Charity mourns death of Australian founder

Fr Christopher Coenen, the Dutch migrant chaplain who started Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) in Australia 40 years ago, has died at the age of 89 at his Norbertine abbey in the Netherlands.

A statement from the charity says that before his arrival in Australia in 1957, Fr Coenen worked with the legendary "Bacon priest", Fr Werenfried van Straaten, the founder of ACN, in Koningstein, Germany. They had known each other since their noviciate as Norbertines in the Abbey of Tongerlo, Belgium, in 1935-1936.

Fr Werenfried approached him in 1950 and asked him to join his work to support and help German refugees. He needed someone to co-ordinate a new action of sending mobile churches throughout the diaspora of Germany where many thousands of Catholic refugees had to live in regions without a Catholic church after WWII. Fr Coenen supervised and supported more than 30 Chapel trucks as they were called with their different missionary priests from all Orders and countries.

Later in Australia he remained linked with Fr Werenfried and his still growing organisation then known as Iron Curtain Church Relief. In 1965 Fr Coenen started a branch of this organisation in Sydney, after having successfully organised offices for Great Britain and Ireland.

When Fr Coenen left Sydney to return to Germany in 1969 he asked a well known migrant family in Sydney to take over his role as director on a temporary basis until a replacement could be appointed. Eventually the current director Phillip Collignon was appointed.

Mr Collignon paid tribute to Fr Coenen as a "good man and a holy priest".

"His gift was ministering to people and endeared himself to many with his wonderful sense of humour and love of all things good in life. He will be missed but we can rejoice, knowing that he is with a loving God whom he served so well over very many years. May he rest in peace."

Pictured: Fr Coenen with Phillip Collignon the Australian Director of ACN at a recent meeting of the charity in Germany (May 2005)

Australia mourns the death of Fr Coenen (Aid to the Church in Need 9/8/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Aid to the Church in Need

Charity's 'bacon priest' founder dies (CathNews 3/2/03)

In 2004, "Aid to the Church in Need" donated 70 million euros in 137 countries (AsiaNews.it 25/7/05)

10 Aug 2005