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)
“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.