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Earlier this week, representatives of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (the Curia dicastery for all religious orders and groups) visited the Netherlands for meetings with the religious superiors, the Conference of Dutch Religious and the bishops. The delegation consisted of the Congregation’s secretary Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo (pictured), and office manager Daniela Leggio.
Archbishop Rodríguez Carballo addressed the gather superiors of the Netherlands on Tuesday and appealed for a religious ‘refoundation’. He called for careful discernment of vocations, good Christian formation (with special attention for affectivity and sexuality), and a “creative loyalty”. What would the religious founders do hic et nunc? An answer to that question includes an appeal to radicality. The archbishop spoke of a threefold choice that needs to be made in regards to the aforementioned refoundation: the choice to put Christ at the heart of things, to discern between primary and secondary aspects of religious life, and a missionary existence.
The religious superiors also took the opportunity to ask questions. Dr. Leggio answered one of the questions, about the refoundation of religious life, with a counter-question: She said that everyone should ass him- or herself the question of what his or her duty in the here and now was. She said that many questions in the Netherlands revolved around rights: what is allowed and what isn’t? But those questions miss the mark: legal regulations are intended to give direction to life. Rules must be at the service of living the charism of all those various Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
On Wednesday the delegation met with a group of bishops and representatives of the Conference of Dutch Religious. Participating bishops were Frans Wiertz (Vice-President of the Bishops’ Conference and bishop of Roermond), Jan van Burgsteden (auxiliary bishop emeritus of Haarlem-Amsterdam), Jan Liesen (bishop of Breda), Theodorus Hoogenboom (auxiliary bishop of Utrecht) and Jan Hendriks (auxiliary bishop of Haarlem-Amsterdam). Bishop van Burgsteden, member of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, is the sole active religious member of the Bishops’ Conference, and holds the portfolios for Religious and Secular Institutes and New Movements. Bishop Hendriks writes that the bishops and the delegation discussed questions about the contacts between bishops and religious institutes.
And, in the margins of the meeting the Congregation also give permission for the establishment of new Benedictine convent in the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam. The convent of Mary, Temple of the Holy Spirit is a daughter house of the abbey of abbey of Sant’Angelo in Pontano, Italy, and has already been housing fourteen sisters since last May. The convent is located right next to the parish church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Aalsmeer. The formal canonical establishment of the convent will take place some time in the future, now that the road has been cleared by the Congregation’s permission.
Another day, and another new bishop in Germany. This time it’s the Archdiocese of Cologne receiving a new auxiliary. Bishop-elect Ansgar Puff succeeds Bishop Heiner Koch, who was appointed as ordinary of Dresden-Meißen in January.
The new auxiliary bishop joins Cardinal Joachim Meisner and fellow auxiliaries Manfred Melzer and Dominik Schwaderlapp in the archdiocesan curia. His titular see is Gordus in modern Turkey, a see previously held by the late Bishop Alfons Demming, auxiliary bishop of Münster, who died last October.
Bishop-elect Puff will be consecrated on 21 September, at Cologne’s landmark cathedral of Ss. Peter and Mary. He will hold pastoral responsibility for the archdiocese’s southern district, which includes the city of Bonn and is home to some 600,000 Catholics.
Bishop-elect Ansgar Puff is 57 years old and has been a priest since 1987. He has been a parish priest in, among others, Cologne and Düsseldorf. Since 2012, he has also directed the archdiocesan office tasked with pastoral care and formation of priests, deacons and pastoral workers.
In an interview with Dom Radio, the newly-appointed bishop said that, upon hearing the news of his appointment, he felt as if the ground fell away underneath him:
“As it should be, the cardinal told me the news, which I was first obliged to keep a secret. But now I am happy to be able to share it. As a first reaction, I was of course quite shocked.”
In the same interview, Msgr. Puff also speaks about his vocation to the priesthood. Upon the interviewer’s remark that it wasn’t immediately clear that young Ansgar would embark upon a career in the Church, he said:
“The good Lord does write on crooked lines, and I took a long time to find my way. Piously said: the good Lord needed a long time before he had me where I am today.”
How did he come to the realisation to become a priest?
“That is a long story. It was a search for the meaning of life. My core question was: If I am the best social worker in the world, and people still die some day, what point is there to life? Concretely: if death exists, why does one live? Without faith I was unable to answer this question and so I embarked on the search of faith.”
About what he most looks forward too, Msgr. Puff said:
“To the meetings with people, to the contacts with the communities! I want to be like a travelling priest and proclaim the happy news of Jesus Christ.”
Not unlike Pope Francis, then.
“I don’t yet know him personally, but everything that I have heard and read about him has impressed me much. Especially his thought that you have to go out, not remain closed within the Church. Christ said, “You are the salt of the earth.” And salt has to go into the soup. If it stays in the salt jar, it is of no use. We have to go out, give ourselves purely, disperse ourselves and give the taste to others. In the language of faith: to be a servant of the peace of the world. I think that is a good perspective.”
Photo credit: PEK/Kasiske
And once more the number 120 takes a step closer. Swiss Cardinal Henri Schwery turns 80 today and so makes the number of cardinal electors drop to 121.
Born as the last of eleven children in a small village near the city of Sion in Switzerland, Henri Schwery was proficient student, studying at seminaries in Sion and Rome. After his ordination in 1957, Father Schwery studied mathematics and physics at Fribourg, and then went to work as a teacher and chaplain to both the Catholic Action of Young students and the children’s choir of Our Lady of Sion. He was also a military chaplain.
Father Schwery become the director of the major seminary of Sion in 1968, a function he would hold until 1972, after which he was rector of the College in Sion until 1977. In that year, on 22 July, Father Schwery was appointed as bishop of Sion, one of Switzerland’s oldest dioceses. Bishop Schwery was consecrated on 17 September 1977. In 1978 he became a member of the Congregation for Catholic Education. He was active in the fields of evangelisation and vocation, and took his previous experience as chaplain of various institutions and groups to further their religious identity throughout Europe.
Created a cardinal in the consistory of 28 June 1991, Cardinal Schwery holds the title church of Santi Protomartiri a Via Aurelia Antica. In April of 1995 he resigned as Bishop of Sion, and today he also takes leave from his remaining duties as a member of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.
The only cardinal that the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico has ever known, Luis Aponte Martínez, passed away yesterday at the age of 89.
Born in a large family in 1922 in the town of Lajas, Luis Aponte Martínez showed a deep religious devotion from an early age. This no doubt contributed to his vocation to the priesthood. He studied at Puerto Rico’s San Juan seminary and at the Seminary of Saint John in Boston. In 1950, he was ordained to the priesthood.
Father Aponte Martínez served as secretary to the curia of the Diocese of Ponce and as parish priest in that same diocese. In 1960, he became the first native Puerto Rican bishop, as he was appointed as auxiliary bishop of Ponce and titular bishop of Lares. Three years later, Bishop Aponte Martínez became coadjutor bishop of Ponce, and succeeded Bishop James McManus in November of 1963.
Bishop Aponte Martínez would not stay in Ponce for very long. Less than a year later he was appointed as Archbishop of San Juan, a position he would hold for no less than 35 years, retiring in 1999.
Archbishop Aponte Martínez was created a cardinal by Pope Paul VI in 1973 with the tile of Santa Maria Madre della Provvidenza a Monte Verde. He was one of the longest-surviving cardinals created by Paul VI and participating in both conclaves of 1978. The only others who can claim the same are Cardinals Paolo Arns, William Baum, Eugênio Sales and Pope Benedict XVI.
Cardinal Aponte Martínez played an important pastoral role on the entire island of Puerto Rico, often speaking out strongly on all sorts of moral issues, and criticising government programs of birth control and sterilisation. One of his most notable denouncements was that of the homosexual lifestyle of pop singer Ricky Martin.
The body of the cardinal is taken to the various churches that played an important part in his life, before his burial at the cathedral in San Juan on Monday.
The College of Cardinals in now 210 strong.
After the summer, one of the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden’s two vicar generals will be quitting as such to enter the monastic life at the Benedictine Abbey of St. Willibrord in Doetinchem.
Father Johan te Velde, parish priest of the parishes in the Noordoostpolder and as vicar general responsible for the vicariate of Friesland and the Noordoostpolder, is answering a lifelong desire to enter a monastic community. In a letter to the faithful of his parishes, dated to Palm Sunday, Fr. te Velde writes:
“For several years now I have been experiencing a strong desire to be a monk. That is nothing new for me. As a student I also dreamed for years to enter a monastery. In the end I did not have the courage to do so, and I became a priest of the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden. For many years I worked, with much satisfaction, in basic pastoral care. But the monastic life, with the daily liturgy, the silence, the personal and communal prayer, the life of simplicity and fraternity continued to appeal. Personally, I feel called to it by God. I am grateful to my bishop, Msgr. Gerard de Korte, that he gives me the space to answer to this call.”
Father te Velde has been a priest for the diocese since his ordination in 1982. In 2003, Bishop Wim Eijk appointed him as one of the diocesan vicars, and last year he became one of the two vicars general. The diocese intends to find a new vicar general as soon as possible. In a comment, Bishop de Korte wrote:
“Johan te Velde is a good diocesan manager and an intelligent theologian. With his departure we are faced to fill his position of vicar and parish priest. But when God calls someone so clearly, I must allow for that as a bishop.”
Things like this don’t happen very often, and are all the more remarkable for it. It is heartening to see such an honest and clear vocation story. God calls us where He wills us, indeed., and that is not always to our own plans and expectations.
With the academic year well underway (in fact, the first break is happening this week), the numbers of new students at the Dutch seminaries have been released. With 18 new seminarians (some of whom are pictured to the left, at the Tiltenberg seminary) there is an ever-so-slight drop from last year, when 20 new names were added to the books. With several ordinations having taken place in the previous academic year, the total number of students at the four seminaries in the Netherlands remains at exactly 100.
A breakdown per seminary:
Rolduc, Diocese of Roermond, received 2 new students, both from the Neocatechumenal Way. The total number at Rolduc is now 29.
Tiltenberg, Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam: 7 new seminarians, with another way possibly joining them later. The total number is now 44.
Bovendonk, Diocese of Breda, als has seven, with four of hem starting in the first year. The three others, because of previous education, join a later year. Bovendonk now has 18 part-time students.
Saint John’s Centre, Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch: 2 new students, bringing the total to 12.
The Tiltenberg comfortably holds on to its top position when it comes to the numbers, which can be explained in part because it remains the only seminary above the great rivers. It is home to students from at least four dioceses.
Looking at the numbers per diocese then:
Breda: 4 (2 of whom study independently at the FCT)
‘s Hertogenbosch: 2
Utrecht: 4 (maybe 5)
The ‘harvest’ is… okay, but the need for further vocational promotion and formation should be clear.