SCJs’ eldest bishop dies

Fr. Peter Surdel, provincial superior of South Africa, with Bishop Evert Baaij during a visit in 2010.

He called South Africa home

Bishop Evert Baaij, SCJ, retired bishop of Aliwal North, South Africa, died January 31. He passed away at Nazareth House, a senior living community, in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Struggling with heart issues in his last days, the bishop was surrounded by many of the religious sisters whom he knew at Nazareth, who prayed the rosary at his bedside in his last hours.

At 90, Bishop Baaij was the eldest bishop in the congregation. A member of the Priests of the Sacred Heart since 1942 (this year he would have celebrated his 70th anniversary of profession!), Bishop Baaij was born in the Netherlands, became a citizen of Canada, is a member of the U.S. Province but has called South Africa his home for the past 55 years.

Evert Baaij was ordained a priest on July 20, 1947.  After his ordination, he went to France for language studies in preparation for an assignment in French Canada. He arrived in Canada in 1949.  There, he had his first experience with hospital chaplaincy, a ministry that remained close to his heart. He taught in Canada and the United States, and in 1957, left for the missions in South Africa. In 1974, Pope Paul VI named him bishop of Aliwal North, South Africa. His bishop’s shield carries the Latin words: Veni Creator (Come, O Creator). Bishop Baaij said that he chose it because “God is the creator of the universe and we are God’s co-creators.”

Bishop Baaij served as bishop of Aliwal North until 1981 when health concerns prompted him to resign. In recent years he served as chaplain to Nazareth House.

An article about Bishop Baaij, on the occasion of his 90th birthday, was posted on the province website last year. Click here to read it.

Funeral arrangements are pending but Fr. Peter Surdel, provincial superior of South Africa, thought that the bishop would most likely be buried in Aliwal North, where he served.