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Farewell Young Man of Light. Sermons Delivered at the Funerals of Gay Men, with an introduction by Pierre Valkering

For over 30 years, the Jesuit priest Jan van Kilsdonk (1917-2008) worked as a university chaplain in Amsterdam. As such, he also ministered to gay students; he would become quite a familiar figure in Amsterdam’s gay nightlife. Shortly after his retirement in 1982, the HIV/AIDS epidemic broke out in its full intensity. Gay men were by far the hardest hit of any group. Fr Van Kilsdonk ministered to countless men as they underwent their plight and prepared for death. He spoke, often at length, at the funerals of no fewer than 70 such men.
Dag jongen van licht is an anonymised collection of 30 of those sermons. They are his reflections on 30 different men, ranging from the very well educated to the very simple, from doctors and academics to barmen and ‘business boys’. Fr Van Kilsdonk looked upon each of them with love, and he spoke of them all with love, yet without glossing over the more difficult sides of their lives. These 30 sermons provide a colourful – and sometimes even breath-taking – view of the gay subculture in Amsterdam in the second half of the 20th century. The collection is annotated and extensively introduced by Pierre Valkering – himself a parish priest of many years’ standing in Amsterdam – for whom Fr Van Kilsdonk had been a mentor.
These five Dutch sermons were translated into English by Tom Johnston.