I am proud to present the first and second volume of the History of the Brothers of Our Lady Mother of Mercy are dedicated to Archbishop Zwijsen, the visionary founder of the congregation, and to Father Superior De Beer, the first superior general to lead it from 1846 till 1900. Both portraits are important to understanding the spirit of this important Dutch brother foundation and, more in general, the way catholic charity institutes in the nineteenth century developed.

Zwijsen and De Beer quickly started founding a series of catholic schools, an orphanage, two boarding schools for blind and deaf children and two printing offices, in different parts of the Netherlands and also in Belgium. What were their aims with these educational initiatives and how did they contribute to church and society? More than hundred young men joined the Brothers in the first fifteen years of existence and hundreds would follow in the next decades. Why did they come and what was Zwijsen’s and De Beer’s approach to make religious recruitment that successful? How did the two leaders guide their congregation, with which network and style of leadership? What was their view on religious life and how did they convey their spirituality of mercy and brotherhood to the younger generations?

Zwijsen and De Beer embodied the Christian ideals of charity. They were visionary church leaders, charismatic organizers and meticulous administrators of the schools and institutes founded by their congregations. And above all, they were hard-working, servant leaders who wanted to serve the church and the catholic society, especially the poor and needy.


These two CMM volumes tell the story of pioneer work in catholic charity and emancipation, focusing on different aspects: the brothers’ mission in church and society, their ideals and spirituality, their community life and their leadership.


Charles van Leeuwen, Bishop Zwijsen and his First Brothers. The Founder, the Founding Generation and the Foundation History (History of the Brothers of Our Lady Mother of Mercy, 1). (Nijmegen: Valkhof Pers, 2014)

Charles van Leeuwen, Conscientious and Caring. A Portrait of Father Superior De Beer (1821-1901) (History of the Brothers of Our Lady Mother of Mercy, 2). Nijmegen: Valkhof Pers, 2014

Upcoming: Missie van barmhartigheid (in Dutch, 700 pp, 2021)