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    Our dear departed

    Jozef Soenen

    Jozef Soenen

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    Jozef SoenenJozef Soenen (1937-2024)

    Born in Rumbeke on September 5, 1937.
    First vows on August 22, 1963.
    Missionary in Congo (Kasai) and in Belgium.
    Died in Torhout on March 21, 2024, at the age of 86.

    Jef's uncles were farmers. It was appropriate that Jef would also go into farming. But, after his military service, he entered Scheut in 1962. After entering, he went to the technical school in Kortrijk for an A3 in construction. In 1965, he attended a year of catechesis in Ghent.

    In November '66, he left for Congo, where he went to work in East Kasai, Kabinda. He started there as a builder. His first project was a convent for nuns, then houses for teachers.

    But, in 1969, the new bishop of Kabinda wanted to transfer some of the livestock to his diocese. He appealed to Brother Jef for this purpose. After several months of internship with confreres in other dioceses and with a pack of notebooks, he was able to start in Kabinda. On the designated site, he began constructing the elementary school buildings and digging the deeping. There, he was given the name Mulenda by the workers, which expressed admiration for his strength and especially for how he got to work in the deep well of that deeping. But it will be a false start. The land intended for the cows was infected with sleeping sickness. Unfortunately, all the work had to be redone, first about ten kilometers away, and later - after an extension - another twenty kilometers. Until 1999, he remained in charge of the livestock, which had reached some 2,000 heads. Scattered around the concession lived the cowherds and their families. Jef knew them all, from big to small. The children loved Mulenda. Being able to catch a ride in the car was a carnival. For better or worse, he empathized with all those families colored Jef's days. He called them “my parishioners.”

    Jef could talk tastefully about the goings-on with the cows and his workers if he could be heard. On the other hand, he could pull the piers out of someone's nose. One of heart and one of soul were not vain words. Jef was a gem in the community. He really got along with everyone.

    In 1999, the cows were scattered and stolen by soldiers and rebels. It was a painful end to what could have been Jef's life's work. He now limited himself to gardening around our house but could not indulge in it.

    In 2000 - after a leave of absence in Flanders - he did not return to Kabinda but went to western Kasai, Kananga. There, he became responsible for the fuel, vegetable garden, and small livestock.

    He stayed there until 2018 when he came back to Belgium. He lived in Zuun for a short time and then, in February 2019, joined the community of Torhout. There, he devoted himself to the maintenance of the garden, with a particular concern for the grotto. Jef saw to it that the fallen fruit was not lost.

    By the end of 2023, things were getting more difficult. He remained grateful for what he was allowed to experience. He trusted the doctors and staff, but the disease began to gnaw at him, making work impossible. Countless times, he said how happy he was in Scheut and how well he was cared for. He passed away on March 21, 2024.

    - Arnold Quartier