A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Death of a Marist

Bishop Henk Kronenberg SM

Born in Enschede, Netherlands, 29 Sept 1934
Professed, 12 Sepember 1958
Ordained, 18 October 1961
Bishop of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, 1999 -- 2009
Died in Enschede, Netherlands, 25 March 2020

After ordination, Fr Henk Kronenberg worked as a teacher in Hulst until 1964. On his way to Bougainville, he spent the best part of 1964 improving his English at St John’s College, Woodlawn, Australia. As he was leaving for Bougainville, he delivered the memorable line from the front steps of the College: “When I came to Woodlawn my English was very bad; now, as I leave, it is not very good”. He was a very good presence at the college during that year.

He worked on the island of Bougainville from 1965 to 1990, serving in various mission stations in his early years in the diocese. Having studied catechetics at EAPI in Manila, he offered workshops for teachers’ in-service courses, from 1965 until 1981.

In 1982, Bishop Gregory Singkai appointed Henk director of the Mabiri Ministry school. This ministry school was looked upon by many missionaries as the ‘heart-centre’ of the diocese. It was where the local Church was being built from the grass roots. It had been established after World War II, and many extremely capable and pastoral priests and SMSM Sisters had been very much part of its establishment and growth.

Under the guidance of their parish priest, mission stations chose men and women of faith, leadership and good character from all over the Bougainville diocese to go to the Mabiri Ministry school for three months for a live-in intensive course, so that they could be Church leaders when they returned to their home villages. The courses included: Scripture study; leading Liturgy of the Word with Holy Communion Sunday services; homilies; keeping registers of Baptisms and funerals; music; leading morning and evening prayers in the villages; and, in general, being the village Church leader and the right-hand man or woman for the parish priest. Those trained at the school were invaluable for the growth of the local Church. These leaders were to be like Blessed Pet To Rot, from Rabaul, martyred by the invading forces in World War II for disobeying their orders in regard to ministry for his people.

Henk led these courses, with his own qualities and style, for nine years, with, of course, the assistance of SMSM Sisters. One of Henk’s great qualities was that the people found it very easy and comfortable to relate to him and confide in him.

During the civil war in Bougainville (1988 to 1998), Henk initially stayed in Bougainville, then moved to Port Moresby. He taught catechetics at the seminary in Bomana from 1991 to 1995, living at Marist College, and was secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of Papua New Guinea from 1995 to 1999.

Pope John Paul II appointed Henk to be Bishop of Bougainville on 19 April 1999. The Archbishop of Rabaul, Karl Hesse MSC, ordained him Bishop in Tsiroge on 14 July of the same year. The co-consecrators were the Archbishop of Honiara, Adrian Smith SM; and the Bishop of Kavieng, Ambrose Kiapseni MSC.

Bishop Henk took over a diocese which was recovering from civil war and needed a huge amount of reconciliation and re-building of the Christian communities and parishes. His knowledge of the lay leaders and his friendship with them was very important in his work as bishop.

Pope Benedict XVI accepted Bishop Henk’s age-related resignation on 15 December 2009, and he retired to the Marist community in his home town of Enschede in the Netherlands. He was regularly asked by the Archdiocese of Utrecht to administer the sacrament of Confirmation. He continued to live in the Marist community until shortly before his death in a nursing home in Enschede.

Bishop Henk received the highest honour that was awarded on Papua New Guinea’s Independence Day in 2009, being honoured with the title of ‘Chief’, and the ‘Great Order of Logohu’ was bestowed on him.

May he rest in the peace of the risen Lord, whom he served so well.

Thanks to Frs John Begg, Edmund Duffy, Michael O’Connor, and Willy Weemaes; the Australian Marist website; and to Wikipedia, for the information for this tribute to Bishop Henk

Tagged as: , , , , ,

Comments are closed.