Travel in the time of COVID-19

Dehonians visiting with the family who helped them soon after crossing the border

India has been hit especially hard by the pandemic. Much of the country is under travel restrictions. Br. Thambi Joseph, SCJ, shares some of the challenges he and fellow Dehonians faced during a trip from Tamil Nadu back to Nambur  in Andhra Pradesh:

Two days before we started our journey, we learned of the new rules for our fifth lockdown in India. We no longer needed an e-pass to enter our state, but states still had the authority as to whether to accept federal rules. We brought along a copy of the latest rules of the central government, assuming that we would be allowed to enter our destination of Andhra Pradesh.

At 4:15 a.m. we left our house in Chennai with a car full of luggage. We prayed the rosary together, praying for an easy border crossing from Tamil Nadu. An hour later we reached the border. The officer asked for our e-pass.

We said nervously “Sir, we don’t have any e-pass.” He asked us where we were going and we told him Andhra Pradesh. After seeing our state ID cards he allowed us to continue.

But we only got about 500 meters. At the border of Andhra there was a wall of 15 policemen. We approached them and were told to stop our vehicle along the side of the road. Once again we were asked for our e-pass. We told the officer that we did not have an e-pass because the central government said that they were no longer needed to enter one’s own state. Unfortunately, Andhra Pradesh had not adopted these new rules.

Although the policemen were very polite with us, we were stuck. We could not enter Andhra and we could not go back to Tamil Nadu. Fr. Hruday remembered that there was a lawyer in the parish at Nambur. He contacted the lawyer and asked for suggestions; the lawyer asked for 20 minutes to look into some possibilities. True to his word, a phone call came from authorities asking that we be allowed to cross into Andhra. With a sign of relief, we left for Guntur.

On the road, the phone rang and it was a relative of the lawyer who had just assisted us. He knew that we had a long ways to travel still and that little was open along the way due to COVID-19. We spent over an hour with his family, enjoying a generous breakfast and prayer before resuming our journey.

It was a challenging journey but at the end I once again realized that God is always with us, helping us in difficult times and allowing us to see the beauty in our lives.

This is how we had returned to Guntur, and after experiencing both the good and bad in our journey, I have come to realize that God helps us in our difficulties and makes our lives run smoothly. He does beautiful things in our lives.

Formation community welcomes a visitor from Rome

The formation community with Fr. Stefan

Frater Henry Nguyen, SCJ, writes about Fr. Stefan Tertünte’s visit with the formation community at Sacred Heart Monastery. Fr. Stefan, director of the Centro Studi Dehoniani in Rome, was in Hales Corners as a responder at the November 13 Dehon Lecture at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology. Henry writes:

Fr. Stefan Tertünte, SCJ, met with the formation community on November 15. Fr. Ed Zemlik and Br. Duane Lemke joined us. During his visit with us, Fr. Stefan shared with us some key points of the recently released Programmatic Letter called His Way Is Our Way that the General Administration sent to all entities as they began their 2018-2024 term.

Before diving into details of the letter, Fr. Stefan shared with us how he came to know the Priests of the Sacred Heart (SCJ): he was at a national Catholic gathering and discovered the SCJs in a magazine. No limits to the types of apostolate is what attracted him to the SCJs. He had come to learn that regardless of where we are, we remain faithful to this type of spirituality, that our charism calls us to be Christ-centered. This is rooted in Fr. Stefan’s favorite constitution citing: “As disciples of Father Dehon, we want to make union with Christ in His love for the Father and for all the principle and center of our life” (Cst 17).

We, as SCJs, are called to minister according to the signs of the time and what helps us to do that are two things identified in the programmatic letter: synodality and Sint Unum. Though synodality literally means walking together, it is not enough to describe it just as that; we as Dehonians continue to live side by side with each other and with Christ. There is this need and sense of accompaniment, living in community with one another. Part of Constitution #59 reminds us how to live as a community, “Within the Church, we are called to follow Christ and in the world to be witnesses and servants of the communion of people in a fraternal community.” As Dehonians living together under one roof in a multicultural community, “Community life requires that each one accepts others as they are with their personalities, their duties, their initiatives, and their limits, and that each one allows himself to be called in question by his brothers” in a way to be loving and accepting of one another whose cultural and upbringing is unlike our own (Cst #66). This how we also come to participate in the life of the other (confrere) in a fraternal way. We are called to accept the diversity around us as we come to work together.

This call of ours, this call of mine (ownership) can be summed up: “In Fr. Dehon’s view, the Ecce Venio defines the fundamental attitude of our life. It turns our obedience into an act of oblation; it patterns our life on Christ’s own, for the redemption of the world, to the glory of the Father” (Cst 59).

This is the spirit of the Congregation, “Our way as SCJs is to see him, with an open heart as we see Jesus’ pierced side, not only to ponder at God but to mission,” said Fr. Stefan.

Renewing the commitment to follow Jesus

During the weekend of Canadian Thanksgiving (October 12-14), Fr. Albertus Joni, SCJ,  assisted with the Indonesian Youth Retreat in Vancouver. He shares a bit about it below:

Vancouver has been mentioned so many times by magazines and newspapers as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I truly enjoyed the interior of her modern airport with all the displays of various totems and indigenous sculptures. Out of the terminal building, the scenery is even more outstanding: lines of hills and mountains surround the skyscrapers, the sparkling clean rivers and the vast ocean embrace the concrete structures. Nothing can beat the beautiful stacks of houses built on cliffs along the sea. Autumn has changed the color of trees, and they add more beauty to this natural canvas of Vancouver. It feels surreal. It is so beautiful.

Vancouver, with all its beauty, is a city that is very liveable compared to some other big cities in Europe or the United States. Maybe this is the reason why it attracts so many international students. Vancouver has more than 300 Catholic Indonesian students who are admitted to the University of British Columbia (UCB) and Simon Fraser University (SFU).

I was invited as a guest speaker for a three-day retreat with the Indonesian students of Vancouver (Mudika).

About 70 students took part in this retreat. I am very thankful for the many blessings poured out by the Heart of Jesus to these fine young men and women. Some of them gave testimony on how God led them to understand the meaning of suffering in their lives. One shared the grace of healing from seizures due to traumatic experiences in the past. There were stories of people hearing God speak personally in their hearts, helping them to turn away from superficial lives that were without meaning.

As I witnessed so many touching testimonies, I was reminded of Matthew 19:16-22, where Jesus was asked by one young man: “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” Jesus ended the conversation by asking the young man to follow Him.

I believe that every retreat is a process of questioning and finding the answer about this “eternal life.” The retreat called on youth to continue to live the commitment to follow Jesus more closely in joy and contemplation.

New jobs, but at what price?

Fr. Mac talks with a woman affected by DACA

Fr. Richard MacDonald, SCJ, a member of the North American Migration Committee, shares the following reflection on a recent source of job creation in the Rio Grande Valley:

I think this is all about “restoring human dignity” but it seems like a “win-lose” situation.  Let me share the facts:

Today the local media announced there would be a “job fair” with 200 jobs available. The jobs are tied to a migrant children’s shelter that is opening by December of this year. So far, 300 jobs have been filled, meaning that it will bring a total of 500 jobs for the area. The federal government will have a payroll budget of between $20 and $24 million dollars to run the facility.  The location will be an abandoned Walmart on the edge of Raymondville. Note that the reason Walmart closed this store is because it only brought in a profit of approximately $400,000.00 a year.

The newspaper article expresses joy at the creation of 500 jobs. I personally know many of the families who now have jobs and are giving thanks to God that that  life will be a bit easier.  The wages start at about $12 to $14 an hour; more than Walmart paid and the benefits are better!

This migrant children’s shelter in Raymondville will house another 500 minors, held in captivity, without any contact with parents or family.  It is one of many we are aware of in cities such as Harlingen, Brownsville and Weslaco. The number of people wanting to live in the United States grows regularly. We are well aware of the huge ministry done by Sr. Norma in McAllen. It is no surprise that many children suffer from post-traumatic disorder.

In the parish Masses that I celebrate, I find a way to “remember the children.”  We must never forget them. But something is terribly wrong about the reality I describe.  Human dignity should be a reality for us all.

It is difficult to know what to think about all of this. We need wisdom. I am happy for those who have jobs. But what is the real price to society?


SCJ students in India learn about social challenges

Blessing the newly purchased computers

Fr. Tom Cassidy, SCJ, who is assisting with the formation program in the District of India, recently wrote about the students’ “social action day.” The Dehonian students broke into three groups to learn about social concerns near the school. The groups were named Matthew, Mark and Luke after the Synoptic Gospels in honor of Fr. Charles Brown’s three-week course with the students on the topic in May and June.

Fr. Tom writes:

At Mass, each group reported on its social action activities. The groups planned to visit the central hospital in Eluru, the juvenile jail, and a home for mentally challenged youth. Two groups were able to accomplish what they had set out to do. However, the morning rains washed out the path to the jail visit, so that group also went to the local governmental hospital (central hospital).

Those who visited the hospital spoke of the problems faced by patients. For example, the long waits to see doctors because the doctors work not only in the central hospital but often in private hospitals as well. In addition, the quality of food or at times the lack of food other than bread was an issue for some patients, as was the overall cleanliness of patient rooms. One question left unanswered among the students: What, if anything, can they do about it?

The final group to report was the one which visited an orphanage for the challenged. I am not sure if all the children fall in this category, but yes, some do. Take a close look at the photo below that I can’t help but love; look at the young girl standing next to Br. Prem: she gazes up at him starry-eyed — I think Prem’s found a new friend. This is not our first visit to the children, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

After Mass, we blessed three new desktop computers made possible by generous donations from three residents at Sacred Heart at Monastery Lake in Franklin, WI.

Indian District begins its first mission

Screenshot 2019-07-14 16.06.03

Br. Manish (left) with a friend in Odisha

Fr. Tom Cassidy continues to keep a daily journal during his time with our Dehonian community in India. Recently, he wrote about the district’s efforts in developing its first mission:

Br. Manish Nayak, SCJ, will shortly head to Odisha to help set up our first SCJ mission in his home state. In so many ways it reminds me of the early mission days of our German SCJs in the United States when travel was difficult and roads (at least paved roads) were few and far between. Manish leaves this weekend with our district treasurer as the advance party to begin to get things organized for the arrival next week of Frs. Michael Benedict, SCJ, and Vijaya Bhaskar Reddy Yeruva, SCJ, who are the first two assigned to our Bisaguda Mission.

To say the least, this is a remote area.

The diocese covers approximately 15,000 square miles. Out of a population of 5,407,895, there are 50,542 Catholics; less than 1% of the population. The majority, including those whom we will be serving, are classified as “tribals.” This is a special status in India that bears similarity to the status of Native Americans in the United States.

The diocese was established in April, 2016. According to Wikipedia, it has 23 parishes and 35 diocesan priests. To use my South Dakota analogy, the problem is distance and ease of travel more than the number of priests. This is a world Manish knows well as he is an Odisha native and will help for about the next six months in establishing our presence in this remote part of Odisha.

It is with this background that our superior, Fr. Michael Augustine, SCJ, asked Manish to give the talk at July’s recollection day. Fr. Michael asked Manish to speak on the topic of mission. Last Saturday at our American Breakfast in his honor I quipped: “Manish is our first missionary, and where is he going? Back home to Odisha!”

Holy Week at OLG, Houston

Fr. Duy, pastor of OLG, baptizes a parishioner at the Easter Vigil

Frater Henry Nguyen, an SCJ seminarian, spent Holy Week with the community at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Houston. He reflects on the experience below:

I had the opportunity to spend Holy Week this year with our community at Our Lady of Guadalupe (OLG) parish in Houston, TX. The first activity that I was able to attend with the SCJs was the Chrism Mass on Wednesday at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. It was a beautiful celebration as the Cathedral was filled with clergy, religious, and laity. We witnessed there the recommitment of those called to the priesthood.


Thursday morning, I saw the students of Our Lady of Guadalupe School participate in the Washing of the Feet activity where students washed each other’s feet to illustrate what Jesus had done for His disciples. I saw  genuine humbleness from each student as he or she remembered Jesus’ Last Supper. What I remembered was that in order to love a little, I must learn to give generously. At night during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the presider and concelebrants all partook in the washing of the feet. What was unique was that the entire congregation was invited to have their feet cleaned by the SCJ priests. In turn, several parishioners washed the feet of our SCJ priests. This experience spoke out to me as Dehon’s faith experience in the openness of love.

Members of the parish community gathered on Friday for the Good Friday Fish Fry where volunteers came out and cooked for the fundraising event. During this event, I was able to connect with many of our parishioners to learn that many are 2nd and 3rd generations of their family attending OLG. They see the impact that the SCJs bring to their community. I had the opportunity to listen to their stories and what they know of the SCJs. As the fish fry was coming to an end, there was a live reenactment of the Stations of the Cross that took everyone to the streets. Many had gathered for this reflection that led into the service.

As I entered the church on Easter Vigil, the church was covered in darkness as we remembered the story of creation and how before light there was darkness. Not only was the church covered in darkness but it was filled with people. Many more were outside as we prepared to light the Easter candle. It was so beautiful to see the staggering effect as one candle lighted the other and pretty soon the entire parish was illuminated by candlelight. I was able to witness those in RCIA get baptized, confirmed, and receive communion for the first time and several others who were received into the Church.

On Sunday the parish was just as packed as the night before. People rejoiced that Jesus, who had died for us had come back to be with us. From what I experienced, OLG is a busy community. From BBQs to festivals, etc, there is always something going on. The community at OLG is a lively community and I will miss them them for sure.

Fr. Wojciech washes the feet of a parishioner at OLG

“I was at home from the start!”

“When individuals in the movement ask why I joined the SCJs out of all of the religious orders out there, I tell them, it’s simple – I felt like I was at home from the start and it is because of VEYM that I am an SCJ.”

-Frater Henry Nguyen, SCJ


Frater Henry Nguyen, SCJ, one of our seminarians at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology, shares the following reflection:

While Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology was on its spring break two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement (VEYM)’s Annual Servant Leader Retreat – 2019 in Rosemead, CS, at the St. Joseph Salesian Youth Retreat Center. It was directed by Fr. Tri Dinh, SJ.


The retreat was called Hành Trình Hy Vọng: The Heart of Faith, (English translation of Hành Trình Hy Vọng is “The Journey of Hope”). When individuals in the movement ask why I joined the SCJs out of all of the religious orders out there, I tell them, it’s simple – I felt like I was at home from the start and it is because of VEYM that I am an SCJ.

Being in VEYM continues to reinforce my vocation of Ecce Venio. Recently, I read a post by the president of VEYM in the United States and it dawned on me that the SCJ charism was nurtured in me way before I knew what that meant. The VEYM is the youth branch of the Eucharistic Youth Movement (EYM). The spirituality of VEYM and the SCJs is not that far apart as members in VEYM are taught to Live the Eucharistic Day which is comprised of three parts: Morning Offering, Mass and Holy Communion, and lastly, Night Offering. These aspects of Living the Eucharistic Day remind me of Oblation, Reparation, and Adoration. As the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Christian faith, in VEYM, we have Mass and Adoration daily.

During this retreat, we were first asked “How is your soul” in order to reflect on our journey of faith and how we got to where we are today. As I discern this question and my journey of faith, I am loved by God and I want to share that love with the world. It then got personal, I was asked, “Who is Jesus to me” and I thought of my personal relationship with Jesus, as my Shoshben, as someone whom I can talk to on any level. I took notice that I had to reprioritize my life and see what is important to me and how to make God more present in my life. The past, present, and future: I understood that how I got here leads me to immerse myself in the present moment, to discern where I go from here.

I know I was meant to be on this Journey of Hope: Heart of Faith as it was the same weekend as St. Polycarp’s 25th Year Anniversary as a VEYM chapter (I had joined VEYM at the age of eight at St. Polycarp, Stanton, CA). The weekend renewed my spirit, my Dehonian spirit. I was reminded to let go and let God. I pray that I am able to accompany and walk with others on their own journeys and really be available to them.

As I came home to Sacred Heart Monastery, I stumbled upon a painting in the stairway that was hung up after I had left for the retreat. The painting was of Jesus washing the feet of one his disciples. At the retreat, we reflected on the reading of Jesus washing the feet of the Disciples and this same image was used. Although I was tired from traveling, I couldn’t help but be in awe. Jesus is the true message of servant leadership.

Currently, my involvement in VEYM is both at a local chapter and the national level. I was elected as the Vice President of Academic Affairs at Dong Hanh chapter in Franklin, WI (at St. Martin of Tours) and recently appointed as the Sub-Committee Lead of Vocations of the National Executive Committee.

Do you feel called to religious life? Contact our vocation office for more information about the Priests of the Sacred Heart (Dehonians). Click here to email the director; or call 800-609-5559.

We must listen to youth

Br. Diego Diaz

Br. Diego Diaz, SCJ, writes about his recent experience at a La RED meeting. La RED (the National Catholic Network de Pastoral Juvenil Hispana) is a network of Catholic organizations and pastoral ministers committed to the evangelization, holistic development, and ongoing support and formation of Hispanic teens and young adults in the United States. La RED promotes the concerns of youth at national and regional levels, and fosters the creation of diocesan networks. Br. Diego writes:

The recent Synod on Youth convened by Pope Francis urged the Church to listen to young people and create spaces for them to express their ideas, feelings and hopes. It was with this in mind that I attended the La RED meeting in Chicago, November 8-11.

Approximately 100 of us from around the country took part in the meeting. We were joined by the auxiliary bishop of Chicago, Bishop Alberto Rojas. It was significant for us to have a young bishop among us, one who has been active in youth ministry and who endorsed our mission to accompany and encourage Hispanic youth in the United States.

In my home country of Argentina I spent many years working in youth ministry. The La RED meeting helped me to understand the reality of young Hispanics here in the United States: their concerns, their needs.

At the Chicago meeting we heard young people speak about being disciples and missionaries with other young people; we heard about the situations in which they live. In small table discussions we thoughtfully listened to each other. We concluded the first day with Eucharistic Adoration; it was touching to see how the young people prayed, taking time in silence to process everything shared during the day.

The next day we had discussion tables for particular interests such as teenage ministry, new technologies, and the National Dialogue Project. The National Dialogue is a collaborative effort of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, the USCCB National Advisory Team on Young Adult Ministry, the Catholic Campus Ministry Association, and La RED.

In order to serve youth, we must hear their voices. They ask us –– the Church –– to accompany them in their growth, but that accompaniment cannot be one-sided.

I hope to continue to bring our Dehonian spirituality to young people and those who minister to them.

RECENTLY PUBLISHED: As Br. Diego writes, he has been active in youth ministry for many years. In March, he published a book about the Argentine Province’s summer youth ministry program, a 40-year effort based in the spirituality of Fr. Leo John Dehon. “Accompaniment is a ministry within the Church that is often neglected,” wrote Br. Diego in the introduction to El Acompañamiento de los Jóvenes, una Experiencia de Misión. “My own experience of being accompanied in my first steps of discernment guided me in my decision to seek in the spirituality of the Heart of Jesus a way of living, and a way of accompanying others.” Br. Diego is currently working on an English translation of the original Spanish text.


Each of us has a vocation

Fr. Tomasz

“When we all work together, we become a beautiful example of the Church’s community in its diversity and unity”

-Fr. Tomasz Flak, SCJ

Fr. Tomasz Flak, SCJ, was the main celebrant and homilest at the October 3 multicultural Mass at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology. It was a liturgy that highlighted the many cultures and languages represented in the seminary’s ESL program. In his homily, Fr. Tomasz spoke about the call we all have to develop our vocation, whatever it might be, and to share and learn about each other. His homily text follows:

Today we heard about vocations. About how to follow Christ, even if there are many difficulties. We have used the idea that a vocation is a way to the priesthood or religious life; but it is not true. After all, each of us was endowed with a vocation, either as a wife, husband, priest or religious. We are all gifted with the same gift in various forms. And each of us was called to develop this gift and make it beautiful and abundant in fruit.

Today, more and more often, we speak about other types of vocations. Maybe sometimes we can call it as a passion to do something. In various professions, how often can we meet people who do their job just because they have to?  On the other hand, we can see the other people who do their work with dedication and determination. They are called people with a vocation to do this job. For example, a doctor who takes care of his patients, dedicates his time to them, and not just treats them as another client in his office. Or a teacher who allows his students to become enthusiastic to learn about the world. To discover the beauty of art, literature; wonder of biology, technology; ability to use other languages.

Today, we are here, together, as one school, which consists of many elements. Administration, staff, professors, teachers, students of philosophy and theology and of the ESL program. It is a very rich reality! Each of us, in his own position, is developing his skills and abilities to become better and better in his own task. We develop our life vocation, but also we develop our professional or student vocation to create a better community. When we all work together, we become a beautiful example of the Church’s community in its diversity and unity.

We are here from many countries and continents. Our tasks are different, but we share a common goal – developing of our vocation. Each of us becomes a teacher when we talk about ourselves, our family, our culture and customs. Each of us becomes a student when we are open to meeting another person, who perhaps speaks a little in our common language – English, to know about him, his family, his culture and customs.

Today’s Mass with many languages becomes an example of our common opening to the beauty of other cultures; to the beauty of diversity, which, when synchronized, creates harmony and order. This mass invites us to open ourselves to become a teacher who shows the new world and also to be open to being a student who wants to learn about this new world.

We are called to develop our calling to follow Christ more and more in daily life. In our Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology, we have special conditions for our vocation to develop it in an intercultural way.