Fr. Gerard (Jerry) BUS.
Gerardus Alfonsus Maria. Son of Gerard Bus and Alida Smal was born on March 2 1921 in the town of Bussum. September 14th he entered the minor seminary missionhouse of St. John the Baptist in Soesterberg in order to become missionary. The fifth and sixth years he made in the SVD house at Uden. Then he went to Helvoirt, where he did two years novitiate. On September 8th he pronounced his First religious vows. He continued his theology studies in the SVD-major seminary at Teteringen and later in the SVD-Motherhouse at Steyl. It was wartime, and the house in Teteringen was confiscated by the enemy. After the liberation he continued studies at Teteringen where he pronounced his Perpetual Vows on September 8 1945. On September 30th he was ordained a priest, also in Teteringen. He completed his studies in 1946 and received his mission-appointment for New Guinea on July 20th.
Many mission areas of SVD had suffered during the waryears, especially Indonesia and New Guinea. In these two areas a total of 89 missionaries had died, including two bishops. So there was an urgent need for new men, and fortunately many young man from USA and Holland were ready to fill these places. Jerry (English for Gerard) left Antwerp harbour on the boat “Grootekerk” on April 30th 1947 and a few weeks later arrived in New Guinea.
The apostolic administrator of the SVD Missions Willem van Baar appointed Jerry to the Wabag area (nowadays in Enga) in the Mountains, where as yet no white man had gone. It was real pioneerwork! And as Jerry was still inexperienced, he asked and got a veteran missionary in the person of father Tony Cruysberg, also from Holland. Even though he was ready to go on homeleave, Tony spent three months with Jerry to give him a good introduction. They started in Pompabus, the place deemed suitable for a missionstation. Father William Ross had been there also at that time. The first thing to do was learn the language and the customs of the people. In that area there was no Pidgin-English, but over a large area people spoke one local language. From one of his first letters home we read: “Don’t think that people were waiting for my arrival. Or that they were yearning to hear the Good News from my mouth.” The people prefered presents, such as axes! When he asked the people for a piece of land to build one or two houses, there was no response. Even if it were for a little school for the children to leasrn to read and write? We are going to pay the workmen! Negotiating and waiting, but no result! Jerry doesn’t give up that easy, and with the help of an interpreter he learns the language; he buys timber and saws planks to build a small church and a little house. The little catechism he had brought along, he translated in the local language. But in 1950 he sighs: “Few children come to school; maybe ten people come to church on a Sunday. After two years there is little result from our efforts, and workers are hard to find to do the necessary work around the place.” Is he tempted to go to another area and try there? He writes: “these moods are passing and can make you down for a while; but a missionary must carry on and not give up!” Jerry perseveres and that is typical for his mentality. He stays and continues to work there till 1967: he extends his area from Pompabus to Wanepap and Sari. In Sari he experiences his best years in the Highlands. And as the SVD celebrates in 1997 100 years presence in PNG and 50 years in the Enga area, Jerry is really touched to see the crowds of people who come to celebrate around him and receive communion! His work and zeal have borne plenty of fruit!
A big change in Jerry’s life takes place in 1967. He is appointed regional superior of the SVD in PNG with 180 confreres in four dioceses. He remains in this position for 3 terms, till 1976. He takes part in three general chapters (1967/68, 1972 and 1977). This was the time for big changes and important decisions: during his terms in office the Melanesian Institute was opened; SVD High was started in Madang; the first Papua New Guinean men were recruited to become SVD and he supported the efforts for renewal from the Vatican Council. In 1977 he was a little time in charge of the administration activities of the Madang Archdiocese, and then he entered the third phase of his missonlife in PNG: the work with the Movement for a Better World. Jerry saw that it was so important to deepen the Faith, that he and others had awakened in peoples’ lives, and to involve laypersons in that work. The laity must carry the Church, take responsibility and choose its direction. From 1977 to 1995 this was to be Jerry’s big enterprise, all around the country and especially in those Dioceses and Parishes that embraced the renewal programs. He did this with a small Group of dedicated religious and laypersons, first from Madang, and later from Kerowagi.
In 1995 it seemed best for Jerry to leave PNG: he was 74 years old, respected and admired far and wide. But he saw that others needed to come forward and he did not want to be in the way of the local men and women. He also started getting influenced by the political and social worsening situation of the country: his criticism could sometimes become negative and therefore he asked for a transfer, before it became too harsh. In Holland he hoped to find rest and time for more contemplation and prayer. So December 11 1995 Jerry got permission to leave PNG and “retire” back to NEB.
He settles in the Deurne community, where he finds his place and a useful pastoral task. In 1997 he becomes member of the housecouncil and vice-rector. He gets reappointed as vice-rector in 2001 and 2004. He assists in the parishes around Deurne and once a month he celebrates Mass at the SSpS-place at Uden. He becomes an expert in the field of computers, he collates liturgical booklets, continues contacts with the people of the Movement for a Better World (also in Holland and Belgium) and does some fundraising for the PNG-MBW. He also gives good council and brings rest in difficult situations. January 6 2007 he makes a fall in the parkinglot of the new conferencehotel that once was the missionhouse. To make a long story short, he suffers from heart and kidneys and doctors tell him that no help can be given. Jerry answers “That’s OK then; I always wanted to know how I would die”. He prays his favourite psalm 63 that he learned by heart: “You have always been my help…….. my heart clings to you.”.
An ambulance brings him to Teteringen, where he dies that same afternoon on January 8 at 16.30 hours. A full and good life this missionary has had. We have lost a precious confrere and a pleasant companion. We thank God for him.
Antoon Verschuur svd