Deacon chosen to be a town’s hermit


Well, now…this is different: 

Living in a cave with no running water or electricity would sound more like a punishment than a dream job to most people.

But divorced Belgian Stan Vanuytrecht had to fight off competition from 50 people to get the position as one of Europe’s last hermits in the Austrian town of Saalfelden.

The Mayor of Saalfeden, a town in the west of Austria near Salzburg, said they chose Mr Vanuytrecht, a Catholic deacon, because ‘his personality appealed to us’.

‘He radiates calm and comes across as well-anchored,’ said Erich Rohrmoser.

Mr Vanuytrecht, 58, is a retired surveying technician and former artillery officer from Belgium.

‘I thought I didn’t have a chance,’ Mr Vanuytrecht said to the Austria Press Agency, adding that he was instantly drawn to the job.

‘When I read about the Saalfelden hermitage I thought to myself: that’s the place for me,’ he said.

The 350-year-old hermitage is built into a cliff above the town and is open from April to November.

Its resident is not totally isolated as people often walk up to the hermitage to enjoy the view and confide in the hermit.

Mr Vanuytrecht said his previous experience working with the homeless, drug addicts and prisoners has provided him with the skills needed for the role.

‘It’s important just to listen without talking oneself and without judging,’ he said.

Mr Vanuytrecht said the poverty he experienced after his divorce from his ex-wife and her experiences with mental illness had also taught him crucial lessons.

Read on. 

Deacon Greg Kandra
Headlines and Homilies
Deacon Greg Kandra is a Roman Catholic deacon in the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York. For nearly three decades, he was a writer and producer for CBS News, where he contributed to a variety of programs and was honored with every major award in broadcasting. Deacon Greg now serves as Multimedia Editor for Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA.) He and his wife live in Forest Hills, New York.
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