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The Augustinian friars in the Netherlands: eight centuries of a challenging history

From 21st-23rd April, Prior General, Father Alejandro Moral, together with Bursar General, Father Franz Klein, visited the friars of the Province of the Netherlands.

"It was a very pleasant encounter," Fr Moral told the General Curia's communications office, “As well as some private meetings that Fr Franz and I had with the Provincial, Fr Pierre, and with Fr Paul, on 22nd April we met with all the members of the Province at the residence of the Eindhoven friars.” There are 11 friars there, with the twelfth - Fr Hans - is in La Paz, in the Vicariate of Bolivia.”

The Prior General told us about the fruits of this brief visit: “It’s true to say that we shared some very special moments in a wonderful atmosphere of genuine fraternity and communion. The entire morning, starting from 10.30am, was dedicated to dialogue between all the brothers. Friars from Utrecht and Nijmegen came," a fact that the Prior General wanted to emphasise, bearing in mind that most of the brothers are of advanced age, with the exception of Brother Gerben, from the Province of Belgium, who is coming to the end of his initial formation there.

The Prior General and Fr Franz had the opportunity on the final day to meet with the brothers involved in the economic area of the Province before heading to Amsterdam for their flight back to Rome. 

A brief history of the Augustinians in the Netherlands

The first community of Augustinians in the south of the Netherlands was established in 1237 in a hermitage in Hasselt, Belgium. This was before the Grand Union, at the dawning of the Order, a time when our friars had a notable presence across the region. 

The friary of Louvain in 1237, Mechelen in 1242, Bruges in 1250, Dordrecht in 1275 and Middelburg in 1292, are witness to this strong presence there, at this time.

The present OSA community of Utrecht maintains the legacy of those first foundations. 

Their first community was established in what we know today as the old town of Utrecht, a university city which at the time had several faculties of theology. From the outset, the Augustinian missionaries found it very difficult to carry out their pastoral work because of anti-Catholic laws of the time that forbade public Mass, and which forced them to administer the sacrament in secret in the homes of the faithful. 

Following the French invasion of the Netherlands in 1795, Catholics were finally permitted to build their own churches. The Augustinians had a new church built in 1840 on the city's central canal, the Oude Gracht. The church of Sint Augustinuskerk, squeezed between the houses and the town centre, still retains the beauty of its neo-baroque style, which is quite unusual to see in the Netherlands. It was only at the end of the 19th century that the parish house of St Augustine could be converted into a real friary and thus contribute to the great growth of the Dutch province of the Augustinians.

Between 2016 and 2023 the church had to close due to the deterioration of its structure and artistic enhancements. At the end of these seven years the restoration is now complete, and in December last year it reopened its doors to the faithful. It is now managed by a diocesan priest. 

Also in 2023, the death of one of our brothers threatened to put an end to the Augustinian presence in the house adjacent to the church. However, we have been advised by our Dutch friars that new residents are now in place. Three Augustinian friars live there and, together with the help of three Augustinian Sisters of St Monica, are working to bring the spirituality of Augustine back to the parishioners, students and lay groups. Their presence makes the restored church of St Augustine a place to encounter Christ, and a renewed and revived Augustine.



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