Around 30 members of the Dutch Region of the Mill Hill Missionaries were gathered for a two day assembly in September.
Martien van Leeuwen, Regional Superior, opened the meeting with an overview of recent developments in the region.
Subsequently several recent returnees from the missions spoke about their experiences or about their current ministry in the Dutch region.
The next day was a day of recollection led by Fr Denis Hendrickx, abbot of the monastery of the Norbetines in Berne Heeswijk. In his talks he spoke about the letter of Pope Francis on the Apostolic Life and on the care for creation 'Laudato Sii'.
An overview of elements of the proceedings in bullet points:
After Martien van Leeuwen, Regional Superior had opened the meeting and given a detailed overview of the current stat of the region
Ferd Vergeer spoke about his life and apostolate in Sarawak, Malaysia. He gave a lively and interesting account of his long
(more than 50 years) missionary work. He told us about:
the geography/ the history (colonial and independent).
the agriculture and other means of livelihood.
his “safaris”, work in the longhouses: pastoral and medical.
the culture of many, many blessings for so many people, things and situations.
His work with the catechists and prayer leaders.
And last but not least the mentality of the people: “everything has a soul”. Is this so different from what we say nowadays: “God is the soul of everything”.
Next was a talk or witness from Willem op de Weegh, whose life was so shaken up buy his accident in Cameroon which ended
Willem op de Weegh
up in his foot having to be amputated.
The many questions in his head: how is this going to end up? Will I ever go back to Cameroon? What is the message of God in all this?
Once he was back in Holland he felt so at home and welcome in Tubbergen.
He then came to Oosterbeek (Vrijland).
Eventually he got an appointment to Tubbergen as pastor for house visitation and special services and he very much took to this. He feels he can be a little light for people on special moments in their lives: sickness, death, special celebrations.
He also goes to the ‘day care’ ( a special place where people with a handicap can go a few hours a day). He also celebrates the Eucharist there. So many people ask for his prayers on special moments in their lives.
In Denekamp he also celebrates the Eucharist twice a week.
His 45 years jubilee of his priesthood was for him one big celebration of gratitude.
Next was Frits Maas, who was going to share with us his work in the “apostolate of the sea”.
In the last chapter the “apostolate to the West” had been discussed and accepted.
This work is very much in line with this and very suitable also for members of other regions because of the internationality of the people . English is the only practical language to use, so the language barrier would not be there.
Once they would be in this work doors might also open to other work in the country e.g. in Spanish/ Portuguese/ French speaking parishes in the big cities. We are now talking about one particular place in one particular country (Rotterdam in Holland), but one might also consider other places in other countries.
the Apostleship of the Sea is governed by the Motu Proprio Stella Maris 1997. The functions of the bishop promotor, the national director the local bishop and the port chaplain are defined. The chaplain’s ministry is cumulative to that of the parish priest in the specific area. It will remain a challenge to meet the pastoral needs of the People of the Sea in co-operation with other organisations in the maritime world.
Frits told us that this work is not easy from point of view that one has hardly any long time relationship with people because of ever changing work situations and place of people.
Still he finds it a very worthwhile apostolate and he is very happy in it. Come and join!
Next was a witness of Frans Baartmans on his apostolate to the Dalits- the “untouchables”- in India.
They have been there since 1500 before Christ.
In 1899 they were given land by the Maharaja alongside the Ganges river.
Here lived and worked Frans and had a housing project to improve the living of the people and gardens to give them something to eat and to trade with.
“Basti’s” physical appearance had considerably improved.
Then came August 1988: “it came as a bolt from the blue”.
Suddenly a wall was being built separating the pond and the fields from the people.
Panic stations! Outrage. A developer tried to steal the land.
Frans took a big risk: “peacefully break down the wall” and so they did. The cement still wet they took brick by brick and laid them down on the stolen land.
However the developer won the contested rights to the land and the wall was rebuilt several meters high.
Frans felt fury and sadness fill his heart and he felt close to the Dalits in their helplessness.
“I see passers-by pull a face, wrinkle up their noses at the site of Basti – the dread poison of low birth sucking at their minds. Untouchables. Will that forever be the shortest summary of their lives? Listen brother, listen sister. Do not say Chamar. Do not say untouchable any longer. The ghosts of untouchability has haunted them too long. The great Mahatma Gandhi has called them the Harijan – children of Hare-Vishnu. When no one cares, perhaps the gods do.
This inspired Frans to never give up.
The next day was recollection day. The talks were given by Father Denis Hendrickx, abbot of the monastery of the Norbertines in Berne Heeswijk.
He was a very interesting person. Before he became a priest he did so many other things, o.a. in politics and business and was a member of the town council in Tilburg. Eventually he became a priest and then abbot of the monastery.
He gave us an in depth history of the order which follows the Augustinian tradition, which means:
a Church which is open to the outside and inviting.
this makes her also vulnerable.
The Church is seen not as an authority, but as a communion of the faithful.
He then went on to talk about the letter of Pope Francis on the consecrated life:
the importance of the letter and.
the challenge for the future.
The meaning of the year of apostolic life:
Look with gratitude at the past.
Live the present time with the passion of the Spirit.
Embrace the future with confidence.
Expectations of religious:
A religious person is a happy person.
We have to shake up the world.
We religious must be experts in “communion”.
Go out of yourself and go to the periphery.
Our financial and economic dealings:
Market mechanism has become a god.
The only goal is profit.
This destroys culture.
Long term vision loses out against the fashion of the day.
Mission and vision soon become vague and go to the background.
Actuality of the day swallows up all attention.
Visionaries become keepers of status quo.
The big industries:
No action on agreements made regarding climate (Paris).
Action groups (lead by sisters!) fortunately are becoming very vocal. This is encouraging
like a wild ride on the back of a tiger. We cannot steer the tiger anymore, but to jump off is still more dangerous. We have to try to moderate the tiger.
The tiger must get a human face, a face that will do justice to the rights of people.
‘Laudato si’ is an invitation to rethink the values of our life:
Our present way of doing things is untenable.
We are destroying the biodiversity and climate.
We are destroying ourselves
We must learn to moderate ourselves.
We must learn that we all belong to one world.
We must learn –for own own survival- that we depend on each other.
There is no room for any “egotripping” for any section of society.
“Religion” is derived from “religare”, which means: connecting, which is the opposite of “egotripping”.
Coming back to finance and economy:
politics should not be subjected or dictated by economy.
Economy should not be subjected to the demands of efficiency of technocrats.
THE TASK OF POLITICS AND ECONOMY –AND THE CHURCH SHOULD BE HERE IN THE FOREFRONT-IS THE WELBEING OF ALL PEOPLE. THIS CAN NEVER HAPPEN IN CONFLICT SITUATION AND SO IT CAN ONLY HAPPEN IN TRUE DIALOGUE WHICH LEADS TO LIFE, REAL LIFE.
Recorded by Cor Schilder mhm
Oosterbeek, 29 september 2016.