It is with regret that we announce the death on Thursday 22nd June, at Zilverheuvel (Vrijland) nursing home in Oosterbeek, The Netherlands, aged 72 of
Mill Hill Missionary
May he rest in peace
Fr. Theo was born on 22nd March 1951 in Moergestel (Noord-Brabant), Netherlands to Henricus Raaijmakers and Johanna Willems. His father was a textile worker. He had 4 sisters. He was baptised on the day he was born and given the name Theodorus Josephus Gerardus Maria. Ten years later, he received the Sacrament of Confirmation on 23rd March 1961. He did his primary schooling in Moergestel. In 1963, at the age of 12 years, he entered the Mill Hill College in Tilburg and received a Gymnasium B (Staatsexamen – Sciences) in 1970. He then proceeded to Roosendaal to study Philosophy and related subjects for three years. In 1973, he was sent to St. Joseph’s College for Theological studies at the Missionary Institute London and at King’s College, London University where he was awarded Bachelor of Divinity on 1st August 1976.
On 8th May 1976, he took the Perpetual Oath at St. Joseph’s College Chapel in Mill Hill. He was ordained missionary priest on 25th June 1977 at Moergestel Parish Church, Diocese of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, by Bishop J. Bluyssen.
Theo’s first missionary appointment was to Andhra Pradesh, India and, between 1977 and 1980, he devoted himself to full-time pastoral works in Gargayapuram Parish, Kurnool Diocese. He then had a short stint in Calcutta, followed by appointment in 1982 to the Archdiocese of Hyderabad where he spent his energies uplifting the life of the destitute young people of the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. He started the ‘Prima Seva Sadan’ in Trimulgherry, a home where homeless young people learned crafts like tailoring and carpentry.
On 10th November 1989, he was withdrawn from the Archdiocese of Hyderabad, India and appointed to the Archdiocese of Santiago de Chile, an appointment he took up after a well-deserved one year sabbatical.
In July 1991, he left for Cochabamba, Bolivia to learn Spanish where he stayed with a Bolivian family for three months and later on in a room above the language school. While learning the language, he was teaching mathematics and celebrating Mass in an orphanage and in a convent. After completing his language course, he travelled to Santiago, Chile and arrived on the 11th February 1992 to take up his appointment. Within a short time, he felt uncomfortable in the parish where he was assigned due to the affluence of the area. He felt very much called to work among the poorest and the marginalised.
On 20th August 1992, he went back to Cochabamba to work in the context where poverty, inequalities and widespread corruption frequently translated into violence, crime and families dismembered by alcohol and alcohol-related violence. To address such challenges, Theo, got involved in the management of the project ‘Amanecer’, together with the Daughters of Charity, the Sisters of the Precious Blood and the lay people. The project, headed by a U.S. Sister and run by 150 trained staff (also some overseas volunteers), consisted of 9 houses and a school, and catered for abandoned babies, street-children and youth. From 1992 to 2017, Theo was director of two houses with about 70 young people and also director of the school that catered for 250 children who could not get into local schools. Raising funds for salaries and other running costs was a constant preoccupation. Theo formed a support group of people in the Netherlands and elsewhere that eventually became ‘Stichting Werk Theo Raaijmakers’.
Separate from the ‘Amancer’ project, Theo conducted a number of workshops (construction, bakery, metal-work, etc.), with the aim of promoting self-reliance and countering institutionalism. Though working independently from the archdiocese, Theo got involved pastorally through parish supplies and Masses in the convents and prisons. In 2017, Theo returned to the Netherlands due to severe back pain that caused him to become bedridden. He stayed at his sister’s place for about 10 months and moved to Vrijland on 28th December 2018. He suffered from osteoporosis and had a cracked vertebra. Even in Vrijland, Theo hoped to get well and return to his beloved Cochabamba.
On the occasion of the Ruby Jubilee of his ordination to priesthood in 2017, the General Council wrote: “Your work has been marked by deep Christian motivation, namely to provide destitute street children with a warm and welcoming environment where they feel loved, where every one of them is treated as a child of God… the day-to-day trials and tribulations of the individual child have kept you motivated in good times and bad.” Theo returned to the Lord bringing with him treasures of 46 years of selfless loving service to the poorest of the poor.
A Eucharistic Celebration will be held on Friday, 30th June 2023 at 11 a.m. in St. Josefhuis, Johannahoeve 4, Oosterbeek in thanksgiving for his life, to be followed by a cremation in private. The Funeral Mass will be livestreamed on: https://vimeo.com/event/2882273. May he rest in peace!