Arthur Bosmans 1927 – 2016 (PE nr. 1080)

Arthur was born on the 11th March 1927 at Beringen, Limburg Province, Belgium. He came from a well off and very Christian family. Speaking about his mother later in life, Arthur described her as a saint. He attended primary and secondary school at the College Saint-Joseph in Hasselt. He entered the Philosophy House of the White Fathers at Boechout in September 1945. Novitiate followed in Varsenare before he went to Marienthal in Luxembourg for his first year of Theology. The remaining years of theological studies took place in Heverlee. He took his Missionary Oath there on the 21st July 1951. Bishop Xavier Geeraerts M.Afr, newly appointed Vicar Apostolic of Costermansville (Bukavu in 1954) ordained him priest on the 12th April 1952. Arthur’s professors considered him to be a man of sound judgement, strong willed and enthusiastic. He was more practical than intellectual. He had a supernatural spirit, a rich and generous nature, a cheerful and playful character; he got on well in community, despite a tendency to be highly strung. The professors also thought him a bit of a ‘bushman.’

Arthur was appointed to Mozambique and he left for Lisbon to study Portuguese on the 24th March 1953. He reached Beira on 4th May and began work as a curate at Manga before moving on to Chemba. He was appointed Parish Priest of Mutarara-Inhangome in April 1958. The Regional described him as an excellent missionary, full of zeal and resourcefulness. He had a talent for getting on well with confreres whom others considered as being difficult to live with. At the end of May 1971, the authorities expelled 32 White Fathers because they were considered disloyal to the colonial regime. The decided to leave as a group even if some had doubts about the move. Arthur had spent 17 years in the country.

Some months later, Arthur received an appointment to Malawi. He went to London to perfect his knowledge of English. When he arrived in Malawi, he spent some months at the Language Centre learning the local language. In May 1972, he became curate at Bembeke in the Diocese of Dedza and in 1976; he became its Parish Priest. Fr. Alfons Heymans, then Regional, noted that Arthur was a fresh breeze in the community and in the parish with his cheerfulness and enthusiasm. He also greatly improved the standard of education in the schools, something that invoked a bit of envy among the Protestant community! However, taking advantage of his good and trusting nature, a trader friend persuaded Arthur to hide some ivory for him just for a short time. Arthur was imprudent and agreed to hide it on the Parish premises. Possession of ivory was illegal and Arthur was betrayed, no doubt because of jealously and he was expelled. He had spent 10 years in Malawi.

Arthur wanted to return to Africa as quickly as possible. He asked to go to Zambia, if possible near the capital, Lusaka where he hoped to learn the local language without too much difficulty. Maurits de Weerdt, the Regional agreed and Rome concurred. After the Session/Retreat in Jerusalem in September 1981, Arthur courageously embarked on mission to his third African country. He began at Regiment Parish (Charles Lwanga) and enthusiastically described the 36 Small Christian Communities, which needed to be visited regularly in the evenings when people returned home from work. At the beginning of 1984, we find him in Mtendere Parish and then at Kabwata Parish. At the end of 1986, he returned to Regiment. During those years, community life and agreement on pastoral work among the confreres does not seem to have worked like clockwork. Arthur, himself, was not the ideal team player. His health began to be a cause for worry and he had to follow a strict diet and submit himself through an ICE AESTHETIC procedure because of overweight, hypertension and gout. His last appointment was to the Regional guesthouse in Woodlands. He continued to help in parishes and he was also chaplain in a hospital. He wrote, “I am very happy with this interlude of two years. I have been able to listen and show compassion for the sufferings of brave people. I have forgiven sins, encouraged people and prayed with them and for them, and shared the word of Jesus. I feel loved by God and by the people I have met.” At the beginning of 1991, he touched on the subject of a definitive return to Belgium in a letter to the Provincial, “I think that is enough. I have been very happy in Africa, but it seems to me that the time has come to return definitively.” In May 1994, during his home leave, Arthur decided to take his leave of Africa after 40 years and to remain at home. Jean-Pierre Sauge, the Regional, asked him for one last service, to look after the guests at Woodlands until the middle of September. There were a large number of confreres absent because of home leaves, and novices and students were due to arrive and sent on their way to their various destinations in the country. Obviously, Arthur accepted enthusiastically.

Theo Caerts, Provincial of Belgium, considered Arthur to be the ideal man to be Guest Master at rue Linthout in Bruxelles. He began on the 15th September 1994 and for the next 13 years; he would be manager and ‘Fr. Hotelier.’ He accomplished this job to the great satisfaction of the confreres, bishops, and priests from Africa who came to avail of our hospitality. Arthur was kind and attentive to the needs of his guests. His joyful character was contagious. He liked to laugh, make people laugh and tell jokes. The staff looked up to him and appreciated him a lot. In September 2007, Arthur himself asked for a transfer and asked to retire to Varsenare. He was 80 years old. He enjoyed a happy old age there. He still drove and often went to visit his sister who lived by the sea. This smiling and joking old missionary charmed visitors to the house. He was also often seeing praying at the grotto in the grounds of the house. His devotion to Mary was legendary.

Arthur was found dead in his room on the 16th October 2016. He had left us on tiptoe without disturbing anybody. The funeral took place on the 22nd October 2016 in the Chapel of Varsenare

Jef Vleugels

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