Kees, as he was affectionately known to his family and confreres, was born in Teteringen in the Diocese of Breda on the 30th September, 1929. At the age of 20 he decided to apply to join the Missionaries of Africa as a Brother. After postulancy he was received into the Novitiat e at s’Heerenberg on the 7th of September, 1951. After 2 years he made his first profession on the 6th August, 1953. He then went to Luxemburg to the Brothers’ Scolasticate for professional training. Six years later he made his final commitment on the 29th August, 1959, in Boechout, Belgium.
Kees’ first appointment was to Tunisia to the agricultural project of the Society. There he learned French, and was engaged with the cultivation of grapes and wine production at Thibar. He was to remain in Tunisia for 10 years.
In 1970 he was appointed to Tanzania and went first to Kipalapala, Tabora, to learn Kiswahili. He was then given an appointment to the Diocese of Rulenge, to the Junior Seminary of Katoke. He stayed there for 2 years to find his feet in the Diocese. At that time Bishop Christopher Moleka was a firm supporter of “Ujamaa” (The African Socialism promoted by Julius Nyerere), and asked Kees to undertake a project to cultivate rice. Later in 1990 Kees was asked to supervise the diocesan garage in Rulenge. He remained in Rulenge diocese until 1994 when the Society asked him to go to the language centre at Kipalapala as bursar. He remained there until 2004 when the decision was taken to discontinue the project.
Around 2004 the Society was considering investing in land in the Dar es Salaam area. A plot was bought at Mbezi to the west of the city and Kees eagerly accepted the proposal to go and supervise its development. In the early days he was obliged to make his home in a container with a portable lavatory. There was initially a problem of finding water. Over the years Kees brought development to Mbezi with the building of a student centre for prospective candidates. He introduced livestock and the garden flourished, there was even a fish pond. He was content and at ease at Mbezi and spoke of his desire for full retirement. He was eagerly awaiting the completion of a house to which the confreres concerned with the centre would move.
The end came suddenly on the 18th September, 2017. He had only returned from home leave 3 weeks earlier and was happy to announce that he had been given a good medical examination and that health issues such as diabetes and blood pressure were under control. He had gone to the Netherlands with a lady who worked at the centre, whose family he had known since his days in Tabora. This lady together with another worker, were with him when he died.
It would appear the night before, he spoke with a confrere about “not feeling too well”, but decided to drive to town to look for certain fittings for the new house. It was whilst driving that he noticed something serious. He stopped the car, parking it conveniently at the side of the road, and collapsed. When taken to a nearby hospital the doctor announced he had died, the result of a diabetic condition.
The funeral Mass took place on the 21st Sept in the Parish of Pugu, with burial at the diocesan plot. Many parishioners and friends from Mbezi attended. Cardinal Polycarp Pengo was also present and gave a eulogy in which he thanked Kees for his commitment to the Church in Tanzania, recalling having met him first in Rulenge. The Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Nzigilwa was the main celebrant. His great friend and classmate Brother Frans Dewez came from Uganda.
Kees was a confrere ready to oblige and take up a new appointment with enthusiasm. His spiritual life was an example for everyone. In the words of Frans: “Kees was always the first in the chapel in the morning.” The good and faithful servant has now gone to join in his Master’s happiness (Mt. 25:21).
John Slinger, M.Afr.