It is with regret that we inform you of the death at 10.45 am on Friday 23rd February 2018, at Missiehuis Vrijland, Oosterbeek, The Netherlands, aged 90 , of
Father Jaap (James) Nielen
Mill Hill Missionary
May he rest in peace
Jacobus Hendricus was born at Wormerveer, The Netherlands, on 28th January 1928. His father Cornelius and mother Afra (née Bos) had four sons and one daughter. They had a cheese shop. Jaap did his secondary education at the Missiehuis in Hoorn as well as in the Mill Hill colleges in Haelen and Tilburg before he began his studies in Philosophy in Roosendaal in 1946. From there he went to St Joseph’s College, Mill Hill, London, for four years of studies in Theology. He took the Perpetual Oath on 5th May 1951 and a year later, on 13th July 1952, he was ordained priest at St Joseph’s College by Cardinal Bernard William Griffin.
His first appointment was to further studies in Rome, where he obtained a doctorate in Philosophy in 1955. He had a chance to hand on his newly acquired knowledge in Roosendaal where he taught our Mill Hill students for four years. Jaap then received an appointment to the mission in Buea, Cameroon, for which he had longed. He served there until 1978, with an interruption of one year of teaching (from 1962 to 1963) to fill a gap in the teaching staff in Gaba, Kampala, Uganda. He was then appointed to the staff in Roosendaal, but a year later saw him return to his beloved Cameroon. He was engaged in teaching and worked in various parishes.
It was during his time as parish priest of Bafmeng, near to Lake Nyos, that a terrible natural disaster took place. In august 1986 a giant cloud of poisonous gas erupted from the depths of the lake, killing in one night more than 1,700 people as well as a huge number of cattle living around the lake up to a distance of 11 km from the lake.
Jaap witnessed the disaster the following morning. He wrote a moving letter to archbishop Verdzekov of Bamenda. He committed himself heart and soul to the well-being of the survivors. Together with others he managed to organise relief aid as well as replacement housing for the survivors. The book ‘Stikvallei’ (Suffocation Valley) written in 2013 by the well-known Dutch author Frank Westerman, describes in detail the circumstances, including the exceptional commitment of Jaap.
In 2003 Jaap returned to The Netherlands where he accepted an appointment in a parish in Beverwijk. He continued his work as pastor as long as he possibly could. Forced by poor health he retired to Huize Vrijland in 2017 where he died at 10.45 this morning.
The funeral Mass will be celebrated on Wednesday 28th February at Missiehuis Vrijland after which the burial will take place in the cemetery there.