at the brothers - Fraters

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Mercy belongs to all times and places.

Mercy is at the centre of all world religions:

Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity

and Islam.

The movement of mercy has left traces

throughout history.

The various forms in which mercy appears,

are expressions of the society in which it arose,

and of the spirituality that carries it.

The Congregation of the Brothers of Our Lady,

Mother of Mercy, is rooted in Christian mercy.


Brothers CMM {formerly Ontmoetingen (Encounters)}

is a quarterly publication of the Congregation of the

Brothers of Our Lady, Mother of Mercy (Brothers CMM).

A subscription is free of charge (available on request at

the address below). ISSN 1877-6256

Editorial Board: Mr. Rien Vissers (editor in chief),

Br. Edward Gresnigt, Br. Ad de Kok, Br. Lawrence Obiko,

Br. Ronald Randang, Br. Jan Smits, Mr. Peter van Zoest

(executive editor)

Translation: Mr. Bas van Alphen, Br. Edward Gresnigt,

Mr. Peter Huybers, Fr. Jan van der Kaa AA,

Mr. Tony Verhallen

Original design and layout: Heldergroen


Printing: Franciscan Kolbe Press, Limuru, Kenya,


Contact: Brothers CMM, Rhapta Road, P.O.Box 14916

Nairobi, Westlands 00800, Kenya

E-mail: magazine@cmmbrothers.nl

Website: www.cmmbrothers.org

A voluntary contribution to meet the costs of

the magazine is appreciated: ING Bank Account

106 85 17 for Fraters CMM Tilburg.

For international transfer, please use:

IBAN: NL30INGB0001068517


Photograph front cover: Benson Owili in his hut.

(see pages 11-12).

The Prodigal Son, Rembrandt

Photograph back cover: Artistically stacked wood in

the Italian village Pina. (photo: Brother Ad de Kok).






6 MY SOUL’ 8 Benson Owili


Delen in het leven

van de fraters cmm

Often a picture says more than a thousand

words. This issue of Brothers CMM testifies

to that. In Oyugis, Kenya, the Congregation

started a project to halt and prevent the

spread of hiv/aids. It also provides support

for the people who suffer from the ravaging

consequences of the illness. Benson Owili

was one of its first patients. This edition

shows a picture of the severely ill

seropositive Benson. It portrays him in his

humble hut, naked, partly covered by a

blanket. Look into his eyes. They’re beaming.

And notice the smile … Because of the

brothers’ work in Kenya, people like Benson

no longer suffer the stigma of being

‘outcasts’, but find acceptance and support.

The self-esteem they lost returns to them.

They find strength to face their illness and

deal with it. Benson Owili’s picture testifies

to the effectiveness, the healing power of

mercy. Mercy, the core value that marks the

Congregation of the Brothers CMM, inspires

people to take notice of their neighbours’

needs and become motivated to extend a

helping hand. The brothers belong to the

‘movement of mercy’, which lifts people like

Benson Owili from their wretched conditions.

A powerful picture shows this much better

than beautiful and eloquent words.

Het geassocieerd lidmaatschap

armhartigheid en broederschap








14 16


When the Dutch edition of this Brothers CMM was ready

for printing the editors received word that Benson Owili

had passed away on December 12, 2012. After consulting

with Benson’s relatives and friends the editors decided to

keep his picture on the cover and thus honour Benson

and the project of the Brothers CMM.








On Tuesday, November 20, 2012, I returned from Brazil. An article in ‘ncr.next’ entitled ‘Children’ drew

my attention. A columnist wrote about her friend. A little boy sat next to him in the plane and, resting

against him, had fallen asleep. “He was so small and lovable”, he told his friends. They observed that he

could not say something like that just to anyone because people could become suspicious.

A negative explosion has occurred that resulted from

the various accounts of sexual abuse of the past few

years. We have lost spontaneity when we interact with

children. The story reminded me of my own experience

in Rome during May of this year when I attended the

bi-annual meeting of superiors general. The shortest

way to get from my lodging to the bus stop took me

through a playground. On an earlier occasion I regularly

took that route. This time I hesitated and did not use

it. Yet later I did it very deliberately. I clearly sensed

how the fact, that I personally had to confront the

consequences of these abuses continue to affect me.

The victims’ stories I hear reveal to me how difficult it

is for them to have simple physical contact with their

children and how much grief it causes. I definitely

can sense this and it also brings me a feeling of

helplessness. How much do all of us wish that things

were different.

must exist between keeping a distance and being close.

May we meet children with spontaneity and without


One week after my return from Brazil I left for Nairobi,

where one of our Kenyan fellow-brothers made his

profession for life. The morning after my arrival I

looked through the Daily Nation, Kenya’s largest

newspaper. Immediately the problem of sexual abuse

confronted me again. The paper reported the results

of a government investigation. It presented shocking

numbers: 32% of the girls and 18% of the boys in

Kenya up to eighteen years old endured some form of

sexual abuse. Again it hit me how this problem has

gone global and how hard all of us have to work to

eradicate this evil.

This short newspaper article shows how easily we can

lose a healthy balance. Because of it children are in

danger of getting short-changed and not receiving the

affective attention they need. A wholesome equilibrium

Brother Broer Huitema




They all knew that Brother Andreas wanted to follow all the rules. It got him into an

awkward situation at times. They teased him for following the rules so meticulously.

Fellow-brothers liked to make fun of him because of it and claimed that they ‘tested’ him.

When Andreas was with them they could talk about

someone’s shortcomings. That violated the rule and they

knew that it made Andreas uncomfortable. They didn’t

really mean what they said but kept going on about it.

Andreas did his utmost to turn the conversation around.

It never worked and provoked the remark: “What are

you trying to do, Andreas?”

A lot of teasing occurred at Ruwenberg. A brother

better knows how to deal with it. Teasing could indicate

a cordial and confident relationship. It also could help

to put things in perspective. Occasionally it expressed

a light-hearted form of protest. Naturally, the children

teased their teachers as well. Brother Andreas seemed

not to notice it. Occasionally the boys tested him in the

dormitories. An apple they had stolen in the orchard

could roll under the curtains from sleeping place to

sleeping place. Instead of suspecting anything, Brother

Andreas simply picked up the apple and returned it

to the culprit. “It was rather simplistic”, a fellowsupervisor


The school children knew about the rule: ‘do not look

back’. They sensed that Brother Andreas gave that

regulation a literal interpretation. At the walks they

took they loved to go behind him. Brother Andreas had a

tough time to keep the group together while not looking

behind him. They might quietly relocate his chair in the

classroom and Andreas, the teacher, would fall next to

it because he did not check to see what was behind him.

Sometimes the teasing went too far. But Brother

Andreas himself willingly participated when they played

jokes, Brother Pacomius said. Once when a kitchen door

handle was covered with dough Brother Andreas was

the first one to get to it. His whole hand got covered

with the gunk. As always he reacted cheerfully and

gently. “Playfully smiling he walked off to clean

his hand.”

Charles van Leeuwen

Recess at Ruwenberg.





On October 7, 2012, Henk and Trudy Mutsaers made their commitment to the Congregation as ‘associate

members’ during a solemn celebration of the Eucharist in the chapel of the residential care facility Joannes

Zwijsen in Tilburg, The Netherlands. They made their promises for three years in the presence of brothers,

associated members, family, and friends.

In the welcoming address before the celebration the

Dutch Provincial Superior of the Brothers CMM, Jan

Koppens, observed that the new associate members

were moved by Vincent de Paul’s spirituality, Louise

de Marillac’s passion, and the brothers’ merciful

brotherhood. The Superior General, Brother Broer

Huitema, reflected on the Scripture readings of the

Sunday: “The core of today’s readings, their deepest

meaning, can be captured in the word ‘fidelity’. God

is faithful to his people and He calls us to be faithful

towards one another in our life’s mission. … Mutual

and lasting fidelity: that’s what matters in life in all its

various forms. Henk and Trudy make a commitment in

which they promise fidelity to the Congregation and its

ideals. In accepting your commitment to faithfulness

– each of you individually – the Congregation accepts

its call to be faithful to you, Trudy and you, Henk!

Together we search for a way in which this bond can

find concrete expression. We will have to delineate

a route that will give shape to our actions. We start

this venture together. Therefore we have chosen to

pronounce today’s promise for three years and intend

Superior General Brother Broer Huitema presents the Constitutions of the

Congregation to Trudy and Henk Mutsaers.


Brother Niek Hanckmann congratulates the associate members.

to make a life-commitment at their conclusion. Today

we start the journey while we realize that in the past

years a bond has grown between us already. Therefore

we begin with great confidence.”


Trudy Mutsearts worked for over ten years as activities

assistant in the residential care facility Joannes

Zwijsen. Since 1997 she regularly volunteered to serve

the brothers of the Joannes Zwijsen community. During

the celebration she told about the contacts she had

with the brothers in her work as activities assistant.

She recalled the stories she heard about the brothers’

mission at home and abroad. The brothers’ attention

for children in boarding schools and regular schools

impressed her. Particularly their care for the frail, the

poor, and the handicapped touched her deeply. Mercy,

brotherhood, and intense love for one’s neighbour

found the highest priority with Joannes Zwijsen. She

saw those present in the brothers, noted their great

trust in God, and realized how they found power and

strength in prayer. Their witness enriched her. She

wished to participate in it and share the spirituality of

the brothers at Joannes Zwijsen. But, she added not

without her husband, Henk.


Henk indicated that the brothers’ life and work

fascinated him since his childhood years. A brother

taught him virtually every year in elementary school.

In the corporate world he worked as administrator and

manager. After he retired he volunteered as treasurer

of the HSC Baseball Association and ‘De Zonnebloem’

(a national volunteer organization for the physically

handicapped). Since 1996 he does volunteer work

for the Peter and Paul parish in Tilburg. His contacts

with the brothers increased because of Trudy’s service

to the brothers. “Therefore,” he concluded, “do I

want to become an associated member and make

my commitment to the Congregation of the Brothers

of Our Lady, Mother of Mercy. I want to apply the

brothers’ Rule of Life, ‘Mercy and Brotherhood’, more

intensely to my life and live it out more intensely and

with greater awareness.


The new associate members pronounced the

commitment text and signed the document before

Brother Broer Huitema, Brother Jan Koppens, and the

Superior of the Joannes Zwijsen community, Brother

Harrie van Geene. Brother Broer Huitema gave each

of them a copy of the Constitutions as an expression

of their bond with the Congregation. Henk received

a pin and Trudy a necklace with the Congregation’s

logo. After the celebration of the Eucharist, celebrated

by Father Willem Spann OSFS, the Joannes Zwijsen

community had the opportunity to congratulate the

new members. A small dinner party in the Generalate

concluded the celebration.

Brother Edward Gresnigt

If you wish to know more about the associate

membership, turn to the pages 8-10.





On a regular basis the Dutch Province of CMM organizes a ‘Province afternoon’. Brothers and associate

members come together in the residential care facility Joannes Zwijsen in Tilburg for communal prayer,

reflection and interaction. On November 23, during the Province afternoon, much attention was paid to the

associate membership of the Congregation. Brother Wim Verschuren and associate member of CMM Betty

Karhof talked about it.

From the very beginning at the end of the nineties,

Brother Wim Verschuren (Superior General from 1978

to 1990) was intimately involved in the creation of

the associate membership. He recalled how new it

was and how it was a special sign of the evolution

that the brothers’ community went through. In a

few decades the Congregation changed slowly from

a closed to and open community. An openness that

Brother Wim Verschuren traced back to Pope John

XXIII and the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965),

where the church opened her windows and doors

and stressed her connectedness to the world. “Along

the way hospitality became more important for the

Congregation”, he stated. “The world was allowed

inside: the other was acknowledged, admitted to the

private circle and together they went on a journey.

And as is often the case, the inspiration could be

found in the rich tradition of the church: abbeys

have for centuries expressed in their rules that one

must see Christ in every guest.”


“Association can be seen as the flowering of all

forms of connectedness that developed in the Dutch

Province”, says Brother Wim Verschuren. “An attitude

of service brought forth new forms of focus on

refugees, young people, lonely persons, reflection

on work and mercy. Here too, in the community

of Joannes Zwijsen, there are many instances of

openness and hospitality. In this house the brothers

are part of a greater whole, together with other

religious and lay people. This openness takes shape

at the table where brothers meet other residents, in

the chapel during celebrations, in jointly listening to

music, in the manner in which residents meet each

other around the house. Clearly there is room for

being together and friendship. The brothers also get

to know many more lay people that work in their

direct area. Do these people belong too? Do we share

in their lives? Without this evolution that I have tried

to sketch here, association would not be possible. It

should be clear that association is not non-binding.

The little book of 2006 Sharing in the Life of the

Brothers CMM, expresses this in the following way:

‘We are captured by the story of Jesus who modelled

the life of God’s love and who showed us what

mercy is’.”


Brother Wim Verschuren recalled the discussions

that finally led to the opening up of the Congregation

for associate members. He distinguishes here three


We are willing to look for ways

which will make it possible for some people,

as associates or otherwise,

to participate in our life and work

without sharing our way of life in everything.

(from the Rule of Life of the Brothers CMM,

nr. 365)

The Congregation offers since the end of

the nineties the possibility of a far reaching

participation by means of the associate

membership. Whoever accepts that, promises

to make oneself familiar with the spirituality

of mercy and brotherhood of the brothers

CMM. In addition the associate member

shares in the mission of the Congregation

by commitment to a certain task and by

belonging to a community. At this moment

the Province of The Netherlands counts nine

associate members. In the other regions of

the Congregation the possibility of association

does not exist yet. In 2006 a booklet was

published in Dutch Delen in het leven van de

fraters CMM: Het geassocieerd lidmaatschap

(Sharing in the Life of the Brothers CMM: The

Associate Membership).

Delen in het leven

van de fraters cmm

Het geassocieerd lidmaatschap

Barmhartigheid en broederschap

phases. In the first place the entire process around

the question of the desirability of association.

Next, after a consensus was reached about that,

the question about what shape association would

take. It was after all about a new type of membership

that had to be formally regulated too. Finally there

followed a reflection on the question: how do we invite

people for it? In conclusion Brother Wim Verschuren

said he is convinced that it is for the future of CMM

in The Netherlands of essential importance how the

situation with associates develops. “In the meantime

they are a part of the Congregation since 1999. What

are the experiences of the brothers? Are they happy

with it? And how do the associate members experience

and live it?” With these words he announced Betty

Karhof, associate member since 2006 and living in

the residential care facility Joannes Zwijsen.


Betty Karhof told how she was invited for a meditation

meeting in the Elim community in Tilburg and how

she was received with open arms. She felt welcome. In

the subsequent years she learned much about mercy,

meditation and the Bible. An image took shape in her

of the brothers and their focus on the weak ones, far

and near. When in 2005 the question arose to think

about association, it surprised her a bit. She was not

that young anymore, what could she still contribute

and what would be her mission? Did she dare say

yes? In 2006 Betty Karhof agreed to a temporary

association. She added: “I am looking for a

roof over my soul, a place where silence

and spirituality are normal, something solid

under my feet. On the outside it seems as if

I have to explain why I believe and therefore



I don’t bring it up anymore. I try to live my mission

by working for the St. Vincent de Paul Society: care

for people who are very near.” In 2009, Betty Karhof

committed herself to CMM for life. From then on

she wanted to live from the fundamental attitude

of attention, dedication, simplicity. The St. Vincent

de Paul Society demanded much of her: home visits,

meetings, organizing, making sure that the projects for

the Third World would also share in the proceeds. For

this work the seed was sown by her parents in Goes.

Father and mother led the church organizations for

care of the poor. Recently, after 22 years, with pain in

her heart, she handed over her work for the St. Vincent

de Paul Society to younger people.


Carefully Betty Karhof took responsibility for some

tasks at the residential care facility Joannes Zwijsen,

among which is taking care of a weekly hour of

classical music for the residents and a reading group

for Dutch Literature. On Tuesday she is hostess at the

‘walk-in lunch’ of the Elim community. By the brothers

of the residential care facility she finds a simple

life without fancy. She likes to meet wise brothers

who have made their mark, far away or close by;

with them too she experiences hospitality. She feels

accepted and shares their happiness and sorrows.

A short time ago she visited the museum of the

beguines in Hoogstraten, Belgium. The beguines were

allowed to keep their possessions, but took vows of

chastity, obedience and magnanimity. She concludes:

“A beautiful word, to be ‘magnanimous’, growing in

sharing and giving, forgiving maybe. Being able to

make yourself little. That requires courage. Great


Rien Vissers

Brother Wim Verschuren.

Betty Karhof during her introduction.






During an international formation and deepening meeting of the Brothers CMM from July 15 to August 2, 2012,

in Nakuru, Kenya, the Brothers Edward Gresnigt, Harrie van Geene, Domingos Tjeunfin and Daniel Nyakundi

together with medical nurse Mary Mboya visited one of the first clients of the Oyugis Integrated Project (OIP):

Benson Owili. OIP was started in 1996 by the Congregation in Oyugis, Kenya, to prevent infection with the hiv/

aids virus and to support people who are suffering from the effects. Brother Nyakundi reports.

Entrance to the Oyugis Integrated

Project in Kenya.

The Oyugis Integrated Project in Kenya.

After a gruelling trip of 45 minutes over a hardly

passable road we met Pamela Nyatuga, the wife of

Benson, who knew that we were coming and who had

walked down the road to meet us. We left the car on

the side of the dirt road and followed her over narrow

foot trails. After about five minutes we arrived at a

small, simple hut. Here we found the sick man. Mary

had told us before we left about his bad health but

you saw nothing of that on the face of Benson. This is

without doubt thanks to the good care from OIP, which

leads to self-respect and acceptance.


Mary introduced us to the residents. The two did not

hide their joy: their faces shone. The nurse explained

what she can do for him: he gets his medicine at the

right time, his wound is cared for and sometimes,

when it is really necessary, he is transported to the

medical first-aid station of OIP. But every movement

is painful for Benson. He was not wearing normal

clothes, but was wrapped in a bed sheet. Benson

showed his gratitude to OIP for the care that the

nurses offer him and the food assistance that

he receives periodically from OIP. Mary also

promised him to have somebody bring him food

the next day. Benson told us that he has had for



many years a good relationship with OIP. That contact

goes back to the time of Brother Anthony Koning.

Smiling, the almost 60 year old, so he says, points to

a portrait of the brother against the wall. He showed

his open wound caused by cancer due do the hiv-virus.

It was an oppressive situation. This man has a hard life

and deserves to be remembered in our prayers. Despite

the harsh reality, Benson is not despondent. His smile

and his words obviously testify to that. “Thanks to

the brothers, and especially Brother Anthony, I have

as hiv-positive client gotten to know God and to love

him”, he told us emphatically.

Good medication

We said goodbye to Benson with encouraging words.

We told him that we were proud of him because he is

trying to accept his situation and because he, in this

awkward situation, acknowledges Jesus as the master

of life, whose love and mercy make us stronger every

day and enables us to continue in faith on our way.

The man was happy with our visit. As we were going

to leave, Benson asked if it was possible to get him a

wheelchair. That would enable him to leave the house

without having to bother anybody. Mary made it clear

that it could perhaps happen in the future but that at

this time it was not a high priority. Good medication

and wound care are much more essential. Our visit did

Benson well. It brought him consolation that made him

for this moment stronger to cope with life.

Brother Daniel Nyakundi

(An edited article taken from the OIP-Newsletter,

nr. 189, October 2012, a publication of the Oyugis

Integrated Project The Netherlands Foundation,


Benson Owili

in his hut.

Mary Mboya leaves the hut of Benson Owili.



The brothers, who are making their profession for life, lay prostrate on the

floor while the Litany of the Saints is being sung.



On September 27, 2012, the feast day of St. Vincent de Paul, six brothers made their profession for

life in the hands of the Superior General, Brother Broer Huitema. That took place during a solemn

Eucharistic Celebration in the Sacred Heart Church in Tomohon, celebrated by Bishop Joseph

Suwatan MSC of Manado.

Family members bless Brother Benediktus Suri

and entrust him to the Congregation.

The brothers who made their profession were Nobertus

Dake, Agustinus Nai Aki, Petrus Narwadan, Yonas

Paso and Benediktus Suri from Indonesia and Brother

Hendrique de Fatima Marques from East Timor. The

Superior General and Brother Martinus Lumbanraja

were present as representatives of the General Board.

The profession was further attended by the entire

Provincial Board of the Brothers CMM in Indonesia

and members of the Regional Board of CMM of East

Timor. After the official reception there were

several festive events where postulants, novices

and students of CMM hostels in Tomohon

participated. Immediately following these events

the profession was celebrated in a smaller circle.





Every year the Congregation celebrates the jubilees of its brothers. On November 11, fifteen brothers

concluded their jubilee year. Fourteen of them did this at the residential care facility Joannes Zwijsen and

one in Medan, Indonesia. Three brothers entered the Congregation a quarter century ago, two entered

fifty years ago, three sixty years ago, three sixty-five years ago and another three seventy years ago.

One brother commemorated entering even seventy five years ago. Golden jubilarian Jan Koppens,

Provincial Superior of the brothers in The Netherlands, reflects on his choice for the life as a brother.

It all started simply enough with a question by

Brother Gerardus at Ruwenberg: “Jan, what are you

going to be when you grow up?” My answer was

to the point: “I want to be a brother, just like you.”

No deep motivation yet, but still the beginning of

something that would develop into my vocation.

I took the usual steps towards the noviciate of

the brothers (1962), a period of temporary vows,

culminating in my commitment for life. And you

know what, I never regretted it. Never. Of course

not everything went perfectly smoothly, but it was

my vocation and I responded to it, for I believe in

this alternative lifestyle in which not ‘I’ but ‘the other’

is central. Through all these years I have tried to be

loyal to God and to his people. Whether I have been

successful is always a question. One thing I am

sure of, I can look back with satisfaction and a

grateful heart.

Our Lady, Mother of Mercy, a water colour by Jan

Verhallen of 1994, at the occasion of the 150 year

jubilee of the Congregation.


How much has been given to me! It started at home

with my parents, sister and brothers, my upbringing

and my education, a few years of teaching in The

Netherlands and then twenty-six years in Indonesia.

At this moment I have been back in The Netherlands

for the last sixteen years. How much has been given

to me! I received it all freely. How much did I receive


A number of the jubilarians together on November 11. From left to right the Brothers Pieter-Jan van Lierop,

Patricio Smolders, Gerebernus van der Zande, Martinus Lumbanraja, Louis de Visser, Lawrence Obiko, Jan

Koppens. Not in this picture: the Brothers Joseph Tielemans, Guillaume Caubergh, Nico Nijst, Francesco

Paijmans, Gustavus Menheere, Jan Smits, Pacianus Verhoeven. Brother Johannes Sihombing celebrated his

jubilee in Medan, Indonesia.

through education and through counselling of religious

and other people as well. And beside all this a few

beautiful flowers grew along my path though life, who

I may call my friends. These are tropical and polder

flowers. From these relationships I learned what real

brotherhood and sisterhood means at its deepest level.

They made me more human and more religious. It was

given to me freely. Plenty of reason to be grateful.


Throughout the years the Congregation entrusted me

with ‘the service of leadership’ or fellow-brothers asked

this of me. I am sure not everything was perfect, but

I tried to pay attention to people of flesh and blood,

with good and weak points (just like me). At least I

tried to be a brother, inside and outside the community,

with attention for weak and needy fellow human

beings. Sometimes I succeeded nicely, sometimes

I fell short. Recently it so happened that I was

in East Timor and Indonesia to conduct a retreat

in which the brothers and sisters of Zwijsen

participated, to give two different workshops to

groups of brothers and a day of reflection for unwed

mothers. It certainly was not just giving, in all these

meetings I also received very much. The actual date

(August 29) of my historic day that I was a brother

for fifty years was also during this time. Though

it was not planned this way I consider this voyage

through East Timor and Indonesia as a big present.

It put me in touch with myself, my way of life, my

journey through life. I am grateful to God and to

all those people who walked with me.

Brother Jan Koppens





World War II and the internment of the brothers in the Dutch East Indies was for them an extraordinarily

shocking experience. The brothers, in so far as they survived, spent the war in four camps: on North Sumatra,

in the neighbourhood of Padang, on South Celebes and in Manado. The Manado camp was by far the cruelest

and took the lives of twelve brothers. Brother Pieter-Jan van Lierop writes about the camp experiences in

northern Sumatra.

Sometimes the life as a brother can take dramatic

turns. It is quite radical if you are sent to the island of

Sumatra in the Dutch East Indies as a young brother.

However, the Dutch colony at that time had a lot of

familiarity: Dutch government, the Dutch language in

offices and in education, and many Dutch officials,

planters, business people, pastors, religious and

military personnel.


The Europeans constituted a favoured, highly respected

group in the East Indies colony. This was based on the

myth that white people were superior in everything

to the non-whites. In addition the religious in general,

and the missionaries in particular and by extension

the brothers, were highly respected in ecclesiastical

circles in the Dutch East Indies, even more so than


From left to right: Brother Alex van Aalst, Brother

Reinoldus Korremans and Brother David Fleerakkers,

shortly after the liberation in 1945.

in the mother country. Community life in Medan, the

capital of northern Sumatra, was not so different of

community life in The Netherlands. The community of

that time counted as its members the Brothers Alex van

Aalst, David Fleerakkers, Amator van Hugten, Reinoldus

Korremans, Theodatus van Oers (superior) Cyprianus Op

de Beek, Rodulf Ouddeken, and Ranulfo Schippers. They

were all active at Dutch speaking schools.


On March 12, 1942 that set-up changed totally. The

Japanese occupied Medan and made their approach

known immediately: five looters were decapitated

directly in front of the brothers’ school and their heads

were placed on sticks and displayed in the city for

a week. The mission personnel, made up of fathers,

sisters, and brothers were put under house arrest. But

that did not last for long. A month later they were

placed in a camp in Belawan, the harbour of Medan.

They were allowed to bring thirty kilograms of luggage

and enjoyed eventually, by scraping things together

and by trading, some comfort. Especially the vegetable

garden of Brother David Fleerakkers, the man with the

green thumb, kept the brothers and many other camp

mates healthy. Pretty soon the brothers looked like real

camp prisoners, in their shorts, their bare upper bodies

and bearded faces. They smelled badly for there was no

soap for bathing. Regularly the Japanese held roll call

to count the prisoners. That could last for hours. The

disciplinary measures were harsh and beatings were

common. This came across as especially humiliating

for the European internees, who were so used to their

privileged status from the colonial days. Starvation

set in when the camp was transferred to another

site in the neighbourhood of Medan in January 1943,

which the camp prisoners called ‘Belawan Estate’. The

food was so minimal and of such low quality that one

could only survive by smuggling, stealing, trading with

corrupt guards and keeping your own vegetable garden,

like Brother David was still doing. Brother Alex van

Aalst talks about this: “All of our thinking was occupied

with food. You could not go anywhere or people were

talking about it. When we were sitting together in the

evening food was the subject of our conversation and

we discussed the most delicious dishes. … You really

were obsessed with food.”


The morale among the brothers of Medan was

high. They got quickly over their feelings of

humbled colonials, for work had to be done.

Brother Ranulfo Schippers had a first-aid


The community of Medan shortly after the liberation in 1945.

certificate and volunteered with the Brothers Alex

van Aalst, Amator van Hugten, Theodatus van Oers

and Rodulf Ouddeken to work in the sickbay. They

kept doing this even when life threatening dysentery

epidemics broke out. They laid out and buried many

hundreds of deceased. The brothers participated in

the education of the boys for junior and senior high

school diplomas to the best of their abilities. They were

part of the variety shows, sport activities, Easter and

Christmas celebrations, and Saint Nicholas parties

until starvation and disease undermined interest in

these things.


How do you remain human in such dehumanizing

circumstances? It is a fact that the brothers maintained

their dignity and kept their solidarity as a community

of brothers. They spent a lot of attention on the

silver jubilee feast of Brother Cyprianus Op de Beek.

There was a decorated party hall, a high Mass was

celebrated, there were festive, handwritten party

booklets and commemorative pictures drawn by the

brothers. Even the meal, thanks to the vegetable

garden, had a festive character. But the highlight of

the feast was when the brothers were sitting together

and were presented with a Dutch cigar by the superior.

That keeps you human! When the centennial feast of

the Congregation was celebrated on August 25, 1944,

the superior had yet another cigar for every brother.

While all the camp detainees were sitting on boxes,

wooden blocks, and tree trunks the brothers had four

rattan chairs. That keeps you human! The camp in

which the brothers of Medan were kept prisoner was

relocated several more times. First to Rantau Parapat

and afterwards to Si Rengo-Rengo. They were forced

to walk many kilometres over barely passable roads.

How difficult it might have been, they never abandoned

their chairs. In the evenings they wanted to sit as

human beings on a real chair.

‘You are not my daddy’

At the start of December 1944, the starving camp was

suddenly burdened with hundreds of boys between

the ages of ten and sixteen. Some of them joined their

dads who were also in this camp. This could lead to

problems on a few occasions for they had not seen

their fathers for a long time and in the haggard camp

conditions did not even recognize them. “You are not

my daddy. He was much fatter and had no beard”, one

of the boys said when he rushed up to him. Most of


them had no one to welcome them. But thank heaven

the brothers and several idealistic laypeople were

there. They organized a boarding school without any

accommodations. There was not even food. However,

they managed to make something of their boarding

school. “Every evening Brother Reinoldus and I read

to the boys”, says Brother Alex van Aalst. “Brother

Reinoldus in the back of the barrack and I in the

front. We had much interest. Even people from other

barracks came to listen.” But the hunger lasted. Snails,

mushrooms, snakes, these were very welcome additions

to our meagre menu. Brother Alex: “When a rat was

spotted nothing was save in our hostel. Twenty, thirty

boys ran after the beast and they killed it.”


On May 1, 1945, Brother Rodulf Ouddeken celebrated

his silver jubilee. A party was organized in spite of all

the misery. Holy Mass was celebrated and there was

even a dinner. Brother David Fleerakkers had managed

to raise chickens. Therefore not only did every brother

have vegetables during dinner, but also some chicken

and a fried egg was served. After dinner when the

brothers were sitting together there was once more a

Dutch cigar for every brother. That kept you human!

The camp misery dragged on till August 24, the day

of liberation. Soon there was food and clothing.

However the camp detainees remained interned,

The brothers who lost their lives during the Second

World War in the former Dutch East Indies.

The brotherhouse in Medan just before the occupation

of the Dutch East Indies by the Japanese.

for their safety could not be guaranteed outside

the camp. Revolutionary groups and freedom fighters

took aggressive action against the colonizers. The

setting had changed totally. ‘Indonesia merdeka’,

independent Indonesia. Emerging from their camp

isolation the brothers were completely surprised by

the widespread nationalism.

Past Tense

The brothers did not return to Medan until October 31.

They were deeply disappointed. There was no freedom

for them yet. With the priests and sisters they were

once again interned on a mission site to guarantee

their safety. There were indeed no deprivations any

more, but till late in 1946 they had to watch idly the

developments. The brothers were put up at a mission

station. It was stark empty, without beds and furniture.

Fortunately, the brothers could sit again in the evening,

for they had brought along their rattan chairs, which

had served them so well during the camp days. In Camp

Medan the brothers learned that ‘our East Indies’ were

past tense and that they were asked to help in building

the educational system in the Republic of Indonesia.

That they did excellently. The St. Thomas schools

for kindergarten, elementary and high school

turned into top schools in Medan.

Brother Pieter-Jan van Lierop





From September 11-16, some members of the Joannes

Zwijsen Community in Tilburg went to Lourdes. The

all-inclusive pilgrimage had been organized by the

Dutch Foundation ‘Lourdes Pilgrimage for the Sick’.

Participants were the Brothers Simon van den Broek,

Frans van de Meulengraaf, Sebastianus van Seters,

Adri Simons, Patrick Smolders and Hein van der Zande.

After arriving in Lourdes the pilgrims visited the grotto

where in 1858 Mary appeared to 14 year old Bernadette

Soubirous. Every day there was a prayer service or a

celebration of the Eucharist. Particularly impressive

were the international Mass in the immensely large

underground Pius X Basilica and the open-air Mass

in the rain near the grotto. During the second part

of the week Breda Bishop Jan Liesen was present.

He conducted the Stations of the Cross. On the last

day there was a bus tour through the mountainous

landscape of the Pyrenees.

Photo above: Pilgrims travelling through Lourdes.

Photo below: The Lourdes pilgrims with their assistants

in front of their hotel in the French place of pilgrimage.


On September 28, board-members and staff of the

Nijmegen Institute for Mission Studies (NIM) paid a

visit to the Generalate in Tilburg and ‘Zin’ in Vught.

Purpose of the day was to become acquainted with the

Congregation and to hear the ‘Mission Story’ of the

Brothers CMM. Here follows a brief report by Frans

Dokman, Director NIM.

At the Generalate Deputy Brother Edward Gresnigt

reveals the history of the Congregation. He takes

us on a tour and pauses at the grave of Brother

Andreas telling the story of his life. It is a life in

which his humanity and mercy take the centre, also

in the teaching of his students. This makes a big

impression on the representatives of NIM. We also

visited the Brothers’ Museum. He took us back to

the time when Bishop Joannes Zwijsen founded the

Congregation. It is a period where education was not

readily accessible to poor people. The museum shows

the mission of the brothers as time went by, a mission

that is characterized by (special) education to those

who are in need of it. Next we move to the Chapter



Room where Carine van Vught, from the Verhalis

Foundation presents a DVD of interviews with

religious. Verhalis collects memories and stories

scanning various domains of religious life, from

missionaries to contemplative sisters, life outside

and inside the community. Those interviewed are

of advanced age. Afterwards we ask ourselves: will

their story survive? With that question lingering in

our heads we journey to ‘Zin’ and the CMM Eleousa

Community next-door to it. Brother Wim Verschuren

welcomes us. One word of his that sticks in our

memory is: ‘re-creating’, recreating education from

an attitude of compassion. It is meant for people

with a need for meaningful insights, within and

outside their work. That message radiates from

CMM in Vught. The story of Brother Andreas is

handed on.

Frans Dokman, Director NIM




During the celebration of the Eucharist in the

brotherhouse in Dili, East Timor, Brother Silvino

Belo formally accepted seven new postulants. From

October 14 onwards they will be accommodated in

a building of an agricultural project in Suai which

the brothers took over from the Jesuits. Brother

Antonius Sipahutar is the postulant-master and at

the same time responsible for the project which

aims to take the agricultural activities in the area

to a higher level. The postulants will work in the

parish; they will be involved in prayer celebrations,

church music, youth work and visiting the elderly

and the sick.


Sibrand (W.G.J.) KOENEN

He was born in Arcen, The Netherlands on March 6,

1921 and entered the Congregation of the Brothers

of Our Lady, Mother of Mercy, in Tilburg on March

19, 1938. He made his profession for life on August

10, 1942. He passed away on October 2, 2012 at the

brotherhouse in Zonhoven, Belgium and was buried at

the Zonhoven-Centrum cemetery.

Brother Sibrand’s life of service happened entirely at

Zonhoven. For four years he was teaching at the St.

Joseph School. In 1949 he was asked to become a teacher

at Teachers’ College St. John Berchmans, which in 1957

became part of ‘Humaniora’ St. John Berchmans. He was

a most talented teacher. His students enjoyed attending

Brother Sibrand’s classes. Geography and History were his

favourite subjects. He had executive functions in schools;

first in Zonhoven and later in Lanaken. Also within the

Congregation they called on him to be the leader of the

boarding school, member of the provincial board and

community board-member at Zonhoven. His astute mind

and character served him well in these functions. He was

a confrère ready to serve others, one who would stand

up for the concerns of his fellow-brothers and for their

mission. It was a heavy cross to bear when loss of hearing

became increasingly worse. Communication became

difficult. His inner stability, however, remained

unaltered. Slowly but surely he had to let go. On

October 2, in the middle of the night, God called

him to enter the Father’s House. We know Brother

Sibrand to be safe there in God’s merciful love.


in memoriam





He was born in Lanaken, Belgium on April 15, 1928

and entered the Congregation of the Brothers of

Our Lady, Mother of Mercy, in Tilburg on August

29, 1945. He made his profession for life on August

15, 1951. He died on November 19, 2012 at the

brotherhouse in Zonhoven and was buried at the

Zonhoven-Centrum cemetery.

Born in Lanaken he got to know the brothers at

the primary school. Meeting them became the

foundation of his vocation to the religious life.

Brother Camille was very talented, his interests were

many. In all simplicity he was a motivated teacher of

Mathematics at the St. John Berchmans Institute at

Zonhoven. In 1960 he was asked to be a part-time

supervisor at the boarding facility. In 1967 CMM

founded the Province of Belgium. Besides being a

teacher Brother Camille was asked to take on the

function of provincial bursar. With total dedication

he managed for 45 years the financial affairs of the

province and kept the books. It must have been a

true cross to him when he had to cope with health

problems, which in the end forced him in 1983 to

say goodbye to teaching. He accepted his cross and

carried on with his life. It was typical for his mental

resilience, his ability to persevere and his optimism.

Brother Camille was attentive to the needs of others.

Humbly and caringly he helped where help was

needed. Thus he lived out his vocation as a brother

and he did what Jesus did: to serve and enlighten,

to speak a redeeming word, to be a helping hand for


He was born in Helchteren, Belgium on December

12, 1911 and entered the Congregation of the

Brothers of Our Lady, Mother of Mercy, in Tilburg on

December 8, 1928. He made his profession for life

on August 15, 1933. He died on December 3, 2012 at

the brotherhouse in Zonhoven and was buried at the

Zonhoven-Centrum cemetery.

Jaak Achten left his place of birth in Helchteren,

Belgium, in 1928 to move to Tilburg, The Netherlands,

where he began his novitiate as Brother Marcel. After

achieving his Teacher’s Certificate he was appointed

to teach at the Primary School for the Deaf in

Maaseik. After some years he became principal of the

same school. In 1955 he became the first principal

and remained so for 26 years of the renowned

Royal Institute for the Deaf and Hearing impaired at

Hasselt. He really cared for his students and he would

do anything for them to ensure they would do well in

society. Civil authorities expressed their appreciation

by rewarding him with a Royal medal: first Silver and

later the Golden Palm of the Order of the Crown. For

many years Brother Marcel acted as superior, deputy

or as a board-member of the community in Maaseik

and Hasselt. In 1978 and 1987 he spent a good deal

of time in Kenya to assist brothers and teachers in

their work for the deaf and hearing impaired. Brother

Marcel was given a long life, a very long life. In spite

of his old age and weakening health he participated

as much as possible in community life. With deep

faith and trust he looked forward to his final meeting

with the Lord of Love and Life. That wish has now

been granted.






Zwijsen’s attention for merciful love

Care for the little ones colours our togetherness. Attention for the seriously ill is a

powerful indicator of the human climate amongst us. As a general rule: the quality

of a society of people can be measured by the degree of care given to the weakest link.

This is the fundamental rule of merciful love.

This thought about vulnerability and vulnerable periods in life was

particularly dear to Zwijsen. Our Founder did not exclude any kind

of good work. Discrimination on the grounds of age was foreign

to him. He did focus, however, on two crucial turning periods in a

person’s life: his entry into the world and his exit from the world.

He gave preference to the young and to those of very advanced age.

Their vulnerability was of special concern to him. From experience

he knew how much a well lived youth and the ability to leave this

life in peace, more than anything else, would determine the quality

of one’s entire life.

That practical orientation came from a religious background. Jesus

was aware that he had come from God and was returning to God

(cf. John 13:3). That was also Zwijsen’s vision: the origin and the

destiny of every person lies with God, the Merciful One. The path

of life of a human being asks for security and new chances, for a

sense of direction and space. That is true especially when people

are young or old. That is why Zwijsen in describing the missionary

task for his sisters and brothers, accentuates the entry and the exit

of life.

Brother Harrie van Geene













(from the Rule of Life of the Brothers CMM)

Magazine of the Congregation of the Brothers of Our Lady, Mother of Mercy

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