Celebrating 70 years of Mission, Love, and Reparation

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Frater Juan Carlos Castañeda Rojas, a seminarian from the US Province doing his ministry year in Brazil, writes:

As my pastoral experience in Brazil continues, I have the privilege now of being at the Instituto Meninos de São Judas Tadeu (The Institute Saint Jude Thaddeus) in São Paulo, which is one of many Priests of the Sacred Heart ministries in this province. The institute was founded in November 16, 1946 by Father João Büscher, SCJ, who was pastor of the parish of Saint Judas Thaddeus. It was administrated by the Little Missionary Sisters of Immaculate Mary untill1949. It was in 1950 that Father Gregorio Westrupp, SCJ, took over administration of the orphanage, which in 1954 took the name it is known by today, Instituto Meninos de São Judas Tadeu. After his death in 1983 and as I have myself experienced, Father Gregorio has become an example of dedication, hard work, and reparation. Many people display a beautiful devotion to him and pray to him for his intercession for many different needs. As I have learned more about Father Gregorio, I have found that he truly lived our Dehonian charism of reparation by living among those who are at risk and vulnerable.

Frater Juancho

Frater Juancho

Since its creation, the institute has experienced many changes and many challenges. It began as an orphanage but in 2006 the institute had to change its work as a response to the law in Brazil and also as response to new needs of the people.  However, something that never has changed is its ideal of bringing to all people a restorative love by embracing, protecting, and educating babies, children, teenagers, and young adults.

During all those years of service, the institute has helped millions of children who found a safe place to grow. The institute did that not only by providing food and shelter but education and caring and love.

Thus, I had the privilege to be present for the celebration of 70 years of service of an institution that was inspired by God in the heart of a man who, just as Father Dehon, was not indifferent to the needs and situations of his times and decided to be an instrument of reparation for the little ones.

In the words of one of the teachers during the ceremony: “Love and reparation were and are the principal values of the institute. And by the help of many priests and religious of the congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart it has been possible to keep this institution and its mission. There are many hands that come together in the construction of this mission, those are hands that have experienced in their lives the love of God and with concrete actions desire to return that love.”

But it would not be possible to continue this amazing mission if we as Dehonians did not have the support and dedication of our 320 workers and many other volunteers who give their time, dedication, and helping hand to the work of this mission. I am amazed and happy to see how each person who is part of this mission fully lives out the Dehonian charism of love and reparation.

Celebrate!

Celebrate!

And of course and just like any other of our Dehonian missions and ministries, it is because of the support and giving hearts of our benefactors who believe in us and our work that we are able to continue with them.

This mission exists because we as Dehonians, as well as everyone who works with us, believe in a great love that can heal and repair broken hearts. This is how each one of the kids and young adults that we help are experiencing the greater love of God through us. They are the fruits of those seeds of hope and love that the institute plants and helps to grow. Today the Institute serves 2,165 babies, children, and young adults and in over the 70 years of service it has helped millions of children.

It is always nice to talk with people who come to the institute for mass, bring a donation, or ask for a blessing. Many of them speak very well of the mission of the Institute and they speak nicely about Father Gregorio and his legacy. I have to say that everyone really puts their hearts into this mission and always are super-welcoming. It has been a real pleasure to share my time here with them.

Today I feel blessed to be part of this mission, sharing, and learning every day about the acts of love and reparation given through the institute. This experience really gives me joy to see in the faces of all those children the joy of our mission, the legacy of Father Gregorio, and the love of God.  Happy anniversary to the Institute Saint Jude Thaddeus and congratulations not just to all the SCJs here but to our workers, volunteers, and benefactors who, with an open heart, work in our mission of love and reparation.

 

 

 

 

Seminarian experiences Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil

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The concert in Aparecida

Frater Juan Carlos Castañeda Rojas, a seminarian with the US Province, is currently doing his ministerial year in Brazil. Recently he wrote about the devotion to Our Lady of Aparecida, Queen and Patron of Brazil. Juancho writes:

Growing up in Colombia I learned from my parents about the devotion to Maria Auxiliadora ( Mary our Helper), praying the rosary and attending every Tuesday the Mass celebrated specially for the intercession of the Virgin Mary. So I can say that in my life the Devotion to the Virgin Mary is very strong and important in my vocation.

After I moved to the United States I came to develop another important devotion to the Virgin Mary and this time in the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. As I had the opportunity to appreciate this devotion that is mostly strong among Mexican people, that devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe grew stronger in my heart. When I witnessed the celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in our parish in Houston and at the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plains, Il., I had to opportunity to see how this devotion is manifested in many different expressions of reverence.

On October 12 people in Brazil celebrated the feast of “Nossa Senhora Aparecida” (Our Lady of Aparecida). During the entire month of October many people make their way to visit the Basilica of Nossa Senhora Aparecida in the city of Aparecida, many of them walking miles to go there. People from all over Brazil come to visit the shrine, or as many are referred to: “na casa de mae” (the house of our mother). I was amazed by the number of people whom I saw walking the highways in direction to Aparecida.

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Our Lady of Aparecida

What is different about this devotion compared to others to the Virgin Mary is that it did not begin with an apparition of the Blessed Mother as with Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego or Our Lady of Fatima who appeared to the three little shepherds.

The image of Our Lady of Conception that would be later best known as “Nossa Senhora Aparecida” was found by three fishermen in the waters of the river Paraíba. After trowing their nets in the water without any success,  feeling hopeless they prayed to the Virgin Mary and threw their nets one more time. Instead of catching a fish they caught a statue of Our Lady of Conception without her head. Amazed at their finding they tossed their nets one more time. They caught something once again but instead of fish it was the head of the statue that they pulled up in the previous casting. They saw it as a miracle and prayed before throwing their nets one more time.  This time they caught so many fish that their nets were about to break and they were afraid that their boats were going to sink because of the weight of the fish.

Frater Juancho

Frater Juancho in Aparecida

As they returned to their town they told the story of what had happened. This is how the devotion to Our Lady of Aparecida started to become one of the most important devotions in Brazil and today she is recognized as the Queen and Patron of Brazil.

I have witnessed this amazing devotion of the Catholic community in Brazil. I had the opportunity to be at the Basilica for the closing ceremony with thousands of people who came to pray and celebrate the Feast Day of Mae (mother). For me it was just an amazing experience because this year marks 300 years since the encounter of Our Lady of Aparecida.

And if that wasn’t enough, I had the opportunity while here to assist at the concert of Andre Bocelli, one of my favortites singers!

It has been good to experience this new devotion and learn more about Brazilian spirituality. Every time that I visit the Basilica I also experience a deep emotion and joy to visit the house of Mae.

House blessing in India

Fr. Tom Cassidy writes about doing a house blessing for the mother of one of the SCJ students in India. Benefactors from the US Province funded the construction. 

I recently took part in a house blessing for the widowed mother of Br. Thambi Joseph, a third-year SCJ theologian. Funding for the house was through the US Province; Pam Milczarski of the Province Development Office was instrumental in connecting donors to the project. Br. Thambi, along with nine fellow students and other SCJs, traveled three hours to be present at the blessing.

Br. Thambi's mother, Fr. Suresh, Fr. Michael Augustine and Fr. Tom cutting the ribbon for the new house.

Br. Thambi’s mother, Fr. Suresh, Fr. Michael Augustine and Fr. Tom cutting the ribbon for the new house.

The celebration was done in a mix of English and Telugu. Br. Thambi is fluent in English, but his mother is not. Br. Harish (Hari) Kumar Barigala (4th year) translated my brief remarks as well as read the Telugu version of the blessing ritual. After the ribbon cutting, and sprinkling each of the rooms with holy water, we celebrated Mass. Our SCJ students provided the music and various ministerial parts. Fr. Michael Augustine was the celebrant and Fr. Suresh Gottom, assistant priest at Sacred Heart Parish, Vempadu, preached. The Mass was in Telugu.

As is the custom just before the final blessing, Br. Thambi thanked everyone involved in making the day a memorable one. He also, through me, offered his thanks to the US Province, Pam, and those benefactors who contributed the funds needed to construct his mother’s new home. The family moves from what I’d call a hut with palm leaf roof into a house that can withstand monsoon rains and provide a safer and more secure environment for her and Br. Thambi’s two younger brothers. It is a small house with two bedrooms, a small kitchen and a living/dinging area. While I don’t have the exact figures with me, a house like this typically costs around $5,000.

As is tradition, a meal followed the event. We ate in what is the living/dining area the new house. The meal begins with washing of your right hand, the one used for eating, as well as some water to rinse off your paper plate. Glasses of water are filled and then the food comes. Today we had fried rice and white rice along with beef, chicken and fish dishes topped off with curd and bananas.

Welcome Fr. Jim!

Fr. Jim and Fr. Tom as welcomed with flowers and coconut milk

Fr. Jim and Fr. Tom as welcomed with flowers and coconut milk

Fr. Tom Cassidy writes from India soon after welcoming Fr. Jim to Chennai. Fr Jim will be in India through October to give several presentations and workshops.

OCTOBER 5 – Fr. James Schroeder, SCJ, and I arrived via Spice Jet on a flight from Chennai to Kochi. Chennai is the fourth largest city in India after Mumbai, Kolkata and New Delhi followed by Kochi. By our prop jet it’s just about an hour flying time from the east coast of India (on the Bay of Bengali) and south across India to Kochi which rest on the west coast (Arabian Sea).

The hour went by fast and before we knew it, it was touchdown and our six-day-visit to Kerala was underway. Br. Sajeevan Marcelin, SCJ (treasurer and formator) was there to greet us along with Anu, one of the philosophy students. Our Dehon Vidya Sadhan philosophy house of studies isn’t too far from the airport, certainly closer than it is to our minor seminary at Kumbalanghi. We enjoyed the Indian ritual that welcomes guests, especially newcomers to a community. At DVS the ritual was complete, leaving out only the use of incense. We were greeted with a song, given a hearty welcome by Fr. Christy Peter Chittapanezhikathuvila, SCJ (superior of the community), handed flowers and then garlanded, and offered coconut milk.

The milk I usually only take a sip of as I’m not a fan of coconut milk or for that matter, many other ways coconut is served. Having said that, I should note coconut and coconut milk are often used in Indian cooking and I have no difficulty with its use or flavor. With a handshake and introduction with each of the students the two of us were shown our rooms and invited to the SCJ rec room for the short period remaining before dinner.

As our guest, Jim was given the main guest room that was at one time used by Fr. Thomas Fix, SCJ, when he was on staff. I stayed in that room on my first visit to India in 2011. Fr. Fix is revered in India and anyone who had him as a formation director or more important, spiritual director, speak of him in saintly terms. Both Jim and I certainly concur with their assessment.

As a travel day we were pretty much given the rest of the day off. It gave Jim a chance to begin to get himself organized as he’s going to be kept busy and has lots of talks to give. He’ll give an hour’s conference to the postulants and philosophy students on Saturday evening. The philosophy students are away at the moment on retreat and will return sometime on Saturday.

St. Joseph's under construction

St. Joseph’s under construction

OCTOBER 6 – The trip to visit our two parishes in the diocese of Punalore was, to put it bluntly, long and tiring! Here it’s best to forget how far away anything might be but rather ask: “How long does it take to get there?” If you asked that question my answer for Punalore would be: “Almost five hours to get there and four hours to get home!”

Because of the length of the trip Br. Sajeevan Marcelin, SCJ, the treasurer and a member of the formation team at DVS, was joined by Br. Xavier Viju, SCJ, who belongs to the Punalore SCJ community living with Fr. Colin Nepolian, SCJ, parish priests at St. Joseph Church, Soorarnaad. Both brothers drive. Keep in mind that not all Indian SCJs drive cars though most, if not all, drive motorbikes. It also helped that Xavier has lived in Punalore for several years, first at John Paul Bhavan, Koodal and now with Fr. Colin.

Sajeevan and Xavier are the only two finally-professed brothers in the district. Both can trace their SCJ roots almost to the beginning of our presence in 1994. We had a good discussion about the meaning of the brotherhood and the importance of it as a vocation. In many ways it is very important to a mixed community like ours as it is a constant reminder that we are religious first.

Our talks helped to while away the five hours it took us to get to John Paul Bahavan where Fr. Issac Sunil Roma, SCJ, is parish priest and Fr. Siju Solomon, SCJ, is the the assistant.

The church is just down the hill from the community house. The four of us were guests for dinner prepared as a joint effort between their cook and the two of SCJs. Many of our SCJs know how to cook, often a skill they first learned at home and perhaps improved during their seminary years. For example, this morning eight of the students were on breakfast detail making chapatti and on Sundays the students always take care of breakfast.

Fr. Sunil, while showing us the small parish church, told us that the entire parish is getting ready for their three-day-festival in honor of their patron, St. Jude, whose feast is celebrated on October 28. Fr. Jim asked him if his use of the term parish festival meant this was a fundraising activity of the parish, as would be common in the States. No, replied Fr. Sunil, it is simply an opportunity for the parish to pray and grow together as a community. It will include prayer as well as a parish meal to cap off the celebrations, and I think he said a procession as well.

We then headed to our other parish in Sooranad. I was particularly interested in visiting as on my one and only trip to Punalore a couple of years ago we did not have a chance to visit. Br. Xavier lives at Sooranad along with Fr. Colin Neapolitan, SCJ, the parish priest. He and his people have been struggling to find the funds needed to complete the new St. Joseph’s parish church. The original built in 1919 is too small for the number of Catholics. The plan is to turn the old church into a parish hall/center.

Getting the funds has been a struggle. I think, and this is from memory, they still need about $$78,000.00 to complete it. For now work goes on as funds become available. The new church is a lot larger then the one built in 1919.

We did not have all that much time to spend at Kollam. We did manage to get a taste of Br. Xavier’s homemade altar wine that he makes for our various communities. It’s not bad as altar wine goes, certainly as good as what was used in Italy during my time in Rome.

Is there a patron saint of copy machines?

Fr. Tom and the students after the blessing

Fr. Tom and the students after the blessing

Fr. Tom Cassidy writes from India:

In the Catholic Church there seems to be a prayer and a blessing for everything and everyone (including animals who will be blest in many parts of the world on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi on October 4th).

Yesterday our new copy machine was delivered. The house has been without one since before I first came to Christu Dehon Nivas in 2013. The brothers [students] who get 300 rupees a month [about $4.50) pocket money to take care of personal needs, recreation, etc., have been paying 1 rupee a page for anything they need copied for school. At the first community meeting before the opening of the school year the request was made for a house copy machine.

To make a long story short I heard about the need and when I was given money from two residents at Sacred Heart at Monastery Lake for India I suggested to Fr. Michael Augustine, SCJ, (our rector) that it be used towards the copy machine. Their gift came to just under 50,000 rupees [about $750].  Fr. Michael Benedict, SCJ (district treasurer) said that the district could cover the difference.

Indian Catholics believe in having just about everything blessed, especially if it is new.  Thankfully, as I noted at the beginning, there is a blessing for almost everything, and if you can’t find one you can create one.

Since it was our donors at SHML who were instrumental in getting the new copy machine Fr. Michael asked me to bless it. In the Church ritual book there is actually a “Blessing of Technical Installations or Equipment.”

Fr. Tom blesses the new machine

Fr. Tom blesses the new machine

I asked Br. Manish Nayak, SCJ (2nd year) to do the reading as he and I were going to do the blessing of the new clothing shop in Vempadu, during last week’s inauguration of the our new house but that got postponed as the room wasn’t ready. It’s now on our future to-do list when called upon. There was a rather long reading that Manish prepared for the occasion and since he didn’t get a chance to deliver it in Vempadu I thought it fitting he do the reading for our copy machine blessing.

I’ll briefly quote from the blessing service’s introduction: “Through the work of our hands and the help of technology we cooperate with the Creator to improve the earth as the dwelling place of the human family. By our efforts to bring the work of creation to perfection, we contribute to the advancement of society and carry out Christ’s mandate to follow him in serving one another in love. Let us, then, bless God as we use these products of technology [our new copy machine] for our advantage and never forget to offer praise to him, who is the true light and the fount of that water which springs up to eternal life.”

Though I won’t mention the names of our two benefactors from Sacred Heart at Monastery Lake here, I did let the brothers know who they are and asked them to pray for them and their needs. So often our generous benefactors are like ghosts to are the recipients of their kindness, i.e., unknown to us.  When you can put a name or a face to the generosity of others I think it is more meaningful.

The machine is located in the brothers computer room; all four computers are wired to it. The next model up allowed for a wireless connection but the expense was beyond our capabilities. Laptops can be brought to the room and manually connected when printing is needed.

So in closing, we are most grateful to the generosity of others for making life and education here at Christu Dehon Nivas not only better but in ways that will aid in our spiritual, educational and human interaction and communication.

Seminarian “jumps in” to ministry in Brazil

Frater Juancho's youth team from the Ecce Venio camp

Frater Juancho’s youth team from the Ecce Venio camp

Ecce Venio!!!

Frater Juancho Castañeda Rojas, SCJ, just began his ministry year in Brazil. All students do at least a year of ministry prior to their final profession of vows. Frater Juancho writes:

Jumping in!! Yes, that was the way how my ministry began in Brazil. I could never have imagined that I would have such amazing experiences only two days after my arrival in Brazil. I am grateful to experience a new culture, new language, and a new community whose members have been really welcoming to me.

“Juan, would you like to participate in the Ecce Venio Camp?” was the question that would change and give direction to my journey in Brazil. “Ecce Venio” [Behold, I come] –– many times I have heard that phrase and understood it as a pillar of our Dehonian charism. Because of the purpose of the camp I cannot reveal the activities that we did, but I can say it was not what I was expecting at all. It was more intense than I thought it would be, filled with many challenges that required strength, team effort, trust, and abandonment.

Ecce Venio Dehonian cross

Ecce Venio Dehonian cross

I was able to feel the energy of all the participants and the leaders of the event. It was really amazing to be among this group of young people who had the desire to feel the presence of God in their lives. But most of all, it was wonderful to feel the presence of God in their lives through Dehonian spirituality. Seeing so many people wearing Dehonian crosses as a symbol of identity was really encouraging to me. It was just as encouraging as the experience I had in Poland at World Youth Day where I was able to see and feel Dehonian spirituality being alive in them and carried out by young people there.  

Tears, fears, lack of trust — not only in others but the lack of trust we have in ourselves —  these were the feelings we had when we faced challenges. But joy, satisfaction, courage, humility and abandonment were the feelings we shared after accomplishing all of the challenges. And the faces filled with joy and marked by tears of happiness were stronger than the physical pain and tiredness we all felt.

At the end of the camp, all of us received the Dehonian cross on which was engraved the phrase “Ecce Venio.” What a beautiful gift of identity and what a wonderful way to start to live Ecce Venio as part of our lives and spirituality as Dehonians.

I really have to admit I was super-tired after this camp. But the physical feeling did not take away the overwhelming feeling of renewal of my spirituality as a Dehonian. That was because the camp gave a stronger meaning to what Ecce Venio really means. It was an amazing experience and as someone helped me remember, most of the best experiences in our lives are also the most tiring or painful.

This is how my pastoral year has become not just a learning experience about our ministry and mission in Brazil, but also a spiritual experience of learning more about myself and deepening the meaning of Ecce Venio in my life guided by the spirit of abandonment in God’s will.  

The full group of participants at Ecce Venio

The full group of participants at Ecce Venio

Celebrating Onam

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Fr. Tom (middle) and his “sous-chefs”

Fr. Tom Cassidy writes from India about the celebration of “Onam,” one of the largest festivals celebrated in the State of Kerala, India. To start the day, Fr. Tom was the breakfast chef. He writes:

I woke up this morning at about 4:50 am to get ready for kitchen duty as our crew of four brothers and myself agreed to begin preparations for breakfast at 5:30 am. Breakfast was scheduled for 7:45 am so that gave us sufficient time for all the cooking and preparation that had to be done. This is, of course, the feast of Onam and as I’ve said celebrated in India but especially in Kerala. Here is a brief synopsis from Wikipedia:

Onam (Malayalam: ഓണം) is the biggest festival celebrated in Kerala, India. It is also the State festival of Kerala with State holidays on 4 days starting from Onam Eve (Uthradom) to the 3rd Onam Day.

The festival falls during the Malayalam month of Chingam (Aug – Sep) and marks the commemoration of home-coming of the mythical King Mahabali. In Kerala, it is the festival celebrated with most number of cultural elements such as Vallam Kali, Pulikali, Pookkalam, Onathappan, Tug of War, Thumbio, Thullal, Kummati, kali ,Onathallu, Onavillu, Kazhchakkula, Onapottan, Atthachamayam etc. Onam is reminiscent of Kerala’s agrarian past, as it is considered to be a harvest festival.

One of the traditions of Onam and, I think, at other important events is the floral arrangement that Brs. Libin Paulos, SCJ (2nd year), Franklin Victor, SCJ (3rd year) and Alex John, SCJ (1st year) worked on from about 11:00 pm until early morning. They were putting finishing touches on it when I walked outside my room to head to the kitchen at about 5:20 am this morning.

Our schedule for the day runs like this:

6:30 am rising

7:00 am adoration and morning prayer

7:45 am American Breakfast (the ‘odd man out brigade’  from Tamil Nadu, Mumbai, Orissa and Wisconsin)

11:30 am Indian Mass 

1:00 pm Onam banquet (prepared by the brothers from Kerala)

3:00 pm Traditional Kerala games 

8:00 pm Supper (prepared by the brothers from Andhra Pradesh)

The fourth year students actually had class this morning at 9:00 am. We are in Andhra Pradesh and the meaning and practice of Onam is limited to Indians originally from Kerala. As I noted yesterday we did not celebrate it during the time Fr. Louis Mariano Fernandes, SCJ, was rector as he was from Goa.

Scrambling the eggs for an American breakfast!

Scrambling the eggs for an American breakfast!

As far as breakfast is concerned it went over well. Not one of the brothers had ever tasted scrambled eggs. At least in our houses when you say egg it’s either hard boiled or what the call an omelet, though it is a bit different from what we’d find in the States and certainly different from those served on Eggs to Order Day at Sacred Heart at Monastery Lake. 

My crew showed up on time with Br. John Benedict Vinoth Kumar Antonyraj, SCJ (4th year from Tamil Nadu) was technically about three minutes late, but for him that’s like being on time. We spent the first hour getting all the preparation work out of the way, especially peeling and slicing potatoes for the fried potato dish and peeling and chopping onions for both their fried potatoes and scrambled eggs. Yes, tears were shed over the onions but they were happy tears. Our last task were to cut up the tomatoes and that job was expertly handled by Brs. Manish Nayak, SCJ (2nd year from Orissa) and Sajeet Pillai, SCJ (2nd year from Mumbai) Both John and Rekha (the our cooks) came and gave us some assistance, especially in lighting the grill, making the coffer and assisting Vinoth with frying the potatoes and onions.

Br. Shabu Dennis, SCJ (3rd year from Tamil Nadu) was helping me with the scrambled eggs (we added onions and cheese for this recipe) but somewhere along the line Br. Franklin Victor, SCJ (3rd year from Kerala) stepped in and took over for Shabu, who didn’t seem to mind. With everything well in handy we managed a ten minute coffee break before starting to cook the eggs and potatoes.

We were able to finish everything and have the meal out and ready before the brothers came from either chapel or in case of our basketball team from practice. If I were to jude the quality of the meal only the fried potatoes were a disappointment to me (not to the brothers since it was new to them) they could have been cooked a bit longer. I think we had too many people at the grill turning them too often. The flavor was just fine but I’d call them a bit undercooked.

The eggs on the other hand came out perfectly. I told Shabu, that once we had cracked the eggs his job was to beat the bejesus out of them to get as much air into them as we can. Shabu performed his task admirably!