In Belgium

Pierre and Suzette Huvelle

Two very significant realities in Belgium are directly inspired by the beguinal movement.

Le petit béguinage de la Lauzelle (La Lauzelle’s small Beguinage) was born in 1995, on the site of the new university of Louvain-la-Neuve, by Pierre and Suzette Huvelle, a couple very committed in the socio-religious field. This set of six houses and an apartment, formerly built around a square (spatial representation “square”, one of the typical forms of traditional beguinages), is inhabited by retired people, single or couple and by a priest, all aged more than 65 years. They have accepted the Charter that in point 3 states : “The Gospel is the first reference in the search for the meaning of life, justice, and fraternal love“. Community commitment, prayer, and cultural encounters are at the center of their community life, but each unit occupies, as in traditional beginages, an autonomous space.

Le béguinage de Béthel (The beguinage of Betel) arised  in a largely immigrant neighborhood in Saint-Josse-Ten-Noode, one of the 19 municipalities of Brussels. After three years of quiet practical existence, in 2014, it became formalized through an article and an interview in the Catholic media, given by sister Marianne Goffoël, one of the two beguinage founders.
From her interview we learn that the beginage took place in a former Dominican sisters convent, still inhabited by two of them, Marianne Goffoël and Myriam Gosseye, the two founders. The three floors of the building have been restructured in apartments, as beguinal life, unlike the conventual one, requires autonomous spaces in which to increase “sanctification in freedom”. Women who have accepted this adventure (be they single, widowed or divorced, but under the age of 65)are responsible for their habitats and personal income. They have in common spiritual research, prayer, community commitment and the spirit of service. “Living the common faith is a very important need” Marianne points out to the radio microphone of “Infocatho Bruxelles”.
In 2019, there are six women in the community: three nuns and three beguines. “Among them, the same spirituality: that of Saint-Dominique – centered around prayer, the apostolate, and Bible study“(source: Line Kortobi).

Just as the beguinal movement sprang up in the past in the diocese of Liège, so today a new beguinal bud is starting to blossom in that region: the beguinage of Saint Barbe. Stephan Delfanne is an engineer and expert in the renovation of rural properties. He and  his wife Marie-Claire are working to achieve a truly fascinating beguinal experience for senior citizens. It combines many elements that they would like to achieve in everyday life and which are inspired by the encyclical “Laudato si”. They are starting with the renovation of a farm which appears in the inventory of Walloon Heritage, located in an area of environmental beauty and archaeological interest, 9 independent and autonomous housing units are being built. The co-ownership which is envisaged will also provide agreement on internal regulations including shared values such as community life in an ecumenical spirit, frugality, respect for the environment and many other aspects that you can discover in the site: https://demeuresetlieux.wixsite.com/beguinage-ste-barbe
Sainte Barbe is protector of the workers of quarries,which are found in the region, and will be the patron of this future beguinage which will also have a chapel. A statue of her has already been recovered from a closed church in Molenbeek. At the end of 2021 the project will begin. The timing will depend on the development of sales, but everything will be fully operational by 2024. Interested parties should note that six units are still available today. Contact friendly Stephan on:  demeuresetlieux@gmail.com

Sources:

  • My interviews
  • Suzette Huvelle, Le petit béguinage de la Lauzelle, in Lumière & Vie, gennaio-marzo 2013
  • http://catho-bruxelles.be/Un-beguinage-a-Bruxelles?lang=fr (innterview de Marianne Goffoël)
  • Line Kortobi, https://www.liberation.fr/apps/2019/07/beguinage/
  • interview by Zoom with Stephan Delfanne (20 April 2021)