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Trini-to-the-bone priest laid to rest

Friday, February 7, 2014

Fr Odo van der Heijdt, despite being born in Holland and receiving a pension from that country, yesterday was described as “Trini to the bone” by Abbot Fr John Pereira. In delivering the homily at his funeral, Fr Pereira said Van der Heijdt, the former prior at Our Lady of Exile, Mt St Benedict, was Dutch by birth but West Indian by choice. “He may have been born in the Netherlands, he may have had a Dutch passport and he may have been getting a pension from the Dutch Government, however, if you really wanted to know where he came from, where his heart truly lay, you simply had to tell him that the West Indies cricket team lost again and then you would have understood,” Pereira said. “I think that he suffered more pain towards the end of his life from the miserable state of West Indies cricket than from any physical or medical complaint,” he added.


He said Van der Heijdt was always there for the people. He added: “We are talking about a man who gave 60 years of his life to the Mount and to the pilgrims who visited this place day after day. We are talking about a man who truly lived the Benedictine vow of stability. “His love for Caribbean culture was epitomised in his love for the discourses of Paul Keens-Douglas and especially Tantie Merle at the Oval.” Van der Heijdt was said to have had a passion for cricket and represented the monastery as their wicketkeeper on several occasions against the seminary. Pereira said that was indeed a cultural transition as Holland was only now emerging on the world cricketing map.  


He said Van der Heijdt also often looked forward to a juicy game of all-fours. “God provided Fr Odo with a community of brethren whom he was able to serve in diverse ways and for the past ten years as their prior. “God provided Fr Odo with persons who sought to find peace in their hearts and who taught Fr Odo what true faith is.  He encountered these persons in the parlour ministry and their stories helped to increase his own faith. “He has always been grateful to the pilgrims who come to the Mount day after day.  He once said that in the monastery he was introduced to the psalms but it was the pilgrims who taught him how to pray,” Pereira added. Van der Heijdt died on Sunday at the age of 83.


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