Carmelites leave Leopoldsburg after 88 years
The Carmelites from Leopoldsburg were 88 years a concept in ‘t Kamp (= the Camp). In 1924 the sisters bought the monastery headed by priest Edward Poppe was beatified in 1999.
Thanks to priest Edward Poppe and village priest Rycken ‘t Kamp got permission in 1924 to found the Carmelite convent. The sisters withdrew into a poor outbuilding of the monastery.
They lived in such poverty that it was decided to focus on the present monesterium and the annex. Edward Poppe came as baker’s son from a socialist and liberal family. His father was an avid follower of priest Daens making him to follow the same ideology for a long time.
But during his bread rounds Eduard Poppe got acquainted with the poverty in which the people had to live. That was decisive for him to choose a poor life. He slept on a straw mattress and ate as simple as possible. Poppe moved for health reasons at the end of World War II to Leopoldsburg.
The sisters lived a very secluded life. Their day consisted pray seven times a day and baking wafers. In every prayer you could hear the bells. Previously the villagers believed that the ringing of the bells was an alarm for famine which the sisters were overwhelmed with food. That misunderstanding was cleared up after a few years. The current village pastors brought their robes to the Carmel to have them repaired execute.
In recent years the rules relaxed and there was a chance that you would ran into the Carmelites in the streets of Leopoldsburg. They also received visits of sisters from other Belgian monasteries. Recently five sisters came to visit the Carmelites of Leopoldsburg, but on departure they got a breakdown a few hundred meters further and had to be helped by bystander. Such stories were rapidly spreading around ‘t Kamp.
Although the sisters were never allowed outside, you could call them a kind of village figures. When the carnival procession arrived, villagers brought eggs to the Carmel to ask the sisters to pray for good weather. But you were always welcome for a chat. You could see them in the office, but with bars in between.
On the weekend of 2 and October 3, 1999, the sisters of Carmel openend their doors to the public. They celebrated their 75th anniversary weekend and priest Edward Poppe was beatified in Rome by Pope John Paul II in the presence of Cardinal Danneels. This was a highlight for Leopoldsburg since Poppe was the first ‘normal’ priest in history who receaved a beatification.