Will the ideals of the Augustinians be continued in another form in DOMUSDELA?

Paul Clement O.S.A.

More | Personal Experiences

Will the ideals of the Augustinians be continued in another form in DOMUSDELA?

Paul Clement O.S.A.

More | Personal Experiences
[origineel]

This question was put to us by Paul Wennekes. Below is a reaction to it.

The Augustinians: a relatively small international order. In the Netherlands – and especially in Eindhoven – we provided a hospitable home for everyone who knocked on the door, we worked as a centre of qualitative celebrations, as a stimulus for education and training in very diverse types of schools and social organisations; we made a considerable contribution to the care for people in the margins.

In Eindhoven, the Paterskerk, the monastery ‘Mariënhaghe’ and a secondary school (until 1959) formed one complex for many years. In 2008 it became clear that our numbers and strengths were diminishing; that we could no longer do everything we wanted and that the Paterskerk was in need of a thorough restoration. The costs of that restoration were unacceptably high for us. The size of the church building (a national monument and an ‘eye-catcher’ in Eindhoven) turned out to be too small for a project developer. No church or civil authority could help us.

The DELA (Draagt Elkanders Lasten) is known as a funeral organisation. But also as a cooperative that wants to be more than a practical, ‘well lubricated’, yet rather one-sided organisation. In a Brainport like Eindhoven, a passionate CEO and employees want to pay more attention to the backgrounds from which people live, for example at funerals, anniversaries, other ceremonies, in-depth meetings, exhibitions and parties.

In 2011, the Augustijnen and the Municipality of Eindhoven – which also maintains the Catharina’s Church as its City Church and makes it available for Roman Catholic celebrations and socio-cultural activities – found each other at a Biennale in Maastricht. The municipality had been the owner of the school for many years which was also in need of thorough restoration.

At the Biennale, we were surprised to find a considerable group of people, mostly younger and also – in the field of redevelopment – expert people from all over the country. With enthusiasm three ways were worked to bring together – in the shared buildings – people who want to reflect on more than just matter and technology; who, WITH HEART AND Soul, are striving for a multifaceted reflection on and commitment to our world.

According to the European directives, we opened a kind of ‘open market’, on which interested parties could tender for a project in part or all of this part of the city centre. DELA, among others, came up with a comprehensive sketch of a Ceremony House, a hotel, spaces for schooling, meeting and spirituality, not only aimed at the so-called elite, but at all sections of society. Moments when life in all its facets is celebrated. After long, in-depth and also difficult conversations, from our ‘tripartite’ consultation and in contact with many social organizations (including the Province of Brabant and various groups that take care of monuments) the DOMUSDELA project was developed. It opened on November 8th. Go and have a look: it is a fine example of architecture and urban (sub)development.

We knew that at least thirty churches had to be closed in and around Eindhoven and that for many of them no other destinations were possible than for example a gym or a shop. We also know that there is a great demand in Eindhoven for places of hospitality for an encounter between cultures and people, and for those who seek a counterbalance for a one-sided material, superficial, and technically high-quality society. Many no longer feel at home in the churches or in a long-term commitment to an association or organization. They seek and find inspiration elsewhere and/or at top or depth moments in their lives. What they receive at those moments can show them the way to deepening their lives, and thus certainly also be an opening to the deepest values of Christianity.

Roughly speaking, there are two complementary approaches in our Christianity. They are not opposed to each other; both have the same goal (keeping the way to and with Christ open), but place different emphases. One way is to ‘let old rituals, concepts and texts speak more or less for themselves’; and to try to let them land in the situation with which people come to us.

The other approach is that of starting from the circumstances and possibilities in which people live now and then finding forms of life and celebration in which Christ can speak. As a rule, these will not be high-church celebrations at this time, but they will be profound ones. We also notice in Eindhoven that there are few funerals or cremations from church buildings; in the villages around the city, with a stronger social structure, people more often look for church buildings.  Farewell celebrations are often first and foremost occasions to do justice to the deceased, to let them speak in a deeper way. Respect and attention for what is then is a requirement. But it also offers opportunities to connect this with our mystery of faith in an appropriate way: life, suffering and the resurrection of Christ.

No one should play these two approaches off against each other. The DELA project offers opportunities for the proclamation of the essential Christian message. The DELA project is also an invitation to continue our dialogue and learning from each other in our diverse ecclesial community.

Against this background, we, Augustinians, wanted to give this project a chance. This offered us a fortunate opportunity not just to dispose of the buildings – out of weakness – but to do a service to the society of Eindhoven and to initiatives for a hospitable, contemplative and committed way of life; and also to be an invitation for a good proclamation and celebration of the resurrection secret.  With this project, the DELA is also taking a risk.  But this is in line with what she puts forward in her latest TV commercials: more attention to what we, in joy and pleasure and everything in between, can do for each other. This is not to say that DOMUSDELA is realising all our of ideals, but it is also an opportunity for Christians to celebrate life and to give it more than the usual depth.

The DELA has treated the buildings with great respect. This can be seen in the way they have been renovated, in the respect with which various elements of the old church have been given their place, in the naming of elements: the ‘Paterskerk’ remains called the ‘Paterskerk’ and the chapel ‘Kapel’; the brasserie and the restaurant – whatever you think of that – have been given the names of two great Augustinian saints; the hotel will be called ‘Mariënhaghe’; the DELA will take care of the Augustinian cemetery and will organise an ‘Augustinian Day’ every year – d.i.e. a day of reflection devoted to various cultural and social themes and problems . It is not meant as a dismissal out of weakness, but as a service to the society of Eindhoven and to initiatives for a hospitable, contemplative and committed way of life; and as an invitation to a good proclamation and celebration of the secret of resurrection.

With this project, the DELA is also taking a risk.  But this is in line with what she puts forward in her latest TV commercials: more attention to what we, in joy and pleasure and everything in between, can do for each other. This is not to say that DOMUSDELA is realising all our ideals, but it is also an opportunity for Christians to celebrate life and to give it more than the usual depth.

The DELA has treated the buildings with great respect. This can be seen in the way they have been renovated, in the respect with which various elements of the old church have been given their place, in the naming of elements: the ‘Father’s Church’ remains called the ‘Father’s Church’ and the chapel ‘Chapel’; the brasserie and the restaurant – whatever you think – have been given the names of two great Augustinian saints; the hotel will be called ‘Mariënhaghe’; the DELA will take care of the Augustinian cemetery and will organise an ‘Augustinian Day’ every year – d.i.e. a day of reflection devoted to various cultural and social themes and problems . It is not meant as a tribute to our Order, but to keep alive what we also stand and stood for.

About the author

Paul Clement O.S.A.