Profile of Marc Deneckere

Profile of Marc Deneckere

Marc was born in Kortrijk on 16 January 1932 into a very Christian and religious family. The father ran a wholesale coal business. The family had eleven children. Marc studied the Greco-Latin humanities at Saint-Amand College in his hometown. In September 1952, he entered the White Fathers in Boechout, where his younger brother and godson Jo followed him a few years later. Marc did the novitiate in Varsenare and the theological studies in Heverlee, where he took his missionary oath on 5 July 1958 and was ordained priest on 2 February 1959 by Mgr Geeraerts. From the very beginning of his formation, Marc was noted for his great goodness, his golden heart (with the danger of allowing himself to be exploited). He was always in a good mood, always happy, helpful, very devoted to manual work. He was a pleasant confrere, very simple in his relationships, rather taciturn, a little shy. “Will be at ease in the bush and in a mission with a lot of physical effort”…

After six months of classes at the University of Louvain as part of his military service, Marc left on 5 April 1960 for Ituri in North-Eastern Congo, three months before independence. During the first months in the diocese of Bunia, he learned the Kilendu language in Pimbo and Fataki. He was then appointed vicar in Jiba. In 1964, he found himself in the midst of the great insurrection of the Simbas. “Together with many fathers and sisters, we were locked up for a whole month in a school and convent of the Sisters of Ingelmunster.” Until they were released and evacuated by paracommandos. He will never forget it. At the beginning of July 1965, he returned to his post at Jiba, where he built the convent of the sisters. From 1970, according to his own account, he was successively parish priest in three parishes, each time by chance for ten years, before handing over the helm to the diocesan clergy. These were Fataki, Pimbo and Drodro, with some replacements in other parishes from time to time. Mark lived these transmissions with mixed feelings: sadness at having to leave those he loved so much and joy for the mission accomplished. In 1985, he had to be treated for throat problems, fortunately not as serious as had been feared. His last appointment to Drodro did not enthuse him, but he wrote to the provincial of Belgium: “I am convinced that here in Drodro too I will be a happy missionary… God is my shield!”.

After Drodro, Marc was sent to Badiya because the White Fathers passed on the whole Lendu region to the local clergy. The problemwas that the language was no longer Kilendu but Swahili. A hard test at his age, but the result was positive. In 1994 he took part, in Rome, in the session “transition to the third age”. In April 1995, mother Deneckere died at the age of 92. During the invasion of Kabila-father, who was helped by the Rwandans to overthrow Mobutu, Marc was once again evacuated via Kampala in December 1996. He then worked for several months as a bursar of the “Blauwe Torre” project in Varsenare and took part in the activities of the Centre. He got to know several parishes and often went to give his testimony in missionary circles. In October 1998 he returned to Bunia, where he was in charge of the reception at the regional house and of the bursar’s office in the region. On occasion he gave a helping hand to the parish. The misery in the city was great and his heart could not resist the many poor people who came knocking at the door… Until the day when, in February 2003, he was expelled from the country by the leader of the rebels, Thomas Lubanga, who at that time was holding the sceptre in Bunia. Marc was wondering: “Why was I kicked out? I had just demonstrated a little too much that as a missionary I made no distinction between ethnic groups when it came to helping people. I had indeed provided safe lodgings for fleeing Lendu families whose homes had been burned by hema (people opposed to the Lendu). For this Hema militia leader, it was an act of betrayal. So I had to leave”. In the “procès verbal de reculement” we read the following charges: “He was involved in clandestine activities of a subversive nature, in particular : 1. clandestine accommodation of the displaced persons with the intention of splashing the Movement with regard to the security of persons and freedom of movement in the Territory under the control of the U.P.C./R.P. (Union of Congolese Patriots for Reconciliation and Peace, the main Hema militia of Thomas Lubanga) ; 2. To be in intelligence with the negative forces that hindered the process of Pacification and Reconciliation. Of all the above, we have declared the above mentioned PERSONA NON GRATA over the whole area controlled by the U.P.C./R.P.”. Father Jean Mottoul received the same letter a few days later. The direct and courageous intervention of Fr. Jan Mol, regional, did not change anything. Radio and television attacked the White Fathers and Marc in particular. His brother Jo was also falsely accused. It was clear that the missionaries were embarrassing witnesses to the many injustices. They were preferred to be sent away. Hundreds of White Fathers worked in Ituri. And it was precisely Marc, perhaps the one most loved by the little people among all these White Fathers, who had to take his leave in this way? “Blessed are the meek!”…

In Belgium, once he had recovered from his emotions, Marc spent a few months as bursar in our community in Bruges. In October 2004, he was called upon for the important bursar’s office at the Keizerstraat in Antwerp. Always ready to help and to find a good solution for everyone’s problems, he was supported and appreciated by both the confreres and the staff. In 2009 he celebrated his golden jubilee in St. Elizabeth’s Church in Kortrijk, surrounded by many family members and acquaintances. On this occasion he wrote in the parish newspaper ‘Kerk&Leven’: “As a missionary I have been sent by Christ and the Church to bring a message of peace, reconciliation and joy to people. After 50 years of priestly and missionary life, I have the joy of testifying before you that I am a grateful and happy missionary. Grateful to the Lord for my vocation. Grateful to my family and fellow citizens for their sympathy and support. Grateful to the people of the Diocese of Bunia, because they have given me the opportunity to proclaim and live in their midst God’s love for us. And all this makes me a deeply happy man”. In 2013 Marc truly retired and joined the community of Varsenare, where more and more profound peace and contentment emanated from him. He passed away slowly, on the evening of August 10th, sitting in his armchair in front of his television .

Corona regulations not allowing for exceptions, only ten members of his family and some confreres of his brother Jo’s community will be able to attend the funeral on Friday 14, at 10.30 a.m. in Varsenare. The family is planning to organise a commemoration later in Kortrijk.

Jef Vleugels

  • “SEASON OF CREATION” is also part of the special programme for the “LAUDATO SI year 2020/21” launched to commemorate the 5th anniversary of the encyclical letter “LAUDATO SI”:

There are so many opportunities to engage together where we are, where we live, work and pray.

Let us celebrate together the SEASON OF CREATION in 2020 !

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