Bottelare to Lerwick and back ...
We have launched an appeal to construct a monument to Fr Theophilus Verstraeten, first resident Catholic priest in Lerwick after the reformation (1860-71), in Bottelare. Hilde Bardell here tells the story of how ties were established with his home parish in Belgium.
Pieter De Clercq finds an obituary card for Fr Theophilus Verstraeten in his mother's papers. No one knows who he is, so Pieter does an internet search and finds St Margaret's parish in Shetland is honouring him as part of their centenary celebrations. He gets in touch and information is shared, connections made.
Shetland parishioner Hilde Bardell, Belgian by birth, meets up with Pieter De Clercq, visits Bottelare and St Anne's Church where Fr Theophilus was buried. Finds his grave is no longer there, but leaves a message in the intentions book about the Shetland connection, leaving an email address.
Lieve Orye sees the message and emails Hilde. She finds that no one in Bottelare knows anything about Fr Theophilus, not even the parish archivist, so information is passed to and fro, resulting in Lieve writing three articles about the Lerwick-Bottelare connection for the local church magazines.
Hilde and Pete visit Bottelare again, meeting Lieve and local parishioners and parish council members. Fr Ambrose had previously suggested a memorial plaque to honour Fr Theophilus and give thanks for his service in Shetland. Enthusiastic response, suggestions of special unveiling in 2024 including a visit from a small pilgrimage group from Shetland.
Lieve comes to Shetland in Fr Theophilus' footsteps to meet Fr Ambrose and see all the places where Fr Verstraeten lived and worked. Plans firmed up for a memorial plaque ...
Now we invite parishioners to raise money for the plaque and come to Belgium for the unveiling!
October ... Pilgrimage Lerwick to Bottelare.