The extra bit of patience, a kind word during the coffee break, for that you need to be on campus.

Brotherhood during coffee breaks

Brother Hermenegildus Beris worked 51 years as a missionary in Namibia. In 2016 he returned to the Netherlands. In Namibia, at the Major Seminary in Windhoek, he lectured a.o. in African Church History, General Church History, Namibian Church History and Patrology. When they could not immediately find a successor to take on those colleges, Brother Hermenegildus – then a young 87 year old – was found available to continue his work. Nowadays this can all be done ‘at a distance’. From his present home in the brothers’ community Eleousa in Vught, he uses Skype on his computer to make contact with the seminary at Windhoek via the screen. This way he “lectures” several times a week.

After working like this for one-and-a-half year it was found in Namibia that it was about time that Brother Hermenegildus should appear once again in front of his students, eye to eye. Brother Hermenegildus agreed wholeheartedly and left on the 16th January this year to Windhoek in Namibia for a work-visit.

“Young people, like my students”, Hermenegildus tells us, “don’t ask straight out for mercy. Apart from a possible death or serious illness. That’s why my attention goes out to them. Especially the seminarians in the lower years, they often struggle with English, and you need to be really patient with them and offer them extra help. Being patient is also a form of mercy and compassion.”

At the Seminary where students come together from different ethnic groups, brotherhood is important, but not always self-evident. Brother Hermenegildus: “Among the seminarians this is sometimes quite awkward, as they come from widely diverse countries. All different cultures, languages and customs. As the Staff is expected to set a good example, I have always tried  to maintain friendly ties with all of them: Indians, South-Africans, Poles, Austrians, as I walked among them as a Dutchman.

I always found the coffee break important, as that was the right place for brotherhood. All this is much more difficult through Skype. Teaching from a distance is – as the word already says – more distant, even in the figurative sense. One teaches, with patience and kindness, but much further one doesn’t come. The extra bit of patience, a kind word during the coffee break, for that you need to be on campus.”

Meanwhile Brother Hermenegildus is back. On the 1st May this model of vitality, our confrère, arrived again in the Netherlands, quite content. Content, because he was able to do his work once again the way it suited him best, close to students and colleagues, coffee breaks and all.

Nathalie Bastiaansen