Funeral mass of Fr. Julien JACKERS

Fr. Fr. Julien JACKERS (° 24.01.1945 - … 11.03.2021)
Funeral mass on 31.03.2021
First reading from the prophet Isaiah (42,1-9)
1 Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom my soul delights. I have sent my
spirit upon him, he will bring fair judgement to the nations. 2 He does not cry out or raise his
voice, his voice is not heard in the street; 3 he does not break the crushed reed or snuff the
faltering wick. Faithfully he presents fair judgement;4 he will not grow faint, he will not be
crushed until he has established fair judgement on earth, and the coasts and islands are waiting
for his instruction.
5 Thus says God, Yahweh, who created the heavens and spread them out, who hammered into
shape the earth and what comes from it, who gave breath to the people on it, and spirit to
those who walk on it: 6 I, Yahweh, have called you in saving justice, I have grasped you by the
hand and shaped you; I have made you a covenant of the people and light to the nations, 7 to
open the eyes of the blind, to free captives from prison, and those who live in darkness from the
dungeon. 8 I am Yahweh, that is my name! I shall not yield my glory to another, nor my honour
to idols. 9 See how the former predictions have come true. Fresh things I now reveal; before
they appear I tell you of them.
Holy Gospel according to Luke (4,16-22)
16 He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the
Sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read, 17 and they handed him the scroll of the
prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written: 18 The spirit of the
Lord is on me, for he has anointed me to bring the good news to the afflicted. He has sent me to
proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19 to proclaim a year
of favour from the Lord.
20 He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the
synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to speak to them, "This text is being fulfilled
today even while you are listening." 22 And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished
by the gracious words that came from his lips. Homily - reflection on the readings
Dear family of Fr. Julien, dear confreres and all who are attending this liturgy from a distance, the
unexpected information about Fr. Julien"s last days, now almost three weeks ago, has touched us all
deeply. We had not seen this coming, nor perhaps had he, when he said that the pain was not so bad
and that it would get better. After all, he had promised to conduct a retreat for the confreres from the
9th of March, and Fr. Julien was not the kind of man who would not keep his promises. That same
morning, however, the situation became so alarming that he was taken to hospital. The retreat
started anyway, without him, and his written texts were read for a week, even when he had already
passed away.
In the hospital in Moshi, his condition was considered very serious. The aftermath of those days is
well known: the transfer to Nairobi, examinations and an operation, coma and a fatal cardiac arrest.
The confreres in Tanzania and Kenya did everything they could to assist Fr. Julien. We are very
grateful to them for that. They took the necessary decisions without hesitation. They surrounded him
with care and proximity. They gave him the anointing of the sick and prayed at his side. They watched
over him until the end and, when he passed away, together with the sisters of the hospital, they made
up a circle of prayer around him: a circle that in the meantime had spread to Africa, Europe and Asia.
Many people were prayerfully united to accompany Fr. Julien on his final journey to the home of the
Heavenly Father.
It is our deepest conviction, our sincere belief that Fr. Julien has been accepted into the loving
presence of our God and Father who welcomes people with endless mercy. There Fr. Julien may now
reside, surrounded by the light of Christ"s face, by the motherly care of Mary, Help of Christians, by
the fatherly affection of Don Bosco and by the warmth of all his loved ones whom he meets there.
They will all welcome Fr. Julien as the servant from the first reading, from the book of the prophet
Isaiah, as the one called by God who carried out his life"s mission through the Spirit that God had
placed on him.
This last gathering here around Fr. Julien makes us reflect on the words of the prophet Isaiah about a
person who stood up for justice, who cared for the little and the vulnerable. He did not break the
crushed reed, but nurtured it with his great Salesian heart so that it would have the strength to
recover and grow to its fullness. He did not blow out the faltering wick, but kindled the fire so that its
light would shine on the world of young people and young confreres. He inhaled the spirit of life
promised by the prophet to all who walk in God"s paths, paths of justice and peace. Fr. Julien was one
of those people of whom the first reading says that God takes them by the hand, moulds them and
destines them to be a light for others and to open their eyes.
We can use these words without any doubt when we hear what Fr. Julien has meant to many young
confreres in our Congregation over the past twenty years, from Haiti to Jerusalem, from India to
Tanzania and from Sri Lanka to Nigeria. Here in Flanders we hardly had any idea of the power of his
presence and his work in many Salesian provinces. Only now do we have a better understanding of
the extent of his commitment to the formation of our young confreres. What they now tell us about
his classes can be described with the last words of today"s first reading: he announced new things and
made them known before they had even sprouted. He challenged his students intellectually, made
them shift boundaries, taught them to think critically and take responsibility. He was the companion
who lived among them in the way that Don Bosco taught us: faithfully, deliberately, playfully, and
occasionally challenging and confronting.Needless to say that it was his faith that prompted him to do so. A faith that we humans have not
conceived or made ourselves, but that we have received from the Son of God and that has been
confirmed by His Spirit. How else could we believe, we have just sung. And how could we proclaim, if
He did not give us the saving Word, a Word that makes us walk in life with hope and courage; a Word
that unites us and brings us together again and again, across human borders of countries and Salesian
provinces. We have received that word, with God"s grace, to transmit it in our turn, even to the other
side of the world.
Also in today"s Gospel reading we have been told that the mission comes from God. It is God's Spirit
who anointed Fr. Julien for this, literally, at his priestly ordination. To do what? Not just to listen to
God"s will and recall it as something from a distant past, but actually, here and now, to bring the Good
News to the poor, to announce to the blind that they will see, to announce freedom to the oppressed,
and to proclaim the Lord"s grace to all. God does not send us to remain lukewarm and neutral, but
rather, rooted in the Gospel and with their eyes fixed on us as they were on Jesus, to witness with fire
and passion and to be contagious. Called to bring the divine into the human, because here and now
and everywhere and always the proclamation must be done.
Fr. Julien did all this with a big heart, with a quip, with a particular way of being, with challenging
words - sometimes even shocking, with a listening ear for young confreres, with a visit to an old and
sick confrere, with an in-depth discussion, with critical questions, with humour, with attention for his
family and his good friends, with an empathy for so many different cultures and languages. The
thread running through all of this? His being inspired by Don Bosco and especially by the combination
of loving kindness, reason and faith, and always with the poorest young people in mind. I therefore
think that article 38 of our Constitutions was close to his heart. It says that Don Bosco"s pedagogical
system appeals to the resources of intelligence, love and the desire for God, which everyone has in
the depths of his being. It brings together educators and youngsters in a family experience of trust
and dialogue.
From his presence in various continents, he had an overview of Salesian formation worldwide. He saw
many beautiful things in the formation of young confreres but he was also very worried about a
certain style that was used in several places. His vision of a Salesian approach to formation did not go
unnoticed by our superiors in Rome. With them, Fr. Julien developed a project to organize worldwide
‘reflection weeks’ in our post-novitiates, with clear challenges for the formators and the confreres in
formation to grow in "Salesianity".
The project would have started this year. All contents and power points were ready, but due to
corona it could not be realised. The project was to be resumed as soon as possible, but his death
decided otherwise. He left the Salesians an invaluable legacy. To pay tribute to him our congregation
should carry on that legacy, that mission of his. If God calls on people to proclaim his message, then
with Fr. Julien"s mission he has set a clear sign that cannot remain without effect.
Therefore, we are very grateful for the Salesian priest that Fr. Julien has been, here in Flanders and far
beyond the borders of Europe. May he be a permanent encouragement, especially to the generations
of young confreres who have known him, to live their vocation faithfully. From beyond death, Fr.
Julien is succeeding, at this very moment, in creating a worldwide network of prayer and communion.
Let us be grateful for that and honour and thank our heavenly Father. Amen.
Wilfried Wambeke sdb, provincial
Oud-Heverlee, 31 March 2021