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Fr. German Fr. Guy Carlson
Click here for Fr. Van's Newsletters Conferral of Honorary Doctorate - Bamboo Project

Father Gerard Van Walleghem's biodata
1950's photo to come here

May 2002

August 2008


Well, my name is Gerard Adhelson Van Walleghem. The name comes from the work my ancestors were doing somewhere in Flanders, Belgium, as far back as 1315. Ghem is very ancient Flemish for house, and of course, wall is wall. Some ancestor lived in a house at the wall of a town and collected the toll from those who wished to enter the town, rather prosaic but interesting. I have just completed last week three quarters of a century on planet earth, 7th March,1927, being the day I first opened my eyes but since it was five minutes after midnight I probably didn`t see much.

My North Point history began on January 12th, 1952 and so I have just completed fifty years with a few short breaks that the Provincial saw fit to give me to do some headmastering at St. Alphonsus School, Kurseong, plus some Jesuit Novice Directing in Kalimpong and the last break was three years of parish priest work in Kurseong. I haven`t shaken the world, but I managed to serve it a bit, positively, I hope.

I was the youngest of seven boys, raised on a dairy farm within the then boundaries of the city of Winnipeg, in the Province of Manitoba, in Canada. My father`s dictum was that if I wanted an education, I would have to work for it, so before class and after it from the age of 6, I learned to work for my keep. We all did that and it didn`t harm any one of us. My first eight years of schooling

were in a Jesuit Parish grammar school run by Sisters and my High School, from 9 onwards was in a Jesuit school called St. Paul`s in Winnipeg, the place where A.C.Rai, our Asst.headmaster here has been teaching for the past year and where three of our present Class
XII students have been spending two months, and where two others now finishing the ISC exams will spend April and May. I joined the Jesuits at the age of 17, after high school and completed my degree through the University of Montreal afterwards. Some further studies were done later in Marquette University, Milwaukee, U.S.A., in Counseling Psychology.
The North Point Alumni Network obviously means a tremendous amount to so many of those , including myself, who have had the privilege of benefiting from the North Point Spirit.


Autobiography of Father Van Walleghem, written on March 11, 2002

Oct. 23rd , 2002  was a memorable and proud day for Fr. Van, his family as well as for the entire Darjeeling Province when Fr. Gerard Van Walleghem was conferred Honorary Doctorate of Laws by the University of Manitoba, Canada.
At 3.30 PM the convocation ceremony began in Investors’ Groups Athletic Centre, with the university Graduating students walking in procession, wearing the convocation gown of their respective faculty, followed by board and senate members and then Fr. Van in his Kingly red/ white gown  ahead of the Vice-Chancellor and the Chancellor of the university. The ceremony began with the singing of Canadian National anthem which was followed by invocation of the Ultimate Being. Then, as the President and the Vice-Chancellor Ms. Emoke J.E. Szathmary officially opened the 35th Annual Fall Convocation ,  there began the  conferring of university degrees upon the graduating students and special awards for the distinguished professors. But all this was preceded by the moment for which extended/ dispersed  ‘Van’ family from Winnipeg and  other parts of Canada had assembled and were waiting eagerly.  The Honorary Doctorate is the highest degree that University of Manitoba bestows upon any individual and the recepients for this year were- Fr. Gerard Van Walleghem SJ  on the 23rd of Oct. and a well- known Canadian personality Mr. John Ralston Saul (the husband of Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba Province, Canada) on the 24th Oct. 2002.
As the audience waited patiently, the Rector of St. Paul’s College, Mr. John Stapleton read out the citation, dwelling upon Fr. Van’s contribution in numerous fields such as education, spiritual, pastoral ,formations of young Jesuits and so on in the capacity of teacher, head-master, rector, novice-master, pastor, counselor and many others. With the citation over, the president/ vice-chancellor( same person) invited the honorary recipient to come forward to be conferred  by the university chancellor the HONORARY DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF LAWS.
And so Fr. Van now addressed the Convocation as Dr. Van recalling the sacrifices of his family in the beginning, initial difficulties that the Canadian missionaries faced in a new land and later on the love that he received from the people in the hills and the foothills of Himalayas in his long 50 years in India. It was quite overwhelming to hear Doc. Van mentioning diverse humanitarian and spiritual apostolates that the Jesuits in Darjeeling are engaged in- yours truly was the witness of it all. And there was a happy ending to this ceremony with the felicitation followed by dinner for the family and Jesuits, then one more dinner with the University President and the Chancellor the next day at which Fr. Van thanked the assembled guests of the University for the newly signed Memorandum of Understanding between our college and the University, citing some of the main benefits that can follow from this for both institutions. After a well-deserved rest and meeting some medical doctors, Dr. (Fr) Gerard Van will be returning home.
Written by Fr. Lalit Tirkey SJ
University of Manitoba,
Winnipeg, Canada
October 30, 2002


From The Winnipeg Free Press

The glory of bamboo

Winnipeg-born priest using wood to help transform Indian village

In Canada, bamboo may be the new trendy eco building material, but thanks to the effort of a Winnipeg-born Jesuit priest, bamboo is the ticket to a new economy in the Indian plantation village of Mungpoo.

"The people saw they could use bamboo for many purposes. They can build buildings with it much cheaper (than concrete) and just as sturdy," explains Rev. Gerard Van Walleghem, of how 200 acres of bamboo is transforming the village of 25,000 in the Darjeeling district in India. "They can use bamboo for crafts, clothes, bridges."

In Winnipeg for the next several weeks to visit family, officiate at his sister-in-law's funeral and preside over the wedding of a grandniece, Van Walleghem, 81, fondly called Father Van by his former students and friends, has recently become an expert on bamboo.

That's because bamboo is the construction material of choice for his next big project in India: raising nearly $1.5 million to construct a school complex on the site of a former cinchona plantation in Mungpoo.

Cinchona, also known as Jesuit bark, is the source of the quinine, an anti-fever agent used to treat malaria.

"The whole plantation has gone down," explains the retired teacher, principal and counsellor at the Jesuit-run St. Joseph's School in Darjeeling of why the plantation is being converted to an English-language secondary school for village children.

"They know their children won't get jobs there. To get jobs, children need to learn English."

And to learn English, they need a school with classrooms, laboratories, and a library. So far, the two-year-old school has limited facilities for about 120 students in grades 5 to 8, and no electricity or water. As funds come in, the school will be expanded, explains Van Walleghem.

His trip to Winnipeg is sandwiched between alumni meetings in Calgary, Toronto, and the American West Coast, where he will greet former students and tell them about his latest project in Mungpoo, also named St. Joseph's.

"Father Van has been a great binder," says Ashok Malhotra, an alumnus who runs Yash Global, an Indian jewelry, clothing and handicraft shop at The Forks.

"He's pulled the whole alumni across the world together."

Now retired from teaching, Van Walleghem serves as a counsellor to staff and students at the 120-year-old St. Joseph's, and as a connecting point for its large alumni body (www.npalumni.org/), who like Malhotra, are scattered across the globe.

"My work with the alumni is not just to collect (funds) but to remind them of the values they have to serve the community," says the graduate of St. Paul's High School, who received an honourary doctorate of laws from the University of Manitoba in 2002.

"Collecting the money is a side issue."

The Bombay-born Malhotra, who has lived in Winnipeg for the past dozen or so years, is eager to meet Van Wallegham again and catch up on the news of his former classmates. And the lessons of service working with people with leprosy and tuberculosis while at the Jesuit-run school are still fresh in his memory.

"My first job (as a student) was to go out on to the street with a rickshaw and pick them up, bring them back, wash them and feed them," recalls the father of two.

"I'm not Catholic, I'm Hindu, but all of those experiences were worthwhile."

As one of only seven Jesuits left at St. Joseph's working with a student body of Hindus and Buddhists, Van Walleghem says his 57 years in India has provided him with a new home, a huge circle of friends and a broader understanding of the divine.

"All of us went over there to give something but we gained more than we could ever give," says Van Wallegham, who celebrates his 50th year as a Jesuit next month in Toronto.

"We gained the knowledge that God was there many centuries before we were there. It's a spiritual nation."

In return, Van Wallegham has helped many, many people in and around Darjeeling and is undertaking the huge school project at a time when others his age have long retired, says a Winnipeg Buddhist who met the Jesuit last year while she was studying in India.

"I admire him very much. He's a wonderful person. He's a great spiritual leader to everyone, no matter what their background," says Donna Brown, president of Dakshong Gonpa Retreat Centre in Lac du Bonnet.


Father German's bio-data
Born 1st September 1925 joined the Jesuits 30th July 1943 - the same day as Fr. Burns of  Darjeeling - degree - in  French language - 1950  when I went to teach in Ethiopia, started Theology in toronto in 1953 and continued in India 1954, ordained 1956 -  worked in the Terrai parishes 1960 -70 when I went to  N.P. until 1985 when I had to return to Canada for  health  reasons - arthritis, etc. Since then working  here in our Lady of  Lourdes parish in Toronto - still  going strong. Hubba Hubba.

Autobiography of Father German, written on September 4th, 2002

Fr. Guy Carlson
I had sent these photos of Fr Guy Carlson to my usual list of emailees who would have been more likely to remember him. However, there may well be quite a few others out there in the NP ethernet who would also know of Fr Guy.
Could I impose on you with your more extensive email listings to give these photos a wider distribution. Or perhaps incorporate them into the npalumni website if this is more appropriate.
Ollie Plesek

Ollie Plesek wrote on March 5, 2008



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