“We always feel at home here”


Nijmegen – The Franciscan monastery in Nijmegen will be closed. the reason? There are very few tasks. From July 1, Franciscan Hans van Bemmel (72 years old) will leave the building and move to Brabant.

Written by Lynn den Hartog

Once there were 1,500 Franciscans in Holland, now there are only 140 men (including Flanders). Average age is 83 and very few calls are added. We have calculated that a man and a half are added every year, but thirteen brothers die every year. So we came to the conclusion that this house should be closed.”

“We have always felt at home here. We have not been looked at strangely. So the neighborhood is sorry we left. Therefore, both parties have a lot of respect for each other.” No matter what you believed in, everyone thought it was good for younger brothers to live over here.”

great time

He still remembers his religious upbringing as it was yesterday. “Since I was young I was preoccupied with God. I was eight when I told my parents that I wanted to be a priest.” Hans comes from a Catholic family. His parents agreed that he wanted to become a priest.

“I had to go to a seminar for this. When I was twelve, I went to the Mission College of Sint Willibrordus in Katwijk aan de Rijn. I look back on a wonderful time, though I didn’t finish training.”

‘anxious, eager’

At a certain point the “itch” began with Hans. “My brothers started dating and I wasn’t allowed to because I was single. My brothers used to tease me about it and say ‘you can’t look at girls’”.

Celibacy was one of the reasons why I left theological school and started working.

I didn’t take that step because I couldn’t believe it anymore. Of course I had my doubts too, but I always had the feeling that one day I would enter the monastery. I didn’t know if my calling was to dedicate my life to God.”

Another voice shouted louder

Hans has served as HEMA Director for more than twenty-five years. He really enjoyed it but decided to stop anyway. “There was another voice crying out a little louder. That voice that spoke to me was from God and then I started to follow the Lord again.”

He remembers exactly at what point in his life that turning point came. “I was a regional manager for HEMA for a number of branches. On a hot day I had to go to Amsterdam for work. I traveled by train and sat on a seat at the station. When I looked up, my eyes fell on a building that read “God is love”. Then I thought if God is love, He should help me make the right decision. Since then, this revelation has kept haunting me.” Finally Hans considered it a sign of God and returned to the Franciscans at the age of forty-four.


Hans went to Heerlen and lived in a community to re-acquaint himself with the Franciscans and regain life again. To be a part of the fraternity, the nominee siblings must go through three stages. After 5 years you can make the official profession and belonging to the system is final.

After Hans worked on his venerable profession, he studied theology and pastoral care at Heerlen. “I was ordained by the bishop to be a deacon and not a priest. It is the deacon who takes care of the poor.”


In Brother Hans’ room, there is a cover on the bookcase with the Feyenoord logo on it. “I am a big fan of Feyenoord. I am a member of the club I was born opposite de Koep.” He often visits De Kuip and watches football regularly at Café t Haantje. “It’s the only place where I don’t wear a robe. Unfortunately, there are people who don’t respond well to that. I prefer watching football matches in my shirt.”

God is love

What is the most important thing Hans has learned? “God is love. For some people, belief in God is incomprehensible. I find it hard to explain faith. How can I explain it in an easy way? Our faith is hard to understand. People want answers to questions that I can’t answer either.”

When people wonder if God exists, he always says: “He is in you, and you convey God’s love.” The brothers also hope to pass this message on to the younger generation. “Young Franciscan work has been set up to mean something to young people. Although it seems difficult to reach this target group. The Church is no longer “in”, it has been replaced by a lot.”

Hans is now on the eve of a new chapter. He leaves Nijmegen. “I previously offered my services to the bishop and am now active as a deacon in Finkel and Geffen. It was a good move for me. I am almost 73 and want to calm down.” Hans will never stop for one thing which is the declaration of God’s love.

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