Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 30, 2000
Rijniers loved being a priest
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Father Christian Rijniers couldn't decide which he loved better -- Edmonton or his native Holland.
"He was the kind of man who missed (Holland) when he was in Canada and Canada when he was in Holland," said his friend Father Joe Leszczynski, pastor of St. Clare Parish.
But wherever Rijniers was, he loved being a priest, Leszczynski said.
Rijniers died Oct. 20 at the age of 87.
Born in Bergen, Holland, Rijniers was one of 10 children. One brother was a priest, and two were Christian brothers. He studied in Mook and was ordained in 1938. He taught at two minor seminaries in Holland, before coming to Edmonton to serve the Dutch Catholic community.
His first assignment was as assistant pastor in Castor. He later served as pastor in Mearns, Busby, Provost, Chauvin and Lacombe. He spent eight years in Germany as a hospital chaplain.
When he decided to retire, he returned to Edmonton and assisted at St. Edmund and St. Agnes parishes. In 1988, he retired to St. Andrew's Centre, but remained as active as he could in pastoral duties.
"He never refused anything. If one of the priests asked him to say Mass during the week, he would be there. He was retired, but he still wanted to be part of the community."
He especially loved listening to the Filipino choir at St. Andrew's Church, said parishioner Willi van Amsterdam, who has known Rijniers for more than 20 years. The choir also sang at his 60th anniversary as a priest and at a prayer service Oct. 23.
"He was very considerate, very interested in people," van Amsterdam said. "If you told him your name, he would always remember it. He knew so many people. Father was a very sincere priest. He remembers people from his old parishes and who they were related to.
"He said reading keeps your mind strong. Until the end, he had a very strong mind."
One of his favourite books was about Our Lady of Fatima.
"Father believed in it and he would read it over and over again," van Amsterdam said. "That book was on his (nightstand) and he read it every night."
He also kept active playing cribbage, watching the odd hockey game and tuning his radio into the Dutch stations to listen to the news back home.
Rijniers had no immediate family in Canada, but he was not lacking when it came to Church family.
"I think people sense his gentleness and kindness and they took him in as part of their family," Leszczynski said. "He was very gentle, very kind, very open, very humble. I never heard him say anything negative or derogatory about anyone. It wasn't his nature.”