Photo f.l.t.r.: Br. Johannes Berchmans van Berkel, Mgr. Karel Choennie, Br. Laurenti Verhoeven.
Tilburg, 2 May 2018 – In the afternoon of May 2, 2018, a reunion was held in the Chapter Room of the Generalate of the Brothers of Tilburg. More than 20 former diocesan employees were present when Bishop Karel Choenni, the current bishop of Paramaribo, Surinam, arrived. It was a joy-filled get-together with him and also with each other, because many had not seen each other for years. Warm embraces and rather amicable conversations filled the room.
The Brothers CMM were represented by Brother Laurenti Verhoeven, who from 1960 to 2012 worked in Surinam as a missionary and group leader for the deaf and hard of hearing of the Kennedy Foundation. He was also a member of the episcopal boarding school committee, and founder, chairman and board member of the Special Olympics for thirty years.
Brother Johannes Berchmans van Berkel, who had been a missionary to Surinam for 45 years, welcomed the bishop that afternoon and invited him to share a few developments about the current situation of Surinam’s church and society. Brother Johannes, as a qualified carpenter and contractor, was director of TIM-IN (Timber Company Internaat). Later, through PAS, the Pater Ahlbrinck Foundation, he worked on the construction of churches, hospitals and schools, and in the building up of the Church in the interior of Surinam.
Also represented were the Sisters of Charity, the Sisters FMM: Franciscan Missionaries of Mary working in Albina, the Redemptorist Fathers, the Oblates and some lay missionaries. Brother Lawrence Obiko, Superior General of the brothers, was also present, as were two board members of the Sisters of Charity.
Bishop Choennie spoke about the ins and outs of the diocese of Paramaribo in various areas, which everyone followed with great interest. As a large number of missionaries reads the Catholic newspaper Omhoog every week, and as there are several people who regularly maintain direct contacts with Surinam, quite a few questions came up for Bishop Choennie. He answered these questions very concretely in an entertaining and very skilful way.
He spoke in particular about participation in church activities, the construction and maintenance of churches, schools and diocesan buildings, about various committees, the sports complex and ‘The 8 December Trial’, in Paramaribo’.
School for young talent
Recently, Bishop Choennie started a Catholic school for young talent, where children from their early childhood are offered a school curriculum to develop their singing, music, dance, acting and sports talent to the level of secondary education.
A hopeful vision
His balanced and hope-filled vision of the developments, in which he personally strives towards ‘Unity in Diversity’ came through loud and clear. This approach turns out to be solidly based on the episcopal motto of Bishop Choennie: ‘Love the Lord and your neighbour’. It is fair to say that it has been a successful gathering.
Brother Johannes van Berkel