The Augustinian General Chapter of 1895 decreed on 2nd October of that year the erection of the Province of Holland, during the time of Sebastian Martinelli O.S.A. as Prior General. Prior to 1895 the Augustinians of Holland belonged to the Commissary of Belgium, which had been the juridical continuation of the previous Province of Belgium since the beginning of nineteenth century.
Delving further back into history, the Augustinians of Holland were subject to the Province of Belgium. By a decree dated 4th June of 1803, however, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Caprara (the papal legate based in Paris, with authority in Napoleonic territories) suppressed all religious orders in Belgium. Consequently, the Belgian Augustinian Provincial lost his authority. As a consequence, the Augustinians in Holland were no longer dependent on him juridically. Accordingly, on 8 June 1814, in Amsterdam, the Dutch Augustinians elected themselves a Superior in the person of Fr Augustinus Naudts O.S.A.. The General Council of the Order in Rome then appointed him in 1816 as their General Commissary (official vicar) in Holland, and he served in this capacity until 1843. He and his successors retained this office until the re-establishment of the Province of Belgium in 1901.
After his canonical visit to Holland in 1879, the Prior General Joannes Belluomini O.S.A. appointed Bernard van Eert O.S.A., in Amsterdam, as Superior of the Dutch Mission. He entrusted to him the responsibility of founding more communities so as to enable the formation of an autonomous Dutch Province. In 1892 the Prior General Sebastian Martinelli O.S.A. assessed that sufficient growth had occurred, and the subsequent General Chapter of 1895 then approved of a Province of Holland. The reasons given for this step included the increase in the number of Dutch vocations, and the political tension between the two countries, Belgium and Holland. In 1895 the Province of Holland commenced with twenty-four priests (five of whom had been ordained that same year) and sixteen clerical professed.
The Province of Holland began with Augustinian communities in Amsterdam, Utrecht and Eindhoven, aside from a residence in Nieuwendam (Amsterdam). The apostolate of the Province centred on pastoral work in the parishes of the cities of Amsterdam and Utrecht, and in Wirmarsum and Nieuwendam, and in the public church (but not a parish) in the busy city of Eindhoven. Subsequently the Dutch Province founded communities in Venlo in 1920, Haarlem (1922), Nijmegen (1925), and Culemnborg (1936). Much later more parishes were accepted or erected, and in 1945 pastoral responsibility for the homeless in the cities of Utrecht, Nijmegen and Eindhoven was accepted.
The number of schools run by the Province progressively increased through the years, reaching a maximum of six (Eindhoven, Venlo, two in Haarlem, Schiedam and Amsterdam), and the number of parishes rose to seventeen. In Witmarsum (parish and novitiate), which was located in the northern part of the country and where ecumenical movement was strong, a center for religious and cultural formation for the adults (1947) was established. In 1930 the mission in Bolivia started, and in 1951 in Papua, Indonesia. Piet van Diepen O.S.A. became the first bishop of the diocese of Manokwari-Sorong in Papua (in 1966-1988). Since 1953, fourteen Dutch Augustinians have served there, and many of them did so for decades. This includes the two who are still there in 2016, and one of them have taken out Indonesian citizenship.
In 1950 a Dutch Augustinian community was established at Bagneux (in Paris, France), and in 1952 a second community began in Paris (and has since been withdrawn). In the year 1960 the Province comprised 400 members, 250 of whom were priests. In January 1960 the new monastery of the cloistered sisters was opened in Werkhoven. In the 1960s and afterwards, the effects of the change in cultural values and tensions in the Church following the Second Vatican Council led to a drastic decline in vocations, such that, as of 1st June 2006, the Province had reduced numerically to 128 members, including those in the Dutch Augustinian missions in Bolivia (18 – but only a minority of them Dutch-born) and Papua (38 – who overwhelmingly were Papuans).
In Europe, the Dutch Province presently has five communities. These are the remaining apostolate of the Province: 1.Pastoral works in Utrecht and Nijmegen. 2.The Augustijns Instituut in Eindhoven, a center for Augustinian studies and spirituality. 3.The missions in Bolivia and Papua, Indonesia. Among the members of the Province who have become renowned for living a holy life are Fr Thomas van der Vloodt (died in 1936, founder of the mission of Bolivia) and Fr Ansfried Hulsbosch (died 1973).With the reduced number of Augustinians in both the Belgian and Dutch Provinces from 2009 onwards, the prospect of the union of these jurisdictions into one combined Province is being negotiated.AN4862