by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D. Profiles in Catholicism
Dr. Knight: in understanding the vast ministry Jesuits are in charge of in our society, we’d like to hear your story. Would you please share with us your early Catholic formation.
Father Mark:: My early Catholic formation started at home with my father, a doctor, and my mother and two brothers and two sisters, But also the primary school was important, especially the lessons on Scripture, and on youth Saints.
Dr. Knight: Please tell us the significance of your high school years in formation.
Father Mark: During my high school, a Jesuit school, I was impressed by the Jesuit Fathers, and especially by the fact that they formed a team of priests at our service.
Dr. Knight: You went to college and joined the seminary. How did you make that decision?
Father Mark:: Since I was five years old I wanted to become a priest when I was 10 I had a big devotion to a Franciscan Father who was considered a saint in my city, and later on I visited regularly a Trappist Abbey. But the 6 years at the boarding school of the Jesuits in Brussels made it clear: my vocation was to become a Jesuit.
Dr. Knight: You were called by God to be a Jesuit. What is the significance of your call to be a follower of Ignatius and Christ?
Father Mark: I had not a very clear image of God as the One who was behind my discernment to become a Jesuit. But I wanted to follow Jesus and to do this in a group of priests for whom formation and culture was at the center of their mission.
Dr. Knight: You spent formation finding out your abilities and gifts through discernment. How was your discernment helpful to you personally?
Father: Mark: Already during the novitiate I was touched by the spirituality of the Spiritual Exercises. This became the guideline for my further discernment.
Dr. Knight: Do you think/feel that your life is somewhat a mosaic of your different gifts?
Father Mark: Yes, I studied the spirituality of Ignatius at the university, I became good in giving Spiritual Exercises, and later on I wrote different books on Ignatius and his spirituality. I made translation in my mother tongue (Flemish) of the Spiritual Exercises, the Spiritual Journal, the Autobiography and a collection of letters of Ignatius.
Dr. Knight: What do you want the readers to understand after reading this interview about being a Jesuit? About living in community?
Father Mark: The discernment of the Superiors, sent me to be a novice master, provincial of the Flemish Jesuits, President of the Conference of European Jesuit Provincials, Superior of the Jesuits at the Gregorian University in Rome, a Senior Fellow at Campion Hall in Oxford. I am now back in my Province, writing another book an Ignatius and his spirituality. I had a very joyful life.
Dr. Knight: What are some of the challenges of the future Church?
Father Mark: To become more and more the Church Jesus wanted, a Church living out the spirit of the Gospel, as does Pope Francis.
Dr. Knight: What are some of the joys you’ve experienced as a Jesuit follower of Christ?
Father Mark: To be a novice master was one of the biggest joy in my life, but also to be a spiritual counselor and seeing God at work in the life of other people. It’s a great grace.
Dr. Knight: As a Jesuit what are some of the duties that you perform/pray?
Father Mark: All what I did in my life as a Jesuit, I liked to do it. I suppose, this was a fruit of obedience...
Dr. Knight: Thank you so much for offering us this interview and letting us see all the good works that the Jesuits do for us all.