Born Petrus Norbert Donders
October 27, 1807
Died January 14, 1887 (aged 79)
Nationality Dutch, Surinamese
Occupation Catholic priest
Known for Missionary work in Suriname
Statue in Tilburg
Peter Donders (27 October 1807, Tilburg - 14 January 1887, Batavia, Surinam) was a Dutch Roman Catholic missionary who served the Africans, native inhabitants and lepers of Surinam. He worked in both Paramaribo and Batavia. He is buried in Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral in Paramaribo. He was beatified in 1982 and assigned a feast day on the liturgical calendar.
Petrus Donders was born in Tilburg, the Netherlands on 27 October 1807 to Arnold Denis and Petronella van den Brekel Donders. He was fondly known by Tilburgers as Peerke Donders. He desired from his early childhood to be a priest, but he first worked in a factory. He afterwards became a servant in the minor seminary Beekvliet in Sint Michiels Gestel, where he was given some education. Later a benefactor enabled him to pursue his theological studies at the Major Seminary of Haaren.
A chance reading of the Annals of the Propagation of the Faith, a journal of reports from missions, determined his vocation for foreign missions. He was accepted in 1839 as a missionary for the then Dutch colony of Surinam (now the Republic of Suriname), and ordained priest the following year. In 1842 he traveled to Paramaribo, the capital of the colony, to begin his long apostolic career. He laboured with success among the African blacks in the plantations, and by 1850 had instructed and baptized 1200. His letters express his indignation at the harsh treatment of the African peoples forced to work on the plantations.
He extended his work to the Indians of Saramacca. In 1855 he took up his residence in Batavia, where for nearly 32 years he ministered to 600 lepers, tending to them personally until he was able to persuade the authorities to provide adequate nursing services. He left them only to visit the Africans and Indians.
In 1865 the whole colony was assigned to the Redemptorist Fathers by the Holy See and the Dutch King. Father Donders asked to join them and was received in Paramaribo, in 1867, by Monsignor Swinkels, the first Redemptoristvicar Apostolic. After this, he went back to his charges. He studied music to cheer his afflicted children, and though given an assistant, he laboured until his death on 14 January 1887. He was buried within the Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral of Paramaibo, which was consecrated in 1885.
Donders' birth house in Tilburg was reconstructed in 1930 on the old foundations. A well is also on the property. A chapel was built in procession park.
On May 23, 1982 Donders was beatified. Pope John Paul II in 1979 confirmed that in 1929, a child was cured of bone cancer through the intercession of Donders . His feast day is January 14.
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