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In Memoriam: Rev. Frans Jozef van Beeck, S.J.

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. (10-13-11): Rev. Frans Jozef van Beeck, S.J., a member of the Theology Department at Boston College from the late 1960s until the mid-1980s, died peacefully at the Berchmanianum, the infirmary of the Netherlands Province of the Society of Jesus at Nijmegen on October 12, 2011. He was 81.

Born June 11, 1930, in Helmond, The Netherlands, Fr. van Beeck attended primary school there and in The Hague and in 1948 graduated from the Aloysius College, the Jesuit gymnasium in The Hague.

Rev. Frans Jozef van Beeck, S.J.
Frans Jozef van Beeck, S.J.

He entered the Jesuit novitiate, Mariendaal, at Grave, The Netherlands, in 1948 and did philosophy studies at the Berchmanianum, Nijmegen, from 1951 to 1954.  He received a doctorate in English and Italian literature from the University of Amsterdam in 1961, studied theology at the Canisianum, Maastricht, The Netherlands, and was awarded the S.T.L. degree there in 1964.

In 1963, he was ordained a priest at the Church of Saint Servaas, in Maastricht, and then served as Director of Studies for the Netherlands Province and taught at the Jesuit gymnasium in Amsterdam, Ignatius College, from 1964 until 1968.

He came to Boston College in 1968, where he was a member of the Theology Department until 1985 and a charismatic teacher, a popular presider at liturgies, and an influential spiritual director.  He undertook training in group dynamics and led a number of retreats for students and colleagues over the years.

In 1986 he was invited to take the John Cardinal Cody Chair of Sacred Theology at Loyola University in Chicago where he remained until 2006, when health issues led to his return to The Netherlands.

Fr. van Beeck - or Joep, as he was known to family and friends - had many interests, including music and cooking.  He played the violin and built at least two harpsichords and a virginal in his spare time.

He was a prolific writer on theology and other subjects.  His best known publications were works of systematic theology, Christ Proclaimed: Christology as Rhetoric (1979) and a multi-volume work, unfinished at his death, God Encountered: A Contemporary Catholic Systematic Theology (1994, 2001).  One of his distinctive contributions to theology derived from his training in literature, an exploration of Christian proclamation as rhetoric.  He summed up much of his thinking in this area in an influential article, “Divine Revelation: Intervention or Self-Communication,” in Theological Studies 52 (1991).

He is survived by a brother, Dr. J. A. van Beeck, of Deventer, The Netherlands, and a sister, Wilhelmina van Stratum-van Beeck, of Waalre, The Netherlands. The funeral will be on Monday, October 17, at Nijmegen.

Condolences may be sent to his sister, Helmi van Stratum - van Beeck, Van Egmondlaan 6NL - 5583 VB WAALRE or via email at