Van Buuren: Brother Gregory Van Buuren

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“Brother Gregorius” in Holland

Brother Gregory in Canada

Gregory Van Buuren

[Translations courtesy of the kind assistance of Lona Hegeman.  Pictures and old Dutch news clipping courtesy of a contact in Amsterdam)

Brother with the religious order, Brothers of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows. In or around 1956 – in Holland – sexually abused Henk Heithuis.  After Henk reported the abuse he was sent to a psychiatric institution and castrated.  Shortly after abusing Henk Brother Gregorius/Brother Gregory was part of a contingent of Brothers who arrived in Canada to start a vocation school in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia.

Henk Heithuis is the second from the left – the youngest child.







(The Brothers of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows is Dutch religious order of brothers founded in Amsterdam in 1851 by Fathers Peter Johann Hesseveld pp and Arnold Frentrop sj. In Holland the Brothers are more commonly referred to as the Brothers of Amsterdam.  They were also known as the Brothers of the Blue Cords, a reference to the blue cord used as belt on their habit.

(Members of the order arrived in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia in 1956 (some reports say 1958).  Initially they established and ran a training/vocational school in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia.  In time they purchased a piece of land in Mabou Harbour where they had greenhouses and operated a poultry and cattle business.  They also  “boarded local high school students who, with other area students, worked the farm through a manual training program.” Eventually additional land was purchased and a dormitory-style home “for the mentally challenged” was constructed. The brothers also set up the popular shrine on the site, Mother of Sorrows Pioneer Shrine) Click here for external link to Models of Charitable Care:  Catholic Nuns and Children in their Care which documents the founding of the order)


Bishops of Antigonish Diocese while Brothers of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows were there:  John Roderick MacDonald  (13 April 1950 – 18 December 1959 );William Edward Power (12 May 1960 – 12 December 1986 ); Colin Campbell (12 December 1986 –  26 October 2002)


Video: Boys once castrated in Holland

20 April 2012:  BLOG And more from Mabou

18 April 2012:  Dutch RC church and the castrations of 1950s and 60s

17 April 2012:  BLOG  The Brothers in Mabou

29 March 2012:  It seems appropriate

23 March 2012:  External link to CBC As it Happens – interview with Antigonish Bishop Brian Dunn re Brother Gregory

23 March 2012:  BLOG Countless questions

20 March 2012: CBC “As it Happens” re Brother Gregorius and the castration of a victim who was molested by Gregorius at Harrevald Boarding School in Holland.

Picture Gallery re Brother Gregory and Brothers of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows

1956: Brothers of the Blue Cords go to Canada:  Their name (fame) reached across borders ( background which led to the brothers going to Nova Scotia and reports that the brothers will be leaving for Antigonish, Nova Scotia 20 September 1956)

The property now. That’s the shrine in the background, and in the foreground Mabou River Inn, once the property of the brothers and site of Mary’s Hill Home, the former home for the mentally challenged operated by the brothers


Please note:  Unless otherwise indicated, with the exception of the picture of Henk Heithuis (above) all other pictures – including those excerpts of text shown below, are from In Smarten Geboren…, 1985.  I will identify those as “In Smarten”

Deetman Report Volume 1 (in Dutch – with a few lines of English translation inserted by me at the start)

August/September 2008:  “Later Start Still Produced Excellent Results: Two Cows Score Excellent for 80-year-old Brother Camilles”

2008:  Mother of Sorrows Pioneer Shrine to Celebrate 40th

17 August 1990: Dutch article in Leidse Courant re the Brothers of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows with several paras re Brother Gregory and the order’s time in Nova Scotia (The section dealing with Brother Gregory starts under the sub-header “Rust”)

This is an unofficial translation of a section (“Rust”) in the above dealing specifically with Brother Gregory


Once [he has/they have] come of age [for retirement] or in the case of the health demands, the brothers return to Nieuw Schoonoord in the town of Voorhout.

Two weeks ago, Brother Gregory (aged 77 years) came from Canada to celebrate his 60th anniversary here – after 33 years in that country [Canada].

A lung ailment results in the fact that he will not return to Canada. He is homesick. “If I could, I would return tomorrow”, he states thoughtfully.

He was 14 years of age when he entered the newly established facility for juveniles in Voorhout.  “I was one of the first disciples” Gregory states.   At the BNS, he learned to be a cook.  Later he worked at the various youth facilities (aka internaat) of the congregation and he eventually became superior in Amsterdam and Harreveld.

At his request, he was transferred to Canada where the congregation had a Technical College in Glasgow because there was a great deal of work to be done.

For many years Brother Gregory also worked at an institution for mentally handicapped.

Note: story then describes Brother Gregory resourcefulness in moving a church 13 miles through the woods for a sum of $1,000.00 which proved to be beneficial for the congregation [order] since the church became a well visited shrine with a gift shop and more.

Page 343 (Dutch) from In Smarten re the brothers in Canada

Unofficial translation of page 343 from In Smarten.. from Dutch to English – original Dutch page included – reference to role of Nova Scotia government in establishing Mary Hill Home, and ref. to previous  ‘failures’ of the brothers in Canada


 Unless otherwise indicated the following information is drawn from media coverage (M)and Canadian Catholic Church Directories (CCCD).

23 March 2012:  Bishop Brian Dunn interviewed on CBC’s As it Happens re Brother Gregorius/Brother Gregory

March 2012:  story breaks in Holland regarding the sex abuse and castration of Henk Heithuis, a student at Harreveld boarding school.  It is known that Gregorius, who molested the boy, headed off to Nova Scotia.

2011:  The Deetman Commission makes reference to abuse at the Harreveld boarding school.  The following is an English summary of one such segment of the report:

    • The House of Harreveld   is of the episcopal  congregation of Our Lady  Seven Sorrows, better known as the Brothers of Amsterdam.
    •  There occurred  in the middle 1950s, a “crisis”  which gave rise to  a visitation from Cardinal Alfrink  to  in Harreveld.
    • The then chief of the Harreveld community, who  was  directly involved in the abuse, remained part of the religious congregation.
    • Child Welfare Authorities  rang the alarm and the Department of Justice became involved  in spite of attempts by the brothers to have prominent  Roman Catholic politicians put in a “good word” on their behalf.

2010: The Deetman Commission received a complaint regarding the castration of students Harreveld boarding school.  There was no mention of this in the commission’s report.  When news of the castrations broke in March 2012 it was reported that members of the commission failed to investigate the allegations  “for lack of sufficient leads”.  The Deetman Commission was headed by Wim Deetman, a member of the Christian Democrats.  There are allegations that Deetman failed to report on the castrations because of the connections to the school of  Victor Marijnent ( former Prime Minister and Christian Democrat) which would cast the party in a bad light (M)

1995:  The Brothers of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows left Canada (M) (I think that actually they were gone before 1995)

1994:  The Brothers of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows is no longer listed in Canadian Catholic Church directories as an order in Canada (CCCD)

22 September 1993:  Brother Gregory dies in Holland (M)

1990:  According to one report, Brother Gregory van Buuren returned to Holland.  According to a Dutch source he wanted to return to Canada but was unable to do so for health reasons (M)

1989:  The shrine was given to the Diocese of Antigonish (M)

1988:    Brother Joseph M Lasowski transferred from the Brothers of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows to the Oblates.

( Brother Joe Lasowski assisted Brother Gregory in his work for the Society of Our Lady and at the Shrine)

1985: 1985-1986 Canadian Catholic Church Directory – Paul Stenk listed as Regional Superior (Paul Stenk listed as Regional Superior in directories through to 1993.  The brothers are no longer listed in the directories as an order in Canada  after 1993)

1985:  Brother Camilles purchased the farm (previously owned by the Brothers).  According to one source he did so when the the brothers were returning to Holland, but according to other sources the brothers didn’t leave until 1995.  (M) (I don’t understand the 10-year discrepancy in dates here)


(In Smarten)

  This is an unofficial translation of the above:

Column 1 Canada

Column 2 After his return to Nederland [i.e. The Netherlands] on September 4, he already returned to Canada after 10 days.

There [in Canada] was held the inauguration of the small wooden memorial church which had been “rolled into” Mabou. In Mabou, this [chapel] would serve as a place of devotion for the thriving Society of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows” which was established by brother Gregory van Buuren.

Through his unstinting efforts and activities, the honouring of the Mother of Sorrows was spread throughout Canada and a portion of the United States [of America].

1972:  Brother Lasowski took perpetual vows (In Smarten)

1970:  The brothers founded Mary’s Hill Home, a home “for mentally challenged adults”  The home was operated by the Brothers until 1985 at which time it was taken over by the municipality (M) The founding of Mary’s Hill came after school board policy changed and the brothers could no longer operate  boarding and vocational schools. ( Mabou River Inn)

It sounds as though it may have been the Minister of Social Services of the day who invited or opened the door for the brothers to open and operate the home (In Smarten)

Picture of Mary’s Hill Home in Mabou, Nova Scotia (In Smarten)

28 July 1968:   The church which was purchased in 1967  and then restored  was opened  as shrine.  It was dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows and the brave pioneers of the Mabou area by Bishop William Power. The shrine is known as the Mother of Sorrows Pioneer Shrine of Mabou (M) (Mother of Sorrows Pioneer Shrine of Mabou, Cape Breton)  Brother Gregory is largely credited with the work involved in establishing and managing the shrine (M)

1967:  The Brothers purchased St. Mary Magdelene Church (Indian Point) and moved it/rolled it to a location in Mabou now known as Mary’s Hill.  (M) The church is very small, accommodating only 15-20 people.

Rolling St Mary Magdelene Church from Indian Point to Mabou ((In Smarten)

1965:   Canadians MJ Lasowski (Joseph) and E MacIntyre (Edward)  join the brothers (see below – In Smarten)

(In 1988 Brother Joseph Lasowski, a native of Glace Bay Nova Scotia, left the Brothers of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows to join the Oblates [Oblates of Mary Immaculate.


 (In Smarten)

  The above tells us the following:

1963 Brother Justus Voglezang – to New Glasgow

1965 General Superior [Algemeen Overste] to New Glasgow

15 September, 1965, 2 Canadian Postulants join. They are MJ Lasowski who takes the name of Joseph and E MacIntyre who takes the name of Edward

1963: The  school in New Glasgow closed due to lack of funding (M)

19611961 Catholic Church Directory shows Brothers of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows in New Glasgow and Mabou, Nova Scotia The facility in New Glasgow is referred to as an “Elementary Technical Institute” – the boys would there have been pre-high-school age.  Note that the Father of Novices of the Mabou group is an R. F. Bruno and there are three brothers as novices on the farm. (This info is also in all directories up to and including 1964)

1960: the brothers purchased land in Mabou, Nova Scotia.  According to one one report “boarding facility and vocational schools were established to deal with the needs of young people, particularly those who had trouble adjusting in society, and had learning or behaviour problems.” ( Mabou River Inn)  For a short spell it seems the brothers were operating the vocational school in New Glasgow and the new premises in Mabou.

the brothers established a shrine to Our Lady on the grounds of what would become a boarding facility and training centre for young men in Mabou, Nova Scotia (M)

22 July 1958:  The following is an unofficial translation of the Dutch news article shown below:

July 1958: (note: is this the year of Henk’s death)

Title: [Religious] Brothers of our Lady of Seven Sorrows

Subtitle: Two new foundations

Seven brothers of the [the congregation of] Our Lady of 7 Sorrows left for Maasdam on the 25th of July [1958]. Four of them will establish a novitiate for Canadian candidates [for their order] in Mabou, Nova Scotia. Three brothers will add to the contingent of 5 brothers who give leadership at a technical school in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. Both initiatives will be under the leadership of Brother Pius. The noviate will be led by Brother Bruno.

The congregation of our Lady of Seven Sorrows was established in 1851 in Amsterdam by priest Hessveld and Father A. Frentrop. Through this outreach to Canada, it is hoped new Canadian recruits will join in order to more effectively respond to the increasing demands and needs in the areas of education and child rearing.

This need is especially high for their mission in New Guinea and on the Kei islands where 29 brothers give leadership to agricultural schools, technical schools and other (could be teachers’ training).

The Congregation which already has 250 professed members in the Netherlands is increasing in numbers in the Netherlands as well. At this time, the congregation has 12 sites (houses) with attached technical schools, primary schools or other (teacher or other training).

A student residence (most likely translation of “studie huis” although other translations may apply) in Geldrop will be opened this October. The building of a preliminary technical school in Wolvega is in the final stages of preparation.

07 February 1958:

The adjacent typed document is from newspaper De Limburger.  The following is an unofficial translation of same (Severijnen is the medical doctor who performed the castration.  This text refers to the castration of Henk Heithuis, the boy who was sexually abused by Brother Gregorius/Brother Gregory):

Severijnen makes a report regarding difficulties with a therapeutic castration. The patient (dob 1935) repeatedly received treatment for sexual dysfunction. In February, 1956 he was admitted to Huize Padua for sexual misbehaviour (debauchery; prostitution; fornication) and mental instability and was admitted to the ward designated for this purpose and at his own request was castrated, March 1956, and thereafter discharged.

September 20 1957 Severijnen received a registered letter from a lawyer which claimed he [Severijnen] had acted inappropriately and requested justice and compensation for the victim.

On September 24 1957 there is a communication from the Ministry of Justice triggered by the communication received from Mr. Dirkswager of the Marine Council received by them; and the Ministry of Justice had been asked to initiate criminal prosecution since the patient had registered a complaint that he had been castrated and according to Article 47 of Marine Law castration of a person is not permitted. A complaint had also been registered with the Medical Disciplinary Board.

No one is familiar with Article 47 of Marine Law.

When asked if there is a written declaration from the patient that he requests castration, Severijnen states this did not occur but that there are 4 witnesses [instead].

It was noted that some homosexuals respond well to castration, but that the converse [not responding well] also has been observed

Round Table: Piebinga requests placement for 2 RC patients who will arrive from New Guinea on October 16. A male patient will be admitted to St Servatius and a female patient will be admitted to Coudewater. Kroft has admitted a number of Hungarians vial his colleague Banki, a psychiatrist in Roermond, he is a psychiatrist who specialized in the mental illness of these displaced peoples.

24 September 1957:  the Ministry of Justice was asked to prosecute after Henk had formally complained that he had been castrated – apparently under Article 47 of Marine Law castration is not permitted (Henk had joined the Navy).  A complaint regarding the castration had also been registered with the Medical Disciplinary Board. (M)

20 September 1957: Dr. Severijnen, who castrated  Henk Heithuis received a registered letter from a lawyer requesting compensation for Henk. (M)

1957:  Seven or eight more Brothers of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows arrived in Nova Scotia (M)

March 1957 ?: Gregory Van Buuren arrived in Nova Scotia.  Brother Gregory, as he was known in Canada, did not teach at the vocational school, but was on site in some capacity. (See 1961 – in Canadian Catholic Church Directories the facility is referred to as an “Elementary Technical Institute”)

1957?:  The Technical School in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia once operated by the Brothers of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, including Brother Gregory (In Smarten)

Translation of text with picture in above:

Technical School in New Glasgow, Canada

….(partial sentence)

Canada spoke to the imagination, gave the congregation more security and promised many new recruits (men who would join the order).

The promises of the bishop in Antigonish in Nova Scotia were attractive but -as often happens – reality was different again

The council agreed and in 1956 these brothers left for the New World:

Longinus Koelemij (1946 to Tangshan China and September 1956 to New Glasgow)

Octavianus Frankemolle  (note: September 1956 – to New Glasgow)

Salasius van der Kuil (note: September 1956 – to New Glasgow)

Anastatius Knuist  (note: September 1956 – to New Glasglow) as the first pioneers to this New World.

In 1957, they started (launched) a Technical School in New Glasgow

At a somewhat later date, the brothers established a novicate and started in Mabou with the development of  a farm.

30 September 1956: Four Brothers of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows arrived in Canada to set up a vocational school in New Glasgow, N.S. Brother Gregory/Gregorius was not with this initial group (M)  They are hosted at the Mount Cameron Experimental Farm in Antigonish and spend some time attending St. Francis Xavier University to learn English (Moutn Cameron was owned by the university)

20 September 1956:  Four brothers leave Holland for Antigonish, Nova Scotia (Brothers of the Blue Cords go to Canada:  Their name (fame) reached across borders )

April 1956:  Brother Liguori visits Nova Scotia.  The visit is funded by the Diocese of Antigonish (M)

March 1956:  Henk Heithuis forcibly castrated (M)

1956:  20-year-old Henk Heithuis, a student at Harreveld boarding school in the east of the Netherlands, reported that he had been sexually abused by Brother “Gregorius” the brother superior at the school.  This boy was sent off to a psychiatric facility – he was allegedly declared “mentally unstable and homosexual” and castrated.  There is also evidence that the castration was punishment for blowing the whistle on his abuser.  There are reports that other victim/students suffered a similar fate (M)  I am hearing that there were also reports that a number of boys tried to report sex abuse by the brothers to police and were ignored.  I will look into this and try to confirm or refute. Likewise there are reports that in the 50s there were serious problems of sex abuse by various brothers at the school. (M) There are also reports that 19 brothers at the school were reported as abusers – of the 19 only six were charged (Brother Gregory was not charged) (M)

(The then Director of the Boarding School Victor Marijnen wrote to the Queen and intervened at the political level in an attempt to get a royal pardon for Gregorius and other brothers who had abused boys at the school.  A bishop advised him not to send the letter to the Queen.  Victor Marijnen, who at the time was also vice-chairman of the Dutch Catholic child protection agency,  became  Prime Minister.  Marinjnen was once leader of the Catholic People’s Party (KVP) which later merged with Protestant parties to form the Christian Democrats (CDA)  ) (M)

30 September 1955:  Bishop John R. MacDonald (Antigonish Diocese) asked the Brothers of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows to establish a Junior Vocational School in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia ((In Smarten)



Column 1: Establishing in Canada

Column 2; On September 30, 1955, Father Waltherus read [aloud] to the Council, a letter from the Canadian priest, Father MacNeill, wherein he [Father MacNeill] in the name of his bishop asks for the establishment of a technical school in Canada.

This would be Father Joseph MacNeil, who later became Bishop of the Diocese of St. John, NB, and later the Archbishop of Edmonton Alberta.)

?   En route to his studies in Rome Father MacNeil (Joseph MacNeil) spent two days in Holland visiting institutions and schools run by the brothers (Dutch news)

? While travelling to a congress in Vancouver Bishop John R. MacDonald met Dutch brothers who had established an agricultural school and allegedly became determined to provide this new form of education in the Diocese of Antigonish (Dutch media)

?  During a visit to the Dominican Republic Antigonish Bishop John R MacDonald allegedly visited a vocational school and felt that there was an urgent need for such a facility in his diocese (Dutch news)

1953:  “Gregorius” was Brother Superior at Harreveld boarding school – around this time he began to sexually abuse Henk Heithuis (M)

1951Brothers of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows celebrate the order’s 100-year jubilee – Brother Gregorius is in the picture (In Smarten)


30 March 2012:  Accused child molester sent to Mabou

23 March 2012:  The role of Marijnen in the abuse case is larger

22 March 2012:  Dutch Castration Scandal: How Journalists Broke the Story

21 March 2012: It is certain that it happened 10 times

20 March 2012: Dutch Church Is Accused of Castrating Young Men

20 March 2012:  Catholic church abuse: Castration ‘nothing unusual’

19 March 2012: Time for the truth about Catholic sex abuse in the Netherlands

19 March 2012:  Dutch health inspectorate knew about 1950s forced castrations

18 March 2012: Unofficial translation from Dutch article in

17 March 2012: Forced castrations reportedly found in Roman Catholic care

24 September 2011: Abuse in Dutch Catholic care: more evidence

2 Responses to Van Buuren: Brother Gregory Van Buuren

  1. IJsbrand Rogge says:

    Did you link to my video clip (Homosexual boys once castrated in Holland?

  2. Sylvia says:

    Thank you Michael. How very kind of your family to care for Henk, and so good that you are keeping his memory and story alive. What happened to Henk and those other poor boys was unconscionable – not only the sexual abuse they enured at the hands of the brothers, but the horrific aftermath. Truly a sordid tale.

    I pray for the repose of his dear soul.

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