Mission house Saint Joseph
Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians)
The political situation in France and Germany was very anti-religious at the end of the 19th century. By law, made by Jules Ferry, it was forbidden for religious institutions to teach. This meant that the Vincentians who served at many a seminary had to abandon their work. They looked for work elsewhere. Bismarck followed the same policy in Germany with his “Kulturkampf”.
Many religious therefore moved to the Netherlands: those from France settled at the southern border, those from Germany at the eastern border.
Thus the Vincentians moved their seminary in 1882 from Loos-les-Lille (Rijsel) to Wernhout, right at the Belgian border in the municipality of Zundert.
They bought the empty stores and stables belonging to Van Gent and Loos. Wernhoutsburg, as it was called, flourished in a relatively short time and was run in a French way, the language used was French. Maybe because of this it was very European. In 1914 it had 208 students, amongst whom 117 Dutch, 61 French, 7 Belgians, 6 Germans, 2 Swiss, 2 students from Luxemburg, 1 English, 1 Swede and one student from Peru.
Mission House Saint Joseph in Panningen
When World War I started nearly all students went home. The Dutch managed to keep the seminary Wernhoutsburg from being taken over. Because the available space had already been too small for a long time, they started looking around for something additional. Noviciate, philosophy and theology moved into an empty convent in Panningen, diocese of Roermond, which got the name Mission House Saint Joseph.
Right from the beginning this House became a center from where many missionaries moved to all parts of the world.
After the major seminary was closed, ‘Panningen’ became the central house of the Vincentians in the Netherlands. All activities related to government and administration are located here. Since, as from August 1, 2015, the Dutch Vincentians haven’t run their own Province anymore, Mission House St. Joseph in Panningen belongs to the CM General’s office in Rome.
The missionary spirit of the Dutch Vincentians
The Dutch Vincentians inherited a strong missionary spirit from their French founders which fitted into a vast and deep missionary spirit of the second half of the 19th and the 20th century.
Already at an early stage Dutch Vincentians, mostly formed in France, went to China, the Middle East and South America. When the number of Dutch Vincentians had grown, the Dutch Vincentian Province was founded and entrusted with ecclesiastical areas in China (1899), in Bolivia (1918), in Indonesia (1923) and in the North-East of Brazil (1927).
The young Vincentian Province was able to start work in parishes located in the mining area in the South of Limburg (the Netherlands) where Vincentians got involved in social work for miners. Places coming to mind are Rumpen, Nieuw Einde and Lindenheuvel/Geleen. In this context the name of Joseph Colsen will not easily be forgotten.
Work was undertaken in the fields of health care, prisons, industry and the trailerpark community.
Moreover, the growing Province was able to assist other CM Provinces and countries. Many Dutch Vincentians worked in Chili, Central America, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and the USA.
The Belgian Province was provided assistance in Congo.
In the middle of the 20th century Dutch Vincentians started work in Taiwan, which later became a Chinese CM Province. In 1956 Ethiopia was added to the list where missionary activity took place, and in 1957 a group missionaries departed to commence work in Curaçao.
Vincentians took part in missionary activities in the Netherlands as well. Exhibitions related to mission areas were organized. Fund raisers toured the country, and a center for activities (Missie Actie) was erected. Through publications and periodicals (“Vincentius a Paulo” and “Missiefront”) public attention was raised.
The CM Provinces Indonesia (1958), Fortaleza (1967) and Ethiopia (1993) were directly founded by the Dutch Vincentians.