The Vandenbroeks

July 4th, 2021

After we had both retired, we were living in Ontario, Canada in what we had anticipated would be our final home. In the ensuing ten years we had spent many happy times with my five sisters and their extended families, with friends, and with my daughter; but some division always encroached over politics and/or religion. The arrival of the “Pandemic” was our wakeup call! In the early weeks of the shutdowns and mask-ups, we went along with the guidelines, but soon began to question the truth of the many suggested remedies. When our family of parishes closed the doors of our churches and denied the sacraments to most everyone, we decided to look for a surviving community of Catholics.  

In April of 2021 we chose to test the boundaries of our government lockdowns by travelling to Texas to attend a Holy Week Retreat near Dallas. We of course expected to be questioned about our plans and our need to travel; and indeed it was a bureaucratic kerfuffle, from empty airports, masked agents, testing labs, government mandated hotel stays, and a much larger personal cost. Travel, even within our continent, was severely restricted and closely controlled. This was our tipping point! We anticipated many further restrictions, mandated experimental vaccinations, border closures, perhaps even forced isolation.

We made the decision to sell our home in May, 2021, and move to the USA. We began searching online for a home in Tyler and were surprised when our home in Chatham sold within a week. The choice of location had been prompted by the many accolades we had heard about the Catholic community in Tyler, under the guidance of Bishop Joseph Strickland. We were not searching specifically for a Latin Mass or the community of Veritatis Splendor, but we were soon among many others enjoying the growing family of newcomers to Tyler.

That’s not to say our move was simple; far from it! The complication of cross-border travel can get quite complicated. When we had loaded up our belongings and said goodbye to the moving van, we were prepared to drive our car across the border with some personal belongings. U.S. Homeland Security had other ideas. As a U.S. citizen, Pennie could cross the border, but a Canadian citizen was required to have residency status before entry.

We returned to Canada to reassess the situation, and then made arrangements for Pennie to fly to Oklahoma and then drive to Tyler with her sister for the arrival of the moving van. I flew into Dallas from Toronto 6 days later, after selling our car. My arrival on the evening of July 4th was highlighted by displays of Independence Day fireworks in the skies between Dallas and Tyler announcing my freedom and escape from tyranny!

Our new home in Tyler, which we purchased without personally seeing, is close to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. We have been most welcomed in our new parish, and have quickly involved ourselves in the various church activities, Pennie with the Chant Choir, myself as an usher at the Traditional Latin Mass. Our faith has been strengthened through attendance at many daily masses, holy rosary gatherings, and interaction with many church members. We especially value our close interaction with our shepherd, Bishop Strickland!

Many of our new friends in Tyler have come from across the U.S. and Canada, and each has a similar story of defection and integration from what they perceived as persecution. To arrive in this locale through God’s guidance has truly been a miracle. None of this could have happened, at this speed, had it not come about with prayer and divine help. We are blessed to be in this place at this time and await further directions from our Lord.