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Survey: Jesuits and Belgian Post-war Society, 1945-1965

A large-scale survey addressed to the former pupils of Jesuit colleges in the period 1945-1965 has been launched. A similar survey which focused on the period 1939-1945 was already distributed among the former pupils of French-speaking Jesuit colleges in 1998. These results are kept at Cegesoma and are available for research.

This new survey concerns a different but equally crucial period. It is addressed to French-speaking and Dutch-speaking former pupils. The questionnaire was written on the initiative of the Fédération des Anciens Élèves des Jésuites and the Vlaamse Federatie der oudleerlingenbonden van de Vlaamse jezuïetencolleges in cooperation with Cegesoma.

Why this period?

1945-1965 is for several reasons a key period in the history of Belgium. Post-war Belgium was confronted with a number of important social issues, among which the 'Royal Question' and the 'School Struggle', but also the economic decline of Wallonia, the 'Flemish Question' and the decolonisation. In the religious field also it was a period of heated discussions, notably influenced by the second Vatican Council. On a social level there was the onset of Americanization and the birth of consumer society. Within this framework the Jesuits offered an education mainly aimed at young people from the upper layers of society. From the previous survey appeared clearly that their world could not exist separately from the great social questions and revolutions. Was this also the case in the post-war years?


Students of Sint-Jan Berchmans college honour the Virgin Mary at the Brussels Grand-Place in 1953. (Photo KADOC)
Students of Sint-Jan Berchmans college honour the Virgin Mary at the Brussels Grand-Place in 1953. (Photo KADOC)

What is the objective of the survey?

Apart from the impact of the social context we are mainly interested in the former pupils themselves and the actual functioning of the Jesuit colleges. Via this survey we hope to reach a better understanding of this functioning and of the education that was given, the values that were praised and the learning content that was most valued. We are just as interested in the religious life and in the way in which the religious message was conveyed. We also focus on the pupils' actual perception of their environment in the period 1945-1965. What did they read? Which literature was permitted or recommended? What was forbidden? Which sports did they practise? Did they visit cafés? What clothes did they wear? Some of the pupils were internees which provided a very specific context of life which we hope to reconstruct through this survey.


Guaranteed confidentiality

The survey begins with a biographical section. For privacy purposes this section will be kept separately with its own identification number so as to guarantee the anonymity of the respondents.


What will the survey be used for?

Your testimony will open up several research avenues. The returned questionnaires can form the basis of master theses, monographs on a specific college or a specific period, historical and sociological research. However, we also want to promote initiatives aimed at a large public, such as the creation of a website, a publication or exhibition. We therefore appeal to you at the end of the questionnaire: should you possess documents, photographs or other material that could be of interest to our project, please do not hesitate to contact us.


How to obtain this survey and how to fill it out?

Send a mail to this address. We will send you the questionnaire in Word format. 

You have two choices:
Either you fill out the questionnaire on paper. You may add as many pages as you wish, but please indicate clearly which section your answers correspond to so that the data can be interpreted correctly.
The second option is to download the Word document containing the questionnaire and to fill it out digitally. In this way your answers can be as elaborate as you wish.
In either case, should you have attachments that you think may be useful, please do not hesitate to send them to us.


Returning the questionnaire

We would appreciate it if you would return the questionnaire within three months to:
CEGESOMA – Survey Jesuit colleges
Square de l'Aviation 29
1070 Brussels

or by e-mail to this address.

Alain Deneef/Chantal Kesteloot


4 / 7 / 2013