Dominicans in the Netherlands are celebrating their first ordination in more than 20 years after a revival in vocations.
Brother Richard Steenvoorde, ordained as a deacon at Blackfriars, Oxford, last month, is one of eight men to have entered formation since 2013, after a long period in which there were no new members.
The vocations followed the election of a provincial, Fr René Dinklo – at the time the youngest member of a province in which the average age was 81.
Fr Dinklo decided to re-open the novitiate, which meant sending men in formation to the English novitiate programme at Cambridge.
The new influx of friars will form a community at a priory in Rotterdam and develop their own mission.
Fr Dinklo, in a letter to Dutch Dominicans in 2016, said that when he entered the order in the 1990s, “people in our province talked of re-founding the order and of Dominican lay people being our heirs, as the branch of the brothers in our own country seemed to be slowly evaporating”. Now, he wrote, “it seems that a new generation of Dominicans may be presenting itself”.
This has brought tensions between the different generations within the province, he said.
One problem, Fr Dinklo said, was that the “middle generation is practically non-existent, which makes the generation gap relatively wide”. Eight of the 54 Dutch Dominicans are over 90 while two of the new members are 22.
Brother Richard said vocations may have risen because the “need and opportunities for the Dominican charism in the Dutch Church and society can be felt more so than in the past. Furthermore, because the revival came ‘out of the blue’, it has a kind of freshness and dynamism that may be attractive.”
The Dutch province of the Dominicans was founded in 1465. The friars were expelled during the Reformation and it wasn’t until 1902 that a new priory was built.