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Tomb Jozef De Clerck Front Poet Missionary Wortel

In the cemetery of Wortel at St. John Baptist Church is the remarkable grave with Chinese characters of Jozef "Jef" De Clerck.
He was born in Wortel on October 14, 1894. At the beginning of World War I he had just graduated from the Minor Seminary Van Hoogstraten and wanted to enter the Scheutists, but unfortunately the war prevented this. In the fall of 1914 he went with other Scheutist candidates via Holland to England to begin his priestly training. In July 1915 he was called up for military service. In the camp of Auvours he receives training for stretcher bearer. In 1916 he went to the Yser Front and was assigned to the Colonne d'Ambulance with the IVth Army Division in the area of Alveringem and Veurne. Here he got to know Cyriel Verschaeve, who was a vicar in Alveringem, and who encouraged him to write poems but also to get involved in the work of the study circles at the front. At the front he writes about 200 poems that are completely forgotten today. After the war he devoted himself to the development of the VOS (Flemish Old Fighters) in the Noorderkempen. On September 28, 1920 he was ordained as a priest and after a year he leaves for China as a missionary. On 11 July 1929 he died in his mission post in Nan-haot-tsien as a result of typhus.

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  • Text: Jhonny Bastiaensen
  • Photos: Jhonny Bastiaensen