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Brother Justus Richard Van Houten dies suddenly at 58

12/18/2006
[Episcopal News Service]  Brother Justus Richard Van Houten, SSF, principal of Newton Theological College and lecturer in liturgy, sacramental theology, and church history, died suddenly on December 13 while traveling in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. He was 58.

Van Houten became ill while on a week's break in Koinambe, in the Jimi Valley, where presently there is not a doctor. He died before medical help could arrive.

Van Houten was born in Staunton, Virginia on October 6, 1948. He received a BA from West Virginia Wesleyan University in 1970, and soon thereafter began to feel the call of a religious vocation. He pursued his vocation at the Motherhouse of the Society of Saint Francis – the Episcopal Franciscan Order – and made his first profession of vows at the Friary in 1977. He served in a number of leadership positions within his order and eventually accepted election as minister provincial of the American Province of the SSF, which he held for two terms.

After graduating from further courses at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, he was ordained to the diaconate on May 26, 1986 by then Bishop of New York Paul Moore, Jr. Prior to entering missionary service in 2004, Van Houten was engaged in various capacities at the Episcopal Church Center; he served as deacon on staff at two parishes in San Francisco; and he also found time to lead the North American Association for the Diaconate from 1986 to 1988. He was also a member of the Episcopal Communicators.

Linda Kurti, director of the Anglican Board of Mission, said, Van Houten worked with "great energy to develop [Newton Theological College] in his role as principal" and had made a significant contribution to the life of the college. "He will be greatly missed."

"We remember him as a kindhearted, gentle soul who always sought the simple, meaningful, beautiful things in life," said the Rev. David Copley, mission personnel officer for Anglican and Global Relations.  "His happiness came from giving of himself to others, as can easily be seen through his commitment to a life of prayer and service."

Copley said a memorial would be held in London on December 16 for Van Houten with prayers also being offered for the situation in Fiji, and the whole Pacific, an area that Van Houten "dearly loved."