“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow” (Mk 4:3).
To mark the 100th anniversary of the Ladies of Bethany, the Dutch religious order that “scattered seeds” for the founding of The Lay Centre in 1986, we chose the detail of “the sower” from the hand-embroidered chasuble that was gifted to the Ladies of Bethany in 1951, on the profession day of Leideke Galema, L.o.B. The image accompanies the article about our extraordinary public event, which will be held Feb. 20, "Planting Seeds of Hope: Grassroots Initiatives on Creating a Culture of Dialogue."
The congregation, founded in 1919, by Dr. Jacques van Ginneken, SJ, first sent two sisters to Rome in 1950, with the aim of promoting dialogue through hospitality in the spirit of Mary and Martha, the two “original” Ladies of Bethany who were friends of Jesus.
The “Foyer Unitas”, the ecumenical centre, where the Ladies welcomed thousands of guests, from 1962 to 1986, was one of the results of seeds sown in those early years. When Riekie van Velzen and I had the idea to start the “Lay Centre” in 1986, the Ladies of Bethany, especially Leideke Galema, L.o.B., and Josefa Koet, L.o.B., shared with us all that they had. They sowed bountifully and generously. We are now reaping the harvest.
Looking back, I realize how much these Ladies taught Riekie and I about hospitality, dialogue, and ecumenism. The seeds they planted many years ago took root in us and continue to do so in the many young women and men who have passed through the doors of The Lay Centre. Through the generosity of the Ladies, these seeds are bearing fruit in the lives of the 24 scholars from 16 countries who make up The Lay Centre today, as well as the many women and men who come through our doors for various local and international programs.
The image of the sower reminds us of the cycle of agricultural life, as well as the life cycle of each of us and of every community. What is important is that we have the courage to sow generously remembering that ultimately all is gift. As St. Paul wrote, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Cor 3:6).