Division of the Catholic Parish of Kloosterburen

by: Koos Halsema
Translation, John Ketelaars


The first time that a petition was made to separate Kloosterburen from the parish of Wehe-Den Hoorn was on 3 April 1819. The request was made by  Eise Reinjes Feddema, Jacob Jans Scholtens and Cornelis Willems Feddema, representing other landowners and inhabitants of the municipality of Kloosteruren. The petition was send to King Willem I with a request for a one-time subsidy for the building of their own church and rectory and a yearly contribution to be used as salary for the as yet to be appointed pastor.

They made this request because the church in Den Hoorn was too far away, and because the roads were difficult to travel, especially in the fall and winter. Shut-ins can’t get to the church too often; the sick find it difficult to get spiritual help; and the priest can’t get there in time to anoint the sick.

The King consults the Director-General for the province of Groningen. Bernardus Meddens, pastor “bij der A” and achpriest of Groningen, supports the petition. He believes that the separation can proceed without difficulty and that the authorities can implement the request and set boundaries without hurting the church of Den Hoorn. According to one report, there were then 450 Catholics in Kloosterburen.

 The petitioners also have the support of Mayor Borgman. He askes the Deputated States[1] for the establishment of the parish on 1 Dec 1821. The number of Roman Catholics has meanwhile increased to 485.

 The pastor of the Den Hoorn and the leaders of his parish were consulted next. They rejected the plan. They pointed out, that no one had considered the care for the poor, and while there were 73 people in Kloosterburen who needed support, there were only 16 or 17 families who could contribute to that support. Besides, among these 16 or 17 families, there were several who were against the separation. The complaints about the road were exaggerated, for roads to other villages were generally even worse. Pastor Paping was indignant over the charge that some people did not get the last sacrament on time, and challenged the petitioners to name just one instance, where a person died unanointed because of the distance he had to travel. He has been pastor of Den Hoorn for 20 years, and during that time 8 people had died unanointed. Of these, 3 had drowned and 5 had died suddenly. Because of this protest, and because Kloosterburen could offer little to support the project, the petition was postponed in 1823, on the recommendation of the governor. He had meanwhile become Commissary of the Queen[2].

 Around this time Pastor Paping had died, and for a while no one renewed the petition. Farming was going through some difficult times, and even in Kloosterburen several farmers were going bankrupt and had to sell their land.  It was a time of poverty and misery. 1822 marks the first time that Leens had bread lines and in 1823 the local government permits the Catholic parish at Den Hoorn to hold collections for her poor.On 24 March 1834 the same three farmers again petitioned to the King, claiming to represent all Catholics living in Kloosterburen. They asserted that the church at Den Hoorn would “not suffer from a reasonable separation”. The governor of the province opposed the petition. Archpriest Priester, pastor of the Guldenstraat, had to make his decision after hearing the pastor and leaders of the church at Den Hoorn.  The archpriest waited a long time. In due time a new priest came to Den Hoorn.  The new pastor, Pierik, formerly pastor of Appingedam, complained in 1834 about the poverty in the region and requests an extra stipend of  400 guilders for himself and 100 guilders for his chaplain.

 The archpriest eventually acted, and it became clear, that he never even consulted the pastor and leaders of Den Hoorn. Like his predecessor, he sides with the Kloosterbureners. He too pointed to the great distance and the poor roadway, “so that it is important, very useful and extremely necessary, that the faithful get their own Catholic church”

 A month earlier, meanwhile Willem W. Feddema and Jan Eisses Halsema had informed the Director- General, that they were against the separation. They did not wish to carry the costs involved. Finally, after a lot of discussion, reversals and several new requests, the archpriest reported on 11 May 1837 that he himself had visited Kloosterburen, and there had “found that if one would build a church for the catholic population near the isolated tower and on the old foundations ( of the former Reformed Church), it would become an ornament for the village, something the non-catholics of the area would love to see, and even would look forward to.”  The number of Catholics had meanwhile risen to 499. The Catholics of Kloosterburen now had to commit to a onetime donation of 3500 guilders and a yearly salary of 400 guilders for a priest. Six days later he reacts to the objections of W.W. Feddema and J.E. Halsema. It seems to him, that these objections could not be taken seriously, because there were only “imagined fears”. They are afraid that they must pay too much, and as to the objections of Den Hoorn, its parish remains after all big enough.

 On 31 May 1837 the Director-General once again asks for the opinion of Den Hoorn. They strongly objected against the eventual separation and said that likely the greatest difficulties would disappear, if in 1837 one would build a stone roadway.

 The archpriest again assures the Director-General, that the separation would not be a problem for the church of Den Hoorn, the parish is after all large enough.

 The parish in Den Hoorn keeps up their opposition to the new parish in Kloosterburen. In a letter, the archpriest blames their protestations on a lack of honesty and good faith. the new church would be built on the foundations of the dismantled Reformed church. The Reformed community now forbid the use of these foundations for the building of a new church. The setback increased the estimated cost for the building. It would now cost ƒ1500.- more than the original ƒ10,907.- . The part of the cost for Kloosterburen is raised to ƒ7,000.-

 The Catholic Association of Kloosterburen was created by the Order in Council of 22 Feb 1841. Tenders went out on 25 Feb 1842; the first stone was placed on May 6; and on Sep 24 of that same year the church was consecrated by archpriest H. van Kessel.  I won’t discuss the borders of the parishes, but believe me, there were lots of problems.

The number of Catholics increased steadily and soon the church was too small. The pastor, father A. Kerkhof (1864-1872) prepared for the building of a new and larger church, which was ready in the summer of 1869. It was designed by the famous architect J.P.M. Cuypers of Amsterdam. The parishioners participated and gave generously toward the building and furnishing of their new church. The high altar and both side altars were built in the workshop of Cuypers and Stolzenberg in Roermond.

 The stations of the way of the cross were installed around 1890. They were created by the firm of Ferlemont in ‘sHertogenbosch. While father Schmeenk was pastor (1900 – 1922) the first part was built (the choir). The stained glass windows above the high altar depict scenes out of the life of St. Willibrord. In 1923 the wainscoting in oak and the oaken benches were installed during the tenure of pastor Neeteson.

The large organ at the back dates from 1925. It was built by the firm of Adema of Amsterdam.

In 1970 the church was thoroughly refurbished. The stained glass windows of the transepts were too damaged over the years by sleet and rain and could no longer be restored.

 In the years 1962-1965 the Second Vatican Council was held in the Catholic Church. It introduced changes in the church and the celebration of church services. The liturgy – up until then in Latin – is currently celebrated in the native language. In the old liturgy, the altar stood in front of the church, and the priest had his back to the congregation during the celebration of mass. This now changed: The altar was moved back and the celebrant now faces his congregation.

 In 1996 and 1997 they restored the church and tower, at a cost of about 1.4 million guilders.

Currently plans are being made for the restoration of the interior.

Sofar my story.

Koos Halsema,

April 200 

Translation, John Ketelaars

[1] The Deputated States is a college of 6 persons charged with the daily ruling and ordering of provincial matters.

[2] the Commissary of the Queen heads the Deputated States.