Unhappy priests?

Local news outlet RTV Noord reports unhappiness among some of the clergy of the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden. The reason? A string of new appointments which came into effect this month.

In general, parish priests remain in one parish (or, as is the case in the diocese in question, a cluster of parishes) for six to eight years. Among the priest that were reassigned were Father Peter Stiekema, who wrapped up twelve years in the south east of the province of Drenthe for Leeuwarden, the Frisian capital; and three young priests who are heading to their second assignment: Fathers Victor Maagd, Jos Deuling and Albert Buter. Fr. Bert van der Wal is also one of the reassigned priests. In an interview following the news of their reassignments, Fr. Stiekema and Maagd (pictured) commented on their move. “I go where I’m needed,” Fr. Stiekema said after admitting that the news had some emotional undertones for him. Fr. Maagd said, “the priesthood is a matter of being called and sent.”

Fr. Jos Deuling called the rumoured grumblings “misplaced”, and calls it “refreshing” for both priests and faithful to relocate every now and again.

While it is certainly understandable that leaving a familiar parish and beloved faithful behind is hard, it comes with the territory. As times change, so do the demands of the faithful and the diocese. Personally, knowing some of the priests in question to a certain extent, I have my doubts about the nature and extent of the unhappiness.

EDIT: Later today, Bishop Gerard de Korte offered a response that was much along the lines of what I wrote above. He understands the pain of leaving a familiar parish, but adds:

“We are of course also a Catholic Church in which the bishop can send his priests to where they are needed. So accepting that does have something to do with a bit of priestly spirituality.”

Photo credit:  DvhN/Duncan Wijting

Brick by brick in Groningen-Leeuwarden

Last Friday, Fathers Arjen Bultsma, Victor Maagd and John de Zwart led some 150 of their parishioners on a pilgrimage to the German Marian shrine at Kevelaer. The website of the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden presents this as the revival of an old tradition, and it would seem that the three priests plan another pilgrimage next year. There is a photo report of here, One photo struck me. Taken from the choir loft it shows people coming forward to receive Communion at the communion rail.

While not unknown in certain parishes in the diocese, this way of receiving is rare enough to be remarkable, certainly on a pilgrimage like this, which included people of all generations.

I happen to know the three priests in question as liturgically fairly sensible men (some more than others, but name me any group of three people in which all are identical), but it was certainly nice to see. And yes, I do notice that not everyone in the photo receives kneeling. But, as they say, brick by brick, and as long as reception on the hand is a valid way of receiving I won’t tell anyone off for doing it.

Looking back in gratitude

I spent my Palm Sunday weekend with the youth platform of my diocese, Groningen-Leeuwarden. For 25 years now, Palm Sunday is also World Youth Day, so the youth platform hosts a weekend of fun and games, but also catechesis, for young people between 16 and 30.

Notes left on a flipover, after youth worker Hao Tran spoke about the nature of God's love for His people

It was not only a chance to be away from the relentless media assault on the Church, but also an opportunity to meet people I hadn’t seen in too long. I was sorry that it only last one and a half days, to be honest.

Local hermit Brother Hugo visited
On Sunday afternoon, there was the opportunity to go canoeing

On Sunday afternoon, Bishop de Korte visited to celebrate Mass together with Fathers Arjen and Victor. I had the honour of serving at that Mass, and almost nothing went wrong… 😉

Before Mass, we processed to the church, carrying buxus branches in lieu of palm fronds.   

The church in Wehe Den Hoorn, the small village where we stayed, is small but rather nice. Aspects of the sanctuary, though , are mirrored to what I used to: the credence table is at the other side, which totally turns one’s orientation to the altar around.

The interior of the St. Boniface church
An impromptu welcome sign for Bishop de Korte

The weekend reminded me that the Church and the faith are so much bigger than what the media presents it as. It truly transcends it.

I am thankful for these past two days. Let’s remember the things to be thankful for in this Holy Week. It grounds us in and elevates us to Easter, less than a week away.

A new bishop!


As of today, Mgr. Gerard de Korte is the new bishop of the diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden. Seen on the back in the photo above, he receives the staff of the diocese’s first bishop, Mgr. Nierman, from the hands of his predecessor, Mgr Wim Eijk, the Archbishop of Utrecht.

Its been a busy evening and day, run expertly by Father Jos Deuling in his role as MC. Before he became a priest he was a chef, and I can imagine him running a busy kitchen the way he ran the entire show today. They do say that telling priests what to do is more difficult then herding cats, so Fr. Jos did an excellent job. And judging by the massive grin he sported afterwards, he agreed. 😉

As for my duties, they consisted of showing up last night at six, to be told what the role of host exactly entailed. It turned out to be following an intricate chart of who would be seated where (varying from family and friends of the new bishop, to civilian authorities (including Secretary of Justice Hirsch-Ballin), delegates from the parishes and representatives of the Archdiocese. All with their own bit of cathedral to sit in. After we had dedicated that to memory, some of us, including Guido and me, would go over the order in which the offerings would be brought forward (those included gifts from the various parts of the diocese).

The rest of the evening we spent in front-row pews hugely enjoying various priests standing in for he Archbishop, Bishop de Korte or Mgr. Bacque, the nuncio, with varying levels of conviction or success. In actuality, they were rehearsing the program of the next day.

That day was today, and started for me at eight in the cathedral, for a full runthrough, with Father Victor playing Archbishop Eijk (including mannerisms). The film crew of the KRO was busy testing lights and sound in the mean time, creating interesting disco effects in the cathedral.
At ten the doors opened, and from then until a few minutes past eleven, all of us hosts were busy showing people their seats. I estimate a total of some 600 people with 12 hosts accompanying them. The entire Mass can be seen here.

There was a reception afterwards, with many speakers. I missed most of them, due to helping Fr. Wagenaar with his English homily. I was back in time for a hugely entertaining drink and conversation with friends, two priests and a hermit. I also got the opportunity to shake hands with both Bishop de Korte and Archbishop Eijk.

It was busy, but enormously enjoyable. I realise I’m very lucky to not just be able to do and experience these things, but to do so with the friends I have.


The new bishop on the cathedra of his diocese, flanked by his vicars and vicar-general, Fathers Wellen, Van Ulden and Te Velde, and Archbishop Eijk.

Both photos taken by Joost Goes, courtesy of RKK.nl