Happy Birthday to Bishop van Steekelenburg

Happy birthday to Bishop Hugo María van Steekelenburg, who today marks his 76th birthday.

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Bishop van Steekelenburg was born in Wateringen, then in the Diocese of Haarlem and became a Franciscan priest and later bishop of Almenara in Brazil. He retired in 2013.

For 300 Dutch pilgrims, WYD 2013 begins

As young Catholics gather in the chapel of Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam, Bishop Everard de Jong offers a blessing for their journey to South America.

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Some 300 young Dutch Catholics are travelling to destinations in Suriname and Brazil before joining hundreds of thousands of pilgrims in Rio to partake in the 2013 edition of World Youth Day, which will take place from 23 to 28 July.

Travelling with the pilgrims are Bishop Hans van den Hende, who will join the group heading for Suriname, and Bishop de Jong, who will be with the group in Almenara. In Rio, they will be joined by Bishops Rob Mutsaerts and Jan Hendriks. The latter three will be the three Dutch bishops holding catechesis talks during the days in Rio.

“A real missionary” – Dutch bishop in Brazil retires

Yesterday, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of the bishop of Almenara in Brazil. Bishop Hugo van Steekelenburg reached the retirement age of 75 in October of last year, and was one of four Dutch bishops serving in foreign dioceses*.

Bishop van Steekelenburg was born near The Hague and come to Brazil in 1964, as a Franciscan missionary. Of this time he recalled in a 2011 interview:

“Most of us came to Brazil as missionaries. Almost all left for the interior. They worked there on the request of the local bishop and took on every task. I remember I felt like a real missionary. Electricity was still unknown and the roads were impassable. Almost everything had to be done by horse. There were already many Franciscans active in the area where I am now a bishop. No missionaries came from the Netherlands after about 1968. An increasing number of parishes were transferred to local clergy.”

The same interview mentions that virtually no retired missionaries choose to return to their native Netherlands. After 49 years in Brazil, and 14 as a bishop, “Dom Hugo” may decide to stay as well, in the country and among the people that he took on as his own.

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In the final months before his retirement, Bishop Hugo (pictured above at left during a November 5 meeting with Roermond’s Bishop Frans Wiertz) and the Diocese of Almenara were looking forward to the arrival of a group of Dutch pilgrims who will spend a week there, before travelling to Brazil for the World Youth Day. In the style of the retired bishop, the pilgrims will be participating in a “missionary week”, visiting several diocesan projects – schools, land reclamation projects, care centres and hospitals – and cultural events. Bishop emeritus van Steekelenburg will most likely still participate in the scheduled meeting with the pilgrims, as his successor, Dom José Carlos Brandão Cabral, will probably not have been consecrated before then.

*The remaining three are Bishop Willem de Bekker of Paramaribo, Suriname; Bishop Joseph Oudeman, auxiliary bishop of Brisbane, Australia; and Bishop Theo van Ruijven, Vicar Apostolic of Nekemte, Ethiopia.

300 to Rio

wyd_logoAs the registration closed on 5 April, some 300 young Catholics from the Netherlands had signed up for the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which will take place in July. Although this is about 1,000 less than the number who went to Madrid in 2011, the number can’t be considered as very low. Whereas a bus trip sufficed for Madrid, for Rio, the pilgrims will be making an intercontinental flight, as well as significant plane journeys within Brazil or, in one case, from Suriname to Brazil. Higher costs and the far greater distance will have kept more people from committing.

The Dutch pilgrims, which will be accompanied by Bishops Hendriks, Mutsaerts and De Jong, are also joined by a group from the Diocese of Paramaribo. That is a similar construction to the one used in 2011, when the Surinam pilgrims joined up with the group from the Diocese of Rotterdam before travelling south to Spain. The Dutch pilgrims will now be guests in Suriname before travelling to Rio.

Other pilgrim groups will start their World Youth Day experience in Brazil, in the Archdiocese of Belo Horizonte and Fortaleza and the Diocese of Almenara. Two of these circumscriptions have connections to the Netherlands: Belo Horizonte is the city of Blessed Eustáquio van Lieshout, a Dutch missionary who worked miracles for the sick under his care; and Almenara’s Bishop Hugo van Steekelenburg was born in the Netherlands.

 As in earlier editions of the World Youth Days, the first week will be spent in dioceses and communities across the host country and neighbouring countries. Starting on 20 July, the young pilgrims will start arriving in Rio de Janeiro.