Hans  Remhs 1931 – 2017 (Petit Echo nr. 1088 – 2018/02)

Hans was born on the 2nd November 1931 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. He entered the Spiritual Year in ‘s-Heerenberg in 1952 before going to Thibar, Tunisia for theological studies. He took his Missionary Oath there on the 20th June 1956. He finished his studies in Carthage where he was ordained priest on the 21st April 1957.
Hans had a sound business like judgement. He was more practically oriented as well as being orderly and organised. A dynamic will and character kept him steadfast for what he thought was important. He had a sense of responsibility for the tasks entrusted to him. As a young man, he was rather introverted and did not talk much. During his years in formation, he opened-up and he became a treasure house of bits and pieces of information, which he liked to talk about.
After ordination, Hans taught for some months in our minor-seminary at Santpoort. In 1958, he studied Mathematics at Eindhoven College, while teaching in our minor seminary at Sterksel. He arrived in the recently independent Burkina Faso on the 19th November 1960 after arranging his visa through the Paris Embassy where the staff appeared to know all about the White Fathers. He was sent as curate to Tikaré Parish in the recently erected Diocese of Ouahigouya. It was a densely populated area but there were only 400 Catholics and 600 catechumens. After experiencing the local situation, he was sent to teach at Koudougou minor seminary. The Diocese had only four parishes, with a fifth at the planning stage. The Bishop was our former Superior General, Mgr. Louis Durrieu (+1965). After his death, he was succeeded by a Burkinabe priest, Mgr. Denis Tapsoba M.Afr. (+2008) who was also our confrere.

Hans taught Mathematics in all the classes, which took a lot of preparation, plus correcting homework not to mention other duties associated with the running of a boarding school. When the English teacher went on home-leave, Hans replaced him for all the English classes. It was hard finding sufficient teachers, as, at that time, lay-personnel were not yet accepted or even available. During the holidays Hans used to visit the parishes, and to run a 3-week holiday-camp for the seminarians. On the18th August 1964, he wrote, “Plenty of work and worries to provide the students with a solid intellectual and spiritual formation.” In July 1965, he took a sabbatical time out which consisted of 6 months home leave and 18 months working in Tikaré Parish helping prepare 148 neophytes for Baptism. He returned to Koudougou seminary in September 1967. His Regional wrote in January 1972, “He is working well and appreciated by the seminarians.” In 1974, he did the Long Retreat at Villa Cavaletti, near Rome. At the end of the 70’s the seminary got its first Burkinabe Rector, with whom Hans got along famously.

In September 1980, Hans got a chance to do a stage of 8 months pastoral work in Tinkaré. In May 1981, he was asked to become the Diocesan Treasurer of Ouahigouya. He commented in November, “In my new job I have no opportunity to get bored. With nostalgia I look-back on those 8 months in the bush, which I enjoyed.” The Bishop had plenty of building-plans, one of them being the construction of a large eye-clinic. Hans got an assistant in early 1983. In 1986, he received the Order of Orange-Nassau from the Dutch Government.  During Christmas-week 1989 a “War of the Poor” broke out between Burkina Faso and neighbouring Mali. His regional wrote [without date], “Hans remained on his post and helped refugees with shelter, or to continue their flight. Twice or three times a day, the Ambassador phoned him to ask about the local situation. Hans’s effective action was considered to be heroic.” He did the Session/Retreat in Jerusalem in 1989.

Bishop Marius Ouedraogo sent a diocesan priest to Paris for a two year training programme in management and accountancy On his return, before appointing him as Hans’ successor, the Bishop wanted him have some pastoral experience so that he could become aware of the real needs of the Diocese. In 1991, there were 4 ordinations bringing the number of diocesan priests to 23 plus 14 White Fathers. Hans commented, “High time one of them takes-over the financial administration of the diocese.” In that year also, there was a severe drought and Hans was involved in the distribution of food aid with other organisations. More and more people were fleeing the north where some villages were totally deserted. The desert was advancing. The following harvest was “excellent” and Hans commented, “So much the better for the people and a lot less worries for us.”

Hans became the Provincial Treasurer of the Netherlands in June 1992. He did so with dedication and caring. On Sundays, he presided at the Eucharist in an old folks’ home in St.Michielsgestel. During this period, he served on the Provincial Council and was superior of the Provincial House in Boxtel. In 1988, he took time out for a sabbatical period that included the Missionary Discipleship Session in Jerusalem.

In March 1999, he was asked to become Diocesan Treasurer in Nouakchott Diocese, Mauritania. The Diocese covered an enormous area, but had few “implantations.” Caritas was present but managed its administrative affairs independently of the Diocese. Hans’ task was to supervise the diocesan accountant, manage the properties and investments, and help the few pastoral-workers and religious draw-up their budgets. Hans was happy there and he had heaps of stories and anecdotes to tell about that time.

In early 2003, Fr. Remhs had problems with his eyes leaving him with tunnel-vision. In February, he returned to the Netherlands for treatment but there was little improvement and he decided to stay. He joined the community at Dongen. The Office of the Provincial Treasurer was ably run by laypeople and Hans had an advisory role and to liaise with the General Team in Rome, not yet used to Lay Provincial Treasurers.

Hans was a computer-wizard, surfing a lot on the Internet. He knew lots about computer-mechanics and could talk about it in great detail. He was always ready to help those who got stuck. He regularly did translation-work to and from French for the Sector Delegate and for our Link, and was a member of our Publications Committee.

On the day of his Golden Jubilee, he lifted the veil of his motivation; he experienced Jesus as a close friend, who, at times of difficulties, inspired him to make an extra effort with miraculous results and who was waiting for him on the lakeshore with a meal prepared for him (Jn 21, 1-3).

In his last years, Hans’ hips and knees caused him much pain. After some time, he got a walker and an electric scooter. He continued to tell his stories and anecdotes in his stentorian voice.

In May 2010, he had moved to Heythuysen. In September 2017, a serious illness was diagnosed; he died peacefully in his flat on the 15th November 2017. Together with his relatives and friends, we buried him in our St. Charles Cemetery in Heythuysen on the 20th November 2017.

The characteristic of Jesus which Hans highlighted in his life was, “Jesus himself drew near and went with them” (Lk 24, 15)

Marien van den Eijnden, M.Afr.

Leave a Reply