As the German army retreated from Holland at the end of World War II, its leaders decided, with a certain ecumenical impartiality, to blow up the bell towers of both the Catholic and the Reformed churches in Zevenbergen, near Breda, fearing that these would be used as lookout posts. After the war, the towers were quickly rebuilt. Today they stand as architectural statements to both the importance of religion in the Netherlands and to its long-standing sectarian division (see Timothy P. Schilling, page 10).
The Calvinists, in their elegant gothic church, an edifice they acquired at the Reformation, taught that no sacerdotal mediation was necessary between the believer and God. There was no sacrament of holy orders, no real presence in the Eucharist. The Catholics, in their solid 1930 brick building, strongly emphasized the importance of the priesthood and the Mass. Today’s young Catholics in Zevenbergen should be forgiven if they seem to have forgotten the centrality of both, for now the priest arrives only once every five weeks.
This does not mean that there is no reason to go to church other Sundays. Nor does it mean that there is no resident pastor. The pastor is now a nonordained woman, Pastor Eveline, who does not offer Mass, hear confessions, or anoint the sick.
The change from resident male priest to female pastor was not an easy adjustment for some parishioners. Even now my friends in...