To say the entry of a new member of a contemplative Carmelite community in the Netherlands is a rare phenomenon would be somewhat of an understatement. Marjan van Zetten, who last Saturday received the habit of the Carmel of Nazareth community in Schaarsbergen, is the first candidate to do so in 20 years!
Exceptional personal circumstances – her Protestant background and legal separation from her husband – have made for a bumpy journey for Marjan.
Fr Paul van der Ven who led the clothing ceremony referred to this in his introductory address:
“This afternoon we may witness a festive event, now that you, Marjan, will receive the Habit of the Carmel. The road to get here has been long and not without obstacles. But all this is behind us. We look ahead from now on. Together with the sisters of this community, but certainly also with all who are close to you, especially your two daughters Anne and Fenneke. A warm welcome to them and to all who will live this hour with us”.
The Mill Hill missionary community at Oosterbeek has a long standing and warm connection with the Carmelite community in Schaarsbergen, and has assured the daily celebration of the Eucharist there for well nigh a century. For me personally it was a privilege to be present at this exceptional and very joyful event (as ad hoc photographer!).
The future of the community may be uncertain but the joy and sense of celebration at this occasion were very real. From now on Marjan will be known by her religious name as Sr Hannah.
Paul van der Ven concluded with a telling image:
“At the very tip of South Africa, sisters and brothers, lies the Cape of Good Hope. If the sailors had passed this point after a difficult and dangerous journey, they could be confident that they would reach their final destination. Because here they would have stocked up on fresh water and food for the second half of their journey to the West.
Today, Sister Hannah, you have in a sense passed the Cape of Good Hope. The journey so far has been tough at times. It took the Church a long time to give the necessary permissions. But you have remained faithful to this community in the deep conviction that God has called and placed you here.
Today your belonging to this community has become visible in your clothing. For your loved ones, especially your two daughters, it will take some getting used to. But – to use the image of the Cape of Good Hope again: they and all those dear to you will remain on board on your further journey.
It is not yet known what that journey will bring. New dangers and obstacles will arise, but there will also be favorable winds that will take you and your sisters further on the path of love.
That is my heart’s desire for you and this community: that you may be preserved for each other and may grow in loving knowledge of the great Mystery that we call God and that your love for your children and your loved ones may continue to grow from and thanks to the choices that you made.“
Fons Eppink MHM