Father G. D. A. Jonckbloet
By Noto Soeroto
On 26 September 1918, Father Jonckbloet hopes to commemorate the day that marks 50 years in the Order of Jesus Christ. The grey priest who celebrated his 70th birthday on 28 August, spent 20 years of his working life in India. He will undoubtedly count many friends among our readers and we, therefore, consider it a privilege that on the occasion of his jubilee we are delighted to express our congratulations.
Godefridus Daniel Augustinus Jonckbloet was born on the 28 August 1848 in Eindhoven. After attending high school at Sittard at the high school, on 26 September 1868, he joined the Order of the Jesuits at Mariëndaal at Grave (North Brabant). He studied philosophy at Laval in France and theology in Maastricht, and was dedicated to the priesthood in this city on 8 September 1881, and subsequently studied at Sittard. In 1886, the young scholar contracted a lung disease which required him to stay for a year in Davos. Thanks to regular outdoor treatment, he recovered from the dangerous disease and in memory of this wonderful healing at this blessed place Davos he gives thanks till the present. After a few years in Maastricht where he was busy with literary studies, Father Jonckbloet left for India, where he set foot at Batavia on 6 November 1890. In turn, he stayed at Semarang, Weltevreden [Jakarta], Buitenzorg [Bogor], Magelang and Surabaya and finally became a priest in Malang in June 1897. He soon came to love the country. His major interest was mainly the monuments of Old Java, which is the reason he visited the Borobudur, Méndoet – and Prambanan – temples numerous times and traveled from Surabaya to Bali and Lombok. He once dreamed of writing not an archaeological dissertation about Borobudur but rather an epic poem. Unfortunately, the outline of this great poem has gone and sadly the poet has turned away from the idea.
It is to Malang, however, that Father Jonckbloet has devoted his greatest energy in the service of his priestly labors. A beautiful church, a parsonage and a guesthouse for the Ursuline sisters, all built by Father Jonckbloet, bear witnesses to the work of the beloved cleric and stand as a demonstration of the great love that the priest had for the town and its parishes. Over the years, Father Jonckbloet has acquired countless friends in India, both among the Europeans and the Javanese. Great goodness and human love, gentleness and a spirit of sacrifice are the fundamentals of Jonckbloedt’s character which mark the priest a true Christian.
 Add to that a very congenial manner in his dealings with others, and it does not surprise us, that Father Jonckbloet has many friends and admirers in both India as well as the Netherlands.
No wonder, too, that many friends have joined together to honor the man who has done so much for his church and his society. The intention is to establish a fund called the “Jonckbloet Fund”, which will provide training in the Netherlands for Catholic Indonesians, for different positions and relations in general, but for the priesthood in particular. Contributions for this fund will be received at any time by Dr. J. G. C. Vriens, Secretary of the Committee, Paulstraat 1, Nijmegen.
Apart from sanctifying his friends, Father Jonckbloet is mostly known as a man of letters. From his youth, literature has been his favorite study which he has demonstrated by his numerous works, among which we mention the likes of Isaiah which is an interpretation in Dutch verse of the entire book of Isaiah’s prophecies, a work carried out in the face of numerous pressures. Besides this, he also produced smaller works of a purely religious character.
Even in India, the learned Father has always combined the literary life with the life of the clergy. In India, he wrote two fine collections of literary critiques Uit Nederland en Insulinde, his study of Multatuli and his collection of poetry Lief en Leed. His extraordinary productivity is evidenced by his many articles in journals like “De Java-Post” [The Java Post], “Het Bataviaasch Nieuwsblad” [The Batavia News] and “Studiën” [Studies].
Due to throat cancer, Father Jonckbloet left India on 18 June 1908 arriving on 9 September 1909 in The Hague where he settled in the parsonage Da Costastraat to the present. Although the Indian years and serious ailments aged him, the friendly grey man is still the epitome of a young and enthusiastic mind. His pen still moves with a youthful fire. After 1909, several monographs including Lady Anna de Savornin Lohman, In Memoriam: Eugène van Oppen and very recently a collection of poetry Refloruit Cor Meum [Blossomed Heart]. Still appearing in “Studiën” and other periodicals are articles by his hand which abound in fresh enthusiasm.
It was true that attempts were made by the Catholic side to collect a compilation of all Father Jonckbloet’s works which are spread far and wide in many collections. This would be an asset for the literature of the Catholic world. A very interesting book would also be the same, but the literary work of Father Jonckbloet coincided with the great reversal here of these lands of the 1880s and the following years. It is remarkable to see how one educated in the ideas of the early 1880s slowly begins to turn in his old age to so beat that he sometimes lauds the most modern poets with a sound as loud and possibly even louder than the exuberance exuded by their own sympathizers. An example of this could extend to the six very detailed and elaborate articles which he published in “Studiën” two years ago on the socialist poet Henriette Roland Holst.
Finally, I allow myself to say a personal word of thanks for the attention and the wide-ranging testimonial in “Studiën” which the grey priest wished to dedicate to my own work. Thank you also for the friendship he has shown me. How beloved must be this true Christian, this noble man and this loyal friend by his own fellow believers!
For many years now, countless friends and worshipers have been allowed to press his trembling hands, behold his venerable face and hear his always friendly voice, made hoarse by a previous throat operation.
‘s-Gravenhage 18th September 1918.
Source: Netherlands-India, old and new (year 1918, volume 003, issue 007)
On the career of Noto Soeroto see Mirror of the Indies: A History of Dutch Colonial Literature, Robert Nieuwenhuys, p. 184.
For background on Indonesian students in the Netherlands in the early twentieth century see Indonesian Identities Abroad: International Engagement of Colonial Students in the Netherlands, 1908-1931.
Background on the Catholic community of Malang
Image of Father G.D.A. Jonckbloet, S.J. and other material held by the National Library
For a good list of Jonckbloets writings