Sister Robertilde Wihelmina van Der Meer from the Congregation of Servants of the Holy Spirit died on June 18 at 87 (Photo: YouTube)
Catholics in Indonesia’s Ruteng Diocese are mourning the death of a Dutch-born nun who spent more than half of her life doing family pastoral work in their diocese.
Sister Robertilde Wihelmina van Der Meer from the Congregation of Servants of the Holy Spirit (SSpS) died on June 18 at 87 and was buried at the congregation's cemetery in Ruteng on June 21.
News of her death prompted many Catholics, including the district government, to express their condolences on social media for the friendly nun.
Sister Natalia Maria Naki, director of SSpS-run St. Raphael Hospital in Cancar, 15 kilometers west of Ruteng, who had lived with Sister Robertilde since 2012, said the nun showed “total devotion to the people she served."
The late nun began working in Ruteng Diocese in 1972. As part of the diocese's family commission, she traveled around villages on foot and on horseback to teach local people about natural family planning programs and other reproductive issues.
“Even when in 2016 she could no longer walk around because of her health, she still served the people who came to see her. We only limited her guests during the Covid-19 pandemic," Sister Naki said.
Because of her love for the people here, she refused a request from the congregation to rest in the Netherlands in her old age
She said the nun adhered to the principle that "whoever comes to see her, they are special guests that she must serve."
Sister Robertilde was the last European missionary from their congregation in Flores.
"Because of her love for the people here, she refused a request from the congregation to rest in the Netherlands in her old age and chose to end her life among the people here," Sister Naki said.
Yosep Min Palem, a layman who worked with the nun, said that when counseling families, Sister Robertilde emphasized respect for human life after the point of conception in the womb.
"She was angry and sad when she heard news about an abortion and a woman who had thrown away a newborn baby,” he said.
The nun also often spent time at the SSpS-run St. Damian Rehabilitation Center in Cancar where she helped leprosy patients and disabled people.