How healthy is Herman Schaepman?
by Eduard Schaepman, on 30 Jun 2021
In the latest episode of the 'Inspired by Health' series, I talk to my own brother Herman Schaepman. Herman was ordained a priest in 2015 and has since inspired many church-goer with his beautiful readings, poems and warm voice (which still reminds me of my father's). Herman and I grew up together of course, we are 7 years apart. Herman was born in Den Bosch, after we moved from Beek, and there he also received his first sacrament. A special one, because this was the only baptism that our mother attended, which was unusual in those days - baptisms often took place on the day of birth itself or the day after. But my mother decided that she wanted to be present at the last one herself, so only after she had left the maternity bed was Herman baptized.
Altar boy at Our Lady's Basilica
We moved around quite a bit when we were young, going from Den Bosch to Sint-Michielsgestel and on to Apeldoorn. Herman attended a Protestant primary school there, so mornings started with a prayer and the teacher read from the Bible. At home, we were a little different from the rest: on Sundays we were free to play, so all our friends came to us. In those days my brother made his First Holy Communion, he received his confirmation in Maastricht (indeed, we had moved again) in the Basilica of Our Lady, where he also served as altar boy. The bishop of Limburg at that time was very devoted to the altar boys, and so Herman travelled to Rome at the age of 14, together with 250 other altar boys. The bishop had even been able to arrange a personal audience for the group with Pope John Paul II, an experience not easily to forget (just like the later meetings with Pope Benedict XVI and the current Pope Francis). In his youth, my brother was already very much involved with religion, but he also liked to be active in sports, such as a game of tennis or golf or a hockey match coached by my father. In addition, he enjoyed working in the hospitality industry, after which the choice to study hotelmanagement in Heerle after secondary school was easily made.
Lay missionary in Uganda
After his studies, he saw a lot of the world. From an internship at the Marriott in Washington DC and London to hard work on cruise ships: Herman was a real business nomad. He stood at the cradle of Disneyland Paris, hiring 12,000 people from all over the world to make the park a success. In 2003 - on the way to a winery in South Africa that he wanted to take over - he thought about the future. He asked himself: "What do I want to do with the rest of my life? He wanted to mean something and applied to the UN and other aid organisations, unsuccessfully because he did not have the right papers. He trained as a lay missionary with the Mill Hill Fathers in London and was sent to Uganda. There, he lived for four and a half years in the slums and helped child soldiers to process their traumas with the help of music. He also suffered a major trauma himself when he and his colleagues were attacked during dinner by a group of men wearing balaclavas and carrying machine guns.
His time in Uganda was a turning point for Herman. He assisted the poorest of the poor, where the need is great, but he noticed that the faith is very much alive. Very different from here in the Netherlands: less and less people go to church (though more often to the psychologist, could there be a relation?). In 2008 Herman received his vocation during a retreat and decided to become a priest and focus on the Netherlands. Thanks to Bishop Hurkmans of Den Bosch he was allowed to study at the seminary for late vocations in Rome, the Pontifical Beda College. In doing so, he followed in the footsteps of our great uncle Herman J.A.M. Schaepman, the first priest in the Lower House in 1880 (the one from Schaepman's gin, yes). Since 1 January, he is pastor of the St. Elisabeth parish in Grave with the parishes of Escharen, Gassel and Velp.
Health and happiness an 8
My brother is very much into food for the soul, with psalms, bible texts and retreats: his spiritual health is fine, but of course I am also curious about his physical health. He is not very conscious about measuring his activity, his deep sleep or health prevention like I am, but I find out that he is definitely working on it by listening to his body. In terms of food, for example, he has been eating as pure as possible since he went to Uganda. He noticed that the food there, unsprayed, pure and with lots of fruit and vegetables, had a good effect on his body. He also doesn't respond well to our tap water because of all the medicine residues, so he switched to spring water (and as a Roman Catholic, a good glass of wine now and then is part of that). He gives his health and happiness a big 8, and before he ends with a beautiful poem by our grandmother, he gives us business nomads a great tip: 'Find a moment of silence. Start with 5 minutes in the comfort of your home and experience what happens in your body, and slowly expand it. Go on a retreat, there are plenty of beautiful places in the Netherlands. Again, start with one day and build it up slowly.