Ghislain was born on the 31st October 1923 at Diependaal in the Limburg Province of Belgium. His father was a solicitor and the family belonged to the gentility. He did his secondary schooling at the St. Joseph’s College in Hasselt. He entered the White Fathers at Boechout in 1941. Novitiate followed in Varsenare and he studied theology in Heverlee. He took his Missionary Oath there on the 5th April 1947 followed by priestly ordination on the 29th March 1948.
His teachers described him as being laid back indeed rather lethargic. However he was considered as being intelligent with a clear and fairly critical mind but not a leader. His confrers liked him as he was affable, cheerful and easy to get on with in community. He was open and odedient but sometimes he was not very realistic. However, he had a high opinion of himself and nobody ever doubted the strength of his vocation.
Fr. Jagenau was appointed to the Vicariat of Baudouinville (now Diocese of Kirungu-Kalemie) and left for the Congo on the 5th October 1948. His first appointment was as bursar and director of the primary school at Sola. He was also in charge of a boarding school for 200 students. In September 1953, he was appointed to teach in the senior classes of the Minor Seminary of Lusaka (Congo). He did the Long Retreat at Mours during his first home leave in 1958. By September of that year, he was back in Kapulo to where the Minor Seminary had been transferred. He applied himself seriously to the work and directed his team of teachers very competently. He himself said, “ A good teacher should have a firm hand, a clear mind and a warm heart. ” In September 1964, Ghislain was appointed Parish Priest of Baudouinville (now Kirungu) and in 1966, he became Chancellor of the Diocese and secretary to Bishop Urbain Morlion (1985). He continued this work under Bishop Morlion’s successor, Bishop Mulolwa until he returned home for his leave in 1972. When he returned to the Congo, he took up residence at the procure in Kalemie as he was appointed Assistant Regional for the Shaba area. Other appointments followed and he spent some time as curate in the Parish of Christ the King in Kalemie in February 1976. He returned to Kirungu in October of that same year. He returned to Belgium for health reasons at the beginning of 1979.
In October 1979, Ghislain was given the job of Spiritual Director to the ‘Coordination diocésaine des Ecoles Conventionnées Catholiques.’He carried out this work from Lubuye Parish. At the beginning, Jan Lenssen, the Belgian Provincial tried to lure him to Belgium as Provincial Secretary and Superior of our house on rue Charles Degroux but without success.
Ghislain returned to Christ the King Parish as curate at the end of 1981 and he was also Dean of Kalemie. He lived through the short lived rebellion in the Moba region which the national army crushed with extreme force. He wrote, “ Military occupation is not easy. Guns have the last word. Everybody is under suspicion, lists of suspects are drawn up, acts of vengeance are perpetrated and houses and villages burnt. Pillaging, blackmail and violence are part of daily life. ” In September 1989, Fr. Jagenau was appointged Diocesan Treasure of Kalemie-Kirungu Diocese.
In 1991, Ghislain’s life took a brand new turn. He was appointed to Lubumbashi. Jo Le Nigen, an Assosciate Member wrote in Tous ensemble, “ When the plane took off on the 12th October, lights were already twinkling in the city of Kalemie. On board, there was a man with a heavy heart : Father Ghislain Jageneau who had given 43 years of his life to the service of the Diocese of Kalemie-Kirungu. ” Ghislain arrived at Likasi on the 15th October. In this poor area, the confreres were still suffering from the effects of looting which had occured in the city. However, the Christians had very effectively defended their “ fathers and sisters. ” Ghislain wrote, “ Everything is going very slowly and we do not go out at night. ”
Now, Fr. Jagenau revealed himself as a commited social activist. In 1997, he published his Calendrier agricole in French and Kiswahili. It was printed by Shalamo a local NGO. It gave information and agricultural advice for each month as well as a planting schedule for South Katanga and meteorological data. After home leave in 1997, he took up residence at our Guest-house, Maison Kaoze. In 1998 his first booklet appeared on the subject of churches, sects and neo-religious movements. In that same year, he celebrated his Golden Jubilee of ordination and fifty years of service in the Congo. He wrote at the time, “ The Kingdom of God that we preach begins here below, not only in the hearts of people but also by improving the conditions of life of all. Fighting poverty, sickness, ignorance is a preoccupation of all missionaries ” He published a summary of Congolese law in 2001. He took over responsibility for Saint Kizito Parish in 2004. This was a parish literally on the peripheries as it was seven kilometres from the city centre. He also served as the contact man for the confreres needing documents of all sorts. In 2004, he also published an illustrated brochure on the traffic laws of the country. It was published by Mediaspaul and completed his contribution to the education of ordinary citizens. In 2007, he completed a triology of books dealing with Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Oriental Religions. Towards the end of his stay in the Congo, Ghislain was chaplain to the hospital run by Congolese Railways and some University clinics. He fell seriously ill on July 2007 to the point where it was doubted that he could be transferred home However, he was well enough to leave on the 7th July and travelled home via Kinshasa. He was alsmost 85 years old.
Fr. Jagenau lived for 10 more peaceful years at a nursing home in Munsterbilzen. He was always in good humour, humming old melodies but getting more and more lost in his own world. After a number of weeks of palliative care, he died peacfully on the 10th August 2017. The Farewell Liturgy took place in the Chapel of the nursing home followed by burial in the family vault in Diepenbeek.
Jef Vleugels, M.Afr.