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    Our dear departed

    Hugo Balcaen

    Hugo Balcaen

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    Frederic Vital Mees smallHugo Balcaen (1932-2021)


    Born in Ingooigem (B) on January 23, 1932
    First vows on September 8, 1953
    Ordained Priest on August 3, 1958
    Missionary in DR Congo (KIN) and Belgium
    Died in Torhout on January 18, 2021 at the age of 88

    Until recently, Hugo was still walking with his walker. Every morning, he would open the front door and the gate and then made coffee.  On Sundays, he would prepare eggs and was not happy when too many eggs were left over.

    Hugo may have started these routines when he was in Bobadi, but probably they began earlier than that. It was in Gbosasa that he blossomed. There, he was supervisor and served customers for the smooth running of the butcher shop, a secondary activity of the large herd of cattle grazing in flocks of a hundred animals on ten thousand hectares of poor pastureland in an endless savanna. 

    Livestock farming generated income for the dioceses of Lisala and Budjala, the butchery provided funds for the parish of Gbosasa. Hugo reported on these activities every year at the meeting of the Episcopal Council. He was always well dressed. Hugo presided the Eucharist in the parish or at the sisters’ house and occasionally in a neighboring village.

    Hugo had become so integrated with his confreres in all that he did and with his many activities that it became difficult for him to accept a transfer or a new appointment. Most of the time, these moments of change passed as opportunities and sometimes as storms. Thus, Hugo suffered. Even at the end of his life, he suffered when he had to move to Torhout.

    Hugo loved conviviality. He loved people and especially his family. He loved more than a glass of beer, especially in his last years, because he received just as much.

    He remained interested in everything that happened in the CICM until the last minute. To the surprise of everyone, his eyes would shine when he was the first to receive news and tell the others, since he was not very talkative before.

    Hugo enjoyed his long life. It was a life that was always marked by what we don’t necessarily want to see, hear, or feel. In the end, we must also keep a sense of what is better and more important. Indeed, that is also what we are created for. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more” (Rev 21:1). As the Bible says, we are made for a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth were gone. The evil and suffering symbolized by the sea will disappear. God will dwell with us. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, death will be no more, and there will be no more mourning, nor crying, nor pain, for what was before has disap­peared” (Rev 21:4). God, Alpha, and Omega will always be with us.

    This biblical promise is an encouragement for us to do what is possible. And Hugo, yes, on his courageous steps to the infinite land of God where we walk after him, who hoped for what we hope for: He is only a few steps ahead. Amen. ■

    (According to Anton van Wilderode)
    Willy Vanhaelewyn

    “The missionary vocation
    that each of us carries within himself
    and that we share together
    is the raison d’être of our bond with our confreres.”

    CICM Constitutions, Commentary, p. 12.