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.

Het klooster sluit na 88 jaar zijn deuren.

After 88 jaar the Carmelites move away from Leopoldsburg. ©KM

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.

Poverty

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.

Village figures

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.

Beatification

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.

That weekend once again spectators could wander in the corridors and rooms of the Carmelites. Kristine Celen from Leopoldsburg was there. Everyone knows the building of Carmel. If you drive in Leopoldsburg, then that building is the first thing you see. But many people wondered how the convent looked along the inside and how the sisters actually lived. I’m glad we got the chance to even take a look behind the walls of Carmel.
Eventually the five sisters who still remained decided to move to other religious orders, because they did not have the strength to run the large monastery. With a heavy heart they left in late May of this year. The building has since been sold to a real estate office. What will happen to the monastery, is not yet certain.

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