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    Our dear departed

    Herman De Vriendt

    Herman De Vriendt

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    Frederic Vital Mees smallHerman De Vriendt (1941-2020)

     

    Born on August 26, 1941, in Denderhoutem (Belgium)
    First vows on September 8, 1961
    Ordained a priest on August 7, 1966
    Missionary in DR Congo, Belgium, and Senegal
    Died in Dakar (Senegal) on July 3, 2020, at the age of 78.

     

    It is difficult to define the outlines of man, Father Herman, because he was a common heritage, a library and a memory not only for our Congregation, but especially for our particular Church, let us say so; the Archdiocese of Dakar. “Mag mët naa bàyyi cim réew, xale mën naa yéég ci garab du gis, mag toog ci taatu garab di gis”; (It is essential that there be an elder in a country. A child at the top of a tree can see nothing while the elder who is at the foot of the tree sees what the child does not see). This is what Father Herman had become in recent years.

    Duty of remembrance and gratitude oblige, I must write a few modest lines about the man, Father Herman, our paths crossed in 1986 and I was vicar at the parish of Saint Agnès of Rufisque. Father Herman is the eldest of a family of seven children. After his ordination he was sent in mission to Zaire (DRC) in the archdiocese of Kinshasa. He was vicar at the Parish of Saint Pius X of Ngiri-Ngiri and parish priest a.i at the Parish of St Antoine of Bumbu. From 1970 - 1975: he returned to Belgium and began studying at the Catholic University of Louvain with a view to obtaining a doctorate in theology. During his stay in Belgium, he assumed certain functions: Director of Novices, rector, Supervisor, missionary and vocation animation for the cicm candidates.
     
    Arrived in Senegal in 1986, he was vicar and first resident priest in Diamaguene (before its erection as parish of Notre Dame de la Paix on January 3, 1999). Then he became Superior of the Autonomous District of Senegal (1994-2000), Director of the Wolof Diisso project, District Treasurer, Vicar at the Parish of St Abraham, Director of interns of our young confreres cicm and towards the end vicar on Sundays.
    Here are some points that I remember from my neighborhood with Father Herman.

    A deeply integrated missionary

    Arrived in Senegal in 1986, Father Herman began to study the Wolof language before embarking on parish pastoral ministry. And he devoted all his time to mastering it until he created a small nucleus around him, which became the Wolof project “Diissoo” for the promotion of this language, liturgical translations (ABC Lectionaries, the Roman Missal and other publications) and the culture of the Teraanga country.

    He had acquired a perfect command of this language which he spoke fluently better than a native and used it in his liturgical celebrations. With his team, he assured for years the learning of the language to the young confreres, the members of certain religious and lay Institutes. Always available to serve others, he gave lectures and retreats in Wolof in the parishes where he was invited so that the little ones could understand according to the motto of the Wolof Diissoo project (Ndax ñu tuuti nànd). A Simple Lifestyle that made think of Saint Paul "yes, free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more" 1Co 9,19-20.
     
    Father Herman was also involved in literacy training and the promotion of young girls. He was at the school of the poor. Moreover, the life of the poor themselves is for us a school of "humanization" where we have a lot to learn. Father Herman, always with the concern for the little ones to understand, was collaborating with other media to communicate the Good News: he hosted a Catholic religious program titled Laudemus Dominum on RDV, a private Senegalese television and Radio Misercordia. He was a reference in Wolof and his fame went beyond Senegal. Here is an excerpt from our last correspondence "To your question concerning me, I can answer that I am well; I don't go out and follow the instructions to wash my hands, put on masks, etc., but the continuous work for Espérance radio keeps me busy. It keeps me alive, especially the Laudato si shows. In addition, Father Sandi had asked me to translate the two prayers to Mary that the Pope sent for the month of May. Yesterday evening, we were able to send him the translation: two beautiful prayers. "

    Permanent in prayer

    He had intimate contact with Christ and that is where he drew his strength. Even though he was not presiding over the mass, he still wore his alb to concelebrate. As a listener, he received parishioners to accompany them and gave them the sacrament of reconciliation. He liked spiritual reading. His Eucharistic celebrations were always well prepared. He had a black Orthodox rosary with this prayer to Jesus “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, sinner”. Saint Augustine and Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman had marked him well. He understood these words of Pope Paul VI “Let us not forget the lesson of history: fidelity to prayer or its abandonment is the test of the vitality or the decline of religious life”.

    Love of the Congregation of Scheut and of his family

    Father Herman loved his Congregation and wanted to make it known, I am thinking of the care he took for the organization of the Congregation's feasts: 25 years of the CICM presence in Senegal and 150 years of the foundation of the Congregation. He suffered from a lack of vocation in Belgium. He easily shared his family news at our meetings, and some of his relatives came to visit him several times. He celebrated their birthday in community with a good glass of beer and urged us not to deprive ourselves of it. He was easy to get along with.
     
    Yes, we were well aware of your wish to end your earthly pilgrimage here in the land of Teraanga. Because you often said that from year to year, you were approaching the Great Meeting, but it went very quickly. What to say? Quite out of the blue, you set out on your last journey to the Master of life. He will no doubt have said to you: "Come, faithful and good servant, in my joy”. We are grateful to you for everything. Maam Booy (Dear grandfather as the parishioners affectionately called him), go and rest in peace. Mission accomplished! ■ 

    By Charles Ilunga

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