teklewelde, Emahoy Medhin T/Mariam, Emahoy Askale Assefa, Emahoy Welete Iyesus, and Emahoy Kidan Demessie are amongst some of the nuns, some of who have passed away, that may not have participated much in the development at the beginning due to the fact there was not much activity at the time, but did help in the facilitation of the transformation of the nunnery into a center of developmental activities by conducting skill training and running academic education for children.

Currently, the major objective of the nunnery is to serve the nuns as a place of spiritual devotion. However, the church teaches to engage in handicraft activities along with leading a spiritual life; this act contributing to the strengthening of the nuns’ faith in their achievement of their spiritual journey to achieving their goals. The nunnery currently hosts 105 nuns, 250 orphans and 1268 day school children attending the nunnery school. While the nunnery provides full boarding to the orphans, it also provides free education to poor children who are not capable of paying.

The major activities of the nunnery include:

  • religious service
  • child care (school and dormitory)
  • farming activities (cattle rearing; beekeeping etc..)
  • handicrafts
  • health services via a small clinic
  • bakery
  • flour mill

The nuns at the nunnery continue to perform their spiritual duties, carrying out their daily activities to make the nunnery self sufficient and caring for the orphans focusing on instilling in the children values that will support them as they grow into adults. The nuns vary in age, each being given responsibilities in different capacities; harder physical work being given to the younger nuns while lighter work being given to the older nuns who are now role models and exemplary figures to the younger nuns.

The nunnery continues to expand its developmental activities it is undertaking at a larger scale even investing in a guesthouse currently under construction. Among the major objectives of the nunnery was to open a branch. It has opened up a branch under the name Getsemani Mekane Kidusan Abune Aregawi Wearsema Nunnery in 1996 E.C. at Melka Jebdu in Dire Dawa 515 km east of AA; 540 km from the Sebeta Nunnery.

Health Service

The nunnery has a small clinic, which was established to provide health services to the nunnery community and people of the surrounding areas. It has also trained a number of nuns in various health services but unfortunately is not able to accommodate all the trained nuns due to size. 


The nuns are given skill training in academia, making them able to conduct classes. They are also responsible to give care as mothers to the orphans. The school is co-ed and follows the curriculum of the Ministry of education; the dormitories, though, are female only. All children attending the school have succeeded in their studies on all levels from kindergarten to universities.

Many parents died as a result of the 1969 drought, leaving behind young children. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church took it upon itself the responsibility of taking care of these children. It opened children’s care centers throughout the country saving thousands of children’s lives. Humanitarian organization and individuals outside the country supported the church with its effort of caring for thee children. The Christian community of Germany also stood by the church during these times.


Agriculture and Livestock

The nunnery plants various types of fruits and vegetables. The fruit and vegetable are harvested monthly, annually and perennially. It also plants various types of trees to replace the lost forest to in efforts to keep the beauty of the premises and the natural environment. The nunnery uses some of its harvest for internal consumption, distributes to some people in the area and sells its produces for its sustainability as well. Activities include livestock rearing for their farming purposes and the production of dairy products and honey for both consumption and distribution.




How You Can Help


  • money
  • clothes
  • books


  • check out their workshops
  • buy their handmade crafts which include:
    • tablecloths
    • bedspreads
    • sweaters
    • traditional scarfs
    • purses

Institutions like these are the backbone of our communities. They carry the burden of which we do not want to bother with or have the time for. They sustain themselves on minimal and humbly hope for more through their daily prayers and spiritual meditations. They do not voice their struggles, nor do they complain when matters do not add up in their favors. So, if anything spread the word and let somebody you know that, maybe, will know somebody able to contribute in whatever means.

Message from Emahoy Fikerte Mariam Bekele
Head of the Sebeta Getsemani Bete Denagil Tebabat Nunnery

“It is good to refrain from service that is hasty”

We learn from the Holy Book and our Fathers that there are a lot of things we need to perform in out lifetime as Christians. For example, it is obligatory to do things that true Christians do and show true Christian behavior such as, to be steadfast in our faith, to stand committed to the ideals of Christian life and to be trustworthy.

A nun is expected to distance herself from things that separate her from God, and distort her spiritual life, but must also guard against unwarranted traditional practices. She must refrain herself from valueless services that is hasty, and contribute to her share of duties in the fulfillment of her highest goals. Besides this, a nun must have unshakeable joy and hope in God. She must always strengthen her relation with God with patience in her spiritual journey, full of love and without pretension. Otherwise she may stumble in her journey and fail.

The Sebeta Getsemani Bete Denagil Tebabat nuns carry out many activities with blessings from God in accordance with the instruction of our Holy Church along with their religious practices and with faith in God. It should be noted here that the nunnery has faced a lot of obstacles while carrying out its activities.

“Salt and light are silent; but they give service without making noise about what nature has ordained them to do.”

The nunnery shows the result of its hard work not by making loud noise, but through the practical results it achieves. The nunnery may be likened to the work of salt and light. We do not make noise over what we have done or do.

In general, we believe it is good to listen to all kinds of views. It is encouraging to receive views of others, as it provides additional motivation for us to do better. The nuns here are prepared to improve on all aspects of their daily activities. They are steadfast in their aims and progression with the help and guidance of God. We would like to make sure we thank His Holiness Abune Paulos Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Archbishop of Axum, Etchege of the See of Saint Tekle Haimanot and the president of the World Council of Churches and others archbishops of our Holy Church for all their encouragement and support they have given us.

Some of the schools’ girls pictured here with Emahoy Fikerte Mariam Bekele

The youngest girl currently living at the nunnery; two years old.

* Detailed information can be found at AWiB’s center.

Read 217 times Last modified on Tuesday, 31 October 2017 20:43
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