The Congregation Des Soeurs Servantes De Jesus remembers Mgr Matthysen
The Congregation Des Soeurs Servantes De Jesus/Diocese of Bunia commemorated the 60th anniversary of the death of its founder, Bishop Alphonse Matthysen
The Congregation of the Sister Servants of Jesus/Diocese of Bunia and the Servite Brothers of the Redeemer celebrated the 60th anniversary of the death of their founder. The founder was His Excellency Bishop Alphonse Mattysen. To mark the occasion, some sisters of the congregation of the Servant Sisters of Jesus took perpetual and temporal vows.
Who is Monsignor Mattysen?
Alphonse Matthysen was born in Hoogboom-Ekeren (Belgium) on 27 November 1890. He was ordained a priest on 8 September 1915 and consecrated a bishop on 25 February 1934. He was one of the 5 Missionary Fathers of Africa who set sail for the Congo from Marseilles (France) on 11 November 1916, landing on the shores of Lake Albert in Kasenyi on 31 December 1916. The same day they climbed the steep escarpment to Bogoro; from there they cycled to the mission in Bunia, where they arrived in the evening. Father Alphonse Matthysen soon began to learn the local languages. He was determined to learn the local languages, particularly Kinyali and Kilendu, to ensure the success of his mission and its inculturation. Thus he devoted himself body and soul to the apostolate in this densely populated region.
Elevated to the rank of vicar on 11 December 1933, he continued his ministry with zeal, a tireless pastor and organiser, carrying out various works. He founded a school for catechists in Kilo, which was later transformed into a school for qualified monitors. From this school, the first seminarians were also recruited to prepare the local clergy.
The birth of the Congregation of the Sister Servants of Jesus with Monsignor Alphonse Matthysen
In order to meet the teaching needs of the girls of the time, Monsignor Matthysen began to look for teaching staff in religious congregations. He came into contact with the Missionary Sisters of Africa, who settled in Bunia in December 1925 and in Logo in 1926.
In the Logo region there were already some girls interested in religious life. They had a vocation to consecrated life and were already forming a group of aspirants. The arrival of the Missionary Sisters encouraged them to continue their journey. However, at first Monsignor Matthysen was reluctant to accept them into religious life and to found a new congregation. But seeing their unwavering desire and will, as well as Mother Victor-Marie’s insistence, he finally gave in. He then entrusted the Missionary Sisters of Africa with the supervision of the young people in general.
They took the habit in Logo on 8 December 1935, the day the Founder gave the Congregation the name ‘Little Sister Servants of the Child Jesus’. In the same year, he founded the Congregation of the Brothers Servants of the Redeemer. On 2 July 1937, the first 7 novices took vows for one year in Logo. Thus the Congregation of the Sister Servants of Jesus was born on the shores of Lake Albert, which became like the mustard seed, a large and beneficial tree. Even the population was amazed to see the local girls become religious for the first time.
As founder, he followed the congregation very closely, so that it would be for the greater glory of God. It was he himself who gave the directives to be followed in the life of the Sister Servants of Jesus. From the beginning, he insisted that the sisters’ formation be based on a solid practice of piety, devotion to the Holy Trinity and devotion to the Virgin Mary. She continually urged the sisters to show prompt obedience, demanding fraternal charity and a perfect understanding that would overcome tribal barriers, in order to witness and live the good proclamation of the Gospel.
Development of the Congregation of the Sister Servants of Jesus
Bishop Matthysen showed paternal kindness and patience in the training of the sisters. The sisters affectionately called him “BABA YETU”: Our Father. To make the sisters’ apostolate more effective, he sent some of them to study medicine. He took care of the construction of missions at workplaces before sending the sisters there. In 1959, together with Mother Apolline, he appointed some African nuns as counsellors in view of a more or less distant autonomy.
Monsignor Matthysen died on 19 August 1963. His crown of glory certainly includes the two congregations he founded, as well as the many other works carried out in the dioceses of Bunia and Mahagi-Nioka.
Until the death of the foundress, the Congregation of the Servant Sisters of Jesus had existed for 26 years and had a total of 16 communities, spread across the dioceses of Bunia and Mahagi-Nioka. This year, 60 years after her death, the Congregation has completed 86 years of existence and has 38 communities distributed in 6 dioceses: Bunia 16 communities, Mahagi-Nioka 15 communities, Kisangani 3 communities, Wamba 2 communities, Kampala (Uganda) 1 community and Kalemie-Kirungu 1 community.
The commemoration of this anniversary of our founder’s death is also a time to honour the memory of all the pioneers and Church builders who spread the Gospel in this area with the help of catechists and other local collaborators. It was also a moment of gratitude to the Missionary Sisters of Africa who accompanied her early childhood.
Mother General of the Congregation of the Sister Servants of Jesus
Sister Justine Vive