|Mr. and Mrs. Heereman share their testimony with 15,000 priests in St Peter's Square during the prayer vigil at the conclusion of the Year for Priests.|
The following testimony was given by the Heeremans, a married
couple from Germany, during the prayer vigil with the Pope
in St Peter’s Square this past June 10, on the
occasion of the conclusion of the Year for Priests. The
Heereman family’s six children are sprinkled across a wide range
of vocations, with one priest, one religious brother, one consecrated
virgin, two married sons, and an unmarried daughter who is
a university student. The son who is a priest is
Fr Sylvester Heereman, LC, the territorial director for Germany, and
the religious brother is Br Vincent Heereman, LC.
Mr. Heereman: Eminencies,
Excellencies, most reverend fathers, dear sisters and brothers in Jesus
Christ: People often ask us: What did you do so
that all of your children seek to follow Christ? We
had to admit: We do not know the recipe. It
was my mother that, when I was 19 years old,
sent me in spite of my strong resistance on a
pilgrimage with the Order of Malta to Our Lady of
Lourdes. This has decisively formed my spiritual and professional life.
Mrs. Heereman: That I chose to study theology was not
due to my faith, but due to my doubts about
the faith. Studying theology, I thought, would help me to
verify the credibility of our Christian faith. But here I
was wrong; it was not my studies which turned me
into a convinced Christian, but the example of my father
who on his deathbed, at the age of 47, with
the help of a Franciscan priest, approached his death with
a deep and trusting relationship to God, confidently, I even
would say, cheerfully.
|The Heereman family giving testimony to a wide range of vocations among their children. (Far right: Fr Sylvester Heereman, LC; far left: Br Vincenz Heereman, LC.)|
Mr. Heereman: We got married at a
young age and this same Franciscan priest set us on
fire for our fait.
Mrs. Heereman: It was just natural for
our children to express their questions, their doubts, and their
critiques. Sunday Mass, saying grace, and their night prayers at
their bedsides were our regular practices as a family.
Heereman: One day our eldest son, at the age of
19, approached us and insisted that we set down the
newspaper. He had to tell us something important.
Mrs Heereman: He
was so serious that it was totally evident to me
that either he wants to join religious life or he
has fathered a child. There was no hint of either.
Thanks be to God, it was his vocation to the
|The Heereman family in St Peter's Square.|
priesthood he wanted to communicate to us.
Mr. Heereman: When he
told this to his 9-year-old brother, the younger brother said
laconically: “You copycat! I have always wanted to be a
priest!” Today, he too, is in formation for the priesthood.
Mrs. Heereman: Our eldest daughter experienced the call to consecrated
life after finishing her law degree and is presently completing
her studies in theology in Rome. Two sons are married;
alongside their jobs and studies, they have initiated and developed
a missionary charity project for disabled and mentally handicapped young
people in Lebanon. And our youngest daughter just spent seven
months in Lebanon, working in this project and has recently
taken up her studies on Latin and Theology. And we
have three wonderful grandchildren; two of them are here tonight.
Heereman: How do we manage to have a living faith?
I only know one thing: Whenever the children had a
question they would receive a detailed answer from their mother
about their faith and the place of a Christian in
politics and society.
Mrs. Heereman: I do not think that
answers were so much decisive as the liturgical year which
shaped our life. Advent, Lent, and other times of the
year had their own character.
Mr. Heereman: When I was
12 years old, a priest told us at school that
we should pray for our future wife. I started to
do that then. And finally my prayer was perfectly answered.
So my faith in prayer was strengthened. Later the desire
grew in my heart that one of our sons should
become a priest. So I started praying: “Lord, these are
your children, do with them whatever pleases you. Call them
to follow your Son as priests or lay people, unmarried
or married.” And in one way or the other, He
has taken all of them. I think in our case,
the mother was decisive and I can prove that: out
of six children, four have chosen to study theology and
philosophy, just like their mother. And only one of them
has taken up a secular career like his father. So
dear future fathers, if you want your children to become
vibrant Christians, choose your wife well. Of course, she does
not need to be a theologian.
Mrs. Heereman: My counterproof is
this: when our eldest son was about 12 years old,
he one day reflected on the complementary roles of the
two of us and he summarized his reflections in this
way: Mommy, you tell us in theory how things should
be done, and then we watch if Daddy really acts
accordingly. So my dear future mothers, if you want your
children to become living vibrant Christians, be careful whom you
marry. And if you want to have grandchildren one day,
watch out for the prayers of your husband, because otherwise
six out of six might decide for a consecrated life.
Heereman: And so what: as you know, it is a
wonderful vocation. Thank you!