20 Questions with Fr. Jan de Jong, SCJ
Favorite color? What makes you happy? What are you good at? What is your greatest fear… “Twenty Questions” is a regular feature in which SCJs and those with whom they minister and collaborate share a bit about themselves in an informal Q&A, each answering 20 questions.
Fr. Jan de Jong, 78, professed his first vows with the Priests of the Sacred Heart in 1937. Originally from the Dutch Province, he came to the United States in 1969 to teach at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology. Eventually, he went on to be the seminary’s president-rector. He has also served as a CPE supervisor (Clinical Pastoral Education) and as novice pastor. Now retired, he is a member of the Sacred Heart Community at SHML.
Q: Where were you born and raised? Describe your family
I was born and raised on a dairy farm in Ouder Amstel, not far from Amsterdam, the Netherlands. My parents were married when they were 24 and 22 years old. I am the oldest of the family of 12 children as well as the first grandchild of the de Jong family. My mother was a calm, caring, and regal person. On Sundays she prepared a festive meal for the whole family. My father was a dedicated farmer, proud of all his children. He loved to ice skate and taught us all the art of ice skating. When I was12 years old, I felt a vocation to the priesthood and begun my studies at the minor seminary of the Priests of the Sacred Heart in Bergen op Zoom in the southern part of the Netherlands.
Q: What is your favorite book or movie?
My favorite movie is “La Vita è Bella,” (Life is beautifiul), by Roberto Benigni (1997). In this Italian movie a sense of humor is maintained in the tragic situations of World War II.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world (without concern about the expense) where would you go and why?
I would travel to New Zealand, because of the beauty of nature.
Q: What are you good at?
I am a good teacher, pastor and administrator.
Q: What is your favorite color?
My favorite color is blue. I have blue eyes. I like the blue Dutch sky. Blue is also the color of perseverance and determination.
Q: Do you have any hobbies or pastimes? If so, what are they and how did you get interested in them?
I enjoy going to the symphony. Already at the minor seminary I developed a taste for classical music. I like to read and to study languages. I especially enjoy speaking Italian. I lived in Rome for five years. My favorite pastimes are walking and skating. I like the movement on the ice rink.
Q: What is your favorite food?
My favorite food is fresh herring. [A true Dutchman!]
Q: What is your least favorite chore?
Q: Who — living or deceased — do you most admire and why?
I am thinking of my grandfather Jan de Jong, because he was a good storyteller.
Q: What would surprise people to learn about you?
Q: What skill or talent would you like to have that you do not? Why?
I would like to be a painter or an accordion player. I never developed artistic skills.
Q: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Q: What makes you happy?
To be with people, who enjoy life to the fullest.
Q: What is your greatest fear?
To spend the last years of my life in dementia.
Q: What trait or habit do you dislike in yourself?
Q: What trait or habit do you dislike in others?
People who are judgmental and think that they know everything better than others.
Q: List three words that describe you.
Caring, gentle, intelligent.
Q: How did you come to know of the Priests of the Sacred Heart?
I had an uncle who was a Priest of the Sacred Heart. He became a missionary in South America and ministered in Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile during the Allende period.
Q: What interested you initially when you learned about the SCJs? What interests you about the SCJs now?
Like my uncle, I wanted to be a missionary in a foreign country. But I ended up with the SCJ in the United States, where I worked in our seminary and in hospital ministry, and as novice master. My interest in the SCJs has always been our commitment to work with and for the less privileged people.
Q: Do you consider yourself a Dehonian? If so, what does that mean to you?
Yes, I consider myself a Dehonian. To be a Dehonian means to promote God’s Reign of love in “hearts and societies.” I also enjoy the sense of hospitality and community in the worldwide Congregation.