Rein Folst 1932 – 2016 (PE nr. 1082)

Rein was born in Schiedam, Netherlands on the 14th September 1932. He wanted to become a missionary brother and followed the training course for WF brothers in St. Charles, near Boxtel and ‘s-Heerenberg. He took his first Missionary Oath on 28th January 1956, taking the name Casimiris, as was the custom for the Brothers at the time. Before he entered the White Fathers, Rein had worked as a fitter and lathe operator and as a warehouseman. He had a sound judgment, a phlegmatic disposition, and was not easily thrown off balance. He loved anecdotes and stories, and had a somewhat dry sense of humour. He was a steady worker sometimes slow, with an eye for detail; he was more theoretical than practical by inclination.

In January 1956, Rein went to Mariënthal, the Brothers Scholasticate in Luxemburg for further training. February 1958 sees him occupying the post of doorkeeper at the Dutch Provincial House and for technical services. From July 1959, he worked in a garage for ten months to prepare himself for his mission in Tanzania.

He left for Mwanza Diocese in Tanzania on the 13th September 1959. Bishop Josef Blomjous (+1992), sent him to Kipalapala Language Centre to learn Swahili and culture of the country. For relaxation, he designed furniture for the Archdiocesan buildings. The Archdiocese of Tabora had bought three houses in Urambo, which was the site of a failed groundnut scheme of the former Colonial Government, and Rein was sent with two other brothers and a group of workers to dismantle them and to re-use the cement blocks, windows and doors for other buildings. For Rein, it was a perfect opportunity to practice his Swahili.

Once he was back in Mwanza, Bishop Blomjous gave him permission to study the Sukuma language and culture. He took his permanent Missionary Oath in Sumve on 2nd March 1962. He was appointed to Ibindo Parish in November 1963 for what he described as “«all sorts of little jobs in and around the house.»

In 1965, we find him in Nyegezi, on the the shores of Lake Victoria. He installed the huge water-pump, which had to serve all the institutions founded by Bishop Blomjous The complex included the Regional House ( a former research centre), the Junior Seminary, a Social Training Centre (now St. Augustine’s University) and an Agricultural Centre as well as two secondary boarding schools, one for boys and one for girls. He was responsible for all the technical services in the area. In October 1967, the Treasurer General wrote that Rein had become a good mechanic. In May 1968, he installed the water amenities for the presbytery and the diocesan hospital.

However, Rein felt called to pastoral work as a priest. With the agreement of his Superiors, he did his training in Tanzania. He began studying Philosophy in Ntungamo Seminary, near Bukoba, in January 1969. One of his teachers wrote, “His integration with the students, all Tanzanian and more than 10 years younger, is very good and admirable.” However, he found the transition from manual work to full time studies was tougher than he expected, but he persevered. In his free time, he created a little waterfall in the seminary grounds, which had sufficient power to pump the water up the hill to serve the seminary and the house and garden of the bishop.

The following year, Rein went to Kipalapala Major Seminary to study Theology. He studied hard but he thought both programmes too academic and little geared to pastoral practice. Owing to his age and experience, he followed a shortened seminary programme although he followed the full Theology course. The Bishop of Sumbawanga, Charles Msakila, in whose diocese he was going to serve, ordained him priest on 8th July 1973.

After his ordination, Rein returned for some home leave, which was followed by a four-month stage to perfect his Swahili. His first priestly appointment was to Mamba Parish. In January 1977, he wrote that he felt “quite at ease.” His work was mainly visiting outstations and home visiting, sometimes on foot through swampy areas. In June 1977, he moved to Ulumi Parish before an appointment as curate to Tunduma in May 1984. He did the Session/Retreat in Jerusalem in March 1989 before returning to Kabanga Parish in Kigoma Diocese in June 1989. In June 1992, he spent some time in Kipalapala Language and Culture Centre replacing the bursar temporarily. As such, he looked after the personnel, the daily meals for the sometimes-demanding foreign students and of course the shopping.

In his few letters from Kabanga, he wrote only that he felt “really at home.” In 2008, the parish ran a campaign among Catholics to have their traditional marriages blessed in church. This took place on New Year’s Day 2009 and 40 couples participated some of whom were already grandparents! It was quite a joyful ceremony.

Rein wrote in September 2010 that he could no longer walk any distance because of a painful back. At Kabanga Diocesan Hospital, two recently graduated physiotherapists, after a long period of treatment, diagnosed that the pain was due to the deterioration of his spine. Rein returned to the Dongen community in the Netherlands in November 2011 and some months later, he moved to Heythuysen.

Rein could only walk with difficulty and cycling was sometimes easier. He was always cheerful. He enjoyed music and could be heard humming as he shuffled down the corridors. In is younger years, he had played the violin and the flute. He was a member of the house choir when it was in existence. During 2016, Reins health deteriorated and he died peacefully in his flat on 16th December 2016. The characteristic of Jesus that Rein highlighted in his life was, “We know that you are true, and teach the way of God truthfully» (Mt.22, 16).

Together with relatives and friends, we buried him in our St. Charles Cemetery on 22nd December 2016.

Marien van den Eijnden, M.Afr.

Leave a Reply