Rev. John V. VandenBossche, C.S.C.

Rev. John V. VandenBossche, C.S.C.
May 18, 1924-November 9, 2014

Rev. John Victor VandenBossche, C.S.C., 90, died Sunday(November 9, 2014) at Holy Cross House.

Watch Fr. VandenBossche’s Funeral Mass

He was born on May 18, 1924, in Mishawaka, Ind., to Maurice and Palmyra (Remery) VandenBossche. He attended St. Matthew Grade School in South Bend and the old Central Catholic High School, graduating in 1942. Fr. VandenBossche was received into the Congregation of Holy Cross on Aug. 15, 1943 and made his First Profession of Vows on Aug. 16, 1944. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a bachelor’s degree in science in 1947. Fr. VandenBossche made his Final Profession on Aug. 16, 1947, and then attended Holy Cross College in Washington, D.C., to study theology. Fr. VandenBossche was Ordained on June 6, 1951. He earned a master’s degree in Physics in 1953 from the University of Notre Dame. From 1953 to 1967 he taught and assisted at Notre Dame College in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which was then East Pakistan. He was made Principal of the school in 1967. In 1970, Fr. VandenBossche returned to Indiana and served as Chaplain at the Holy Cross Brothers Center in Notre Dame, while earning his second master’s from Notre Dame, this time in guidance and counseling. Beginning in 1971, he served as Newman Chaplain for San BernardinoValley College and the University of the Redlands in the San Diego, Calif., area. From 1973-1976, Fr. VandenBossche assisted at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Granger before moving to the University of Portland in 1976, where he helped with the “Families for Prayer” Program in Portland and Los Angeles. He movedback to the Midwest to be the Assistant Pastor at St. Casimir Parish, South Bend, Ind. from 1984 to 1985. Fr. VandenBossche lived at Holy Cross House from 1985 to 1986 and then became administrator at St. Stanislaus Parish, Dorr, Mich. (1986-1988) and at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Bridgeman, Mich. (1988-1991). He moved to Phoenix in 1991 and lived at Casa Santa Cruz while assisting at St. Paul’s Parish. Before he left Arizona in 1995, Fr. VandenBossche served as local Superior for one year. He served as Assistant Superior at Holy Cross House, Notre Dame, from 1996 to 1998. He then was assigned to St. Francis High School in Mountain View, Calif., where he served as Chaplain to the Holy Cross Brothers. Fr. VandenBossche moved to Fatima House at Notre Dame in 2008 and then to Holy Cross House in 2010.

Fr. VandenBossche is survived by his brother, Michael VandenBossche. He was preceded in death by his parents Maurice and Palmyra (Remery) VandenBossche and two brothers, Paul and William VandenBossche. A wake service will be held at Moreau Seminary at 7:30 P.M. on Tuesday, November 11, 2014 and the funeral mass will be celebrated at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart Tuesday, November 12, 2014 at 3:30 P.M. Burial will follow at the Holy Cross Community Cemetery.

Memorial contributions in support of the mission and ministries of the Congregation of Holy Cross can be made to: United States Province of Priests and Brothers, Office of Development, P.O. Box 765, Notre Dame, IN 46556-0765 or online at

Wake Eulogy byRev. Christopher A. Kuhn, C.S.C.
November11, 2014

In 2007, John VandenBossche moved into Fatima House. Not long after, John asked me if he could volunteer to work with me at the Archives. I was delighted to have his help. John began work in 2007 and continued until 2012, when his health beganto fail.

John’s timing was providential. The Archives of the Foreign Mission Society & the Foreign Mission Seminary was transferred from the Mission Center at Moreau Seminary to the Archives. John’s knowledge and experience proved to be invaluable in processing this collection of over eighty boxes.

I had known of John before he moved into Fatima and worked with me at the Archives, but our paths rarely crossed. Fortunately, John shared his wealth of experience and wisdom during those five years. I encouraged him to write his autobiography. He worked on it diligently and completed it in 2013. He found it a very rewarding and healing experience.

John was a native of South Bend. He was born on May 18, 1924, the third of four sons (Bill, Paul, John and Mike) born to Maurice (Ray) & Palmyra (Polly) VandenBossche. His parents built a two-bedroom bungalow on Miami Street a block from the newly-built, wooden St. Matthew’s Church. John wrote in his autobiography, “St. Matthew’s was the center of my life.”

At St. Matthew’s, John was baptized, made his First Communion and was confirmed. There, he attended St. Matthew’s Parish School taught by the St. Joseph Sisters from Tipton, Ind. He moved upstairs for high school taught by the Holy Cross Brothers. His Boy Scout troop made it their headquarters. Later, he returned there for his First Mass. He had the funerals of his parents there.

John writes, “My memories of home included a lot of play, prayers and work.” His parents believed in doing things as a family. He recalled many happy memories of visits to his grandparents’ farm, picnics at Lake Michigan, and visits to the farms of his cousins. John, his brothers and his Dad joined the Boy Scouts. He learned many skills he would later usein the missions. He learned to swim and earned his Eagle Scout rank before the Novitiate.

Prayer was an integral part of his family’s life. They prayed grace before meals, daily rosary and night prayers as a family. They went to daily Mass. On Sundays, John and his brothers served Mass, his mother sang in the choir. When John lived at Fatima House, he was very faithful to community prayer, his private prayers and his daily rosary. When the weather permitted, he would often take a walk with his “beads.”

Work, no matter how routine or difficult, was a sacred vocation for John. He was very talented and hard-working. I observed this first hand at the Archives. As a boy, John learned skills from his Dad, such as carpentry, plumbing, electronics and house painting. As a teen, John worked for the library, the hardware store, White Rose Gas Station and Studebaker’s purchasing department.

He graduated from Central Catholic High School in 1942, and that fall, entered the Seminary and the University of Notre Dame. John pursued a program in science with an emphasis on physics. In 1943, John went to the Novitiate in Rolling Prairie. There, he learned about prayer and the Holy Cross community. He also worked in the tool shed with Brother Marinus.

He took First Vows in 1944. He returned to Notre Dame for the rest of his college studies in mathematics, physics & chemistry. He writes, “College was a joy for me.” He continued to work in maintenance. He attended summer school in 1947 to finish his degree. It was on this July 4th weekend that his Dad died. He was out camping with the Boy Scouts and John’s brothers when he suffered a heart attack. In August, John graduated with a Master of Science degree at Notre Dame.As a newly ordained priest in 1953, he went to the mission in East Pakistan. At Notre Dame in Dacca, he taught physics and mathematics. Shortly after his arrival, the Archbishop appointed him master of ceremonies. Later, he was appointed as a member of the liturgy Commission and helped in liturgical renewal. He also became involved with the Board of Examiners for physics. He was invited to lecture at the University of Dacca.

John returned home in 1959. His mother’s health was rapidly declining. She died in 1960. Returning to Dacca in 1960, John continued to teach physics. He was also the Dean of Discipline, the Librarian, Assistant Principal and finally principal from 1966 to 1969. Many of the students at Notre Dame College were becoming involved in the independence movement. Classes were often disrupted by strike. John’s health began to deteriorate with diabetes and phlebitis.

Following the advice of his doctor and the local C.S.C. community, John returned to the States in 1969. The War of Independence in 1970 prevented his return to Bangladesh.

In 1970, John earned a Master’s degree in counseling and guidance from Notre Dame. He took a job in campus ministry in 1972 at San Bernardino Junior College and Redlands College. John returned to the Midwest to serve as Associate Pastor at St. Pius X parish in Granger from 1973 to 1976. He went to the University of Portland to be the rector at Shipstad Hall from 1976 to 1979. But, the late hours were too difficult for John to handle.

In 1979, John began working in the “Families at Prayer” program which Family Rosary had created to renew parishes at the family level. His address was still at the University of Portland, but he was “on the road” much of the time traveling in Oregon & later California. He enjoyed the work, but the driving became exhausting. He worked out of the Holy Cross Brothers’ High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif. In 1983, he suffered a minor heart attack and returned to Holy Cross House.

From 1985 to 1991, he began parish work as assistant pastor in St. Casimir’s, South Bend, and Pastor at Our Lady, Queen of Peace in Bridgman,Mich. and St. Stanislaus Parish in Dorr, Mich.

He moved into Casa Santa Cruz in 1991 and while assisting at St. Paul’s Parish, Phoenix. He was local superior at the Casa in 1995, his last year in Phoenix. He served as Assistant Superior at Holy Cross House from 1996 to 1998. He was assigned as Chaplain to the Holy Cross Brothers at St. Francis High School in Mountain View, Calif. from 1998 to 2006. He moved back to live at Fatima House in 2007. He moved to Holy Cross House in 2010.

John worked at many different assignments in his 63 years of priesthood. He also had artistic ability. He took drawing classes, did wood carving and studied watercolor painting.

He also wrote several personal papers including his autobiography, biographies of his parents and three brothers, his grandparents, plus aunts and neighbors.

He also wrote memoirs of his missionary experiences, “Memories of Bengal.” He gave two papers at the Holy Cross History Conferences: “The History of the Texas Missions” and “The Poetry of Fr. Christopher O’Toole,” the late Superior General and first Provincial of the Southern Province.

John, we thank God for you and the great service you gave to Him, the People of God and our community during your 63 years of priesthood. May you enjoy eternity with your family and the many people you helped during your years of ministry.

Funeral HomilybyRev. JamesE. McDonald, C.S.C.
November12, 2014

Michael and Sandra, and Chris, we in Holy Cross join you in your grief for your brother’s and uncle’s passing; especially our brothers at Holy Cross House where John lived for these past four years; and the nursing staff who cared for him so gently in his last days – and every day. One of them gave him his last embrace.

Sixty-seven years ago, right there where his remains are today John made his perpetual profession to God and joined a band of men whose motto is, “Hail the Cross our Only Hope.” The Provincial held that crucifix on his coffin before his eyes and said: “Receive the image of the Crucified. Follow in His footsteps and you will come to share in the glory of His resurrection.” John was 23 years old. (Six years later, at 29, ordained two years, he was sent to East Pakistan, one of the most difficult and challenging assignments, and he stayed for close to 20 years working to develop what has become a national educational treasure, Notre Dame College. He was headmaster for three years before he returned to the U.S.)

Some of the people who work with us, and love us, scratch their heads at our motto, “The Cross our only Hope.” (We scratch our heads.) How can this be? It just doesn’t make sense. Is it poetry? Or the way priests speak? Or some high theology statement that a few understand? Or, is it just a fancy way to say “everything eventually works out.”?

Certainly that motto would have been lost on the disciples walking to Emmaus. For they were walking away from the Cross. More likely fast-walking. Quite literally away from the Cross, out of town.

Fear, fear of having made a failure of their lives, drove them away from the scene of violence and death and suspicion. Jerusalem, instead of being the summit of their pilgrimage with Jesus, had become truly their valley of death, and an interior valley of death as they fled the holy city.

So many echoes of what we believe as disciples ourselves, what we practice, come from Luke’s account of the walk to Emmaus. And there he passes on at least two assurances that still sustain us, and sustained John:

First, that in gathering to break bread and in re-telling the events that lead them to Jerusalem, Jesus appeared to them as he promised! Appeared in his Risen body, to give them something more valuable than sight insight! and Jesus appears to them in their despair.

Secondly, finding themselves not alone (finding oneself not alone) is truly good news, but the better good news is that, in their despair, Jesus walked with them. In the depths of their failure, he was at their side. He would never abandon them.

“Hail the Cross, our only Hope” because in many ways we carry our crosses the ones given to us by life, or those we stumble on or walk into under our own steam it is there, on our cross, that we must abandon the pretense that we can make it on our own. There, at the bottom of experience, Jesus extends his hand to walk with us next to us. Were it not for the Cross, we would be tempted to believe and act as ifwe don’t need God.

Of course, the greatest good news of this event in Luke’s gospel, is that Jesus reveals precisely how God acts towards us. God is merciful. Endlessly merciful. And we discover that only in the severe tests we go through; our crosses.

What could a young man of 23 have understood about all of this? What can any of us understand of this until we set off following Jesus…and follow him even to the Cross?

Public ministry lived within religious life as Fr. John did, offered him the grace to preach this Gospel to people spread all over the world, and especially to the poor. He nourished others with the power of this Gospel to transform lives. Not hope in spite of the Cross but hope through the experience of following Jesus, in his footsteps, and there finding hope because of the cross where God reaches us and transforms us into who he made us.

In the depths God reaches us and wraps us in unending mercy.

Fr. John, too, had to learn this as a disciple himself. Because everyone receives God’s mercy, though it may mean great hardship or severe suffering.

In meditating on these readings, it occurred to me that the powerful reading from Lamentations, words of despair and hope, could easily have been on the lips of the disciples walking to Emmaus; transparent words of one who counts on God’s mercy because he has known the depths:

“My soul is deprived of peace
I have forgotten what happiness is…
So I say, “Gone is my glory, and all that
I had hoped for from the Lord…”

But I will call this to mind as my reason for hope:
the favors of the Lord are not exhausted
his mercies are not spent
they are renewed each morning so great is his faithfulness.

Good is the Lord to one who waits for him, to the soul that seeks him.”

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