Our Congregation in the Netherlands


Het verhaal van 'from Nonnen van Vught'

Annette heere

A summary of the book written by Edith Pirard


Introduction to the book summary

This work by Annette Heere, published in Dutch in 2017, is of great interest to the whole Congregation, which can thus know, or remember, a page of its history in the Netherlands. Annette witnesses many steps taken by the Church, society and the Congregation and these are precious pages that she delivers to us. Previously, in 2002, 'Regina Coeli, klooster en meisjespensionnaat in Vught' 1903 - 1971 was published and was written by N. Van der Heijden - Rogier.

In n ° 89 of the Noticias of 2017, Annette presents her book as follows: “I wanted to write the history of the Institute for all those who are currently pursuing this work with dedication… Who works for 'de Nonnen van Vught' must to know its history, and therefore the origin of the Congregation, to have an idea of ​​what religious life is, a reality more and more vague in our country and even unknown to young people ”.

Beyond the recipients of the Language Institute, this book is a trace of the history in which Annette has written her story.

Annette has been a member of the Congregation since 1953. She made her novitiate in Verneuil then was attached to Regina Coeli, a community then made up of 7 different nationalities. She participated in several stages of this history and guided its evolution.

On the basis of minutes of council meetings, the superior's agenda, annals, chapters, writings of Sr. Maria, programs, methods and circulars, reports of the treasurer Sr. Christina, we retraces, down to the daily details, the life of the boarding school, the community, the language laboratory, the foundations in California, Mexico, Switzerland and Rotterdam.

She also relies on her notes, her personal diaries, her memories, the archives, kept for more than a century, and her experience as head of the boarding school and the Council of the Language Institute.

She lived close to the sisters and was curate for several years. She also made numerous visits to California and Switzerland.

So we have before us the itinerary of the Congregation to Vught, in the Netherlands, a period of 115 years, fruitful as well as eventful. Annette left us a precious trace, well documented and analyzed. And not devoid of humor.

His 320-page book received a large response from alumni, friends, staff, collaborators, and in the press upon its release, and after the author's death.

She rightly thanks those who helped her compose it: De bestuursleden van de St Pierre Fourier Stichting, Lodewijk van der Kroft, Ed Bijnsdorp and Ellen Baake. Mr Coen Free, proofreader Pauline Berendsen, his doctors and his family.

Annette felt that she was carrying a centuries-old treasure in the Netherlands and was concerned that it would not be lost.

It notes the historical facts but also explains those which guided a particular decision. It is inspired by 'Business spiritualiteit' by P. de Chauvigny de Blot and P. Pronk who underline that knowing the ideal of the Founders and maintaining it gives the strength to live their values.

The "WHY" (Simon Snek) is the common thread of this book and also inspires the Language Institute: when a person and a company know the WHY, it is an added value.

Some illustrations appear in the book and underline with discretion, not only the various phases of construction or extension of buildings, but also scenes of everyday life, both in community and in boarding school.

A special thank you to Ellen Baake who accompanied the development of this book with an active and friendly presence alongside Annette, knowledge of archives and work at the boarding school, as well as in the successive drafts of the Institute. of Languages ​​and its decoration. As to Huize Alix le Clerc.

“Het verhaal van de Nonnen van Vught” is a story, not a historical book, although all the facts related have been verified in the archives. “De nonnen van Vught”: so we speak of the Congregation in Vught, so speak of the former pupils.

Regina Coeli is quite simply the name chosen and remained, without addition.

Personally, I recognize that the arduous reading of this work (my knowledge of Dutch is school-based) interested me greatly and I dare to hope that this modest summary will reflect this interest.

                                                                                                         Sister Edith Pirard

    Delegate of Belgium

By Nonnen van Vught

Resulting from the meeting of Pierre Fourier (1565 - 1640) and Alix le Clerc (1576 - 1622), the Congrégation Notre-Dame was born in 1597 in Mattaincourt. The first sisters began in Poussay, then more widely in Lorraine and France, the first schools for young girls.

Crossing many contradictions and hostilities, the Congregation was deployed and schools multiplied 'for both poor and rich' in Europe and as far as the ocean sea.

The initial idea of ​​creating a new house, of doing all the good possible, of working for the education of girls, of opening a kind of micro-credit before the letter, lives in the first sisters and the Congregation today. .

But what is the origin of Vught?

The Combes law of 1904 had consequences for education in France and affected the various religious congregations. To continue the mission, they had to go into exile. The community of Lunéville then welcomed 100 boarders and 100 day students and 130 children in free school. 60 nuns led this business.

Thanks to their former pupils living in the Netherlands, they learned of a 7 ha property in Vught. The boarding school lasted until 1971; the sisters of Gray, they settled at the same time in Ubbergen, in more modern buildings but on a smaller site. They closed in 1972.

The agreement of the local bishop for these two settlements was subject to one condition: a limited time and therefore the prohibition to undertake activities that would harm competition. They then started a boarding school and were taught in French.

Lunéville moved at night, by train, thanks to multiple helpers. Fortunately the border was close and the complicity of the station master assured. A few months later, 24 wagons arrive in Vught. We guess, thanks to the pictures, that in proportion to the imposing buildings of the sisters in Lunéville, it is relatively unrepresentative. Customs charges for all school equipment were substantial. The inhabitants of Lunéville

also brought back the sisters' furniture stored in their attic. They left France, regretted by a crowd insulting the law and its author.

In Vught, the sisters respect episcopal restrictions. Everything is done in French. Some interns from Lunéville followed them, others were recruited locally. Education in French is suitable for high society. The life of the sisters is organized around a boarding school.                                                       

After the First World War, the number of interns fell. The sisters plan to return to France and invest in a new house in Nancy, while those in Ubbergen aim for Dijon. These houses do not have the status of subsidiaries of Vught. However, the community of Vught generously helps the sisters in France and will keep this spirit of sharing with the whole of the Congregation.

In 1926, thanks to a new parish erected in Vught, a kindergarten and a Sainte-Thérèse primary school began. The secondary school will follow and offer a quality education, crowned with success by the success of the students in the final exam. The number of students quickly doubles and the lack of premises becomes glaring.

In 1962 we blessed the new construction of the secondary school for girls which merges with Xavierius college for boys and bears the name of Maurick college.

With the language laboratory, teaching will offer a range intended for kindergarten children, young people and adults. Sister Miriam Noyons worked hard to obtain the expansion of her institute, where the teaching of foreign languages ​​was renowned.

In the 60s, marked by the Second Vatican Council, the renewal of the Church and of religious life, the Netherlands experienced fundamental movements, sometimes contradictory, depending on the Congregations and the works.

Profound changes mark society (sexuality, abortion, women's freedom, feminist movements…). The population is changing. That of schools and boarding schools too.

In Regina Coeli the teaching adopts the programs and methods of the country. The boarding school is also evolving (more frequent returns to the family, gradual abandonment of the uniform, etc.).

In community, 8 times of prayer punctuate the day of these teachers. In 1950, the Roman document “Sponsa Christi” calls for clarity of the type of life. Mixed life congregations (contemplative and apostolic) have to make a choice. A first orientation advocated with insistence by the Superior General of the time (Sister Agnès of the Sacred Heart Dognin) will accentuate the contemplative life, without convincing the community of Vught.                              

For his part, Cardinal Alfrink (1955 - 1976) speaks in the opposite direction and encourages the congregations to abandon teaching (financially supported by the State) to the laity and to follow the evolution of the society where the Church is involved. still too little. This orientation affected the habits and customs, the enclosure, the habit, the school, the boarding school and pushed to seek work outside the community.        

The strong point of the sisters was education, language learning, the infrastructure of the boarding school, the premises. … Several sisters were retired from teaching. Were they equipped to respond to Cardinal Alfrink's proposals? Which option to follow? A bubbling of ideas, writings, questions seized the sisters. A hurry too.

A Jesuit (exegete) and a Dominican (spirituality), through their conferences, advance the reflection of the community. On the other hand, the publication in 1964 of “Un missionaire de la Contre-Réforme” by Hélène Derréal succeeded in convincing the sisters that our Founders had wanted the congregation at the service of teaching, without subjecting them to the obligations of the nuns.

In the meantime, the 1963 merger between the Roman Union (France) and the Union of Jupille (Belgium) brought our number to 1300 sisters in 50 convents, several of which were established in Africa, Latin America and Vietnam.                      

Prepared by successive chapters, the apostolic option was voted in 1969, which brought about other changes (enclosure, habit, abandonment of Latin for the Office, style of authority, silence).

In the congregation “Unity” did not rhyme with “Uniformity”. The vows themselves were given a new interpretation. We also talked about the personal budget: what did everyday life cost for the sisters who had not handled all the money, the florins?

Looking back at the change, trial or liberation for some, was abrupt, gripping, radical after a convent life that was too long static, removed from the changing world which no longer understood and appreciated it.

There were three categories of sisters in the Congregation: choristers, converse, tourières. The 1966 chapter removed these distinctions, signs of injustice and sources of suffering. But in the Netherlands the “mother / sister” separation continued for a few years, especially at boarding school.                                            

Annette draws sympathetic portraits of Sr Angélique Hanhart (Switzerland), Sr Emmanuel van den Aker (Editor's note), Sr Joséphine Klarenbeek (Editor's note), Sr Hélène Elissen (Editor's note), Sr Thécla Wassink (Editor's note), Sr Marie-Anne Hanhart (Switzerland ), Sr Theodora van Geene (Editor's note).

The problems of the world penetrate in community and, in 1962, the prospect of a new project, daring and promising, springs up.



Sr Miriam Noyons and Sr Lutgarde Verhulst have been maturing for 2 years a “golden” idea and suggest using the school premises - outside school hours - and on weekends to teach languages ​​to adults (preparation for a missionary, help to Third World countries, scholarship holders). First step for the sisters towards a commitment in society, as Cardinal Alfrink wished.

Of course, such a 'business' cannot be improvised. Miriam visited an audiovisual center in Saint-Cloud. Creative temperament, she hatches plans, obtains the collaboration of a well-known agent of the Ministry of Education in Den Haag. It contacts officials of the Ministry of Education, Arts and Sciences, obtains approval and subsidies, with the agreement of the secondary education inspectorate and the collaboration of the three pedagogical centers concerned in Vught.

For her part, Sr. Maria Luykx, professor of German, inquired about the learning processes and methods and requested the authorization of the Ministry of Education for the creation of a language laboratory, such as exists in the University of Groningen and Den Haag.

The lessons had to be given by teachers whose mother tongue was and to introduce them to culture.

We can only salute the accompaniment of the community carried out by Sr Lutgarde in this post-conciliar period. As well as the lucidity and daring of the steps taken to obtain the necessary authorizations. Let us add the tenacity to carry out this project and the enthusiasm transmitted to the community so that this innovative project becomes everyone's business. It even became the project of the sisters of other vicariates who went to strengthen the group of language teachers. EP

In July 1961 the Villa is vacated and offers premises and rooms. Sr. Christina de Hosson takes care of all the administrative work.                                                                    


From March to September 1962

Five sisters go to Saint-Cloud. Annette is a driver. The visit, although cordial, did not satisfy the group. We then go to Cedamel, in the 24th arrondissement, where the equipment is interesting: cabins and helmets. The firm could install XNUMX cabins at the school of which Miriam is the director. The next day we move on to the Institute of Higher Commercial Studies in the XNUMXth century. The equipment is too old (it dates from three years ago…). We then visit a talenpracticum in the XNUMXth century. We are told that learning a language is all about training, hearing, repeating. Let's say that these days brought nothing to Maria, if not fundamental questions about the need for a laboratory and the desire to research in the Netherlands and therefore to multiply contacts there ... which increased the number of questions rather than some answers. Among those :

  • We learn the language in the mission country, we were objected.
  • Which language to start with? Swahili or ???

There is also the question of recordings and especially that of copyright.

Sr Maria places an order in Paris, London, Oxford, Berlin, and the Sisters of the Congregation come to assist in different languages.

Sr Maria is an expert in 'public relations'!

We are in the name to choose for this new establishment. We decide to keep “Regina Coeli”, while making it possible to access other faiths.

A circular is sent to religious superiors. Maria also gets in touch with the Migrant Center in Den Haag and with other associations likely to be interested in the project… to recruit and ask for subsidies. The response to this last crucial point disappoints her, while applications from young people from the Third World (Africa or Latin America) are multiplying. The stays are paid by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Little by little, the need for an autonomous building is essential. No grant is in sight.                                                                                                                                          

August 1962 to July 1963

There are registrations for English and French. It is faster than expected and the number of locals is insufficient. Stewardship must follow as well.

This first group works in the audiovisual sector, and the finances are independent of those of the community.

In August 1962, there were 40 nuns from 12 different congregations and 2 lay people. Most come for English, a few for French. An English layman will give conversations.

19 Kenyans are registered for the Dutchman.

In 1963 there were 15 lay people for the Dutch. Young African girls are there to prepare for higher studies ... or even bishops come to improve their skills before participating in the Council.

The number of religious decreases, as does that of agents destined to go to the Third World. It is a disappointment for those for whom the language is a bridge between men, between peoples. Contributing to the construction of this bridge is a real privilege.

Suddenly, in September, enrollment of 156 students including Belgian ambassadors abroad, forced to present a competition in Dutch. The reputation of talenpracticum thus crossed borders! However, it seemed intended for an elitist population, and formed like a microcosm of the United Nations, where meetings were out of the ordinary, without rank or privilege.

What a challenge to make such diverse people coexist and study together, in the shadow of the convent and the school. EP

The learning method is a definite asset. Interactive, it continues to prove itself and the initial principle has never been abandoned: quality of the teacher, of which it is the mother tongue. To which are added personal work, the use of adapted techniques, conversation. All in a great spirit of mutual aid.

Maria is thinking of full-time courses, modules of one to a few weeks.

Their own Talenparacticum is installed: the July 15, 1993, it had 12 cabins and was accessible to people from Vught and the surrounding area, two evenings per week.

This rapid growth is due to various factors. Of course the demands are numerous; 4 more cabins in May 1964. During the 1965 work, there was no interruption of the courses.

  • At the external level, let us note the advent of Europe, then that of the European Council in 1965. The extensive use of new technologies (tape recorder, etc.). Advertising in the media, both abroad and in the Netherlands. Maria's participation in several symposia and congresses concerning language learning. For example at the Council of Europe.
  • Among the internal factors, let us underline the particular care given to the moments of registration, reception, meals, personal contacts. A smiling discipline also favored a climate of brotherhood. Maria would wave the bell at the end of class. And the concentration of work, on weekends or weekdays, seemed to please everyone.

But there are still areas for improvement, including the sharing of premises. Students, boarding schools and nuns lived together for 9 years. Of course, this caused human and cultural exchanges! But we note the mediocre quality of the equipment: dishes, furnishings… Not that the students are complaining, because the atmosphere and the attention to people go beyond these shortcomings.

Is it a business, to be managed as such?                                               

To tell the truth, its maintenance is only possible because the sisters who work there are not salaried. However, in November a part-time secretary was hired. Salaries are also granted to the receptionist and the hostess at the villa. Plus the teachers' remuneration.

Over time, the Talenpracticum gains in the professionalism of all this staff: schedules, scale, days off… The time for small lists with the number of services provided is over! Everything is done by computer.

1972 – 1973

It's time for inspections, taxes, accounting checks, teachers' schedules. The administrative structure is based on laws and everything is well accepted by the teachers.

The following year, it is the service of family allowances which appears. The need arises to make the laboratory a foundation independent of the convent and designed with experts. 1975 will mark the inauguration and Annette represents the Congregation and its values ​​within this office.

Let's go through the agenda of the following

In 1974, Maria was 70 years old.

Could a merger be considered with Stichting Bijzondere Cursussen (SBC) (Foundation for Special Courses) which also includes language courses? It should be remembered that the internship ceased in 1971 and that research for the Regina Coeli Foundation is underway. The old building is for sale and the Talenpracticum can rent its site for a year.

The sisters of Ubbergen and Vught live under the same roof: the Alix Le Clerc residence. We will discuss this again in another chapter.

In August 1977, the merger with the SBC is envisaged, quickly followed by fiscal and financial difficulties which call it deeply into question. The old building is bought in 1981 by an Institute welcoming the hearing impaired and the Talenpracticum must leave the premises.                                           

From 1969, the premises were enlarged by the occupation of the gym of the boarding school. We cut it in half for classrooms upstairs and a dining room on the ground floor. This further increases the number of students. Their profile changes, two assistants to the Direction are hired, but the warm atmosphere surrounding all the students remains one of our characteristics.

What are we still doing? Plans to construct an independent building.

Austrian deputy Ulrike Swagemakers follows progress with Christina and August 1982 the blessing of the premises takes place, followed in September by the official inauguration.

A stele is discovered, with the following inscription:

I speak your language, speak mine,

Then each heart will hear its own.

A new story will then begin.

Maria, still active, has her room in the Talenpracticum for 10 years.

En 1984, a beautiful celebration takes place for its 80 years. The speeches are full of praise and do not leave Christina behind, who forms a wonderful tandem with her.

The introduction of computers in the laboratory still requires work. Maria is far-sighted and presents the Board of Directors with the educational needs and at the level of welcoming and relaxing students in the evening (as well as scrabble games!). From the start, the Villa (Eikenheuvel), first in the park and then next to Alix le Clerc, had this function.                               

En 1987, two cabin carriers are installed in the garden.
25% more space is needed as the number of registrants increases from 40 to 60 per week. It is the construction of a new wing communicating with the old one by a light passage, a terrace and an interior garden.

Evening classes are also being intensified. 1er January 1988 the Talenpracticum receives its legal structure and in 1989 the name of "TalenInstituut Regina Coeli".

In 1990, the maintenance style of the house was renewed and a logo was chosen.

In 1991, it is the inauguration.


The Villa, inseparable from the whole

Initially, it was intended to be a place of reception for African students; we also liked to meet there in the evening to relax. The first mistress of the house was Mrs. M. Dietz - von Zambaur. Then, it was Mrs. E. de Vries- van Dijk for 5 years who then passed the torch to Sr. Marie Paul, polyglot (Editor's note, French, German and a little English). She held the Villa until 1989, arousing the friendship of all those she hosted for a coffee break. Who could forget her kindness and the traditional Thursday night group photo? From 1er floor she indicated everyone's place for the photo in the garden!

Messages collected in the guest book testify to the warm welcome found at the Villa. Anonymity and dates were respected.

Yes, the Villa was a place of fraternity, inseparable from the whole. Everything is run by women, says a host. This is Vught's matriarchy!

But the convent, the boarding school, the Villa were finally sold. We moved to Aloysiuslaan / Helvoirtseweg, house which was also given the name of Villa.

1989 : It is the closure in favor of a space in the new building.


A few more thoughts

1903 – 2003 : 100 years of the presence of the sisters in the Netherlands.

1963 - 2003: 40 years of the Taleninstituut

These events were celebrated and Annette spoke there. Taleninstituut is based on the spiritual foundations linked to a convent which is part of a teaching Congregation whose tradition has been perpetuated through the presence of sisters working on a voluntary basis. A sum is given to the convent, but they are not individually salaried.

In 1984 began “after Maria”. Her withdrawal and that of other sisters were not easy to assume. The number of students is increasing, as are the prices. We go from modules of 3 to 2 weeks. Mentalities change, the laity must have a decent salary, the PCs appear, two directors with the opposite character share the responsibility. Not always with happiness. Between 1995 and 1997 a director was hired. Two ladies succeed him. The boom continues.

The Congregation celebrates its 400 years of existence in 1998, celebrated on December 12 in Vught. Annette addresses the question of the future and explains the steps taken to maintain the quality of teaching. The St Pierre Fourier Foundation strengthens the link with the Taleninstituut, doubled in 1998 by the creation of the Stichting Administratie Kantoor, with a legal personality. The fourth centenary was a real celebration for the community.

Let us recall the stages of construction: 1982, expansion in 1991, already too small for 62 pupils.

From 1998 to 2008, Heinz Jansen van der Sligte wanted the workforce to increase to 80.

On December 9, 2000, the first stone was laid and in 2001 the new building was built. We are celebrating 40 years of experience, openness to the media. The press gives wide coverage to these festivities. Vught takes place in the cartography, the town is known by the Taleninstituut.

Basically, 10 years in 10 years we transform, we expand. Logical consequence of the boom and the long waiting list for students. EP

The 2008 financial crisis was unexpected. The destruction in 2011 of the two Twin Towers in NY had serious consequences on the stock market. Regina Coeli suffered the consequences due to a decrease in the number of clients. Fortunately, the Institute survived and gradually recovered. (cf. article by Annette in Noticias n ° 83 of September 2016).

Thanks to the evolution of digital technology, we have the idea of ​​transforming the unused space into 48 small rooms. These transformations took place in 2014 - 2015, without interrupting the functioning of the institute. The whole was inaugurated with a festive weekend on the 1ster April 2015, marked by the unveiling of the statue of Alix le Clerc in front of the building. Pierre Fourier already had his in the garden.                                              

Language is a means of communication

Language is also a carrier of culture

It is above all conviviality.


2012 : For the 50th anniversary of the Institute, there is no celebration. The time has come for crisis, a source of tensions and concerns. We must separate from collaborators with specific contracts. Reach us during three ?????? of scholarships for refugees who need to learn Dutch to pursue their profession. We are working to make ourselves known in Europe.

The name changes and becomes: “Regina Coeli Language Institute”; the names of the different functions within the establishment are anglicized

That year, Mr Martenvan der Krikhen temporarily succeeded Mrs Esther Van Berkel, assisted by a team management. Calm gradually returns.

June 17, 2013 : Start of Mr Harm Jan Bouwknegt as Managing Director and Esther is appointed specialist in language teaching.

The introduction of tablets and smartphones benefits from a dedicated space. The provision of 48 rooms represents added value for the Institute, as well as a library bringing together books likely to interest students on various subjects and in ten languages. (Dutch, French, Italian, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Russian, Arabic)

2014 – 2015 We are building, but the lessons continue.

2016 Inauguration of this simple hotel business.

The convictions are reiterated: renewal, professionalism, on the way to new progress. We keep individual teaching by teachers whose language and culture is. All in a cordial atmosphere and hospitality in the spirit of the Congregation and its Founders.

This lives in the hearts of teachers and students



Steps out of Vught

In 1962, the sisters showed great openness by founding the language laboratory, concerned with teaching adults.

Church and Congregation are on the path of novelty and aspire to it, without knowing where it will lead them.

Over the general chapters of 1966 and 1969 this becomes clearer.

Regina Coeli, under the watchful eye of a religious, is in search.

Bishop Alfrink reiterates his positions. Mgr Bekkers directs towards antisocial districts, it was said at the time.

Fr. van Kilsdonk sj, in February 1964, wrote that everything condemned us to death: prehistoric clothing, closeness to society and the little chance of development for the sisters themselves. This underlines the urgency more than other opinions collected.


California call

Father Daniel O'Callaghan, unknown, sends us a letter from California. He is in charge of a new parish in Rialto and has ambitious plans: to build a church, a convent, a primary school. If the call is surprising - to settle in California for a school - it receives a positive reception at the levels of the Generalate and the sisters in the Netherlands: the opportunity to establish itself in North America, a wish cherished by the Generalate for a long time. .

But the author of this call is hardly realistic as to the date of completion of the work and the equivalence of the diplomas recognized in this environment.

In 1965, two sisters go on reconnaissance and are joined by a Brazilian sister, Sr Rosa de Lima. They find a traditional Catholicism, attached to the Latin liturgy and to the rubrics. No trace of ecumenism. The sisters talk about finances. The Father cannot pay for their trip and goes back on his promises. For the church, the site has not yet started and the land has not even been acquired. The plans are made. He relies on Providence (Dutch ???)                                                                                                                  

Nevertheless, they had the opportunity to visit living parishes where the laity collaborate, opening up social or pastoral possibilities. In short, a country in full evolution, they said on their return.

En November 1965, information is given to the whole Congregation: a foundation of Canonesses in North America.

Anne-Marie Ashmann and Marie Alexis Gtroothoff are leaving on September 14, 1966 and will first improve their practice of English in Great Britain, then make a short stay in Brazil.                                                     

In California, they first settled with the School Sisters. They become aware of the unrealism of Fr. O'Callaghan in the face of the poorly estimated financial situation. Construction is slow and they will have to look for other work.

En 1967, all 3 (2 sisters only are named in the sentence former… !) go a little further, to San Diego, and Sr. Marie Vincent van der Waarden joins them. The Confraternity of Christian Doctrine welcomes and engages them. The salary is meager and requires them to change furniture three times in 6 months. Obviously, they are happy to leave when a bishop suggests that they go and help a struggling primary school.

1969 Chula Vista (California) Their contribution to the school is effective and they appreciate the support provided by a young Belgian, Béatrice Regnier. However, this was not enough to straighten out the school that the bishop decided to close. The sisters stay behind and the CDC still calls on them.

French sisters are added to the group, but feel called to work with the poor and settle in Mexicali 200 kms away. They meet Betsie Hollants there, a journalist who entered the Congregation late.

They cross Mexico in search of a possible establishment.

Dom Samuel Ruiz, a great defender of Indian rights, invites them to work in his diocese in Flores Magon (Chiapas). Béatrice Regnier, Danièle Fienart and Francine Bernard start this group. Marie Alexis and Marie Vincent return to Vught.                                                                                                                   

There is a dispersion, undoubtedly stimulated by everything that at the time favored the personal project.                      

When Anne-Marie went to Southern California, in San Ysidro, she hoped to form a group with three Dominicans. He is entrusted with the management of the CCD (the union for domestic staff).

En 1978, Filipinos and Latin Americans are exploited and underpaid. For 12 years, Anne-Marie traveled the country to defend their rights.

1979: Annette Heere goes to San Ysidro and goes from discovery to discovery in this city on the border with Mexico.

The fridge therefore plays a central role in the house. Each one uses it and community meals are rare. Openness and flexibility are amazing, disturbing. Hospitality is extended to unexpected guests, resulting in a usual commotion for the occupants.

It is also an opportunity for Annette to visit Mexico and to join Flores Magon. Three years later she spent six weeks there. The village is then threatened, in constant insecurity due to the struggle between the campesinos and the large landowners. The sisters settled there, aiming at the development of women. Very quickly, they were accused in the local press of being in possession of weapons and of being communists.

In the surroundings, attacks, assassinations, fires are rife. Of course, the names of those responsible are hushed up. Taking the side of the peasants for law and justice, they alienate the population who prefers security to daily wages.

“I noticed the climate of insecurity,” says Annette, “and the action of Bishop Dom Samuel Ruiz. The duration of this small group seemed to me compromised.    

It was then that the May car accident happened 1983 which cost the lives of Béatrice and Danièle and injured Marie-Alice Tihon, Isabel Sofia de Siqueira and Francine. This was the dramatic end of this group

Annette reported on her trip to the parish and to the Maurick college which invited Dom Samuel and Francine and gave a substantial sum to the bishop. Francine could not return to Mexico, due to illness.       

1985: A call is made to Anne-Marie (65) to be responsible for a group of 3 young women in Tijuana, near San Ysidro. It is a border town, in Mexico, a red light district and families are in difficulty. Anne-Marie will stay there for 12 years. The young people came to the aid of the poorest until the house of the community was transferred to the Salesians.

Four Mexican sisters from another Congregation ask to do an internship with us. One works in alternative medicine, the other is the director of CADHAC (Center for the Defense of Human Rights). This job and this association are not without risk for Consuelo Morales and her collaborators. Consuelo makes numerous interventions in New York, Paris, Berlin, Strasbourg, Vught (where Dom Samuel Ruiz was invited in March 1984) and has received numerous awards. Then there were Cristina, Maria de la Luz (currently in Brazil) and Carmen (deceased in 2014).

Consuelo and Cristina are in Mexico, many miles away.

The St Pierre Fourier foundation has contributed to the work of the CADHAC as well as that of Tijuana.


September 14, 1966, During a meeting of Sr Miriam Noyons with Father J. van en Haak, they discuss a new pastoral that is being set up in the Alexanderpolder, a neighborhood in the making that is part of the entity of Rotterdam. No luxurious churches, the whole district is divided into pastoral sectors working in networks with lay people.

A group is formed: Miriam, Johanna de Rooij and Françoise Weterings and, in 1967, the trio set up in Rotterdam in two apartments, one of which is intended for an oratory and a meeting room for parish groups.

En 1969, a circular from Miriam tells the whole Congregation about their work in the Polder. She underlines the ecumenical aspect, the preparation by a team of Sunday sermons, the evaluations of the work. They form a bridge between believers and their pastors. They visit the sick, support religious education in non-Catholic schools and participate in senior meetings. All this tries to give a new face to the Church.

Miriam's professional experience makes her a parish news editor and a member of various offices. Johanna provides the musical part of the celebrations, she is also the hostess and the driver; Françoise is interested in charismatic prayer groups.

They are animators in a new church (Sainte Cécile) whose pastor is called Father Kraakman.

Their presence lasts 13 years in the polder, including 9 in Sainte Cécile, while keeping regular contact with the community of Vught, with which they share their experience. But some situations are fraught with concern: a young team, bubbling with life… The renewal goes too quickly and keeps parishioners away who find unacceptable innovations such as reading by a woman at the lectern, the presence of women in the choir. This multiplies the complaints addressed to the new Bishop Simonis, who, without referring to the priests and the sisters, settles the problems. The question of the celibacy of priests stirred minds. Some take offense. Theologians have no answer.

In those years, hundreds of priests and nuns left their posts (not just in the Netherlands!). This announces difficult years.

1977: Johanna returns to Vught.

1980: Miriam leaves this settlement with regret. She was ill and died in 1982.

Françoise lived with Gudule Barkmeyer until 2001, then returned to Vught

The Church is undoubtedly undergoing a serious evolution: either the conditions of Ordination change or she grants more space to pastoral agents.

in the liturgy, parish organizations, pastoral care. It is impossible to maintain the current situation, said Bishop Tiny Muskens in 2004.

This is what the priest van den Haak, a true prophet, thought 25 years earlier.


Call in Switzerland

Many young German-speaking Swiss girls were interned at Lunéville and followed the sisters in 1904, then entered the community. This until 1940.

En 1974, Benigna Gabriel invites compatriots from our houses in France and Belgium.

En 1975, Canon Tscherrig of Sion (Valais) asks by mail if the Congregation is ready to make a small foundation and to work in a house for the elderly in this city. The sisters would reside in a nearby apartment and receive a modest salary.

Benigna was looking for work, Marie-Rose Jung was a pedicurist, Zita Buser was a nursing assistant, Klara Rotzer (Belgium) was a pedicurist and they agreed.

The Bishop of Sion looked with a dim view of the arrival of sisters without religious habit. Tscherrig did not see it that way, but the evolution of the Netherlands should not be that of Switzerland. Was the implantation likely to succeed? The character of each, as well as their various tasks and functions could certainly make them happy ... And we decided on this hazardous opening.

1976 Sion

Fraternal life was difficult. Benigna's contacts with the inactive Swiss Caritas were disappointing. The sisters spoke German and French, but ignored the local dialect and were considered foreigners. Klara and Mr Rose's salary rested on residents, unconvinced of the usefulness of this extra expense.

For his part, the Canon took no account of the laws and did not understand that the sisters demanded leave and a suitable salary. However, we obtained the creation of a managerial position for an Ursuline sister. The canon hired a lawyer to settle our differences.        


1979 Lens

Sisters are building a house for the elderly in Sion, not far away, the Christ Roi home and would gladly receive 3 of our sisters to work as caregivers. The 4e, Benigna, would visit residents.

The house was filling up, the sisters had an apartment there. Soon the Management displayed an unpleasant behavior, giving orders, demanding punctuality and strict obedience. Out of the habits of Mr. Rose and Klara who organized their work in the past. Marie-Rose left in September 1980, Benigna did not delay. And, after five years of living together, this group was terminated, which nevertheless had positive aspects.


The boarding school

February 5 1967 : A circular announces to parents that Annette (35) will succeed Miriam as responsible. We are already seeing the impossibility of a long term maturity, given the average age of the sisters and the evolution of religious life.

The parents do not understand the recent departures of the sisters to the new settlements.

We got to know Cécile Veraart and a study commission was set up, bringing together various skills. A survey was conducted among 15 parents: is boarding school a necessity?

We underline the evolution of the family structure (fragmented) and the difficulties. Few people care about the educational project. Young people are expected to be more difficult. Pedagogical and psychological skills will be required for the Management. What subsidies, if any? A survey is organized among 75 institutions in the Netherlands (boarding schools for girls, intended for the different levels of education). Annette organized meetings and withdrew from the group in 1971 when Regina Coeli decided to close the boarding school. Other institutes maintain theirs.

Project is to build 2 pavilions behind the Villa. Everything is calculated and seems feasible, but boarding is much more expensive.

93 parents have requested registration forms, 15 have registered their daughters, the rest are looking elsewhere. A boarding school with salaried lay management is not financially feasible.

The parents are summoned individually and are informed of the closure of the boarding school at the end of the year 1969-1970. Several educators worked there, including Ellen Baake, and shared responsibility for young people. We separate from Cécile, who falls seriously ill at the time. Annette is putting all her energy into bringing this past year to a successful conclusion. In June 1970 several interns left, there were still 40, attending school five days a week and returning to their families on Friday (after study) until Sunday between 20 p.m. and 21 p.m. for most of them.

Let us summarize the educational evolution of the boarding school. Over the years, more freedom granted to interns, there are more outings, smoking is allowed, magazines are presented. There is a certain climate of emancipation, the uniform is abolished, which gives rise to loans, exchanges, even sales. On weekends, outings are organized.

There remains the problem of Sunday mass in the chapel, or on Saturday evening in the parish. The interns came from different backgrounds and for different reasons.

The community

1971 Closure of the boarding school and the rest of the building. Sale of the land.

Recall that 1967 marked the merger of the communities of Vught and Ubbergen. The latter plans to build a building on the property.

The community of Vught is younger, has followed the revival, and speaks Dutch. While the community of Ubbergen has several nationalities and speaks French. At the time of this merger, there were 34 sisters in Vught (Union Romaine) and 24 in Ubbergen (Union de Jupille). However, in the new Alix Le Clerc residence, there are 49 rooms. So it is too little for all the sisters.

There remain the community of Loeffplein, the two sisters from Rotterdam, and Thérèse Ruigrok and Irène Lem in Bois-Le-Duc.

Two communities coexist and share some services, the sacristy in particular. We will say for simplicity that Rosario is the engine and Lutgarde is the heart. The evolution was not the same in the two groups.

The new construction intrigued the Sisters of the Congregation (Belgium and Germany) who liked to see there. Bedrooms and bathrooms were incorporated in the early 70s. Everything was built according to nursing home standards. It does not look like a convent, we hear!

News circulates from one community to another: Congo, Brazil, Vietnam, California, Mexico. We visit, with visiting missionaries, the solidarity centers likely to finance projects.

1984 As soon as rooms become available, a group of 5 White Sisters, Notre-Dame d'Afrique, joins Huize Alix Le Clerc.

For 24 years, we have experienced many end of life, unexpected or not. Rooms became available and a feeling of insecurity grew in this space which had become too big for 22 sisters. What to do ? Do we disperse into neighboring communities or welcome lay people into our house?

En 1992, we can see this second solution, depending on the management of the Sainte Elisabeth nursing home. But the insufficiency of the nursing staff did not allow it. Finally, the LKBB association accepts the purchase and transformation into apartments (because the rooms were built according to standards which are no longer in force) and the rental to sisters or lay people.

You have to demolish to build 36 apartments.

1993 We make the plans with the architect to build a 3e upstairs, an atrium instead of the interior garden which will give light to the apartments. The sisters can stay on site during the works.

1st step: Notice from firefighters. The atrium seems to be a problem ... overcome.

2rd step: Financial review. It's too expensive. Modification to obtain 36 apartments. The Generalate gives his agreement.

3rd step: The option: legal review of the sale clauses to the Institute of the Deaf, whose official name is currently Kentalis. Dispute over the interpretation of the clauses. We wasted time waiting for authorization.

1993 Beginning of storage for the move (sorting, clearance sales, souvenirs, library, etc.). Wires, sockets, tools, enough to open a store. Sr Madeleine-Marie Foulon regularly comes from France to help us. The instructions are followed by the 15 sisters who remain and know they are safe. It is necessary to separate from work instruments (washing machine, dishwasher, etc.)

Models show us what the apartments and common rooms will look like. With the earth removed for reconstruction, a hill was created behind Alix the Cleric II.

The cemetery, behind the house, raises questions. A place of memory of the Congregation of the Canonesses of Saint Augustine 1903 - 1993 will underline the presence of the sisters with a beautiful statue of the Virgin. And the parish cemetery will welcome the other sisters.

July 1996 Each sister receives a "guardian angel" to help her move. 

The following month, in two days, we move. The two communities become one, but Christina, Maria, Rosario and Lutgarde passed away before this day. The rest of the old furniture, silverware, tablecloths, porcelain services, crystals… was sold at auction. Molenweide in Boxtel and Huize Elisabeth provided one administrative and financial assistance and the other day and night care. Care is provided from 9:9 p.m. to XNUMX:XNUMX a.m. by night staff and this service is subsidized. Cooking and cleaning are the responsibility of the day staff who are our responsibility and are very attached to us.                                        

Only the sacristy remains in the hands of the sisters. Rentals are ongoing. Later, Anne-Marie, Thérèse and Françoise join us.

The April 20 2004 it was the dramatic car accident which caused the death of Johanna and Françoise. Sr Stéphane-Marie died on the day of their burial. Marie-Colette survived her burns and died in Paris on March 21, 2007. We visited her in Paris and corresponded frequently. A student very traumatized by the accident was to meet her at the end of March 2007. Mail from the hospital went through Vught and three members of the Utrecht hospital went to visit her. It touched us a lot.

Marie-Rose died three months later: the community had lost three sisters who were still active.

Huize Alix Le Clerc survives and we rent an apartment, the old chapel, to store the archives to be deposited in an inter-congregational center intended to collect them. And an office for the Saint Pierre Fourier Foundation.

A congregation is always founded with a purpose but is not an end in itself. Annette will say in conclusion: “Full of admiration, I note that the French sisters who came to Vught as foreigners gave shape to their ideal which developed and flourished. Now others will wear it and pass it on. "

Alix dedicated herself to teaching and Pierre Fourier fought for this cause. They can be proud of it.


In tribute to all our successors

Annette Heere 2017


Annette died on August 7, 2019 in Vught. Last sister of the Congregation in the Netherlands. But the heritage, transmitted to the laity, remains very much alive.

Regina Caeli Language Institute

Link to the Regina Caeli language institute website.