The start of ISC Delft

Mass in English Delft
Protestant Service in Delft
Ecumenical Community in Delft
Gisbertus Hermans

Gisbertus Hermans

2 min read

21 October, 2016

If you missed our introduction to this interview, you can read it here.

Dear Henk, you have been involved as a volunteer since 1981, the start of the first English services in ISC Delft. How did it all start? What was the idea to start with English services?

In 1980, IHE, back then a water institute connected directly to the TU Delft, facilitated spiritual support for its students. Reverend Auke Hofman, a protestant pastor and Father Piet van Dongen Opream, a Catholic priest, were appointed as International Student Priests. Auke Hofman was already involved in 1968 as a student chaplain. Father Piet van Dongen was a priest in Eindhoven and re-appointed to Delft. The first months of his assignment he commuted between South-East Holland to the West. In 1980, (this was) not a very convenient and speedy effort. Some jokingly called him Railway Priest. Their activity in 1980 were mainly bible study sessions.

After Father van Dongen transferred from Eindhoven to Delft in 1981, he initiated the bi-monthly services in English for which he found Oude Delft 18, as the Sunday chapel. In cooperation, the two clergy took turns on a Sunday service in English for foreign students.

Father Piet van Dongen and Rev. Auke Hofman were the first chaplains of the ecumenical English speaking service in Delft. Why was decided to have an ecumenical service (and not for a catholic and Lutheran service separately)?

The ecumenical variation came as the obvious and natural thing to do, since the Second Vatican Conciliate. Father Harry Peels, student priest for Dutch students, lived at Oude Delft and headed the Catholic Fraternity, he opened the doors to the foreign students.

How did the services look like in the first years? How many students were attending and how many different nationalities?

In the beginning, mainly IHE students were attending the services, but also student from the Rijksinstituut voor Bedrijfskunde (RVB - International Institute for Management) and the ITC (International Training Center). The early eighties saw Filipino and Indonesian students that filled the Oude Delft chapel as a majority. The number of attendance was much lower than it is today, as you may have figured.

Four permanent volunteers, Jaap, Ton, Ruben & Henk made sure that students felt comfortable and at home on at least two Sundays a month; the first a Catholic Sunday and the third a Protestant Sunday. Once in a blue moon, an excursion to the Abby of Father Pieter was arranged.

The biblical line: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I will be there!” kept us determined and courageous, as numbers of attendance were still rather low.

Nowadays, Raamstraat is our location for the Sunday services and Voorstraat 60 is where we have our activities. In Voorstraat 60, you still find pictures of the Oude Delft 18. Can you explain what kind of place it was?

The Oude Delft 18, a stately home on the most prestigious canal of Delft, was purchased by the Catholic Fraternity of Sanctus Virgilius, popularly known among Dutch students as Virgiel. It served as office, chapel and club for Catholic students at Delft Polytechnic School from as early as 1898, founding date of the TU Delft. I would recommend to take a look when you have time. The mosaics are absolutely stunning.

... to be continued.


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