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DU Community Mourns the Rev. Adrian van Kaam, Founder of Formative Spirituality Studies

The Rev. Adrian van Kaam, C.S.Sp., a world renowned author and former professor of psychology at Duquesne University, died late Saturday, Nov. 17, at the Little Sisters of the Poor Nursing Home in Pittsburgh.

In 1954, after ministering in his Holland for six years, van Kaam came to the United States and was appointed to the faculty in the psychology department of Duquesne. He started studies that left their mark on Duquesne and the study of psychology worldwide.

“He was the real inspiration of the unique program in existential phenomenological psychology that began in 1959,  a world renowned program,” said the Rev. David Smith, C.S. Sp., of Duquesne University, who had van Kaam as a professor and as director of his master’s thesis. “There was none like it in the entire world. It was his original idea, and he brought together faculty members from all over the country who were interested in and committed to a type of psychology that respected the uniqueness, the dignity and the freedom of the human being.

“He was one of the greatest creative minds I ever encountered,” said Smith, who will deliver the homily at the Mass of Resurrection at 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 24. “He was a man of towering intellect, tender heart and capacious spirit.  He welcomed everybody warmly and graciously and politely, ‘Dear friend, how are you?’ “

Van Kaam, who authored more than 60 books, also started several institutes, including the Graduate Institute of Formative Spirituality in 1963. Through this institute, van Kaam trained hundreds of priests, nuns, brothers and lay people from all over the world who worked as directors of seminaries and novitiates.

Van Kaam received the President’s Award for Excellence in teaching and taught as a professor in the spiritual formation field until the institute closed in 1993. In 1979, he and Dr. Susan Muto co-founded the still-existing Epiphany Association, an ecumenical spirituality center dedicated to education in classical and contemporary fields of formative spirituality.

Born April 19, 1920, he was ordained on July 21, 1946 at the Seminary in Gemert, Netherlands. He received an honorary Doctor of Christian Letters degree from the Franciscan University. He retired to Libermann Hall, Bethel Park, in 2004 and was under the skilled care of the Little Sisters of the Poor on the North Side of Pittsburgh since 2005.

Viewing will take place Friday, Nov. 23, from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at Epiphany Academy, 820 Crane Ave., Pittsburgh. There will also be viewing at Trinity Hall Chapel, Duquesne University from 9 to 10:45 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 24, followed by the Mass of Resurrection in the Duquesne University Chapel. Burial will take place in Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Route 19 South, Peters Township, with refreshments afterward at Epiphany Academy from 2 to 4 p.m.
Surviving are his sisters, Bet van Gemert and Lia Schlikaans van Kaam and several nieces and nephews in Holland.

“He saw God in everybody,” Smith said. “He wanted every man and woman to reach their full potential as human beings.  He certainly made a great contribution to Duquesne University, to the Church and to the lives of thousands and thousands of people.  Now he is dancing with the angels.”

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.