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Photo: Max van der Schoot with students

Max van der Schoot (1925 – 1999) was the face of the Franciscan Fathers in Heerlen (the Netherlands) and the surrounding area for decades. An inspiring teacher, school leader, human and animal lover.

By Martin van der Weerden

When I started at Bernardinus College in 1984 as a young history teacher, I had little sympathy with the Catholic clergy. I had never forgotten how my mother was abandoned by “mister pastor” after the premature death of my father. But the acquaintance with “Father Max” showed me that things can be done differently. Max was a striking appearance at school, but also in the Heerlen street scene with his traditional brown habit, white cord and sandals. The time of “holy Roman life” with the numerous clergy everywhere in society was already quite disappearing. But Max remained Max. I quickly felt at home with him. He did not shy away from critical questions, but he was also interested in my enthusiastic ideas to get young people active in the social field.

Bernardinus chapel designed by the architect Jos Wielders

School desks for Hungary

When the Iron Curtain between Eastern and Western Europe fell in 1990, Bernardinus College started exchange projects with Hungary, Poland and Romania. Only on a first visit by our affluent students to the schools in these countries did they realize how rich we were and what was missing in those countries. Together with the Heerlen Peace Council (Vredesberaad), with the help of dozens of students, everything was collected to be reused in those countries. German and English textbooks, blackboards, microscopes and, above all, many written-off school desks that were still in excellent condition; the basement and attic of the school were filled with them. Unfortunately, the empty, large truck arrived in the middle of the summer holidays and the filling had to be done by few, including Father Max. Despite his deteriorating health, he continued to support numerous social actions.

Statue of Saint Francis at the Bernardinus chapel in Heerlen by a Dutch sculptor, painter Renald Rats

Inspired by his clergyman uncle

Antoon van der Schoot was born in Hedel in Gelderland and descends from a family of ten children. Inspired by his uncle who, as a monk, had taken the name Maximus (the greatest), he chose to join the active Franciscan order, but then under the somewhat more modest name Maximinus (the greatest among the little). After studying theology and philosophy, he studied Latin and Greek. A teaching career was thus established. At the Heerlen Bernardinus College he became a teacher of classical languages and later director. After his retirement he continued to live next door to the school and was appointed school chaplain for life. At that time, he had been the accompanist of two youth choirs for years, pastor of the Foundation Samen Onderweg, chaplain of the scouting, participant in Pax Christi’s hikes and for a long time the city Sinterklaas of Heerlen. Thanks to his youthful empathy, Max managed to lead the rebellious actions of the “protest generation” into calmer waters.

Martin van der Weerden (1955) is a historian, specializing in socio-economic history. As a research assistant he was active at the University of Utrecht until 1984, then until 2021 as a history teacher at the Bernardinus College in Heerlen pursuing  internationalization projects; involved in exchange projects with Hungary, Romania, Poland, Germany and France. He has been involved in various projects concerning Limburg history since 1990, in particular through the Limburgs Geschied- en Oudheidkundig Genootschap (LGOG) and the section “Van Nul tot Nu” which appears from 2010 in the weekly magazine VIA and the daily newspaper De Limburger.

A lot of information about the Franciscans in the Mining Region can be found in “De fathers van de Akerstraat”, published in 1998 under the editorship of Koos Linders and Ben van Melick.

Source: VIA Parkstad/De Limburger. Photos and article published with permission of Mr. Martin van der Weerden.


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