1925 – 2011 (April 12)
John A. van der Beek was born in 1925 in Nijmegan, Holland to Johannes Engelbertus and Maria Antonia van der Beek. On September 19, 1947, John professed simple vows in the Order as a member of the Province of Holland. He professed solemn vows on September 10, 1950, and was ordained to the priesthood on March 19, 1953. John earned an undergraduate degree from Nijmegan University, Holland. He studied Philosophy at the Augustinian House of Formation in Eindhoven, Holland, and did his basic theological studies at the Augustinian House of Formation in Culenborg, Holland. The final three years of theological studies took place in the Augustinian House of Formation in Nijmegan.
In 1953, Father van der Beek was sent by his Provincial to minister in the United States. Although he spent almost all of his ministerial life in the United States, he remained affiliated to the Province of Holland. He became a citizen of the United States on May 1, 1961. Father van der Beek's first assignment was as a teacher at Archbishop Carroll High School, Washington, D.C., from 1953 to 1955. He then taught at St. Rita High School, Chicago, Illinois, from 1955 to 1969. He also served from 1957 to 1965 as Assistant Dean of Discipline at St. Rita. From 1969 to 1974, Father van der Beek was engaged in doctoral studies at Notre Dame University, Notre Dame, Indiana. He received a Ph.D. in Religious Education from Notre Dame in 1974. While a graduate student, he served for a year as the Director of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) for the Deanery of South Bend.
In 1971, Father van der Beek and other members of the Graduate Studies program at Notre Dame founded the Ecumenical Center for Communication of Religion and Values. He was the founding Director of the Center with headquarters in South Bend until 1974, and then at Tolentine Center, Olympia Fields, Illinois, until 1983. While continuing his involvement with the Center, he joined the Tolentine Center staff on a part-time basis in 1975 to oversee projects of continuing education. At the same time, he became Adjunct Professor at DePaul University, Chicago. When the functioning of the Tolentine Center facility changed in 1983, Father van der Beek relocated along with the Ecumenical Center to Plainfield, Illinois, assisting religious education by developing programs, providing teacher enrichment and offering consultation services. When the Ecumenical Center ceased to function, Father van der Beek served as chaplain and teacher at Lewis University, Romeoville, Illinois.
Father van der Beek resided in retirement at Marian Village, Homer Glen, Illinois, from 2002 until June, 2004. At that time he relocated to St. Nicholas of Tolentine Monastery, Olympia Fields, Illinois. Because of declining health, he moved in 2009 to the home of a long-time friend, who was very dedicated to caring for Father van der Beek until the time of his death.
He is remembered as a generous and dedicated priest, a creative and innovative thinker, a caring and gifted teacher, and a companion in faith who believed that everyone is called to promote and spread faith values.
He is buried in the Augustinian plot at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Alsip, Illinois.