Burying the last Belgian missionary in Hawaii

Burying the last Belgian missionary in Hawaii March 9, 2012

Scanning the Catholic press, I don’t think this item got much attention.  But it should have:

Sacred Hearts Father Victorian (Stephen) Van den Eynde died on Feb. 11 in a foster care home in Pearl City, the last in a line of Belgian missionaries to Hawaii going back before St. Damien de Veuster, a group that left an enormous impact on the growth of the Catholic Church in Hawaii. He was 90 and a priest for 64 years.

Father Christopher Keahi, Hawaii’s senior Sacred Hearts priest, called Father Van den Eynde a “man of faith, who truly enjoyed serving his people.”

He worked as a parish priest for most of his 62-year Hawaii assignment serving in a dozen parishes on four islands. The bulk of his retirement years were spent as chaplain of Malia O Ka Malu Convent, an infirmary residence for senior Sacred Hearts sisters.

His funeral in the evening of Feb. 23 at St. Patrick Church in Kaimuki drew about 90 people, including Bishop Larry Silva, a number of Sacred Hearts sisters and brothers and 11 priests. The simple ceremony was celebrated by Father Johnathan Hurrell, the new superior of the U.S. Province of the Congregation of the Fathers and Brothers of the Sacred Hearts, who described Father Van den Eynde as a “simple man, a simple priest, a simple son of the Sacred Hearts.”

The Belgian priest was buried Feb. 24 in Valley of the Temples Memorial Park in Kaneohe.

Father Van den Eynde was born in Baal, Belgium, which is part of the village of Tremelo, the birthplace of St. Damien. He made his first profession as a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts on Sept. 13, 1943, and was ordained on July 18, 1948, in Zandhoven, Belgium.

In 1950, Father Van den Eynde came to Hawaii where he served the rest of his priestly life.

In a 2009 interview with the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Father Van den Eynde explained that the Islands were not his first choice for a missionary assignment.

“I did not like to come,” he told the newspaper. “I am the boy of a farmer. I wanted to walk through the Congo where the people were working hard to live. As a young man, I wanted to do the great work where the people were poor, poor, poor.”

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Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him…

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