Fr Jac Hetsen MHM is a former General Superior of the Mill Hill Missionaries who served in several parishes in the Amsterdam urban area over the past fifteen years ministering to the Portuguese speaking community.
Since 2007 I have been officially pastorally active in what we now call the Emmaus Parish. The first ten years I was in charge of the Fatima Parish and always presided at the liturgy on Sundays. I also helped in the weekday Eucharistic celebrations in the Boomkerk and in the Augustine.
It has only been in the last five years, since Father Ben den Boer has strengthened our ranks through his presence, that I was also allowed to preside in the Dutch Liturgy on Sundays in the Augustine and Vincentius Community and occasionally also in the Boomkerk. I look back on these celebrations with great pleasure, but I also remember several funerals and pastoral visits to patients in the Reade.
Because of my age and for health reasons, I decided after much deliberation to move. Initially, a move to the Boomkerk, where the Fatima parish will also church, was in the offing. But after consultation with my superior in Oosterbeek and with my brothers and sisters, I decided to move to the St. Jozefhuis of Mill Hill in Oosterbeek. There already live 23 fellow missionaries from Mill Hill, the congregation of which I have been a member for 54 years.
In the first week of May I hope to make the transition to my new home with the help of some brothers and sisters. It will be a major transition to live in the wooded area of Oosterbeek from a multicultural Oud-West Amsterdam. I will very much miss my weekly contacts with my neighbor Joop Stam and his Watch Flame Celebrations in the Nicholas Church, but also my colleagues Igno and Ben and various members of the pastoral groups of the Emmaus parish. I will also miss the Monday rehearsals of the choir led by Matthias, because I could sometimes follow them from my room.
I look back on 15 years of missionary presence in a highly secularized climate here in Amsterdam. In fact a very big contrast with my experience in Uganda (East Africa) and my work in Brazil (South America), because there the emphasis was on creating and inspiring ‘Small Christian Communities’. The parishes over there often had only one big church and many small communities, often using small buildings or just a big tree to celebrate the Eucharist under, as was the case in Uganda on Christmas Day for example.
In Amsterdam I was confronted with various church closures, such as happened with the church of Liefde and the Magdalena and the chapel of the Chassé. I encountered highly organized deaneries here… But now this has changed again and we are involved in a partnership with the parish of Amsterdam Nieuw-West, where we got to know new colleague pastors and new board members. These are new challenges and perspectives…
I want to thank you all for your faith and friendship that I have experienced, in the midst of all the questions and problems we face.
I will not easily forget the bible group in the Vincentius Church. They were weekly sessions to consider the Sunday readings.
The Portuguese-speaking community allowed me to keep in touch with my past missionary experiences and faith.
But I was also allowed to experience faith and love here and feel that the spirit of Christ is also present here. I hope you continue to spread the Kingdom of God, here in this area of Amsterdam. Be of good courage!