Hans Pauwels 1932 – 2016 (PE nr. 1080)

Hans was born in Voorburg, Netherlands on the 21st January 1932. He followed the usual training programme of the Dutch White Fathers at the time and passed through St. Charles near Boxtel and ‘s-Heerenberg where he took his Missionary Oath on the 10th July 1958. He spent a year in Totteridge and he was ordained priest in Rotterdam on the 2nd February 1959.

Hans had a sound judgment, a cheerful disposition and was a methodical worker who was always on the go. He had an artistic nature, could be absent-minded and restless. He could get a bit discouraged from time to time. He was warm-hearted and good for relations, and was always ready to render a service when asked. He had a talent for drawing and so got involved in the decoration of churches and presbyteries and for the style of liturgies. His maternal uncle was our confrere Antony Coolen (+1992).

Hans left for Mbeya Diocese, Tanzania in December 1959. He studied the culture of the people and the Kiswahili language in Irambo Parish. From June 1960 and over the following 10 years, he lived and worked in the parishes of Kisa, Galula, Gua, and Mwambani. From September 1971 onwards, he was curate and Parish Priest in the twin parishes of Irambo-Inyala. Six years later, in 1978, he was working in the twin parishes of Igogwe-Ilembo. In September 1985, he began a 10-year stint in Irambo Parish beginning as curate and becoming Parish Priest in 1990. By 1993, the Parish had 59 outstations! In between times, he did the Long Retreat in Villa Cavaletti in 1976 and the Session/Retreat in Jerusalem in 1985.

In May 1984, Hans wrote, “Here in Igogwe we have work up to our neck. Every year we open here and there a new outstation, and we are working in 2 parishes which together have 46 church-villages with a total of about 3.000 Catholics”. He thought it important to work very closely in each outstation with the local Catechist. He held regular sessions and working meetings with them all over the Parish.

In later years, Fr. Pauwels would enthusiastically speak about his adventures in Tanzania, particularly about his safaris visiting the people. At the time, the area was densely forested and sparsely populated. The higher one climbed into the hills and mountains, roads became fewer. For him this was the most beautiful part in all of Tanzania. It was one giant park, with lots of forests, waterfalls, little lakes, and all sorts of small and big game. On his golden jubilee in 2009, he said, “Then one cannot but gratefully believe in an almighty, wise and brilliant Divine Creator”.

Yet we confreres thought it remarkable that Hans spoke more often about the animals than about the people he met, lived and worked with! Nevertheless, he did say at his Golden Jubilee, “Everywhere one meets lovely friendly people, and every time again one experiences so much hospitality, help, understanding and friendship, that one hardly can become discouraged”.

Hans was appointed to the Netherlands in June 1995. He was one of the founding fathers of the Hague Missionary Project of the Dutch Province, which began in October 1995. They were based in the Schilderswijk district, one of the poorest areas of The Hague. The aim was community building between natives and foreign refugees and immigrants. In order to build up an initial network and become known in the area, he and some others visited various authorities and organisations with gifts of tins of biscuits and publicity brochures for a supermarket.

In 1998, Hans started a Bible course and a Youth Café. He became a kind of contact-person of the Catholic Church in an asylum-seekers centre, with special attention for the refugees from Africa. He felt at ease and he was happy. When our confrere, Carol Vismans left the project, Hans took over most of the pastoral work among the Antilleans.

During his later years in the project, he ensured pastoral services in five homes for the elderly, and was ever ready to lend a helping hand, for instance answering all the telephone calls. He was a good bursar, and took part in all sorts of meetings.

Hans was a gifted draughtsman but as it took a lot of time and energy, he could not do it so often. Once back in the Netherlands he became interested in architecture. Once a month, he visited towns, which he enjoyed. He did not visit nature areas because as he said, “That is much nicer in Tanzania anyhow”!
Hans moved to Dongen in September 2009. He needed rest, and his deafness was increasing. He did take his turn for the services in the house and for some pastoral supplies. He designed a Christmas card for the Sector. He started putting up drawings made by himself or others in the lift accompanied by an inspiring text, which he changed every week or so.

In January 2015, Hans transferred to Heythuysen. He enjoyed the rest. He had heaps of folders with his own drawings and with images of Our Lady that he had collected. He now took the time to put them in order. Here too he started sticking one of his drawings to his front door, changing them from time to time.

On 21st October 2016, he felt unwell and he was taken to hospital by ambulance. It proved to be far more serious than we expected. On the 26th he returned to his own flat for palliative care, He died peacefully there, the next day, on the 27th October 2016.

The characteristic of Jesus, which Hans highlighted in his life was “Bring good news to the afflicted and bind up the brokenhearted”, Isaiah 61, 1 // Lk.4, 18-19.
Together with relatives and friends, we buried him in our St. Charles Cemetery on the 31st October 2016.

Marien van den Eijnden

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