90th Birthday Celebration of Fr Henk Van Kessel in Chipata.

feast-henk-03Article and photos by Fr Camille Konkobo, Vocation Promoter.

Fr Henk van Kessel has clocked 90 years old of age on the 7th September 2016. The Missionaries of Africa in Chipata organized a celebration for him on September 11. Close to 30 people gathered around him; religious men and women and lay people.

Prayers and a meal were shared including the raising of a glass for a toast in his honor lead by Fr G. Nyoni, diocesan Pastoral Coordinator in Chipata. Being asked his secret of his longevity, he simply replied; “Do not stop breathing!” On behalf of the Missionaries, Fr Jean Luc Gouiller spoke kindly about Fr Henk who himself encouraged each one to remain disciplined and moderate in our way of life. “The secret of reaching 90 years is regularity, discipline and prayer”. He added: “I am happy to celebrate this moment with you all”.

feast-henk-01Fr Henk took the opportunity to thank everybody who made it possible for him to be who he is today. He expressed gratitude to Fr Camille Konkobo for being instrumental in organizing and inviting all the communities within Chipata for the event.

In return Fr Camille thanked also the invited guests and all the confreres who sent a message of best wishes to Fr Henk. Those messages were read at the great amazement of each one. The day ended with the blessing of Fr Henk.

feast-henk-02The psalmist says in Ps 90. 10: “Seventy is the sum of our years, or eighty if you are strong.” Where can we put Fr Henk? Has he not challenged the psalmist? Reverend Fr Henk, ad Multos Annos!

Henk van Kessel appointed Knight of the Order of Orange, Chipata, Zambia.

Henk van Kessel appointed Knight of the Order of Orange, Chipata, Zambia.

Henk-van-Kessel-Knight-02_AAwarded for those with special merits Henk van Kessel was appointed Kinght of the Order of Orange for his service to the Zambian people and Church over the past 62 years.

By Jean-Luc Gouiller, Kalongwezi, Chipata, on 10th March 2015

The ceremonial decoration took place on 21st February 2015. Henk remembers well the name of the Lady Ambassador: “Gera Sneller”. She cares for three countries: Zimbabwe where she lives as an Ambassador, Malawi and Zambia. She came by road to Chipata as a tourist.

She arrived at our place in mid-morning. I welcomed her, then presented Henk the hero of the day, the Auxiliary Bishop Mgr. Benjamin Phiri, Fr. Christopher Sakala Parish Priest of the Cathedral and Fr. Jacob Zulu in charge of communications in the Diocese. Then the whole Kalongwezi community was presented, plus of course Toon van Kessel from Lusaka – Henk’s cousin, and our cook Evarista Zulu.

Knight of the Order of Orange medal copieThe Ambassador told us a little about her, and then it was the time of the ceremony, simple but pleasant. Toon recalled the life of Henk and especially his sixty two years in Africa, all spent in what is presently the Diocese of Chipata, an extraordinary length of time indeed. Toon ended by saying: May be Henk has not done very great things, but he has done plenty of small things in a great way.

The Ambassador expressed her pleasure to be the one called to decorate somebody with such a life in Africa. Then everything was ready: Henk was decorated as “Knight of the Order of Orange”.  Some pictures were taken, which a little later were already presented as a souvenir to him and to the Ambassador. The whole time Henk was at his best. Indeed, even if he was not ready to travel far away for the decoration, he very much appreciated it. And we all enjoyed to be witnesses to his decoration

Blessed be the Lord for such a life and such a day.

To end it all, after a gift or two to be added to the feast, lunch was the occasion to go on talking, listening to some experiences from the Ambassador and talking ourselves about our past and present life in Zambia.

A question remains: what is the historical background of being a “Knight of the Order of Orange”?

The first thing to remember is probably that, after a long history, it is said that the people of the Netherlands (the Low Lands), managed to organise themselves as a Republic in 1579, with Guillaume d’Orange. After many changes along the following centuries, the Netherlands finally became a State of its own in 1830, under the Kings of the Family of Orange. … until nowadays. No wonder that the name of being a “Knight of the Order of Orange” is very appropriate.

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Kalongwezi community as it has been during the last years

Kalongwezi community 2014Henk van Kessek 2014 JPGDuring the last years, we have most of the time been four or five members in the Kalongwezi community. Henk van Kessel, Dutch, 88 years old, is the unwearied and uncontested Archivist of the Diocese. He has also been the Chicewa/Chinyanja language professor for quite a long time, a job which regularly bounces back.
Dave Cullen 2014 PNGAfter the departure of Edgar Pillet in 2012, at 78, for retirement in France, Dave Cullen, English, of the same age, came to replace him as Chaplain of the Regional Hospital nearby, and, like Edgar also, he gives a help to the Marriage Encounter groups. He also does some visits to the local Prison. Both Henk and Dave go to St Monica’s Secondary School for Masses during the week.
Jean-Luc Gouiller 2014 JPGJean-Luc Gouiller, 78, French, who is linked with some groups of the Christian Agricultural and Rural Adult Movement. He has also been asked to update the demarcations and the title deeds of the various places held by the Diocese of Chipata throughout the Province, a work very much tied with the delicate land issue. He also takes part in some vocation work as do the other members of the community.
Joe McMeninmem 2014 JPGJoe Mc Menamin, Irish, 74, joined us after several years of missionary animation in Ireland. He replaced Edgar Pillet who was also a curate at the Mary Mother of God Parish of Nabvutika, a big compound of Chipata. After some time Joe became and still is the Parish Priest of that very parish.
Halen Kerketta  2014 JPGThe stagiaire Halen Kerketta, from India, is finishing his first year of Stage. He has some activities with the Youth Team of the Diocese and some others in Nabvutika Parish.
René-Garand-2014 JPGBrother René Garand, coming from South Africa, is joining the community and will supervise or follow up the construction work on the site of the new Preformation Centre.