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    Our dear departed

    Cornelius Mattheus

    Cornelius Mattheus

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    Cornelius MattheusCornelius Mattheus (1937-2024)

    Born in Messelbroek, Belgium on July 18, 1937.
    First vows on September 8, 1957.
    Ordained priest on August 5, 1962.
    Missionary in Congo (Kasai)and in Belgium.
    Died in Anderlecht, Belgium on Feb. 11, 2024, at the age of 86.

    “Happy are those who are humble in heart, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 5:3)

    Nele's passing was unexpected for us. The last time we saw him, several months ago now, everything still looked decent. Walking became difficult and he had to walk slower, but still as naughty and warm as before.

    “My memories of Nele go back a long way, to the end of the 1950s when he was the Chiro leader in Blauwput-Kessel-Lo. Nele was a boy from Hageland who lived a life of modesty and simplicity. From the beginning, he was one of us, and unlike custom, we could address him by his first name.”

    Modest and simple, Nele has remained true to his roots all his life and to the natural conviviality inherent in his compatriots. With this attitude, he left for the Congo. He became an itinerant priest. Among ordinary people, he felt at home. He was on the same wavelength: he did not talk over heads but adapted his catechesis moments to his audience. He sat at the children’s level, developing a method that inspired many of his confreres. They were happy, fruitful years.

    Nele had many arrows to his bow; his knowledge of mechanics and electronics had not escaped his superiors. He became responsible for the diocese's garage, economate and printing shop. But above all, he remained pastorally active. That was and remained his vocation. For nearly forty years, he lived and worked among ordinary people but also as a confrere who put himself entirely at the service of the community.

    Nele's retirement to Bovenlo was a testament to his love for nature. The garden became his sanctuary, where he worked among the little jewels of God's creation. The plants, the trees, and his beloved flowers brought him closer to the mystery of life, the source and final goal of his life choice. Just as Elijah experienced God in the sway of the gentle breeze, Nele sensed His presence in the gentle swaying of the flowers.

    Nele was a man of silence and few words, yet he was always an astute observer of what was happening around him. He had a remarkable knowledge of people, and when he shared that knowledge with others, it was not without a touch of humor and a particular ability to put things into perspective that is often lacking in our human world. Nele could be critical, but it was always well-meaning and never hurtful.

    His whole life was borne of love, the love that, in the words of the apostle, “is not envious, does not boast, does not puff itself up, does not hurt anyone, does not seek itself and is not embittered, the love that does not charge evil. Nele was a man after God's heart.

    So did the Lord find him this week, and he girded himself, invited him to the table, and served him abundantly (Lk 12:37). Welcome, Nele, to the joy of your Lord.

    - Bart Van Thielen