The Franciscan experience center in Meersel-Dreef

Broeder Kenny Brack OFM-Cap

More | Reflective articles

The Franciscan experience center in Meersel-Dreef

Broeder Kenny Brack OFM-Cap

More | Reflective articles

In Meersel-Dreef, the Flemish Capuchins, under the inspiring leadership of brother Kenny Brack OFM-Cap, converted part of the old monastery into a Franciscan experience centre. Since the Reformation, the monastery has been a well-known spiritual centre for both the Flemish population from the region and for the Dutch residents of the border region. The large procession park and the accompanying cafe and playground have certainly contributed to the reputation of Meersel-Dreef for a long time. But even this place cannot escape the social and ecclesiastical changes of the present time and Father Kenny went in search of possibilities to introduce visitors to Franciscan spirituality and ultimately to themselves in a different, accessible way. Below is information taken from the website of the Saint Francis pastoral unit (Hoogstraten and Rijkevorsel). A link has also been included to the ‘idea and design studio Exponanza’, which helped shape the experience centre.

The idea

The Franciscan experience centre is set up behind the thick centuries-old walls of the Capuchin Monastery in Dreef. The core group and the designers used the old refectory of the brothers, the small refectory, the old monastery kitchen, the old recreation place, the old infirmary, the current cloister and courtyard to be able to go on a journey of discovery with you.

To make this journey of discovery possible, 7 thematic places have been described and / or depicted that you will recognize from your everyday life. It could be that when you open a certain door you are briefly shocked to be almost simultaneously overwhelmed by an enormous peace of mind that comes over you. An accompanying ‘light panel’ with a consciously brief explanation helps you to find a link with our Franciscan spirituality.
Because … Francis of Assisi is your guide throughout the tour through the themed areas. Each theme has something to do with your spirituality and the spirit of Francis. We dare to believe that when you come out, you will have found a match and a desire for more.

In the cemetery where the deceased confreres used to be buried, we are right in the middle of the centuries-old monastery. And under your feet are slate flakes that have also survived the centuries. The massive concrete memorial slab invites you to take a slate chip from the ground and write the name of a fellow human being on the concrete … I now want to entrust him / her to God. One of the first visitors described the courtyard as an almost ‘metaphysical place’ where heaven touches the earth and where you feel one with the cosmos …. indeed above you you see only the sky, below you flakes from the belly of mother earth, around you only bare walls.

Opening hours

The Franciscan experience centre has only recently been realized. (it was festively opened on 8 March 2019) This means that at the moment some agreements are still being made among the brothers who live there and the core group of the centre. It will soon become clear when there are permanent opening hours.
In any case, you can make an appointment with the guardian (br. Kenny) to visit and experience the centre alone or with a group of people. The visitor is free to do this unaccompanied or accompanied. If you make an appointment, it is normally not a problem to contact bro. Kenny or also brother Jan to speak to you during or after your tour to make the themes even more resonant.

Visits and stays

At the same time of the opening of the experience centre, the Capuchin Monastery opened a guesthouse. You can stay in the Capuchin Monastery for several days as a single guest or with your group. If you really want to deepen the different themes, a stay is a very good formula. If you ‘stay’ you are a guest of the Capuchin community and you have a comfortable guest room at your disposal. The brothers consider it normal for their guests to participate in the daytime program of the community.

Design and realization of the Franciscan experience center in Meersel-Dreef.

In the Capuchin Monastery in Meersel-Dreef, the northernmost village in Belgium, the Capuchin Friars live according to the teachings of Francis of Assisi. Exponanza had the privilege of transforming the monastery into a spiritual experience center. We asked and got carte blanche! Contemporary installations give shape to universal, existential themes, with which Francis was also confronted in his time. The contemporary scenography ensures recognisability and offers room for personal interpretations and introspection.

About the author

Broeder Kenny Brack OFM-Cap

Kenny Brack is a Capuchin Friar and a priest. He was a religious teacher in Ypres for several years and then became a federation pastor and responsible for youth ministry in Heuvelland. He sent three of his religious animators in the youth ministry to the very first basic course ‘Godly Play counselor’ and was thus the first pastor to launch Godly Play as part of parental evenings for confirmation children.

Kenny Brack is now a parish vicar in the Saint Francis of Assisi pastoral unit in Hoogstraten-Rijkevorsel and guardian of the Capuchin monastery in Meersel-Dreef. Kenny is also vicar-provincial of the Capuchin Friars Minor Flanders and spiritual assistant of YouFra (Young Franciscans, the Franciscan youth).