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    Our dear departed

    Marcel Vertonghen

    Marcel Vertonghen

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    Frederic Vital Mees smallMarcel Vertonghen (1928-2021)


    Born in Steenhuffel (Belgium) on January 2, 1928
    Ordained Priest on October 6, 2013

    He was a missionary in Congo (Kasayi) and Belgium.

    Died in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw (Belgium) on June 17, 2021, at the age of 93.


    Marcel Vertonghen died peacefully in the community of Zuun, where he had spent the latter years of his lengthy life. He was a happy man. He simply radiated it. Did he have a better reason to be joyful man than the rest of us? Was he more gifted than others? Talented? Did he have a lifetime of good fortune and better health? Probably not. And he indeed would never have said this of himself.

    One of his sayings was, “La mémoire est une faculté qui oublie” (memory is a faculty that forgets). I have always been interested in the statement. How can “forgetting” be considered a part of memory’s essence? However, one thing was quickly evident. Marcel’s way of life and faith were characterized by that statement: simple, modest, open ears and eyes, a healthy critical spirit, and a strong ability to put things into perspective.

    Marcel was a simple man. He was proud of his origins, parents, family, land, agricultural career, and village Steenhuffel, that he inherited from his parents. He remained a Brabant man throughout his life.

    Over the years, this simplicity has acquired a garment of great humility. Marcel had completed these priestly studies in a pre-conciliar Church that was confident in its right, triumphalist, and dogmatic. Further studies in geography and physics, on the other hand, would awaken him to the fact that nothing is certain. That man is but a puny creature in a cosmos expanding at lightning speed, facing the unspeakable, the unimaginable. The suspicion of that mystery filled Marcel with fear and with profound awe and reverence. He was able to attest to this for Kananga high school students and subsequently for the young people in our Formation houses for over thirteen years.

    In this life, nothing is absolute. Everything is relative. What is certain today will be questioned, changed, or mutated tomorrow. Man’s thoughts and beliefs are not exempt from this fact. Marcel was well aware of this, and as a result he understood just how to place himself in such context. He was not afraid to question the certainties of the moment. And he did it with humor, refined form of relativization. On his lips was usually that compassionate, somewhat mischievous smile.

    Behind the wonder of nature, Marcel always searched for the hand of the Creator. Nonetheless, he knew that this incredible grandeur had been entrusted to human hands. He encountered the unique man, Jesus of Nazareth, at the crossing point of heaven and earth, with whom he spent a lifetime.

    Thank you for who you were Marcel, your beautiful poems and songs, your formation work and animation in our houses, and your pastoral commitment.

    Bart Van Thielen