Herman Konings 1937 – 2018 (PE nr. 1093 – 2018/07)

Herman was born on the 7th March 1937 at Essen in the Province of Antwerp very close to the Dutch border. His parents were farmers and over the course of the years they had ten children. After secondary school at the Junior Seminary of Hoogstraten, Herman entered the White Fathers at Boechout in September 1956. It was the same year that his older brother René (+2017) left for Burundi. After the novitiate in Varsenare, Herman went to Heverlee to study Theology. He took his Missionary Oath there on the 28th June 1962 followed by priestly ordination on the 29th June 1963. Herman was described as a modest, helpful, friendly and very sociable person. He was not very talkative, but was interested in others. He was an unobtrusive man, always in the same good mood. He radiated benevolence and kindness. He did not get mad, but one should not push him too hard. He was pretty unshakeable, a little sceptical perhaps. He had practical common sense and he had undeniable artistic gifts.

Herman was appointed to Burundi. He left on the 22nd December 1963. He studied Kirundi at Muhanga. Fr. Michel Braekers (+1979), the Regional wrote, “He is a happy man who likes making people laugh. He loves making puns. He’s pretty good in Kirundi.” He was put in charge of the catechetical programme and youth work. Quite early on, it was noted that he did not enjoy great health and he had to rest a lot. In September 1965, Herman was sent to Giheta then to Bukirasazi (1966). After his first home leave in 1968, he became curate and bursar at Kibumbu. Fr. Louis Quintard (+2012) the Assistant Regional wrote, “As bursar of the post, he has never enough money, and he quarrels with the Treasurer of the Diocese over it.”

At the end of 1972, the Hutu rebellion was put down in what has been called the Hutu genocide in Burundi. In January 1973, Herman returned to Belgium traumatised by these events. He taught religion in a secondary school in Borgerhout and lived in our community in Berchem. He went to Greece with a group of young people. He took some sabbatical time following a Bible course and studying catechesis always with a view to teaching. After the Session/Retreat in Jerusalem in 1980, he was ready to return to Africa.

Herman arrived in Ituri, Zaire (now the DRC) at the end of 1980. He taught religion in Bunia College. He had a full timetable and was much appreciated. However, at the end of the academic year in 1983, he decided to leave. He wrote to Jan Lenssen, Provincial of Belgium,” I still teach with the same enthusiasm but the mentality here is much too different from my own.” For some unknown

reason, because he had never been expelled, his application to return to Burundi was turned down. Maybe Rwanda?  The Regional Council of Rwanda agreed to accept him only after a long discussion. Herman had a reputation for being “progressive”. He arrived in Kigali in January 1984. After studying the language at the Language Centre, he was appointed curate at Kaduha in the Diocese of Butare. Herman dreamed of forming authentic Small Christian Communities. So he was allowed to join the parish of Rusumo in the Diocese of Kibungo, where Father Stany de Jamblinne worked along the same lines in the Eglise-Monde movement. Herman felt comfortable in this pastoral ministry. He painted tableaux and decorated churches. He supported local artists, who made decorative panels in bas-relief, characteristic of the region.

In April 1994, the genocide exploded in Rusumo and with other confreres, Herman was evacuated to Brussels on the 13th April. In September 1994, he spent many months at CREC-AVEX (Centre for Research and Communication) in Lyon, France. He was being thought of for the Audio-Visual Centre in Burundi. This projected appointment did not come to anything.  In September-December 1995, he followed the Discipleship course in Jerusalem and he returned there in March 1996 to work in the Archaeological Service and the Museum where, among other things, he highlighted the famous collection of oil lamps. His only complaint; “For four years, I had to manage without a budget!”

In October 2000, Herman was appointed to Rome in charge of Ongoing Formation and the organization of the Mid-Life Renewal programme.  He took on several administrative tasks in the city or in the Vatican and collaborated with Brother Karl Stärk in the photo library. He underwent heart surgery but made a complete recovery.

In July 2006, he returned definitively to Belgium where he joined the community in Namur and helped Gus Beeckmans in the Photo-Service restoring old historical photos. He stayed there for 10 years, always as thin as a rake, true to himself and a bit of a joker. He was a tad special, a critical observer of events who never raised his voice. However, he began to have serious breathing problems that required respiratory physiotherapy.

In October 2016, Herman asked to go to Antwerp. The Photo Service was being transferred and he wanted to be closer to his older brother René who was seriously ill. At the beginning of 2018 his breathing problems got worse and on the 9th March, he joined the ‘Avondrust’ community in Varsenare.

Herman was very grateful for the prodigious care he received and enjoyed breathing the pure air.  He joyfully pored over his art albums while preparing himself for the inevitable. He immersed himself into Carlos Mesters’ commentary on the Suffering Servant. In a notebook, he wrote, “Yes, the inevitable suffering of man, projected onto one person, Christ, in me”. He suffered terrible crises of suffocation. Towards the middle of April, he felt that the end was near. He noted, “Resurrection does not follow death, it takes place the moment of death itself. It is this beginning of a ‘different life’ that I am looking forward to.” He died on the 20th April 2018 at the hospital of Saint-Jean in Bruges. Marc De Wulf, superior of Varsenare was at his bedside.

On the 26th April 2018, we laid Herman to rest in Varsenare, surrounded by his family and many confreres. May he rest in peace.

Jef Vleugels, M.Afr.


Marcel Peeters 1925 – 2017 (PE nr. 1093 – 2018/07)

Marcel was born on the 5th July 1925 at Vremde in the Province of Antwerp, Belgium. He attended primary school in Boechout where his parents had settled. His father worked in the big port of Antwerp. He went to the Junior Seminary of Hoogstraten for his secondary schooling. In September 1943, Marcel entered the White Fathers at Boechout and followed the usual White Father training programme at the time, novitiate in Varsenare and Theology in Heverlee. On the 21th July 1949, he took his Missionary Oath in Heverlee and he was ordained priest in the parish church of Heverlee on the 8th April 1950. His professors underlined his solid devotion, his dedicated character. He liked order and cleanliness! He was not a great intellectual but he was a hard worker. He had a lot of practical knowledge. He was not considered a leader; in fact, he needed to be supported as he lacked self-confidence. He had a nervous disposition and often spoke without thinking, criticising things readily. One little fact, which made him stand out, was that during the scholasticate he began to study Kiswahili quite seriously.

Marcel was appointed to Burundi. First of all, in order to fulfil military service requirements, he had to follow a course at Louvain University. In April 1951, he became Warrant Officer-Nurse First Class in the reserve of the colonial Force Publique in the Congo. He left for Bujumbura on the 17th April 1951 with the now defunct Sobelair. He first went to Gatara and a few months later to Musenyi in the Diocese of Ngozi. He courageously got down to learning Kirundi but his shyness did not help. His first real appointment was to the new foundation of Buraniro where he was put in charge of schools. It was a parish with a lot of schoolchildren and endless sessions in the confession box. At the beginning of 1960, Marcel went on his first home leave during which he did the Long Retreat at Villa Cavalletti, near Rome. In December of 1961, on his return to Burundi, he became Superior of Buraniro. The Regional, Fr. François Thevenon (+1991) noted that Marcel was hanging in there despite the political tensions afflicting the country in 1961-62. Indeed, Marcel was falsely accused of playing politics and he was obliged to quit Buraniro. He stayed for some months in Muramba and Kisanze before returning to Katara, a place he did not particularly like. In January 1965, he was appointed bursar at Kasenyi.  He complained about its penury and the high cost of living. According to him, his books were always in the red which was not the case at all. His Regional commented, “He’s a born beggar; he knows how to get everything by his doggedness,” When he learnt about big expenses somewhere else, he could not stop himself from being extra critical. Yet the way he reacted scarcely troubled the confreres. It was his style and the confreres went along with it. In fact, on the contrary, they greatly appreciated him for his thriftiness. All over the country, Marcel was known and teased as being the “rich priest…”

Appointments followed one another. In July 1965, Marcel was Superior in Muhanga and in June 1968, he returned to Gatara but was on his way again after a few months, this time to Ijene, who’s Superior he became in 1970. He was always the devoted and caring pastor but was never the leader in a community. However, he was always ready to render a service. A confrere remarked, “In Ijene, he was a man of peace, loved and respected. The local authorities were afraid that he would be appointed elsewhere. Why? Why? Because he was the building block of peace and unity in the village community and throughout the district.” Much to his disappointment, Marcel was transferred to Buraniro in 1978. The parish now counted 42,000 Christians. As part of the catechumenate, the fathers organised reading and writing classes as well as some basic arithmetic with a view to improving the lot of the people. Bishop Kaburungu wanted to start “hill councils” so as to prepare for an eventual diocesan synod. At the end of 1979, Marcel did the Session/Retreat in Jerusalem. When he returned to Burundi, he was appointed curate in Gatara. No matter where he was, Marcel could count on the support of his family, and especially on the organization in Boechout called “Bricks for God” which helped him build churches and schools, construct bridges and reservoirs and buy school materials. In 1985, when tension mounted between President Bagaza and the Catholic Church, Marcel was one of the many confreres who received from the Government “permission to stay at home”. On the occasion of his departure, the Flash Burundi spoke of a “wise man, a fine connoisseur, an informed observer of so many things in the country, a charming man in community who could stand being teased constantly by his confreres, the White Father who for 35 years patiently built the Church of Burundi by accompanying thousands of young people on the path of faith”

On his return to Belgium, Marcel joined the community running the parish of the Sacred Heart in Antwerp. This meant that he was able to visit his old mother frequently. She died in 1987 at the age of 92 years. However in September 1988, Waly Neven, the regional in Burundi wrote to the Belgian Provincial,  “As for Marcel Peeters, the confreres are practically unanimous in saying that he would still do very well around here and that we would all be very happy to receive him among us.” Marcel still needed time to digest the events in Burundi and did not reply straight away. However, in December 1990, at the age of 65, he decided to go back to Africa. He returned to Ijene as curate. Apart from a short interim period in Giharo in the Diocese of Ruyigi, he was to stay there until 1997. His last appointment in Burundi was as chaplain to the community of Contemplative Dominicans at Rweza where he assured the pastoral services with the late Alex Verpoort (+2005) and Theo Neven (+2016). In 2003 the region decided to end this project and Marcel and the two confreres returned definitively to Belgium. Marcel joined the community in Antwerp. He always remained true to himself, the eternal but happy grumbler. Until the end of his life, he continued to financially support the nuns of Rweza…

At the beginning of 2016, his health declined significantly and he moved to the Nursing home of “Our Lady of Antwerp” a few streets away from our community house. He died of a heart attack on Friday 12th May 2017. The Liturgy of the Resurrection took place in the Parish church of St. Charles Borromeo in Antwerp on Saturday 20th May 2017 followed by burial in our cemetery of Varsenare.

Jef Vleugels, M.Afr.

Erwin Echtner (1940 – 2017) (PE nr. 1092 – 2018/06)

Erwin was born on the 22nd March 1940 at Gross-Leschienen in the Diocese of Ermsland in what was then eastern Prussia. His family name, at the time, was Koschewski. His father was killed during the 2nd World War. In 1945, his mother fled with her four children towards the west and after a long journey they arrived in Hechthausen in the north of Germany. In 1947, Erwin began primary school. His mother married again with Franz Echtner, who adopted the four children and they took his family name. In 1952, the family moved to Krefeld on the banks of the Rhine. Erwin finished his primary schooling there in 1955.

Erwin began his commercial studies, which he successfully finished in 1958. He got a job but he felt called by God to go on the missions. According to the reference from his employer, Erwin was described as a conscientious collaborator, easy to get on with, punctual, and respectful of his co-workers.

Erwin entered the White Fathers at Langenfeld on the 1st June 1959 to begin his postulancy. In 1960, we find him at the novitiate in Hörstel. He took his 1st Missionary Oath there on the 4th February 1962 when he was just a month shy of his 22nd birthday. From February 1962 to March 1965, he continued his training at the Brothers’ Formation Centre in Marienthal, Luxembourg.

In November 1965, Bro. Echtner left for Kipalapala in the Diocese of Tabora, Tanzania. He only studied Kiswahili for a short time before going to work at the printing press nearby. On the 1st February 1967, he was appointed as editor and manager of the Catholic newspaper, KIONGOZI. He took his Perpetual Missionary Oath in Kipalapala on the 24th February 1968. He moved to the Social Training Centre in Nyegezi near Mwanza in July 1969 before returning to the printing press in Kipalapala later the same year. He also spent some time in the procure of Dar-es-Salaam from 1971.

After many years of service in Tanzania, Erwin began to look for other horizons. His first wish was to study for the priesthood and after a long period of reflection on all sides, he began studies for the priesthood in London in January 1974. However, already by the end of the 1st term,  Erwin had to face up to the fact reluctantly that this orientation was not for him. So he had to abandon his idea of becoming a priest.

In 1976, we find Erwin in Germany as bursar of the community in Trier. His training in book-keeping and accounts meant that he felt more at ease and he was able to render a great service to the community. In 1977, he was appointed to the Afrikanum in Cologne. Here he found his true vocation and for the next 33 years he was a committed worker in the area of receiving refugee children and young people from Africa. He had his own personal experience as a refugee and he could empathise with the children coming from Angola, the Congo, Ethiopia and Somalia. These countries were experiencing constant revolts, wars and revolutions. The revolutionary leaders were putting hundreds of children on planes for Germany hoping that they would receive a good education and be able afterwards to serve their liberated countries.

Supported by Caritas and other NGOs helping refugees, Erwin gained the trust of the public service tasked with the reception of war refugees. These organisations granted him the guardianship of more than 800 children over the course of the years. The authorities gave him the responsibility of looking for places in boarding schools, register them firstly in language courses and then in schools. From time to time, Erwin even had to accommodate some children in the Afrikanum on a temporary basis. Many of these children kept in contact with Erwin after receiving vocational training or studies. For the children, he was “their father” and they were, for him, “his children.” Erwin gave a great example of charity. He showed that in a State with a well-developed social service, personal initiative was still necessary and has a place in this society. On the 26th September 2010, Erwin received the honorary prize of the city “committed to Cologne.” On the 17th July 2013, the Mayor of Cologne bestowed on him “Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany”

On the 31st of August 1990, Erwin suffered a heart attack which obliged him to reduce his activities on behalf of his “his children” many of whom had since become adults. In April 2011, he was diagnosed with cancer and he was appointed to the community at Trier where he died on the 6th October 2017. The funeral liturgy took place in the chapel of the Brothers of Charity followed by burial in our plot in the city cemetery of Trier.

Hans Vöcking, M.Afr.


Christian Schneider (1934 – 2017) (PE nr. 1092 – 2018/06)

Christian was born on the 24th July 1934 at Nesse in Upper Silesia and baptised on the following 13th August in the Church of St Jacques. He began primary school in 1941. After three years he wanted to go to a secondary school. However, as the war had just ended, Silesia was integrated into Poland and secondary school education was forbidden to German children.  This meant that Christian, at the age of 11 years, worked on the roads instead of continuing his education. In 1946, his parents and their five children took refuge in the West. They installed themselves first of all in Niedernstöcken, and then moved to Mandelsloh, both places located in Lower-Saxony. It was not until 1950 that the family moved to a permanent home in Eislingen in Baden-Wurttemberg. Despite all the coming and going and being educated in five different schools, Christian was to complete his education in the Hohenstaufen secondary school thanks to his strength of character more than anything else.

After obtaining his baccalaureat, Christian began training as a marketing person in an oil company which he finished brilliantly after three years. His father had died in a road accident in 1955 and Christian, at 21 years, had to take over as head of the family as he was the eldest child. A year later, Christian began to feel called to missionary life. His family was very supportive of his wish. Already in 1950, his father had contacted the White Fathers at Haigerloch as he was looking for a place in a secondary school for Christian. Christian renewed contact with the White Fathers at Haigerloch in July 1956 and asked for information on admission to the Society. In October of the same year, he arrived at Langenfeld to begin his postulancy. He entered the novitiate in Hörstel in August 1957. At the end of his novitiate, he took his first Temporary Oath on the 9th August 1959. He then went to the Brothers’ Training Centre in Mours, France until 1961.

He arrived at the language centre at Bukavu in the Congo in May 1963. He began working at the Institut Social Africain in 1964 as a teacher. Events in the Congo forced a return to Germany in 1967, but he was back again within a year. He continued teaching in Bukavu until 1970. Following independence in many countries and the fact that many senior civil servants from Europe left their posts without preparing people to take their place in the administration, the Society opened three social training centres in Africa; in Bukavu, (Congo), Upper Volta (Burkina Faso) and in Mwanza (Tanzania). On the 8th August 1965, Christian took his Permanent Missionary Oath in Murhesa near Bukavu.

After home leave in Germany in 1971, Christian returned to the Congo and worked in several building projects in Walungu, Kabare, Burhale, Ciherano and Walikale. He asked for exclaustration for three years in 1973 but remained in close contact with the confreres. He found work with the German Technical Cooperation Agency (GTZ) and worked for them in the Congo until 1976. The Agency wanted to extend his contract but Christian decided to re-join the Society, which he did in June 1976.

Christian then spent a year at the Ecole de Foi in Fribourg, Switzerland followed by the Session/Retreat in Jerusalem in October 1977. He then studied English in Dublin for six months. During this time, he was also asking himself some questions about becoming a priest. After consulting his superiors, he decided to remain a Brother. Moreover, he decided to return to Africa. In June 1978, he arrived in Tamale, Ghana and took on the job of bursar in the Major Seminary. At the beginnings of the 80s, doctors diagnosed heart problems. After treatment and rest, he was able to return to Africa but to Zambia this time with its gentler climate. In October 1984, he arrived in Kashikishi in the Diocese of Mansa to take charge of the building works. He had a bad fall of four metres that resulted in a complicated fracture of the knee, which meant an urgent return to Cologne for treatment. However, his Calvary was not yet over; in April 1989, he had to undergo another operation on his heart.

Nothing daunted, he returned to Zambia in February 1993. This time to Isoka in Mbala-Mpika Diocese. He was again supervising construction projects. In January 1995 at the age of 61, he accepted to go to Wukro in Ethiopia again to supervise a building project. He returned to Germany in May 1996 to take up a job in the bursar’s office in Frankfurt. However, in September 2000, he returned to Zambia for maintenance work in Kasamba and the novitiate in Kasama. In July 2002, he returned to Haigerloch where he worked as a carer in our retirement home there. In August 2009, he celebrated the Golden Jubilee of his oath. From his childhood years, Christian felt he was a foreigner in his own country and he suffered a lot because of this. These constant movements were part of his life and are signs that he was looking for a home which he finally found with the Father on the 9th August 2017 at the age of 83 in Balingen, Baden-Wurttemberg.

Hans Vöcking, M.Afr.


Hans Sauter (1933 – 2018) (PE nr. 1092 – 2018/06)

On Thursday 25th January 2018, the Lord called Hans Sauter home after 37 years of missionary work in Rwanda and almost 30 years in different jobs in Germany.

Hans spent his childhood on the farm of his parents and did his primary schooling in Oggelshausen, Baden-Wurttemberg, a little village in the “Saulgau” Germany. He always liked doing practical work in Germany as well as in Africa. From 1949 to 1954, he attended the secondary school of the White Fathers at Grosskrotzenburg near Hanau. Then, he studied Philosophy at Trier and he entered the novitiate in Varsenare, Belgium in 1956 where he lived in an international community. Four years of theological studies followed in Heverlee also in Belgium where he took his Missionary Oath on the 1st February 1956. He was described as being a conscientious student, regular, and 100% reliable and at the same time very discreet

He was ordained at Geislingen on the 9th July 1960 and the way was open for his commitment to Rwanda in Central Africa. First of all, he learnt the language of the country, Kinyarwanda, and then went to the south of the country to work in the Diocese of Butare. He was to stay there until his return to Germany in 1988. In Africa, he was put in charge of pastoral work in different parishes. He worked for a number of years in the parishes of Cyanika, Nyanza and Nyamiyaga. In 1975, Bishop Gahamanyi entrusted him with the task of Diocesan Treasurer. It was a big and difficult task which he stuck at for four and half years. In September 1979, he was able to follow the Session/Retreat in Jerusalem. For two and half months he was able to refresh himself spiritually in the community with other missionaries and to tap into new strength. Already in 1972, he had to return to Riedlingen in Germany for treatment for hepatitis and later on, he would have to receive medical treatment on a regular basis. However, that did not prevent him from being on hand for the service of the Church in Rwanda.  

When Hans had to return definitively to Germany in 1988, he took up an appointment first of all as superior in Haigerloch not only being responsible for the community but also for pastoral work in the neighbouring parishes. Then he went to Cologne in 1993 to work in the office of the Provincial Treasurer. He often suffered health problems. In 2001, he returned to Haigerloch in order to continue rendering service to the community and in pastoral work. He finally retired in 2008. Patiently Hans gave himself little by little to the Lord as was expected of him being the trustworthy and modest confrere with whom everyone could get along.

Hans Vöcking, M.Afr.


Hubert Bonke (1943-2016) (PE nr.1 1092 – 2018/06)

Hubert was born on the 29th October 1943 at Langseifersdorf in Silesia. He did not know his carpenter father reported missing during the war. After the war, Silesia became an integral part of Poland and the Germans living there became foreigners. Hubert and his mother decided to seek refuge in the Federal Republic of Germany. For the first few years, the family lived in Heiden in Lower Saxony where Hubert did the first four years of primary school. Then the family moved to Spreglingen near Frankfurt.  

Hubert entered the Junior Seminary of the White Fathers in Rietberg in 1954. He then moved on to the White Father’s school in Grosskrotzenburg in 1959 for the final years of his secondary schooling. He successfully passed the ‘Abitur’ in 1964. He then went on to study Philosophy in Trier from 1964 to 1966. He joined the novitiate in Hörstel in 1967. The Master of Novices saw him as a sincere candidate, maybe a bit nervous as was seen in his way of speaking and acting. His generous availability would stand him in good stead in his future life as a missionary. After the novitiate, he was appointed to Heverlee for Theology. However, he asked for a period of time outside the White Fathers because, as he observed, he had spent all his life in White Father schools and he had never got the opportunity to grow up and take responsibility for his life. His request was granted and Hubert studied Theology at the University of Tübingen for one year.

His stay in Tübingen was very satisfactory from all points of view. He matured and took a certain liking for studies. In 1969, he asked to rejoin the White Fathers. He was appointed to the Foyer of the White Fathers on Rue de Reims in Strasbourg as Heverlee was due to close in 1970. At the University, he was able to register immediately in the 2nd year of the 2nd cycle, which corresponded to the 3rd year of Theology in the classical seminary set-up. Strasbourg University was reconstituted as a German University in 1872 when, after the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871), Alsace became part of Germany (1871-1918). When Alsace returned to France in 1918, the University kept its organization and special status within the French Republic.  

Hubert took his Missionary Oath in Strasbourg on the 7th December 1970 and he was ordained priest at Mainz Cathedral on the 10th July 1971. He left for Kalemie in Zaire (now the DRC) on the 8th September 1971. After studying the language in Bukavu, he served in Lubuye, Kalemie and Kala as curate. In 1977, he became Parish Priest of Kala. He was to serve in this part of Africa until 1999 when he was appointed to Munich in Germany. He joined a team that was looking after the French speaking parish of the city and the surrounding areas. For many years, Hubert was also a member of the Provincial Councils of SE Zaire (1992), Germany (2000) and Central Africa which regrouped Burundi, Congo and Rwanda (Sector Superior 2011). He did the Session/Retreat in Jerusalem in 2005 (March-June).

He returned to Laybo in the DRC as Parish Priest in November 2005. Then in 2007, he moved to Kindu continuing his pastoral work in the Congo. These years of missionary commitment in the Congo and Munich had left their mark. He returned to Germany for five months in 2015 for medical examinations. The doctors prescribed a prolonged period of rest. However Hubert returned to the Congo. The confreres observed very quickly that he was very weak; he had no strength, nor had he the ability to carry out regular work or keep the confreres informed of current affairs. On the 27th May 2016, he died the day before he was due to be repatriated to Germany for medical treatment.

At his funeral in Kindu, the Christians testified that Hubert was a priest easy to approach and always available to listen to people’s worries big and small.

Hans Vöcking, M.Afr.


Bruno Loiselle (1929 – 2018) (PE nr. 1092 – 2018/06)

Bruno est né le 30 novembre 1929 à Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, province de Québec. Il fait son école primaire à Valleyfield et ses études classiques au séminaire de la même ville. À l’âge de 12 ans, il devient scout. Toutes ses années de scoutisme qu’il apprécie beaucoup, le préparent, selon ses propres paroles, à une vie de service. Bruno pense déjà à une vie missionnaire en Afrique. En 1947, avec quelques amis, il participe à un Congrès marial à Ottawa. Ce séjour dans la capitale nationale lui donne l’occasion de visiter le scolasticat des Pères Blancs où il rencontre des étudiants Missionnaires d’Afrique portant la gandoura et le burnous.

Au printemps 1950, vient le temps pour Bruno de faire le choix d’une carrière ou d’une vocation missionnaire. Il est intéressé par des études à l’École polytechnique, mais la vocation missionnaire chez les Pères Blancs l’attire fortement. Hésitant entre ces deux choix de vie, il consulte son accompagnateur spirituel qui lui conseille de devenir Missionnaire d’Afrique, lui disant qu’il sera plus heureux dans cette vocation. C’est ainsi que Bruno demande son admission au noviciat St-Martin de Laval. Le 12 août 1950, il reçoit l’habit des Pères Blancs des mains de Monseigneur Durieux, alors Supérieur général des Missionnaires d’Afrique. Bruno va ensuite au scolasticat d’Eastview pour ses études de théologie. C’est là qu’il fait son serment le 18 juin 1954 et qu’il est ordonné prêtre le 29 janvier 1955.

Ce temps de formation chez les Missionnaires d’Afrique sont pour Bruno un temps de prière et d’études qui lui permettent d’atteindre une plus grande maturité, un temps de réflexion qui lui fait approfondir sa vocation missionnaire et augmente son désir de prendre la route de la mission en Afrique. Ses quatre années de théologie au scolasticat d’Ottawa sont aussi pour lui une occasion d’adaptation à un groupe d’étudiants de mentalités et de nationalités différentes. Comme Bruno l’écrit un jour : « J’ai apprécié mes années de formation dans une communauté internationale. Elles m’ont préparé à bien m’adapter plus tard à l’Afrique ».

Dans la vie communautaire, Bruno se montre un peu réservé et d’un tempérament nerveux. Cependant, il fait toujours preuve de dévouement et de générosité. Doté d’une volonté énergique, il accepte toutes les tâches qu’on lui demande et les exécute de son mieux. Il aime bien discuter avec ses confrères, tout en les taquinant et les faisant rire, ce qui met de la joie dans la communauté et lui gagne l’estime de tous. Très attaché à sa vocation missionnaire, il se distingue par sa piété, sa charité et ses qualités pour l’apostolat. Une remarque qui revient souvent sous la plume de ses supérieurs résume bien la personnalité du père Loiselle : « Bruno promet d’être un de ces missionnaires très précieux, dont les tâches sont toujours faites à temps et toujours bien accomplies, et cela par amour pour le Seigneur Jésus qu’il veut bien servir ».

Le 24 août 1955, le père Loiselle, accompagné de ses parents, se rend à Québec pour son départ, par bateau, pour l’Afrique. Huit jours plus tard, il arrive à Dorking, en Angleterre, pour y approfondir sa connaissance de l’anglais et s’initier aux coutumes britanniques. Le 10 décembre, ile atterrit à Entebbe en Ouganda pour atteindre ensuite sa destination finale, Mbarara. C’est dans ce diocèse que Bruno passera toute l’étape africaine de sa vie missionnaire. Il se met aussitôt à l’étude de la langue locale, le Rutoro. Après six mois, il se sent suffisamment à l’aise dans cette langue pour parcourir en motocyclette les succursales de brousse, visiter les écoles et administrer les sacrements. Il est alors nommé vicaire dans sa première paroisse, Butiti. Au cours des années suivantes, Bruno est respectivement vicaire ou curé dans diverses paroisses du diocèse de Mbarara. Dans une lettre au provincial du Canada, il fait part de son bonheur de se trouver en Afrique : « C’est en Ouganda que j’ai été nommé pour faire la mission, dans un climat merveilleux, dans un pays montagneux près du lac Victoria. Comme tous mes confrères Pères Blancs, j’ai commencé par du ministère en paroisse où je me suis mis à l’étude de la langue locale. Je me suis aussi occupé de nos écoles primaires. J’avais même créé ma petite menuiserie pour faire des bancs d’école. J’achetais des arbres dans la forêt que je faisais couper pour avoir des planches à bon marché ».

Le Père Loiselle est toujours disponible pour les diverses tâches que lui demande son évêque. C’est ainsi qu’il accepte de superviser les écoles primaires du diocèse et de fonder une nouvelle paroisse, la paroisse de Rubindi, qu’il nomme ‘paroisse Saint Joseph, en honneur à son père nommé Joseph’.

Connaissant la générosité de Bruno, son évêque lui demande ensuite d’assurer l’économat du diocèse et de veiller à la comptabilité des écoles secondaires. Bruno trouve ce genre de travail plutôt aride mais il l’accomplit avec tout le dévouement dont il est capable. En 1961, il est nommé, à sa grande surprise, professeur au petit séminaire de Kitabi où il enseigne les mathématiques et les sciences. Il doit, en plus de son travail d’enseignement et de formation, trouver l’argent nécessaire pour rénover les bâtiments du séminaire, acheter des livres de classe et agrandir la bibliothèque. Dans une lettre à sa famille, Bruno écrit : « J’ai mis tout mon cœur dans ce ministère d’enseignement et j’ai beaucoup aimé les confrères et les élèves du séminaire. J’ai été très heureux d’accompagner et former de futurs prêtres pour l’Ouganda. Malheureusement, le 8 novembre 1962, j’ai dû revenir hâtivement au Canada pour une question de santé ».

Après quelques mois de repos au Canada, il est autorisé à retourner en Ouganda. Il rejoint le séminaire de Kitabi, mais maintenant comme recteur. C’est une nomination qui, au début, lui donne le vertige car il ne pense pas avoir l’expérience suffisante pour occuper ce poste important. Très tôt, se retrouvant avec une bonne équipe de collaborateurs, il se lance avec courage et confiance dans cette responsabilité. Cependant, ne voulant pas exercer cette fonction de recteur trop longtemps, Bruno s’organise pour faire nommer trois prêtres africains comme professeurs afin d’avoir bientôt un successeur à la direction du séminaire. De plus, ce qui est remarquable, dans le but de développer un esprit positif parmi les séminaristes, Bruno compose aussi un petit livre intitulé « La vie quotidienne au séminaire de Kitabi » dans lequel il présente diverses formules pour améliorer la qualité des cours et des relations entre professeurs et étudiants au petit séminaire.

De 1968 à 1973, l’évêque de Mbarara fait encore appel à la générosité et aux compétences de Bruno et lui demande de fonder et diriger une école secondaire pour garçons à Bushenyi. St. Kagwa Bushenyi High School devient ainsi un pensionnat pour 250 étudiants. Durant ces cinq années, il est le seul Père Blanc au sein d’une équipe de coopérants laïcs. Ensemble, ils réussissent à mettre sur pied un programme d’enseignement qui donne d’excellents résultats académiques parmi les étudiants. Bon nombre d’entre eux feront plus tard des études supérieures dans des collèges ou à l’université.

En 1980, Bruno accepte d’ériger une autre école secondaire privée à Mbarara, l’École de vocations St-Joseph (St.Joseph Vocational School). Mais à cause de problèmes de santé, il doit abandonner la direction de cette école. Il accepte cependant de s’occuper de son agrandissement et de diverses constructions. Ses confrères Pères Blancs qui ont la responsabilité de cette école font un excellent travail. Quand on célèbre le jubilé d’argent de l’école en 2005, on fait remarquer à Bruno que plusieurs élèves sont devenus prêtres diocésains et quelques-uns Missionnaires d’Afrique.

En 1987, le père Loiselle est nommé curé de la paroisse de Kagamba et il y restera jusqu’en 1998, année où la paroisse passe aux mains du clergé diocésain. Bruno juge alors qu’il y a suffisamment de prêtres diocésains et, en accord avec son Supérieur régional, décide qu’il est temps pour lui de rentrer définitivement au Canada, après 42 ans vécus en Ouganda.

Au Canada, il fait du ministère pastoral : d’abord à Toronto (Notre-Dame de l’Assomption) pendant une année, puis dans le diocèse de Valleyfield, pendant deux ans. Des problèmes de santé l’obligent à donner sa démission et revenir à Montréal. Il est alors chargé de l’économat local dans notre communauté de St-Hubert à Montréal jusqu’en 2005. Il continue ensuite de rendre divers services à cette communauté. En 2013, alors qu’il est âgé de 84 ans, Bruno est nommé à la communauté de Sherbrooke. Il se sent faiblir et a besoin d’un milieu plus sécuritaire où il peut accéder plus facilement à des soins de santé appropriés. C’est ici que sa santé devient graduellement plus fragile ; en juillet 2017, il doit être emmené au Centre d’Hébergement d’Youville. C’est là qu’il décède le 24 avril 2018. La célébration des funérailles, en présence de la dépouille, a lieu le 5 mai, dans la chapelle des Missionnaires d’Afrique de Sherbrooke. Ses cendres sont ensuite déposées dans le lot des Pères Blancs au cimetière Saint-Antoine.

La vie missionnaire du P. Bruno Loiselle en Ouganda, en plus de quelques années passée dans l’économat et la comptabilité du diocèse, se déroule surtout dans l’enseignement, la formation des étudiants, et dans le ministère paroissial. Dans toutes les situations où il se trouve, Bruno a toujours le souci d’assurer un bel avenir aux jeunes. Il fait preuve d’initiative pour développer leurs talents. C’est ainsi qu’il leur enseigne divers métiers dans les domaines de la cordonnerie, la menuiserie, la couture et la construction.

En terminant, il est important de souligner ceci : le père Loiselle, que ce soit en Ouganda ou au Canada, a toujours donné le meilleur de lui-même dans une grande variété de ministères. Dans toutes ces activités, qu’il n’a pas toujours choisies, mais qu’il a toujours acceptées généreusement, Bruno a exprimé son engagement missionnaire et son sacerdoce à la suite du Christ Jésus. C’est lui, le Seigneur, qu’il a aimé et qu’il a voulu faire connaître à ceux et celles qu’il rencontrait.

Bruno a vraiment mis en pratique le conseil du Seigneur à ses disciples : « Restez en tenue de service et gardez vos lampes allumées ». Il a toujours été un missionnaire disponible, accueillant, prêt à rendre service et accepter les tâches qui lui étaient demandées. Comme le Seigneur Jésus à qui il a donné sa vie, il est venu pour servir. Il est l’exemple du serviteur selon le cœur de Dieu. Le Seigneur l’accueille maintenant à sa table dans son Royaume.

Michel Carbonneau, M.Afr.

André de Thézy (1925 – 2015) (PE nr. 1092 – 2018/06)

“Piot bruiteu, grand tavailleu”: this saying from the dialect of Picardy is roughly translated as “does not make much noise, but a hard worker” and it is a good starting point to approach the life of our confrere, André de Thézy. He did not talk much but was always eager for work. He first saw the light of day on the 23rd April 1925 at Ercheu in the Picardy region of France. He came from a large and deeply Christian family. He adored this land and he loved to go there during his holidays and meet his family who surrounded him with great affection.

In 1947, André began his novitiate at Maison-Carrée, near Algiers. He continued his studies in Tunisia and took his Missionary Oath 29th June 1951 in Thibar followed by ordination to the priesthood on the 12th April 1952 in the Cathedral at Carthage.

André’s first appointment was to the Diocese of Sikasso in Mali. He served in the young parishes of Kimparana, Koutiala and eventually Karangasso. For 30 years, he devoted himself heart and soul to these parishes except to do the Long Retreat at Villa Cavaletti, near Rome in 1965. It was Minyanka country and he was so taken by it that it became his adopted land. He roamed the villages, welcoming and winning over the population with his radiant smile.

Fr. de Thézy’s excellent command of the language facilitated his contact with the people. The superior of his mission wrote; “Fr. de Thézy is my irreplaceable helper. He is much stronger in the language than I. He is the one to settle delicate questions when I sense my inability to seize nuances in the conversation.  He is always ready to answer any call for help from me. When one speaks about the customs, he comes to life and makes very succinct and judicious observations. He never stops trying to find out more about this subject. The Minyanka appreciate very much the relations he has with them, because even though he can be a bit reserved with his confreres, he feels very much at ease in his contacts with the people who live around us.”

In June 1982, he did the Session/Retreat in Jerusalem. He was appointed to the land of the Bambara.  This obliged him to learn a new African language. He did it with his usual heroic availability. However, this venture only lasted two years. His sight was not the best and this obliged him to return to France definitively in 1984. He went to Vitry sur Seine to work in a parish. He served there for three years.

From the 1st October 1988 and for the next 27 years, we find André in residence at our house in Mours just outside Paris. He was a constant smiling presence for as long as his strength held up.

We remember him as a confrere loved by all: his colleagues certainly, but also the members of the staff, family members and visitors just passing through. Nobody was a stranger to him.

Manual work and all sorts of little services, even the most humble, such as putting out the bins or tidying up things that were lying about, did not put him off, indeed the opposite is true. Even when his strength began to fail, he still remained willing and able to do anything asked of him. In the garden of the house, his main place of work, people liked to see him, sitting in his chair, watching over a fire of dead branches, smoking his old pipe, or reciting his rosary, which put him in communion with everyone.

Right to the end, he held on without the slightest complaint even though he felt his strength diminishing. Two days before he left us, he persisted in pulling out the weeds that were growing between the cobblestones. He sight got steadily worse but he could see ‘with the heart.’

Many confreres from the Paris region came to concelebrate his funeral Mass in a beautiful ceremony. The chapel was hardly able to contain all the family and friends who surrounded him. Then, André’s mortal remains left for Ercheu for burial in the family vault. From now on, he will rest in his native Picardy.

Thank you André for asking to stay in the community of Mours until you breathed your last. You leave us a precious testimony that the community will keep for a long time and which it will try to emulate. You remind us of the Gospel saying: “For the one who is the least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.” (Lk 9, 48).

Michel Groiselle, M.Afr.


Charles Sarti (1932 – 2017) (PE nr. 1092 – 2018/06)

Charles was born in Italy on the 15th May 1932 near the shore of Lake Maggiore. He came from a humble deeply Christian family. His father was a tiler and his mother  was what we coyly call nowadays a ‘homemaker’ that is to say she spent her life entirely devoted to bringing up the family of two boys and one girl. His mother would have a major influence on his life and she accompanied him to the altar on the day of his ordination just as his sister kept vigil when he was on his deathbed.

Soon after his birth, the whole family emigrated to Vitry le François in France. Charles did his secondary schooling in the Junior Seminary of Chalons. His admiration for his Parish Priest meant that he had a deep desire to become a priest. When he was 20 years old, he became a naturalised Frenchman and was called up for military service. He volunteered to serve in French Overseas territories both to test his vocation and his state of health as he had, in the past, been infected and had been treated for a persistent strain of TB. So at the end of 1952, we find Charles in the Military Camp of Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire before being transferred to Bobo-Dioulasso in Upper Volta (Burkina Faso). The military chaplain, Fr. Gilles de Rasilly (+2011) who was also in charge of Catholic education pushed Charles to prolong his stay after demobilisation and remain a little longer in the country in order to take charge of the senior classes of a primary school at Tounouma. It was there that he caught the ‘White Fathers’ bug. This led him naturally to the traditional White Father formation programme at the time: he entered the novitiate at Maison-Carrée in September 1954 followed by theological and some complementary philosophical studies at Thibar and then at Carthage. He was recalled to serve in the Army for a period of six months during this period. He took his Missionary Oath in Carthage on the 2nd February 1958 followed by ordination there on the 18th June the same year.

During his years of training, he demonstrated all the qualities required for a future ‘good’ missionary according to those in charge of his formation. Among the assessments made about this time, this one best sums them all up, “What struck us firstly about him was his calmness, his seriousness and his moderation. We have seen his qualities as organizer, his ability to get on with all sorts of people, as well as his energetic and imaginative zeal. Polite and friendly, he is also open and frank: it is characterized by a straightforwardness that goes straight to the point, without beating about the bush. He is very open with his superiors and his confreres; he has a particular aptitude for working in a team. A man of rules and obedience, he has understood the meaning and the demands of his vocation, and we feel that he has sincerely taken his formation seriously. He is modest, and when he takes initiatives, he does so very discreetly and secretly. Bro. Sarti is one of our best prospects. He is not an intellectual, but he is intelligent and practical, very mature, able to think things through, has a deep spiritual life and is a man made for community life.” Any of the confreres who have worked with him would surely recognise him from this description.

His first appointment in 1959 was to Dedougou in the Diocese of Nouna in Upper Volta. The Bishop asked him to learn the local language: Bwamou. Let him tell us, with his customary humour and self-deprecation, about his experience at studying an African language, “God gave me big ears, but I can hardly distinguish the different tones which give the meaning to words. After two and a half months, I was completely discouraged and one afternoon I found myself in front of the Blessed Sacrament crying my eyes out. Jesus did not appear to me, neither did he talk to me as in the films of Don Camillo, but I believe that it was Him who inspired the following thoughts in my heart, ‘Who do you think you are? I, the Word of God, the Word of the living God, I learned Aramaic with Mary and Joseph and the people of Nazareth for thirty years, and you would like to learn  bwamou in three months … You think you’re smarter than me, or what?” This kind of easy relationship with God, stamped with a very deep faith and trust, never left him for the rest of his life. Charles was a truly “poor” person in the evangelical sense of the word.

From then on, appointments followed regularly. From 1965 to 1966, he was bursar in the Junior Seminary of Tionkuy. From 1966 to 1967, he attended the language school at Guilongou to learn Mooré. This led him to the Toma-Tougan-Kiembara sector and to the many Mossi who lived there. He took a spiritual pause in September 1969 and did the Long Retreat in Villa Cavaletti near Rome under the direction of Fr. Jan Deltijk (+2002). From 1974 to 1979, he worked in Dedougou among the Mossi. He was Parish Priest in Toma from 1979 to 1987 with a view to the “Africanisation” of the parish as he liked to say.  What can we remember from those years of pastoral work from which he kept many happy memories? His pastoral zeal astounded many, but it was his ability to be close to ‘his’ people by his facility for listening, his respect for other religions, especially traditional religions and the special care he took in adapting local customs to the Gospel. His superiors, confreres and members of his ‘flock’ loved him for these qualities. His relationships with the local diocesan clergy were close. Some confreres advised him against this so much so that he felt obliged to explain himself to his Bishop in a letter; “From 1967 to 1987, I have lived and worked with priests of the Diocese. I have been living with and being supportive of them 100%. I have never accepted this backing away of the White Fathers. For myself, we share the same priesthood and we are harnessed to the same mission. Certainly, our sensitivities and our ways of functioning are different but we should be able to overcome that. It is at the same time, a witness in the eyes of the Christian communities, Muslims, animists…How can we talk about love and unity, if we, consecrated by the same priesthood, live apart from one another.” Charles Sarti did not mince his words.

In order to get a better idea of how close Charles was to people and to understand his discretion and comprehension which were the trademarks of his contacts, it would be good to read a small booklet which he wrote after he returned to France at the request of his Diocese. It is simply called, “Joys and Sorrows of a Missionary.” He describes it in the following way, “It is not a biography, neither is it a reprint, revised and corrected of ‘the Story of a Soul.’  It is not a history of the Church in Burkina Faso. It is simply some details of the missionary life of an average White Father. It describes the experience of those to whom he has been sent, and where he has discovered God’s love for these people and for himself. He who sows is nothing, he who waters is nothing, only God counts. Thanks be to God”.

However, the time came for him to take a break and from 1987 to 1988, he took some sabbatical time in rue Friant. Afterwards he became superior of the house until 1992. However, Africa was still his reason for living and he returned to Solenzo in the Diocese of Nouna working as a curate until 2001. Then he received an appointment to be Provincial Treasurer of Burkina Faso residing at Ouagadougou. He did not have great memories of this period of his missionary life. He scrupulously carried out his responsibilities until 2008. Again he showed remarkable sensitivity to the many confreres who came to see him because of financial difficulties. His contribution to community life was full of humour and simplicity and he used his wisdom to amicably resolve all the little tensions that can sometimes disturb a community.  He never gave up pastoral work and liked giving small services to parishes and sisters’ communities. The noise of his asthmatic mobylette and the glimpse of him going to the bank each morning with his shabby leather satchel were familiar sights. He was a well-loved missionary because he made a mark on people by his unpretentiousness and his piety.

However skin cancer on his face began to handicap Charles and caused him a lot of suffering (he never complained). He returned to France definitively in 2008. It was a decision he accepted with serenity. This decision of his superiors was facilitated by his legendary spirit of obedience shown in an email he sent to the Provincial in France, “As the one responsible, you are better able to appreciate priorities, I obey, and that’s why I took the Oath of Obedience. You know how I define the ‘average White Father’: not very smart, but disciplined.” He stayed for just a year in rue Verlomme to look after the Archives then he moved to rue de Printemps as bursar and manager of ‘Voix d’Afrique.’

Charles’ treatment was beginning to affect him more seriously. In 2010, he moved to Tassy as Superior but also to receive further therapy. He underwent the first operations on his face, which would lead to serious disfiguration. Tassy was to be his last posting as ‘responsable.’ He welcomed it with his usual great missionary sense as he explained to his family and friends in a circular letter, “I have always had great admiration for these ‘elders’ who sweated in their ‘burnous’ and who, for decades, wore themselves out in Africa and in serving the Africans … from Algiers to Cape Town and from Dakar to Dar es Salaam. So I did not have too much trouble accepting this new mission. Pray to the Holy Spirit for me that he will give me sufficient patience, compassion and a listening ear to be at the service of my elders…7 days out of 7 and 24 hours out of 24.” The memory he left at Tassy made a deep impression in the hearts not only of all the confreres but on all the residents of the nursing home and its personnel. He empathised with them through his own suffering. He was to undergo 16 operations on his face.  He was the second last White Father to live in Tassy but at the beginning of 2017 he took up residence on the 2nd floor of the Nursing Home at Bry sur Marne where the Lord finally called him on the 18th July 2017.

Charles’ final days were a real Calvary. His rosary never left his fingers. His face resembled that of the “Suffering Servant” but his expression reflected calm, peace and hope in Him. It seemed that the Lord had abandoned him because he was 10 days in a semi coma before He finally took him to his eternal home. It is said, “Who loves well chastises well”; nobody could have imagined just how much Charles was loved by God. The funeral Mass was simple as he had wished it. He had said that “he wanted to be buried rolled up in a mat and carried in a cart drawn by a donkey.” His sister was at his bedside as well as some nephews and grand-nephews and family members who were so close to him all his life. A good many of the confreres from the region attended, as well as a number of African friends.  The Chapel was full as it should for an “average White Father,” and the reading of the Beatitudes did not seem out of place in the recital of sincere praises that accompanied him to the White Fathers cemetery at Bry sur Marne.

“Happy the poor in heart, they will see God.”

Clément Forestier, M.Afr.


Gaetano Scremin : 1942 – 2018 (PE nr 1090 – 2018/04)

Father Gaetano Scremin was the oldest son of Gino Scremin and Fioretto Amabile. He was born in Valdagno in the Province of Vicenza on the 13th March 1942. His father worked at the Marzotto textile factory in Valdagno. He entered the junior seminary of the White Fathers in Treviglio, near Milan and did his secondary school studies at Parella about 40 kms north of Turin in the Piedmont Region. He studied Philosophy in Gargagnago not far from Verona. He went to Gap Continue reading “Gaetano Scremin : 1942 – 2018 (PE nr 1090 – 2018/04)”