By: Fr. Edmund Owusu, SVD
The preparations for a new SVD community in the diocese of Breda started about three years ago.
The SVD has several international communities in the Netherlands where priests conferes from various countries live among others, namely in Amsterdam, The Hague, Schiedam and in Nieuwegein. In early 2014, the general visitator, Fr. Alindo Dias suggested to the province to consider a missionary community near the SVD provincial mother house in Teteringen, where many older SVD members now live. After much consultation between the parties concerned Bishop, Mgr. dr. Jan Liesen, offerd us de St. Augustinus parish. A parish formed in 2013 following de amalgamation of parishes in the Northern part of Breda. The Augustinus parish is now made up of four churches and a chapel. Namely: The St. Willibrordus Church in Teteringen, St. Francis Church in Breda-North, St. Michael Church in Breda-East, St. Luke Church (A rented Protestant church) and the St. Anna chapel, which celebrates 500 years of existence in 2018.
Sunday, January 15, 2017
The dream mission was born on the 15th January 2017, the feast day of our founder St. Arnold Janssen. On this Sunday, bishop Mgr. Liesen was the main celebrant in the Eucharistic celebration in St. Francis Church. Concelebrants were the provincial superior of the NLB province, Fr. Avin Kunnekkadan SVD, Fr. Bert Wooning SVD, Fr. Edmund Owusu SVD and deacon Ben Hendriksen. During the celebration, the new SVD community was officially installed in the St. Augustine Parish.
In his opening remarks the bishop explained the need of having such missionary community in the parish: “From Teteringen hundreds of priests and brothers as missionaries left for places across the world. Their goal was to make known the love of Christ is to witness with their own lives. It is a sign of the community believe that now these missionaries are with us. Their goal is the same: they bear witness to the love of God in their own lives. The means of achieving that goal is their presence and commitment in this parish “He finished his recital with the words.” The priests are here, receive them, accept them and let them feel at home in your midst ” Finally, he wished the SVDs, the parishioners and everyone success with the work in the St. Augustinus Parish. (Teteringen, which forms part of the newly Augustinus parish, is where hundreds of SVD missionaries had their formation many years ago)
At the end of the celebration, the provincial, Fr. Avin Kunnekkadan thanked the bishop for opening his doors for the SVD in his diocese. He also thanked the parishioners for their willingness to receive the SVDs. Among those present were many parishioners. Besides, there were a number of confreres, friends of the SVD and SSpS sisters also present.
The SVD community in Breda
Breda is situated in the southern part of the Netherlands. A city relatively close to Venlo, thereby Style. It’s used to be a Catholic dominated area, in comparison to the Northern part of the country which, was dominated by Protestantism.
There are approximately 35,000 people living in the area, of whom about 35% are not Dutch. A large proportion of this percentage are Muslims. There are many foreign students living and studying here. Additionally, Breda North is not different from the many cities in the Netherlands where people live with many challenges.
The youngest SVD community in the NLB province is now two-member community; namely Fr. Bert Wooning and Fr. Edmund Effah Owusu. Fr. Richard Lobo is expected to join the team by the end of August this year. We are to work as team with one deacon and four lay women volunteers who provide pastoral support.
One of the best rules of live about every institution is that you should not judge or condemn, but watch carefully, observe patiently and participate actively in what is going on in order to know the situation and take stock of everything. After an initial survey, we want to create a (tentative) plan for a short term. Thereafter, we’ll try to come up with our immediate objectives of our presence in Breda North and the ways to achieve them.
It is remarkable how many people have trouble here with the term “missionary community”. One associates “mission” often with the “mission in distant lands when missionaries were sent from the West to the other parts of the world”. Since the SVD happens to be the first missionary congregation to work in this diocese and in this part of Netherland, we encounter many people who want to know what this mission work is all about. It’s always a challenge to try to explain this in simple terms but we leave the correct explanation to the near future. Nonetheless, the parish council is pleased with our presence and hopes that our pastoral care of the parish will have a new missionary impulse.
One of the main expectations of the Bishop was to introduce a weekly English Mass for the many English-speaking students in the city. Thanks be to God, the English Mass was started on 5th March 2017, on the first Sunday of Lent, with 16 people. The number keeps increasing on every week. On the 4th week we counted 45 people. We do a lot of publicity through flyers, via facebook, Whatsapp and by approaching people personally. We hope to get more in touch with the young people and ultimately arrive at a youth ministry or international student chaplaincy. To achieve this, we publish our missionary objectives and tasks in a newsletter every week.
Another objective that the new community has set is to dialogue with the many Muslims in the area. Besides, Fr Bert Wooning gives once a week a language lesson in the city library for about 100 refugees (mainly Syrians) to make contacts. I also remain active in my special apostolate with an organization known as ShivA (Spirituality Hiv Aids) to train counselors for HIV patients. We are also involve in the preparation for baptism and first communion. Through all these activities, we hope that the parish increasingly becomes a missionary parish and given the characteristics of an SVD parish.