Dutch Priests for South Australia

Dutch Priests for South Australia

In 1862, Irish born Bishop Dr Geoghegan went back to Europe in an effort to obtain a number of good Catholic Priests for his Adelaide Diocese. With the help of the Archbishop of Utrecht he was able to secure three young priests who were willing to do some missionary work in South Australia. They were Theodorus Henricus Bongaerts, Carolus (Charles) Martinus Gerardus van der Heijden and Englebertus van Dieren. They left Holland on 1 August 1863 and arrived in Adelaide late in 1863.

Father van Dieren, born on 21 May 1834 at Grave was baptised Antonius Nicolaus Rudolf van Dieren. His family printed and published the local paper. When ordained on 29 May 1858 he was given the name Englebertus. Father van Dieren worked in the Port Adelaide area and as early as 1 May 1864 performed the wedding ceremony between Charles Smith and Rosa Walsh, both of Adelaide, at the Roman Catholic Chapel, Port Adelaide. During his in Adelaide he lived at West Terrace. Father van Dieren stayed nearly three years in South Australia after which he was allowed to leave the Diocese for health reasons. He was back in Holland by 1873 where he died on 29 June 1900. The other two priests remained and worked faithfully in several towns among the Catholic migrants in South Australia.

Bongaerts was born at Castle Ravenstein on 20 May 1838. He completed his studies at Haaren and was ordained at the age of twenty-four on 14 June 1862. After his arrival in South Australia he worked at Kadina, previously looked after by the Jesuit Fathers of Sevenhill. In 1866 Father Bongaerts was at Mount Barker, Willunga, from 24 March 1866 until 30 May 1870, and Port Adelaide. While at Willunga he blessed the marriage between T. Lonergan of Adelaide and Marianne Logan of Willunga on 1 October 1867 at St. Joseph's Church.

Bongaerts had given excellent services in Adelaide, Gawler the West Coast and anywhere else he had been posted. At times his mission had up to three churches and stations. At the beginning of 1873, while living at Buxton Street, North Adelaide he was transferred to Gawler, where he arrived in March 1873. Here he became also involved with the school of St Joseph and the examination of its students at the end of each school year. Afterwards he distributed prizes to the best scholars and gave and excellent speech. In 1874 Father van der Heijden was also present at the examinations.

Father Bongaerts, who had suffered from intestinal cancer, died at the Gawler presbytery on 20 January 1875. His funeral was numerously attended and Dr Reynolds showed all the respect he could, presiding at the funeral at the West Terrace Cemetery were he was buried near the Smyth Memorial Chapel.


Bongaerts' grave


At the time of his death Father Bongaerts had been working in the parish of St Peter and St Paul in Gawler. According to the local newspaper 'the Father will be missed most by the Catholic part of the community, by whom he was universally loved, but his good name has extended beyond the pale of sectarianism, as there are many Protestants who will unite with Father Theodore's own flock in lamenting his death'. Among the many attending his funeral were the Bishop of Adelaide, Dr Reynolds, and his friend Father Charles van der Heijden.

His estate was looked after by D. Baker, executor, of the National Bank in Adelaide. On 13 February 1875, Baker notified all creditors of the late Rev Theodore Bongaerts to send him the duplicates of their accounts to wind up his affairs. His estate was left 'for the benefit of the orphans of members of the Church of SS Peter and Paul.

Father van der Heijden, born on 15 October 1838 at Goirle, was ordained on 30 May 1863 at St Jan's Cathedral, Den Bosh. After arriving in Adelaide, he too stayed at West Terrace for some time. During 1867 and 1868 he was stationed at Mount Barker and opened schools at Macclesfield and Echunga. Later he was stationed at Salisbury and Riverton. In Riverton Father van der Heijden was the first to take charge of the Marrabel parish and stayed until 1876. During these years he remained a very close friend of Bongaerts and was greatly affected by the death of his long time friend. For six months he tried to continue working amid the familiar scenes but in July it all became too much for him and he asked Dr Reynolds for a transfer to Victoria. Once again he worked hard and made several pastoral trips on horseback along the Mitta Mitta River. He died in June 1903.

Both priests became well known and liked by both Catholics and non Catholics for their efforts and kindliness attending to their many needs in and around Adelaide.

Thanks to Danny van Doorn who supplied some of the information.

If you like to find out more,
please go to HOME PAGE for more information.
Thank you for visiting Flinders Ranges Research,
We hope you enjoy your stay and find the information useful.
This site has been designed and is maintained by FRR.