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column FROM THE


BROTHER andreas


Mission statement

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






Franciscan Kolbe Press, Limuru,

Kenya, press@ofmconvkenya.org

Brothers CMM, Rhapta Road, P.O.Box

14916 Nairobi, Westlands 00800, Kenya



A voluntary contribution to meet the costs of

the magazine is appreciated: ING Bank Account

106 85 17 for Brothers CMM Tilburg.

For international transfer, please use:

IBAN: NL30INGB0001068517


The Prodigal Son, Rembrandt.

Photograph cover: The Kenyan Brothers Richard Sure

and Zaccheaus Oonje (read more on page 7, photo:

Brother Lawrence Obiko).

Photograph back cover: Sculpture in Oberammergau,

Germany (photo: Brother Ad de Kok).




The heartwarming, personal contacts when the

copy for the magazine is collected are a happy

circumstance in publishing Brothers CMM.

From Kenya came a contribution from three

first-year novices, put together by Brother Daniel

Nyakundi Nchoga, superior of the novitiate

in Sigona (see p. 13-14). “We are truly grateful

for the congregational magazine”, he writes. “In it

we find the ‘real’ face of CMM: who we are and

what we do in the various services for our

neighbours.” The brother from Kenya also

reflects briefly on the General Assembly of the

Congregation in Yogyakarta, which was held

from October 1-16, 2011 (p. 6-7). Brother Daniel

was present there in his capacity as a formation

leader. “This meeting made a deep impression

on me and challenges all of us to share our

experiences with others.”

Brother Daniel Nyakundi Nchoga is not the only

one in his idea about the role which the magazine

Brothers CMM plays in communicating what

is taking place within the Congregation.

The participants of the General Assembly were

unanimous in their praise for the way in which

Brothers CMM has developed during the past

couple of years into a professional magazine;

first by a drastic restyling of the page layout in

2005, and secondly by another overhaul in 2010.

It became more compact; it appeared in full

colour and with more room for pictures.







In Memoriam




Thanks to the cooperation of the brothers

from all corners of the world, the magazine

can only get better!






Former politician Wim Deetman, president of the so called ‘Deetman Commission’, presented

last December the findings of the investigation conducted by this commission dealing with the

sexual abuse in the Catholic Church during the period from 1945 till the present. Deetman did

this during an impressive press conference in the Hague, where he explained in detail all what

went wrong.

He stated that though the abuse in the Church was

not worse than in the society at large, we are dealing

with many victims and offenders. The reading of this

extensive report was not a pleasant matter. I was

aware that also in our Congregation a substantial

number of brothers had made serious mistakes. I have

been confronted with this for the past two years.

At the same time it was shocking to deal with it

all over again.

The extensive report, the ever recurring articles in the

press about sexual abuse - including what is happening

nów - and the personal accounts of the victims which

I received these past years have made me realize more

clearly than ever how vulnerable people are. Victims of

abuse, of sexual abuse, but this is equally true for all

forms of abuse of power, are truly assaulted in their

vulnerability. A minor is so much more vulnerable

since he is to a great extent dependent on adults.

Not all people are equally vulnerable. Perpetrators

of all kinds of abuse know uncannily how to find the

most vulnerable ones. All of us have the responsibility

to be aware of the vulnerability of children, but equally

of every one who is dependent on us.

However, there is another aspect: áll of us are

vulnerable people. And the question is: do I dare to

admit to myself that I am vulnerable too? To speak

for myself and the confrontation with sexual abuse

committed in the past by my fellow-brothers, I realize

more clearly my own vulnerability and that of my

position. As someone who fulfils an executive function

I have a certain responsibility and more than ever I

realize that it makes a difference in what I do or fail

to do. I believe that in the final analysis only an

attitude in which there is room for vulnerability can

be wholesome. As one who bears responsibility I have

a certain ‘position of power’.

How do I deal with that in the right way? Do I dare

to be vulnerable? The acceptance of my vulnerability

seems to me to be a good starting point. It might very

well be true that when we leave that vulnerability

unexamined it will lead to ‘compensation’ in the form

of abuse of power.

Brother Broer Huitema


concerning Brother andreas



It was crowded around the deathbed of Brother Andreas in the summer of 1917. Many fellow-brothers

wanted to say farewell. Many entrusted their feelings of this last visit to paper. It was clearly an important

experience for them.

February 2, 1968: the relics of Brother

Andreas are transferred from the

cemetery to the Motherhouse Chapel of

the Brothers CMM in Tilburg.

Brother Andreas was seriously ill and did not look

forward to the end. However, he was grateful for

all those visits and received his fellow-brothers with

kindness and attentiveness. The conversation with

the elderly, sick brother once in a while took a

wonderful turn. Brother Leobertus asked him:

“Brother Andreas would you, with God’s permission,

pass along the greetings to my blessed father?”

That was a friendly, but not so seriously meant

question. Maybe Brother Leobertus wanted to ease

the moment. Would it not be easier to die while

looking for a personal acquaintance?

But Brother Andreas took the question seriously.

He muttered: “What was your father’s name and

how did he look like?” Obviously he took the question

at face value. But he also realized that it would be

difficult to find someone among the heavenly host.

The brothers surrounding his bed were surprised

by his response. Afterwards one of them wrote:

“Brother Andreas had a vivid image of heaven.”

And another one: “He wanted to keep his word

even after his death.”

Brother Leobertus himself had another interpretation.

“Brother Andreas probably noticed some of the

sadness in my question. He asked about my father

in order to be able to share in my sadness.”

Charles van Leeuwen






From 1-16 October 2011, the second General Assembly of the Congregation was held in Yogyakarta. It was

during the board period of the General Board that was elected by the General Chapter in 2008. The meeting

took place in the reflection centre ‘Syantikara’ of the Sisters of Carolus Borromeus. The participants were the

members of the General Board of the Brothers CMM, the provincial and regional superiors and all formation

leaders. This last group was invited since the CMM formation programme was a special item on the agenda.

In his word of welcome Brother Broer Huitema, the

Superior General, encouraged all the participants

of the eight different nations to study and discuss

carefully all the positive experiences, the good

examples, and the challenges of the CMM formation

against the background of the search for and the

witness to the unity which ties the worldwide CMM

brotherhood together. He argued that the leaders

are in the front lines, also to witness to worldwide

brotherhood. Good leadership is indispensable in the

formation of candidates in order to become merciful

brothers. “And in all honesty, it must be said, this is

not a simple task”, Brother Broer Huitema emphasized.


The Superior General, who chaired the meeting,

General Board-member Brother Lawrence Obiko,

Brother Wim Verschuren and CMM’s study secretary

Charles van Leeuwen had prepared a programme of

two weeks. They presented their work as starting

points for discussions in the entire group. At the

beginning of the meeting the superior general

indicated that whatever was presented in the

introduction and in the reflection, the insights and

experiences of the participating brothers would be

the most important source of information.

Inner garden of the reflection centre ‘Syantikara’ of the

Sisters of Carolus Borromeus in Yogyakarta, where

the General Assembly took place.

The interpreters Ancilla Loe and Marist Father

Peter Westerman.


Photo left: The participants of the General Assembly. Photo right: The Kenyan Brothers Richard Sure (left; Superior of

Mosocho) and Zaccheaus Oonje (Superior of Nakuru), both responsible for the formation in Kenya, during a trip to the

famous Buddhist sanctuary Borobudur, 40 kilometres northwest of Yogyakarta.

‘The Good Shepherd’

The first day of the General Assembly was completely

devoted to prayer and reflection centred around

the theme of ‘The Good Shepherd’, introduced in a

PowerPoint presentation by Charles van Leeuwen.

He emphasized how important it is that all who are

involved in formation are good role models for those

who participate in the formation programme.

The study secretary clarified the image of ‘The Good

Shepherd’ in the context of the Jewish tradition, in

which several aspects of being a good shepherd come

up for discussion: providing leadership, correcting and

being merciful. From the very beginning the image of

‘The Good Shepherd’ was the archetype for the Church

of good leadership, not only for priests but for all who

render leadership and instruction.

Mansuete et fortiter

The subsequent days centred on the responsibility

the congregational leaders have in the formation of

merciful brothers, according to the motto: ‘Mansuete

et Fortiter’ (Gentle and Strong), of the Founder

of the Congregation, Joannes Zwijsen. Brother

Wim Verschuren discussed in his presentation the

themes ‘Merciful Father’ and ‘Mercy in the Parables’.

From his twelve years of experience as the postulantmaster

and novice-master Brother Lawrence Obiko

presented the other topics: ‘Celibacy in the Formation

Programme’ and ‘The Appropriate Lifestyle for a

Brother CMM’. His introductions gave an overview

of the developments in the lifestyle of the brothers

and their involvement in youth formation over the

last 50 years. The superior general presented a

number of concepts for reflection and discussion in

his introductions ‘Learning to Talk with each other’

and ‘Learning to Obey’. Questions from the floor came

up, such as: Which specific problems do brothers

who provide leadership experience in reference to

obedience? What inspiration do the Constitutions

provide in the area of ‘listening’, ‘speaking’, ‘hearing’,

and ‘obeying’?


Brother Broer Huitema gave special attention to the

developments which took place in The Netherlands

and in the Congregation relating to the revelation

of a large number of sexual abuses. The participants

asked him to indicate the best way to prevent future

incidents of sexual abuse by the brothers. Brother

Broer Huitema dwelt on the importance of a correct

selection of candidates and a solid basic formation

programme. Candidates must go also in their

emotional development through a balanced process

of maturation. Essential in this area is a warm,

mutually supportive community life, and an open,

transparent contact between leader and candidate.

Several protocols will be developed in this area;

they will come into force in the near future.

Rien Vissers



Brother Ludolf Bulkmans as

a young missionary.

Manado. Brothers and pupils on a walk along the beach.




When we talk about ‘Mission’, many think it’s about ‘catching souls’. This was never part of the Brothers CMM

tradition. When a school child, its parent or any other person wanted to explore the Catholic faith one could

readily count on a brother willing to assist. Frequently, but not always, such contact would end up in baptism.

One of the brothers who through all of his missionary life has been involved in accompanying people who

showed an interest in the faith, was Brother Ludolf Bulkmans (1907-2000), missionary in Manado, Indonesia.

Brother Ludolf was 22 years of age when he arrived

in Manado. He was appointed straight away as

teacher of the brothers’ primary school of grade 1

with 56 children! Most of them were followers of the

traditional Chinese people’s religion as it was a school

for the Chinese with Dutch as the spoken language. It

soon came to the brother’s attention that the sparkling

life loving, happy children suffered very little under the

burden of paganism which he was supposed to combat.

He kept his eyes wide open and soon concluded that he

had not really been prepared for the work in Manado.

He had grown up in a good Catholic family, studied

at the teachers’ training college of the brothers and

received his religious formation in the twenties of last

century. The formation of the brothers was somewhat

remote from the ‘world’, shielded from non-Catholics,

simply preparing the brothers to promote and support

the Catholic faith.


Initially Brother Ludolf thought he knew everything

while his pupils knew nothing; he thought that as

pagans his pupils were completely on the wrong track

and that christening would be their only salvation.

Slowly but surely, while communicating with them

he learned that hidden underneath the ‘dust’ of their

paganism, were precious elements. One might even talk

of ‘latent Christianity’. Thus Ludolf who ‘knew it all’

became himself a student with genuine respect for the

rich Chinese religion and culture. He did not corner his

pupils with Christian dogmas, with do’s and don’ts.

He never spoke with disapproval or condemnation about

the Chinese religion and he knew that they would never

completely break with their religious past. To Brother

Ludolf there was no need to do so. A total break would

have isolated them from their Chinese community

which would have made them very unhappy.



It happened sometimes that a catechumen gave up and

no longer came to Brother Ludolf for lessons. At such

times he would not show any disappointment and he

would pride himself that the student in question felt

entirely free. When a student had decided to become

a Roman Catholic, i.e. to become a catechumen, he

would pray in the Catholic church and hardly ever

again in the temple. Home rituals related to ancestor

worship could be adhered to as usual. They were

allowed to enjoy their ‘Tjap Go Meh’ the carnivallike

spectacular parade held two weeks after Chinese

New Year, but they were forbidden to participate in

them in a religious manner. Brother Ludolf himself

enjoyed the parade very much. He wrote about it:

“The whole Chinese community would be swept up in

the excitement. You can’t imagine how everyone was

busily involved; the participants getting dressed up,

the sparkling enthusiasm, the dragon, the giant drum,

the men in trance beating themselves with swords and

not feeling the pain, the fireworks going off for hours

like an endless bombardment, the funny clown-like

figures, it would turn the most straight-faced nerd

into an animated partygoer.” Belief in ghosts, spirits,

omens and predicting the future continued to play a

role in the life of most of the baptized.


The religion of the Chinese is also called ‘Confucianism’

after the most famous Chinese philosopher Confucius

(551-479 BC). Brother Ludolf liked him a great deal.

Together with most Chinese he did not see him as a

founder of a religion, but as a philosopher and social

reformer who strove after true harmony in society.

You can almost hear the brother talk to his students

when he writes: “To achieve true harmony in society

you need: sincerity, justice, honesty in thought, word

and deed. He summed up his teaching with: when the

sables have rusted away and the shovels are shining;

when the steps to the temple are worn out by the feet

of the faithful; when grass grows in the courtyards

of the courthouses; when prisons are empty and the

granaries full; when doctors are walking and the bakers

are driving... then the empire is well governed. Then

the ‘tao’, the perfect harmony is lived.” The word ‘tao’

must have made Brother Ludolf think of God’s Kingdom

and the vision of Isaiah, where swords are turned into

ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks (Is. 2:4).

Ancestor worship

Exploring the Chinese religion and talking with Chinese

friends Brother Ludolf discovered many similarities

with the Christian faith. He learned that the existence

of one God was no problem to the Chinese, although

they would not give it much thought. In Chinese

temples you often find statues of figures that are more

like saints rather than gods. They are given so much

attention that the ‘divinity’ fades away somewhat.

Among Catholics you come across something similar

when e.g. the veneration of Mary outshines the liturgy.

Concepts like heaven and hell, sin and life after death,

they too appear in the Chinese religion. Ancestor

worship features strongly in all this. Most Chinese

houses have some kind of a house altar where rituals

are performed to honour the ancestors. In early April

they have a Chinese Memorial Day, called ‘Tjing Bing’,

which means ‘pure and immaculate’. On that day

Chinese families are often found in their cemeteries.

They clean the graves of their loved ones, place

incense sticks, candles and food. The deceased is

invited to eat and the family prays and incenses the

grave. Afterwards they have a shared meal on the

grave. Usually there is a lot of food left over which is

Newly baptized boys with

Palm Sunday palm branches in

their hands.



During a visitation of Superior General Brother Tharcisio Horsten (sitting, front row) to Manado in 1930.

for the poor, who are hiding behind hedges and gates

ready for their snacks. Brother Ludolf encouraged his

students to participate in the ancestral rituals at home

and at the cemetery. He called it obeying the fourth

commandment: ‘honour your father and your mother’.

For the dead who no longer have a family to perform

the rituals on the grave, they have the Tjio Ko

celebration, a commemoration of the most deserted

souls. In Chinese temples one also comes across a

statue of Kwan Yin, the goddess of mercy. It concerns

a Buddhist goddess who gained a place in Chinese

religion. This loving goddess is invoked by parents

who cannot get children, in family difficulties and in

illness. It was not difficult for Brother Ludolf to see

similarities between this goddess and our ‘Catholic’

Mary, Mother of Mercy.

Never has any pupil, Protestant, Buddhist, Chinese or

Muslim ever complained about being offended in their

faith conviction. And thus they were and remained our

friends. For 43 years I have had the privilege of doing

this work. A beautiful time! I often think of those kids!

I started off those early years with heavy artillery, but

as time went on, I realized more and more that the

yoke of Christ is easy and his burden light.”

Brother Pieter-Jan van Lierop

Newly baptized celebrating at table.

‘A beautiful time!’

What was important in Brother Ludolf Bulkmans’

missionary work shows up in the following quotations.

“I tried to convince my boys of a good, merciful God

who lovingly cares for each one of us; that all people

are called to eternal happiness and that they should

not be discouraged when they were aware of their

weaknesses and sins, because God is always ready to

forgive.” And: “We were not trying to catch their souls.

We offered all pupils from whatever denomination

equal attention and dedication.


news in brief


On October 8, 2011, Cardinal Otunga High School in

Mosocho, Kenya, celebrated its 50 years of existence.

The school was erected on one of the historical places

where the CMM mission in Kenya started, shortly after

the arrival of the brothers in 1958. The educational

institution is named after Kenyan Maurice Michael

Cardinal Otunga (1923-2003), Bishop of Kisii from

1960 to 1969 and Archbishop of the Archdiocese

of Nairobi from 1971 till 1997. Thousands had been

invited for the celebration: students, their parents,

parishioners, brothers and government representatives.

The celebration lasted all day with a Eucharistic

celebration, speeches, an academic session and

sports events.

Kisii Bishop Joseph Mairura Okemwa blesses

students of Cardinal Otunga High School.



Mr. Berry van den Brink signs his commitment,

witnessed by Superior General Brother Broer

Huitema (right) and Brother Jan Koppens.

Mr. Berry van den Brink made his commitment for life as an

Associated Member of the Brothers CMM on November 20, 2011,

in the chapel of the Joannes Zwijsen Residential Care Facility in

Tilburg, in the hands of the Superior General, Brother Broer Huitema.

Brother Jan Koppens, Provincial Superior of The Netherlands

and Brother Harrie van Geene, Superior of the Joannes Zwijsen

community acted as official witnesses. Berry van den Brink has

been a volunteer at the Joannes Zwijsen community since 1995.


On December 8, 2011, in the State of Minas Gerais,

the medal of honour ‘Desembargador Hélio Costa’

is awarded, on behalf of the Ministry of Justice, to

Brother Henrique Matos. The decoration was given

to the brother and the team of the prison chaplaincy,

where he was the driving force behind extraordinary

services in the area of humanizing the prison system

of the regional detention centre of Belo Horizonte, in

the municipality of São Joaquim de Bicas. Based on

Matthew 25:36, “I was in prison and you visited me”,

the prison chaplaincy launched in November 2009

the idea to visit the more than 500 prisoners in

the complex and to accompany them in their return

to society.

Brother Henrique Matos.


Kenya & NamibiA

‘United with God and neighbour’

We participate in very special courses for novices.

Various congregations organize and design them to

foster spiritual growth in our religious communities.

They are held three times a year: in February, May,

and October. A programme, which I recently took,

covered the topics: Dealing with Sexuality in Religious

Life, Liturgy and Eucharist, Living the Trinity as the

basis of Community Life, and St. Paul’s Writings.

In that programme I came to discover that being

a religious means: living in unity with God and

neighbour. To build an ideal community we must be

able and willing to take care of one another; no one

should be concerned with his or her own private needs

and interests. This is a huge challenge in the endeavour

to grow in our relationship with God and neighbour.

The programme provided the opportunity to talk with

our fellow-novices and discover the charisms each of

us represented. Jesus incessantly challenges us daily

in even the smallest actions and tasks we have to do,

in the temptations we have to overcome, and in the

services we have to render to the People of God.

The noviciate in Sigona, Kenya.

Brother Geoffrey Sinange

My experiences as a postulant

in Windhoek, Namibia

The desire to serve God and his people is at the core

of the call to religious life; by caring for the poor and

giving aid to people we discern God’s love. Yet, assisting

others is a call for all of us, and not just a distinctive

mark for those who are called to religious life and

become members of a religious community.

The unique core of religious life shows in the lifestyle

that harmonizes the vows of poverty, chastity and

obedience within a specific religious community.

A religious’ most essential service or task charges

him or her to give witness that all of us are called to

treat creation, people and ourselves with respect.

In reality, we might say that we not only belong to

God but also to the community at large. In my ideal,

which is characteristic for celibate and chaste religious

life, I strive to be close to all God’s children, especially

the most needy. In Namibia, the Congregation of the

Brothers CMM made this ideal a reality through its

work in education. I desire to follow that path.

The postulancy at Abtstreet in Windhoek, Namibia.

I take the opportunity to thank the General Board of

the Congregation, the Brothers Broer Huitema, Edward

Gresnigt, Ronald Randang, Martinus Lumbanraja,

Lawrence Obiko, Namibia’s Regional Superior, Brother

Hermenegildus Beris, and Formation Director Paul

Onyango Onyisi. They worked hard to assist me in my

internship as candidate in Namibia. I also thank all the

brothers who helped me to grow in faith and pray that

God will continue to bless you all.

John Kabalumpa






In 2011 the annual ‘Vincentian Pilgrimage’ took place from August 26 through September 7, a pilgrimage to the

places in France where Vincent de Paul lived and worked. Saint Vincent had inspired Joannes Zwijsen to found

his congregations of sisters and brothers. Many other religious institutes view Vincent as the source of their

inspiration. Since 1998 the pilgrimage has been organized for religious and anyone who wishes to participate.

Sister Rosa Wigink, Superior General of the Daughters of Mary and Joseph (in The Netherlands known as

‘The Sisters of the Choorstraat’) travelled with them last year. What did the journey mean for her? At various

‘Vincentian Family’ gatherings she spoke of what this sojourn had done for her. Here follows a summary of her


Yes, I did it. I went on a Vincentian Pilgrimage for

twelve days. You take time-out for yourself. You take

time to pray and meditate, but also to enjoy nature,

art, culture, and relaxation. You come to know the

life and work of Saint Vincent, Louise de Marillac, and

Frédérique Ozanam.

Five virtues

In addition to taking care of the poor and directing the

training of priests, Vincent championed five virtues

in his life: simplicity: be yourself from the depth of

your being; humility: adapt yourself and find your

place within the community; gentleness: be tough in

business, but loving and patient toward your fellow

human being; self denial: ignore your own desires to be

present to others; concern for the soul: having a bond

with others.

Louise de Marillac was a young outcast searching

for spiritual growth. She met Vincent. She became a

champion for a congregation of active sisters:

the Daughters of Charity. Many women joined them.

Together they conducted numerous unselfish works

of charity. A young student, Frédérique Ozanam,

a committed believer, became concerned about the

fate of so many in need and started the ‘St. Vincent

de Paul Society’ well over two hundred years after

Vincent lived. The society has spread throughout the

world. Frédérique Ozanam provided immediate help

and also tackled what he saw as the root causes of

the various needs.

Serving the poor

This pilgrimage did a lot for me. It brought Vincent

much closer to me. I rediscovered him: his simplicity,

his confidence, his faith in Providence, his stamina,

and his love of the poor. All this and much more

touched me and affected me. This pilgrimage invites

me to reflect on myself, the course of my life, and my

Group picture in Lussac, on the way to Paris. Sister Rosa Wigink stands exactly in the

centre of the second row.



A plaza in France, named after Vincent de Paul.

The French village ‘Saint-Vincent-de-Paul’ (earlier

called ‘Le Pouy’), Vincent de Paul’s place of birth.

faith. Vincent dedicated his entire life to the poor.

His first work of charity started with groups of women,

but not women religious. Love for the poor took a

central place in Vincent’s life. Repeatedly he declared:

“The poor are your masters”. This gets to the core.

I must serve the poor. One assists the poor bringing

justice, not to express commiseration. What will I do

with this typical Vincentian spirituality? I will try to

recognize others, even when it is difficult to bring

them comfort, practice courtesy, and show respect.

Vincent also observed: “If you meet a poor person

ten times a day, you meet God ten times a day.

… Go to someone who is ill, you find God there. …

Visit one who is lonely or demented and God will

touch you there.”


For Vincent the poor were icons of Christ. Are they

for me as well? Vincent defined meekness as warm

humaneness in friendship and hospitality within the

human community. Harshness or a sour and surly

look prevents one from meeting others. Kindliness

comes straight from the heart. One doesn’t give an

explanation of what love is, one practices love.

How do I relate to it? I attempt to be attentive to

all who cross my path and make them, rich and poor

alike, feel welcome. I attempt to be a caring religious

woman. Vincent observed: “People in the world do not

go out without first looking into the mirror.” God asks

me that I too look into a mirror, the mirror of my soul.

That in my prayer – throughout the day – I find silence

and come home to myself and thus see and hear

what the Lord desires from me. I believe that Jesus is

continually present in my life. Vincent was a man of

prayer; he rose very early to pray and sanctify his day.

Prayer and simplicity belong together. Is that true for

me as well? Vincent’s road was a road of ‘vision’.

He teaches me to use my ‘eyes’ well.


We must travel a road on which we allow ourselves to

be touched, our hearts to be moved. It is a road that

calls for action. I too have to take action. My mission

continues even as I get older. It makes my life

meaningful. I have to make God’s merciful love visible,

audible, and tangible. Of course I think of serving, but

serving also means that I have to listen and learn to

say ‘thank you’. This also includes: be ready with a

friendly greeting, speak a kind word, avoid criticizing

someone who is not present, and make yourself totally

present to the community. Someone observed: “Let us,

like Vincent, be weavers in the Kingdom of God and

be attentive to people, whoever they are”. Vincent, a

charismatic man, constantly checked how the Gospel

related to the facts and realities of his time. He was

a great man. His passion to fight the cause for the

poor caught everyone’s attention. He was gentle,

patient, simple, and trusted God’s Providence. He was

amazingly gifted as a speaker and impressed people

with his resourcefulness. Vincent is often called a ‘Man

of Providence’. He believed in Providence as an active

force. All images of Vincent show him with a look of

peace and serenity. His eyes had seen immeasurable

distress, but also joy and thankfulness. He himself

went through a conversion experience and continued

his life in the footsteps of Jesus himself. Vincent’s

experience gave him the ability to instil enthusiasm

in others to follow his example.


A service in the church of Folleville, where Vincent de Paul delivered his first sermon.

Celebrating the Eucharist in Vincent de Paul’s

place of birth.

A service in Chartres. Brother Jan Koppens addresses

the pilgrims.

Marker in the chapel at Château-l’Evêque (near

Périgueux) where Vincent de Paul was ordained.


For me Vincent is a saint who helps me to see better

my neighbour’s vulnerability. He has become a model

for me. Vincent was moved by what he saw. His vision

inspired him to develop works of charity and give

assistance which the society of his day could not

provide. He was known as a man of profuse activity

and deep religious compassion who faithfully spent

time in meditation. Even today’s society does not

have an answer to many of its problems. Through

his restless work and concern Vincent did become

an ‘ambassador of peace’. This pilgrimage affected

me intensely. I came to realize how much Vincent

has given us and see how many congregations have

adopted his spirituality.


In the silence that surrounds my prayer, I can pay

attention to the needs of many people in the world

and be welcoming to those who need my attention.

With a thankful heart I look back upon this pilgrimage

in which prayer, reflection, culture, and relaxation all

found their place. I recharged my ‘battery’ during this

journey. “Go slow when you hurry”, Vincent liked to

say. Put differently: “Keep going, be patient, and no

matter what, keep going.” Vincent remained amazingly

calm when he faced setbacks and simplicity became

the corner stone of his spirituality. He considered

simplicity the most significant virtue for his religious.

I wish to make this virtue my own: “One finds God

when one lives in simplicity”. “Go slow when you hurry,

but be sure to keep going.” I make this a heartfelt wish

for all the Vincentian pilgrimages. “Go slow when

you hurry and walk with God.”

Sister Rosa Wigink





in Paris

Vincent de Paul, statue Generalate

Brothers CMM, Tilburg.

In the past few years, various brothers have taken a three-month course in Vincentian spirituality at the

International Formation Centre of the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians), an institution in Paris

founded by St. Vincent de Paul. The Indonesian Brother Benyamin Tunggu reported on it in the previous

edition of ‘Brothers CMM’. This time a retrospect by Brother John Karungai from Kenya on the programme

he followed in 2011.

The programme at the ‘Centre International de

Formation St. Vincent’ (CIF) has helped me to get a

better view on myself, St. Vincent, the history of the

Congregation, our Rule of Life and community life.

My stay in Paris also helped clarify my choice to be

a ‘Brother of Mercy’. It gave me renewed strength to

take on the challenges of my apostolate. The whole

programme of introductions, personal internalization

and Eucharistic celebrations returned me to the

spiritual source where I, as Brother of Mercy, could

refresh myself.

‘Thrown into the deep’

The travels to places in France where Vincent de Paul

lived and worked gave me a better picture of him. It is

now much clearer to me how he had enclosed the poor

in his heart. In them he saw Christ, whom he wanted

to serve with love and devotion. In a sense I have

been ‘thrown in the deep’, learned to examine my past

critically, draw conclusions from it and start anew

in the manner Vincent would have wanted.

The Founder of our Congregation, Joannes Zwijsen,

said: “If you want to accomplish something, you

simply have to start.” Our Constitutions state the

following about him: “He wanted that his followers

after the example of Vincent de Paul would serve God

and their fellowmen and thus bring him to God” (I,

208). The ‘return to the source’ has slaked my thirst,

and now it is my turn to slake the thirst of others as

Jesus did with the Samaritan woman (John 4:1-45).

I believe that I will be able to live in the spirit of our

Founder, with the help of Our Lady, Mother of Mercy

and Vincent, who practiced the virtues of simplicity,

humility, meekness, mortification and the zeal for


Brother John Karungai


news in brief



On November 20, 2011, the premiere of the

documentary Schoonheid en pijn in het kloosterleven

(Beauty and Pain in Religious Life) took place in

Goirle at Jan van Besouw Cultural Centre, a former

brotherhouse of the Brothers CMM. The movie is a

production of Foundation Verhalis in Tilburg, which

gathers memories and stories to save them for

future generations (www.verhalis.nl).

The foundation has recorded eight ‘religious life stories’

from Tilburg before and added last year a second

series of seventeen, and combined them all in the new

documentary, in which religious men and women from

Brabant talk about their lives. The new series contains

the life story of former Brother Marius van den Boom.

An interesting detail is that it was filmed by his son

Andries. Together with his son he looks back at his years

as a brother. The films are created by eight novice film

makers, who under the auspices of Foundation Verhalis,

were given a chance to make two films each under the

guidance of documentary makers Carine van Vught

and Jeroen Neus.

Former Brother Marius van den Boom (middle) with his

son Andries and Superior General of the Brothers CMM,

Broer Huitema, at the premiere of the documentary

‘Schoonheid en pijn in het kloosterleven’ (Beauty and

Pain in Religious Life).





On December 29, 2011, seven brothers in Medan

made their profession for life in the hands of

Superior General Brother Broer Huitema. They are

Leston Situmorang, Benad Simbolon, Yasintus

Seran, Wilfridus Bria, Markus Rindi, Petrus Lein and

Fransiskus Nahak. The profession took place at

St. Elisabeth Chapel, during a Eucharistic Celebration,

led by Archbishop Anicetus Sinaga OFMCap of

Medan, together with five other priests. Brother

Broer Huitema stressed in his address that being

a brother is a lifelong process during which it is

not always easy to be faithful to the vows. “That is

why it is so important to share with your superior

The seven Indonesian brothers, after making their

profession for life.

or spiritual director, in all openness, your joys and

your sorrows”, said the superior general. “Prayer and

community life support you on your life’s journey, to

keep you growing as a Brother of Mercy.” On January 7,

in Dili, East Timor, the Brothers Pedro Guterres and

Cancio da Costa Gama made their profession for life in

the hands of Superior General Brother Broer Huitema.

Bishop Alberto Ricardo da Sila from Dili presided over

the Eucharistic Celebration at the occasion of this

profession. In his sermon, he stressed the beauty

and meaningfulness of religious life and uttered

the hope that the brothers would pay special

attention to people in remote regions.


news in brief



The former Museum Scryption on the Spoorlaan

in Tilburg.

The collection of the former museum Scryption in

Tilburg will be sold. The Tilburg museum had to close

its doors in January, 2012, because of municipal

budget cuts. There was hope for a second chance in

Eindhoven, but also that city, did not want to support

Scryption financially either. The museum existed for

22 years and documented the history of script and

writing and its applications in the office. The visitors

saw typewriters, fountain pens, pencils, ballpoint

pens, dip pens, copy machines, stencil machines, word

processors, and office furniture. The in 1995 deceased

writer, Willem Frederik Hermans, left Scryption his

collection of about two hundred typewriters.

The museum attracted about 20,000 visitors per year.

The knowledge and experience will be utilized in a new

organization called Npuntnul. It will track and interpret

the development of communication and social media.

Npuntnul will organize activities such as exhibitions,

media-installations, lectures and debates, social

media projects and educational projects. The museum

collection started originally as a collection of educator

Brother Ferrerius van den Berg. Shortly after World

War II, he started his study for an M.O. (Secondary

Education) diploma in penmanship. At the same

time he started to collect various implements and

instruments related to writing. That became the start

of a unique collection which grew into the ‘Writing

and Typewriter Museum’, which was initially located

in the loft of the Generalate building of the

Brothers CMM on the Gasthuisring in Tilburg.

The expanding collection, after wandering through

Tilburg, found a home at the former Trade School

in the Spoorlaan, right next to the Noord-Brabants

Nature Museum. The city of Tilburg remodelled the

property and industry related companies took care

of the furnishings. Thus arose the museum with a

world-renowned collection.



From January 13 to 15, Superior General Broer Huitema

and Deputy Brother Edward Gresnigt participated in

Rome in a gathering of the leaders of the Vincentian

Family. Like other participants, they shared how

the Congregation of Brothers CMM implements the

Vincentian charism in various congregational projects.


Leaders of the Vincentian Family in their meeting.

Middle row far right, Brother Edward Gresnigt.

Next to him: Brother Broer Huitema.


The centenarian speaking

with the superior general.

On December

12, 2011, Brother

Marcel Achten

celebrated his

one hundredth

birthday in the

community of the

Brothers CMM in

Zonhoven, Belgium.

His Belgian Fellowbrother


Koenen reports for Brothers CMM: “Brother Marcel has

been a member of the Congregation for more than 83

years. After getting his Teaching Certificate in 1933

he was first assigned to the education of the deaf in

Maaseik and subsequently to the Koninklijk Instituut

voor Doven en Spraakgestoorden (Royal Institute for

the Deaf and Speech-impaired) in Hasselt, initially as

teacher and eventually as director. For forty-four years

– until his retirement – Brother Marcel worked fulltime

in the education for the deaf and for adult deaf former

students. In all those years he built up a rich trove of

experience, among others in the area of sign language.

He became a much appreciated counsellor in this field

of special education. After his retirement Brother Marcel

did not rest on his laurels! Twice he travelled to Kenya,

to share his rich experience in service to education for

the deaf in that country. Brother Marcel is a multifaceted

man who did not hide his talents under a

corn bushel. He shared his joy with countless others!

As photographer and film maker he closely followed

the daily life of the institute; he played the organ in

the chapel; as an accomplished calligrapher, Marcel

created beautiful texts; furthermore our centenarian

was a sportsman at heart. He coached sports such as

soccer, gymnastics, billiards, skating … From this short

summary it is clear that Brother Marcel did not eat the

bread of idleness!” But above all, our centenarian is a

religious man who for 83 years has lived to the fullest

the admonition that ‘our being in the world should be

characterized by merciful love’, as is written in our Rule

of Life (I, 50).” In a speech given at the celebration,

Brother René Segers, the Regional Superior of the

Belgian brothers, thanked the celebrating brother not

only for what he had done during his long life for the

deaf and speech-impaired, but especially for what he

has meant for so many of them. “Personally”, said the

Regional Superior, “I am glad that I had the privilege

of continuing for some time the life’s work of Brother

Marcel and especially, that in difficult periods I was

always able to call on his expertise and active help,

without any interference from him. I am also grateful

that for many years I had the privilege of being a

fellow-brother of him. He was always a part of the

community, despite his irregular and busy schedule.

For all of that and much more I want to thank you

and congratulate you again with your one hundredth

birthday, and now up to 12-12-12, as you said yourself.”

The celebration was attended by many brothers from

The Netherlands. The Superior General, Brother Broer

Huitema, praised Brother Marcel for his single-minded

dedication to the deaf and speech-impaired. Not

without reason did he call Brother Marcel “the sweetest

brother in the Congregation”.


Statue of Joannes Zwijsen

at St. Dionysius Church,

popularly known as

‘Heikese kerk’.

Zwijsen was pastor here.

At the Generalate of the

Brothers CMM, the Regional

Movement of Mercy organized

a meeting on January 21,

2012, around the theme of:

‘Tilburg, a merciful City!?’ About

sixty interested participants

listened to representatives of

the ‘Vincentshop’, the Food

Bank, the crisis and refugee

relief centre, parishes and

religious institutions, including

the Brothers CMM and Sisters

SCMM. The Mayor of Tilburg, Peter Noordanus, pleaded

for a greater involvement of people with each other.

In a future vision for Tilburg, published on January 28,

in the regional newspaper Brabants Dagblad, Sister

Mariëtte Kinker SCMM asked what type of city Tilburg

wants to be. “Many people are thinking about this”,

she writes. “Looking back at our tradition, there are

plenty of reasons, right now, to make of Tilburg a

merciful city. There is a movement among groups

and people to work towards a society in which

there is room for everybody regardless of

differences, vulnerabilities and injustice. Maybe

Tilburg can and will lead and make mercy a high


in memoriam

priority again. In 1998 the nationwide Movement of

Mercy was founded in Tilburg. The movement has

now several hundred participants, with many from

Tilburg. Two years ago a Regional Movement of Mercy

was founded in Tilburg. It is not coincidental that

this just happened to be here. Pastor Zwijsen saw

in the beginning of the nineteenth century the sad

situation of the Tilburg population. There was lack

of good education and the sick were left to fend

for themselves. He saw that especially care at the

beginning and at the end of life fell far short of the

norm. He saw that it was especially the children,

the young, the sick and the elderly that suffered. It

affected him - he had to do something. He founded

the Congregations of the Sisters of Charity and the

Brothers of Mercy, both in Tilburg. A wave of mercy

was created, which soon reached beyond Tilburg.

The St. Vincent de Paul Society came about at the

same time. And now, in 2012, mercy is again a very

important topic. The reality of our human existence is

that nobody can avoid pain and sorrow. Sometimes we

meet up with powerlessness and bad will and we can’t

escape death. Our existence is fragile and vulnerable

and cannot be manufactured. There is only one answer

to this: mercy, compassion. It brings us back to a long

forgotten truth: that we are in the hands of others and

that we can make and break each other. People are at

the mercy of each other.”


75 years

March 19: Brother

Gerebernus van

der Zande

70 years

April 5: Brother Joseph


August 29: Brother Jan

Smits, Brother Pacianus


65 years

August 29: Brother

Francesco Paijmans,

Brother Gustavus

Menheere, Brother

Patricio Smolders

60 years

August 29: Brother

Guillaume Caubergh,

Brother Louis de Visser,

Brother Nico Nijst

50 years

August 29: Brother

Jan Koppens, Brother

Pieter-Jan van Lierop

25 years

May 10: Brother

Lawrence Obiko

June 1: Brother Johannes

Sihombing, Brother

Martinus Lumbanraja


Jan (J.A.) Seelen

He was born in Gilze-Rijen, The Netherlands, on

January 11, 1923 and entered the Congregation of

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

on August 29, 1940. He made his profession for life

on August 15, 1945. He died on October 9, 2011 in

the community of Joannes Zwijsen in Tilburg and

was buried in the brothers’ cemetery at the Estate

Steenwijk’ in Vught, The Netherlands.

His life as brother was mostly spent in education,

where he felt very much at home because he loved

to use his talents and abilities to serve the youth

that was entrusted to his care. He earned diplomas

in French and English. His teaching career took him

to ’s-Hertogenbosch, Medemblik, Eindhoven en Tilburg.

Brother Jan did not hide the fact that his time of

glory was at the Stefanus Mavo in Tilburg, where

he was director for the remarkable span of eighteen

years. His enormous dedication and effort inside and

outside education did not remain unnoticed to the

city government of Tilburg. When he retired from ‘his’

school in 1984, he was honoured with the golden pin

of the city. Brother Jan was a man of the community.

He liked his fellow-brothers and was helpful when his

services were called upon; he was ready to serve as

superior, deputy superior or member of the board.

Also in the community of Joannes Zwijsen, where

he lived since 2006, he remained a man of the

community. Brother Jan was loved because he was

so pleasant in his relations with others. May Brother

Jan rest with the Lord, whom we know as a loving God.






Attention to the whole person

In the footsteps of Vincent de Paul, Zwijsen focuses his attention on the whole person.

This point of view is – as we would say today – distinctly holistic. Zwijsen says: It is about

the material needs, but also about the spiritual needs of our fellowmen. Vincent spoke

about the harmony between affective and effective charity.

The activities of sisters and brothers will often be focused on the

corporal and material needs. In life it often comes down to the lack

of formation and education of the young and about the needs of

seriously ill and very elderly people. Vincent founded a society for

apostolic life. Remarkably, in 1834 Zwijsen spoke about his foundation

as a “Congregatio spiritualis”. Making society more humane was for

both of them “Serving God”, a question of Christian spirituality. God,

the origin and destiny of man, could for them never be put in brackets.

Attention to spiritual and material needs can take different forms.

It is dishonest towards people that live on the edge of survival (think

of the distressing African conditions), not to pay attention to eating

and drinking, to housing and health. Conversely, in situations of

material abundance (think of distressing situations in the western

world) it is incomprehensible if we don’t pay attention to people’s

spiritual poverty. Or speaking concretely: when we don’t have empathy

for people who suffer due to loneliness, lack of meaning in life and

lack of faith. It is always about the whole person.

Brothers and Sisters of Zwijsen are not foremost called to preach.

Performing corporal and spiritual works of mercy, that is their mission.

Service and hospitality characterize their lifestyle. Such behaviour

has for Vincent de Paul and Zwijsen an engaging power: it can put

our fellowmen on the track that leads to God, the ‘Merciful One.’

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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