Saint Damien Project Committee

The Community of Saint Damien is an intentional community for students to come together in faith, worship, and the pursuit of knowledge situated in one wing of the historic, recently renovated building called the Amerikaans College.

The ACAA Damien Project Committee has been established to collaborate with and support the ongoing efforts of the Saint Damien Community at the Amerikaans College.  The members of the committee are:

Reverend Raymond Collins

Doctor John (Jack) Dick

Reverend Bob Flannery

Reverend Reimund Bieringer

Reverend Joe Marcoux

Report on the Damien Project

January 25, 2018 - Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul

Dear fellow alumnus,

As we approach the annual celebration of our alma mater’s feast, I want to share a few words with you about the American College and the Damien Community.  Much of the information that I have received comes courtesy of Bob Flannery who was in Leuven for the formal inauguration of the Heritage Project Display on November 9.  The ceremony was introduced by Rebekka Jonkers, resident manager of the College, and featured an explanation and formal inauguration in Dutch by Mark Derek of the KUL’s University Archives and in English by Jack Dick, a member of the KU Leuven American College Heritage Committee.  Jacqueline O’Connor, a longtime supporter of the college and friend to its residents attended the event

Rebekka, who has been appointed to serve simultaneously as resident manager of the American College and of the Pope’s College, reports that the American College currently has 168 residents.  Most of the residents are Belgian, 114 in all.  The 54 international students hail from 21 different countries.  There are 9 American students and 9 Chinese students, plus an additional student who comes from Hong Kong.  Handfuls of students come from Canada (5), Germany (4), Italy (4) and Romania (3).  Two priests live at the college, one from Nigeria, the other from Kerala, India.

For the 2017-18 academic year there are nine students in the Damien Community, including the graduate student (philosophy) coordinator, Aristel Skrbic, a native of Slovenia, who came to Leuven after residing in the U.K.  Six of the members of the community study philosophy while three study theology.  Presently there is only one female in the group, a Pentecostal minister, who is pursuing additional theological studies with the hope of eventually becoming a chaplain in the Canadian Armed Forces.  One of the philosophy students comes from Puerto Rico while another also comes from Canada.

Aristel has been instrumental in inaugurating an Associate Membership in the Damien Community.  The program is open to people, not necessarily North Americans, who share the interests and goals of the members of the Community.  There is no membership fee.  At present associate members are invited to participate in nine events from the social at the beginning of the academic year to the Fourth of July BBQ, including, en passant, the celebrations for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe/Advent and the feast of St. Damien of Molokai.  Association members are expected to make a donation to participate in each of these advents.

The hope that members of the Community would visit Rome during the Christmas holidays, as seminarians from the American College, were wont to do in recent decades, proved unrealizable due to a lack of funding.  Plans are, however, more than underway for the Community to co-sponsor with the British Temenos Academy a two-day discussion on Religious Thought in Today’s World.  Four speakers, including our own Jack Dick, will make presentations on the topic, in Leuven, May 12-13, 2018.

Unlike the older members of the ACAA who struggled through theology in Latin and French, our younger members have benefited from the KUL’s theology programs in English.  That ground-breaking venture will be celebrating its 50th anniversary on April 30.  A celebratory website is being prepared.  When ready, an announcement will be made on our website.

As far as scholarships are concerned, the committee has thus far awarded just one scholarship of $2000.  A proposal is pending from one student currently in the Damien Community who may not be able to continue his studies during the next academic year without our support.  The university is coming close to the celebration of its 600th anniversary.  Closer is February 2, 2018, when we will be celebrating the anniversary of our venerable alma mater.  Please consider a gift to the scholarship fund.  The tax-deductible check should be made out to the ACAA with the notation “Damien Scholarship Fund.”  The check should be sent to the Rev. William Wegher, ACAA, St. Mary Church, 11110 N, Saginaw St., Mount Morris,48458.  Thanks for doing so.


(Raymond F. Collins, AC, '59)

Letter from Ray Collins

December 15, 2016

Dear fellow alumnus,

On behalf of the ACAA-CUL's Damien Project Committee, Jack Dick, Bob Flannery, Reimund Bieringer, Joe Marcoux, and myself as chair. I appealed to you two years ago for monetary support of our alumni Damien Scholarship Fund.  Let me take this opportunity to again say thanks to those who contributed.
Movement has been slow but I am happy to be able to share with you the good news that the committee has voted to aware Fr. Albert Marcello, a young priest of the diocese of Providence, a grant of $2000. as he begins his doctoral program in Canon Law at our beloved Alma Mater.  His letter of thanks, addressed to me, will be posted on our alumni association's web site.  With this first grant, we move forward in promoting the Damien Project.    
With the appeal of 2014, I intended to begin an annual appeal associated with the celebration of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  Changes in Leuven and in our association, led to a skipping of the appeal last year.  With the support of Chris Fusco, president of the ACAA, I was ready to resume the annual appeal this year.  We decided, however, that the legacy of the American College of Louvain would best be preserved were we this year to support the American College Heritage Project.
The Heritage Project committee includes our own Jack Dick, Rebekka Jonkers, the current manager of the College, along with historians from the KULeuven. The aim of the project is to preserve and display the history of the college as a reminder of our common heritage to the college's 170 residents, including the members of the Damien Community, as well as the many tourists and visitors who pass by on a daily basis.
Phase One is the development of an exhibition of photos, documents, and other artifacts that will be on permanent display for all to see.  A professional design company has been engaged to oversee this part of the project.   It is hoped that it will be up and running by the spring of 2017 as we celebrate the 160th anniversary of the foundation of our beloved college and anticipate the alumni association's meeting in Leuven during the summer of2107.  All told, the project needs another $20,000 but we need additional funds for the completion of Phase One.
Please consider the Heritage Project as a worthy recipient of your Christmas generosity and send a tax-deductible donation to the ACAA-CUL.  Write "American College Heritage Project" in the space reserved for a notation and send the check on its way to Rev. William Wegher, Treasurer ACAA-CUL, St. Mary's Church, 100 Dexter Pickney Road, Pickney, MI 48169-9101.  I'll send you a note of thanks soon after I hang the new calendar.
Thanks ever so much for your continued support of the American College and its legacy.  And have a Blessed Christmas and a wonderful and grace-filled New Year.

(Raymond F. Collins, AC, '59)

The Programme

“The programme is named after Saint Damien of Molokai, because he personifies the strong ties between Leuven and the United States,” says Lieven Boeve, former dean of the faculty of theology and religious studies. Father Damien, the Flemish priest Jozef De Veuster, is venerated as a saint because of his care for people with leprosy on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. In the US Capitol, each state has a statue representing a famous resident, and Hawaii chose Father Damien. He is buried at the Saint Antonius church in Leuven, close to the American College.