Category Archives: Misc SCJs

Internationality a cornerstone of formation

Fr. David talks about formation in the United States

Fr. David Szatkowski, SCJ, a member of the US Province formation team, along with Fr. Tom Knoebel, president-rector of Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology, are in Rome this week for a meeting of Dehonian rectors and formators from around the world. Fr. David writes about the start of the gathering:

This morning (April 16) we spent time introducing ourselves and the entities that we represent.  There are members of the conference from every continent.  The languages being used are Italian, French and Spanish, with translation being provided.

We spent some time in language groups.  The English language group included formation directors from India, Indonesia, Venezuela, Germany and the United States.  We looked at two questions: the role of interculturality in formation today and how the various entities help to support the formation of brothers.

I found it interesting that every formation house represented has members of more than one culture and language in it, India having multiple languages and cultures in the same country.  All of the formation directors spoke about how internationality is great blessing. By being introduced to cultures in initial formation, students are able to have a richness of experience of culture, language, and ministry that would not be otherwise possible.

Fr. Tom (right) speaks with Fr. Michael from India

We also spoke about the challenges of an intercultural formation program.  One of the most obvious was the question of common language. When a student first comes to a formation program outside his own culture, it is an adjustment for the student to live, think, and be formed in the new culture.  And it is a challenge to the receiving community to help the student adjust to a way of living and studying that is different.  There is also the challenge to accept the culture of the student.

We spoke about elements of formation.  Not surprisingly, many elements were common.  Included among these were meetings with formation directors, spiritual directors, and community meetings.  The challenge for formation directors of every culture and entity is to find culturally appropriate ways to help the student open himself to the community and reveal who he is.  Another common theme was the necessity of helping students feel secure revealing their growing edges and weaknesses to the formation director without fear of being rejected.

The formation directors all spoke about what a joy working with our students is.  Many directors found that their community was more lively because of the students, and horizons were expanded due to the presence of multiple cultures.  The commonality of experiences was affirming.  The same challenges we face in the United States are being faced in other countries.   I believe this conference can help us by exchanging ideas, re-shaping how we view intercultural formation, and encouraging us to enter with trust into the open mind, open heart that the Congregation is calling us to form among ourselves.

The English-speaking group meetings

Women who make history

Br. Diego playing guitar at a recent liturgy.

 

“What I do every day as my contribution to building a different world is to recommit myself to not being a part of a machismo and dominant part of society but instead walk with my sisters and friends who make history every day in the struggle to be themselves.”

-Br. Diego Diaz, SCJ

 

Br. Diego Diaz, an SCJ from Argentina studying in the ESL program at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology, shares the following reflection that he wrote in commemoration of International Women’s Day, March 8.

Women’s Day is celebrated all over the world. Women in many parts of the Earth continue to fight for equal treatment.

Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology has a good number of women on its staff. They are teachers, admission officers, cooks, receptionists, secretaries, administrators and managers.

What struck me the most here is that there is an atmosphere of respect and egalitarianism. Surely there are always things that could improve, but the simple and everyday treatment surprised me; women are not treated as second class citizens here but play an important role in the formation of seminarians.

In my experience of ministering to women involved in prostitution I found that respect for others is the key. Men have to know and understand that they must try to see issues from a woman’s point of view and to treat them equally.  Many women in the United States carry out tasks that in our Latin American countries are only men’s fields, such as driving a bus, flying a plane, driving trucks or heavy machines, etc. Women’s soccer teams are popular in high schools here, and they perform well.

Equality means not just doing the same tasks that men do, but to take it a step further and also recognize the differences of women. Men should take into account who women really are.

Equality is not just women dressed as men, or women with male traits. They are simply women, and each is a unique individual who gives color to life on this earth. This is the key to our relationships with each other.

What I do every day as my contribution to building a different world is to recommit myself to not being a part of a machismo and dominant part of society but instead walk with my sisters and friends who make history every day in the struggle to be themselves.

American, Vietnamese and Catholic

Fr. Ed and Henry with one of the formation communities in Vietnam

For two weeks in December Novices Henry Nguyen and Paul (Phong) Hoang traveled to the District of Vietnam with Fr. Ed Kilanski, SCJ, provincial superior of the US Province. Fr. Ed went to Vietnam to give a retreat and to meet with Fr. Francis Vu Tran, SCJ (district superior), about collaborative projects for the future. Fr. Ed invited the novices to join him so that they could learn more about the SCJ congregation (Dehonians) outside of the United States. 

For Henry, it was the first time that he visited the country of his parents’ birth. While there, he met relatives, including his grandmother, for the first time.  During his first week in Vietnam he wrote a reflection that was published on the province website. Click here to read it.

Back home, Henry reflected more fully on his time in Vietnam:

Henry

During our trip to Vietnam I often allowed myself to be “moved by the Spirit” (Constitution #23). Not only was this trip an intercultural experience for me but also an interreligious one as it reminded me of my time in my “Religious Experience in Context” class at Catholic Theological Union.

As we traveled around Vietnam, I saw how religion and culture intertwined. An experience that I had while at my Bác Yến’s house was praying for our ancestors by lighting incense and praying for them at the family’s altar in the living room. This is where I connected religion and culture as I was a Vietnamese Catholic and this was more Vietnamese with perhaps a Buddhist influence.

As I was mentally preparing to depart from Vietnam my family asked when I was coming back to see them. I can’t help but reminisce about the limited yet well-filled time that I had with my family. I am really thankful for the experience. I do not know when our paths will cross again, yet I know that although separated by an ocean, we are still very connected through prayer and God.

Aside from being immersed in my own culture and religious traditions, I continued to have the opportunity to be immersed in something unknown to me. As part of my novitiate year, I wanted to explore more of God’s wonder and beauty, and I was able to do just that as we visited northern Vietnam. We went to Hồ Hoàn Kiếm (Hoàn Kiếm Lake), which was filled with radiant beauty and a rich history of Vietnam. I visited Vịnh Hạ Long (Ha Long Bay); being there reminded me of the natural beauty that God bestows on all of us. Nhà Thờ Chính Tòa Phát Diệm (Phát Diệm Cathedral) was a destination that tourists often visit to see the architecture that is a blend of Vietnamese and European styles. We stopped by Hỏa Lò Prison, also known as the Hanoi Hilton, to see a glimpse of American history in Vietnam.

As I was visiting “someone else’s garden” I found comfort and security as no one questioned who I was or where I came from as long as I paid my respects and acted accordingly. It was a continued sense of welcome and hospitality at places like Chùa Một Cột (One Pillar Pagoda) and the Perfume Temple. We also had the chance to visit the largest Buddhist temple in Vietnam, Chùa Bái Đính (Bái Đính Temple). We saw visitors from all over the world there.

Henry had coconuts fresh from the tree, just as his father had as a boy

Candidates Huy and Thanh took me to our Dehon 2 community where I had an experience similar to what my dad had while growing up in Vietnam, which was having a fresh coconut that was just cut down from a coconut tree. Thank you, Thanh, for allowing me to experience that. As Dehon 1 was preparing for a Christmas gathering, the Dehon 2 community was getting ready for their own Christmas event that included neighbors joining them in their festivities.

Just before we left Vietnam (literally hours before we got ready to leave for the airport) the Dehon 1 formation community hosted a Christmas gathering for neighbors and benefactors. Over 100 people showed up for the joyous occasion. Dehon 1 – thank you for inviting me to sing and dance with you on stage, although I did not practice as much and as hard as you guys did. I was and still am amazed at your time and dedication in bringing this annual event to the community.

As we headed back to the United States on the 3rd Sunday of Advent, I reflected on the readings for the day. The Prophet Isaiah said in the first reading, “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me” and I truly believed that the Spirit was with us as we journeyed through Vietnam, a place that quickly became familiar to me.

As a closing note, I reflected on the second reading, St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, to “Rejoice always.” Although I was sad to leave Vietnam, including its good food, and especially the people whom I met and bonded with, I must rejoice for having had this encounter with them. As I “retain what is good” I take this back with me as I continue my novitiate year.

I am now back at the Sacred Heart Novitiate, recognizing the three distinctive identities that I carry (Vietnamese, American and Catholic). I know that it sometimes can be hard to carry these identities together, but as long as I am willing and open, I can continue to be moved by the Spirit. I believe that it will help me to discern and do God’s will.

I do again want to thank Fr. Ed Kilianski, provincial superior of the U.S. Province, for his invitation to us novices to accompany him on his first trip to Asia.

And, thank you to the District of Vietnam for your hospitality! Một ngày nao, chúng ta sẽ gặp lại nhau, nhưng bây giờ luôn trong cầu nguyện. (One day, we will meet again, but for now, in prayer).

I can certainly say that my first trip to Vietnam will not be my last!

A innocent hand; a smile held dear in the heart

Br. Jose Antony Arackal

Br. Jose Antony Arackal, SCJ, is one of two Indian scholastics studying at the international theology house, in Caracas, Venezuela. Venezuela is a country currently suffering from significant economic, social and political instability. It is with the backdrop of such crises that Br. Jose shares the following reflection:

It was a Friday, just a few weeks ago. I went for the evening parish Mass at 6:00. It coincided with  charity work for people on the street, work done precisely because of the current situation in the country. My motive is not to make any judgment on the political system of the country, rather I just want to describe what happened to me on this particular day; a personal experience.

I was in the church 20 minutes before the celebration and made use of the time by greeting people; slowly this took me outside of the church. There I saw a multitude of people. To my surprise, it was neither a procession nor had they come for Mass, but they were out there looking for their basic necessities. Those tiresome faces told the whole story. Each face had a story to tell about the numbers of meals they had not eaten. Their only need at that moment was a spoon of anything that would satisfy their hunger. There were young and old as well as little ones with their moms. Each week the number of people continues to increase said Fr. Wilfred Corniel, SCJ, the parish priest. They come from far and wide for the food.

I saw volunteers running up and down, organizing the food. The people entering the church for the celebration paused, looked and passed by. I saw some of them even holding their noses. I confess that the air smelt different. The people’s voices did not match anything like the church choir. Their voice was of a real need born of hunger.

I saw many small boxes of food on a table in a little room at the entrance of the church that were contributed by many generous hearts. A volunteer was counting those boxes. I stood near him and wondered how many were there. I asked him “is it sufficient for all?”

“Jesus always provides for us” he responded with a smile.

I replied “Amen” affirming with conviction. But I am sure that he did not hear what was said because of the noise of the people asking for food. I moved on but then abruptly turned around when I felt somebody pulling on my finger. “Who is that?” I thought. I looked down and found a little girl with a shabby dress smiling, ¿Cuándo vamos a comer? (When are we gonna eat?) It felt like a punch to my face.

Hey! Wake up! All this happened in a fraction of a minute. My heart melted looking at her starving face. Her hands were dirty. Perhaps she had gone to search for food in the dump, I thought. It is a common scene now on the streets:  people searching for scraps in the dumps. I bent down and started a conversation with her and she told me that, no he comido nada hoy. (I have eaten nothing today). I took her to the volunteers and they gave her a box. I could see her little shining face with her missing tooth smile.

I hold that image, that smile, dear in my heart.

Lord, when did we see you hungry?” (Mt 25; 37). Yes, Jesus provides us always an opportunity to see His face in others… in a smile and in an innocent hand.

“Renew your SCJ mission to the world!”

During the weekend of October 6, several members of Divine Heart Seminary’s class of 1967 came together for an informal reunion at Sacred Heart Monastery. Fr. Bernie Rosinski, SCJ, one of their teachers, was asked to be the main celebrant at a mass they shared together on Saturday. Fr. Bernie shares his homily on the blog:

Fr. Bernie

The background to today’s event and the details of what led up to it, you have already talked about over the past two days in your conversations around small tables, on lounge chairs or bar stools. But here you are all gathered now, ostensibly to celebrate the 50th anniversary of your graduation in 1967 from Divine Heart Seminary – an institution that no longer exists.

Since “CD” has been defunct for 38 years now I have been puzzling through why you came to this reunion. It can’t be nostalgia. Over the past 50 years each of you has gone his separate way: an education beyond high school, maybe military service, probably married and with a family of children and grandchildren; you entered a profession or acquired a livelihood in or near your hometown or somewhere else in this vast country or ours. During the course of these past 50 years you have faced crises, stresses, and life’s usual curveballs: job loss, new job, relocation, natural disasters, illness, and possibly death of loved ones. These things that happen to us over the years in the course of God’s providence, all these factors, tend to turn our attention away from youthful and past things, to spin us off into the small worlds we have made for ourselves.

Small worlds change and rock for a bit, though, when there is an occasion, an anniversary, a milestone. We become pensive, meditative, even contemplative. We mull over certain highlights from our past, the directions we took, the achievements and accomplishments for which we were given credit, and the people who helped us achieve and accomplish then. A 50th reunion is just one such occasion.

You can imagine, then, why I am so curious as to why you have come to this 50th anniversary reunion. What power, what energy, what force, what memories brought you here? High school is so distant, so passé (a nod to Fr. van der Peet), so long-gone that surely it could not have provided the incentive, the motive to spend time and money to travel great distances to be here.

Now one thing I never did, or at least I hope I never did, was to think that Donaldson students were stupid. After my days at “CD” ended as a faculty member, former students and graduates have told me countless tales of how they managed to do things like sneak beer onto the grounds, to sneak liquor out of the SCJ rec room, and all kinds of other surprising escapades (I may even learn more of them at this reunion). And all the time that we SCJs and our lay associates thought we were educating you in the accepted “system” of things, “forming” you as we used to call it, you were educating yourselves in how to beat “the system.”  Everything I have said up till now, as I am sure you can guess since you are not stupid, is leading up to a point. I am setting a scene which I would now like to explore with you. The WHY? Why are you here at this anniversary reunion?

You may recall these familiar words: Leo John Dehon, immolation, oblation, reparation, and love; you heard them many times in sermons, homilies, conferences, retreats, and off-the-cuff classroom remarks. Fr. Dehon as Founder, you will recall, called upon the SCJs and all those associated with them to make a difference in the world through love. In his own words: all were to establish the kingdom of God in souls and in society through love. Lay people were to be the ferment, the yeast; the world was their proper domain. That was the great teaching of Fr. Dehon which anticipated, by many years, the great lesson from Vatican Council II.

As Dehonians we SCJs had educational goals in mind for the students who came to us that went beyond training in languages, literature, math, science, history, and the other humanities. There was more than soccer and basketball, intramurals, self-discipline, and responsibility for housework and farm work. There was more than the social graces of respectful treatment of others whether on or off campus. In all these activities you interacted with each other, learned from each other, modeled for each other, and bonded with each other. In the same vein, for better or worse, we SCJs sought to be models for you, to exemplify, by our behavior toward our fellow SCJs and toward you our students, those principles of living that we learned from Fr Dehon which we attempted to translate into respect, honor, esteem, affection, caring, and yes even love. We sincerely wanted each of our students to shine like stars in the sky, like diamonds in the sky, knowing full well that most of you did not have a true call to be religious or priests. Deep down we SCJs knew that you, future priest or future layperson, were the only way we could bring Dehon’s message to the world. You had to be our words, our agents out in the world. You were our hope that through you we could make the world a better place.

One of my favorite James Bond movies is the film Diamonds are Forever. Blofelt, the villain, is stealing diamonds so he can send a satellite dish into the sky in which the stolen diamonds serve as reflectors of sunlight onto the earth. Each diamond is singular and unique, but when paired and arranged in the satellite dish, each singular diamond in the matrix reflects light conjointly with the rest of the matrix, with greatly augmented power and force, upon the world. I have always seen that movie image as a metaphor for God’s dealings with the world, God’s own light, after Jesus’ own words in the gospel of John: I am the way, the truth, and the light. The Book of Daniel melds together Jesus’ words plus the Bond movie image in this way: Those who are wise, who lead many to righteousness, shall shine like the brightness of the sky, like the stars forever and ever. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians makes the same point. You, graduates, jubilarians, were meant to be those stars, those diamonds, those lights in the sky that were to shine down on the world and lead many to righteousness.

Recognizing what you received then and what you bestowed upon each other by yourselves and with our help, the reason you came here was, I surmise, to recapture that spirit of Fr. Dehon, to burnish that brightness, and to renew that mission. At least, this is my assessment of the motives and the reasons that brought here back here. Something stuck with you. Something meant something to you.

To me, the words found in today’s reading from St. Paul

whatever is true, whatever is honorable,
whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious (Phil. 4:6-9)

sparkle and glitter like a single diamond with many-facets. These are the virtues that you must  bring to bear on our world; this is what you must reflect and shower on our desperate world. Reverting again to that Bond movie image, like diamonds in the sky mirroring God’s light on the world, you must illumine that same world with your light, teach it with your virtues of truth, honor, justice, purity, loveliness and graciousness, and warm it with your hearts. This has to be your mission and apostolate until the moment you face your creator. This has to be how you practice immolation, reparation, and oblation – in love.

I call upon you, therefore, to renew your SCJ mission to the world. To quote St. Paul once again from today’s reading: keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and – to absolutely avoid any pretentiousness on my part – I would substitute: what you have learned and received and heard and seen in us, in you, in each other… And for my mistakes and our mistakes, forgive us. God bless you and yours.

Novices become a part of “tiyospaye” at St. Joe’s

Fr. Byron, Henry, Fr. Mark, Phong and Fr. Ed

This past weekend (September 15-16) Novices Henry Nguyen and Paul Phong Hong attended the American Indian Day Powwow at St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, SD. Henry wrote the following reflection on the experience:

It all started some time ago when Fr. Christianus Hendrik, SCJ, extended an invitation to the novitiate class to visit South Dakota and to attend the powwow at St. Joseph’s Indian School. At the time I didn’t even know what a “powwow” was.

The weekend came and flew by and I had a great time! Even though it was only for a few days, this experience opened both my heart and mind. Fellow novice Phong (Paul) Hoang and I got a glimpse of South Dakota when we attended the 41st annual powwow with Fr. Byron Haaland (novice master), Fr. Mark Fortner, and Fr. Ed Killianski (provincial superior).

Young powwow dancers

At St. Joe’s we became “tiyospaye,” a part of the extended family of St. Joe’s. The spirit of hospitality was well presented as we were welcomed by the SCJs who serve in South Dakota: Frs. Anthony Kluckman, Bernard Rosinski, Christianus Hendrk, Joseph Dean and Vincent Suparman. SCJ Frs. Tom Westhoven and Gary Lantz also travelled to attend the powwow.

We spent the weekend immersed in Lakota traditions and multiple cultural activities. At the Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center we got a snippet of the history of the Lakota people and how the SCJs came to South Dakota and established St. Joe’s. We also had lots of conversations with St. Joe’s students, teachers, houseparents, and staff. Other visitors of this powwow included family, friends, and benefactors of St. Joe’s. Over 75% of the attendees were visiting St. Joe’s for the first time, and for many it was also their first powwow experience. We saw a wonderful testament of benefactors’ love for the students when we learned that they had provided 300 pairs of matching sports shoes!

At the powwow I was able to feel Dehonian spirituality from those who were houseparents, teachers and staff at St. Joe’s, as well as in the benefactors. They all love with an open heart and mind. They come to serve those who are in need and most importantly, are for the youth, as seen in our mission statement. We heard stories from parents and grandparents on why their child was attending St. Joseph’s, also stories from houseparents as to why they provide their gifts and talents for the children. The stories were touching and impactful.

Visitors were able to participate in multiple activities such as dream catcher crafting with the help of the students, Lakota hand games, and a preview of the dance presentation that was to be presented at the powwow (including grass, traditional, and fancy dance).

The new Health and Family Services center was open to visitors. As I toured St. Joe’s I saw that the school’s motto is “developing the mind, body, heart, and spirit of the Lakota (Sioux)” for 90 years. Many of the students and alumni shared stories of how being at St. Joe’s influenced and changed their lives. Although St. Joe’s is primarily a grade school, there is also a high school program for children to live at St. Joe’s while attending Chamberlain High School.

Part of the students’ education includes Native American Studies and life skills classes that teach about nutrition, cooking, budgeting, and other skills to prepare students for the future.

Saturday was the main event, with the powwow dance and Indian drum group competitions. Over 80 youth participated in the dance competition and multiple groups competed in the drum contest. After the powwow, Mass was celebrated at the Our Lady of Sioux Chapel where Fr. Anthony presided. This was another experience to witness the Lakota tradition in Mass. One word: beautiful.

Before leaving South Dakota we didn’t want to miss seeing Dignity. Dignity is a statue of a woman who stands high and tall right next to the Missouri River honoring the Lakota and Dakota people.

I’ll be back to explore more of what South Dakota offers. Pilamaya – Thank you! It’s not a goodbye, but a “see you later” South Dakota.

 

“Reconciliation on steroids!”

Fr. Mark with youth at Life Teen

Fr. Mark Mastin, SCJ, who serves as a civilian chaplain at Fort Gordon in Georgia, shares the following reflection about his experience with a Life Teen weekend:

“Reconciliation on steroids” is how I would describe the 10 hours I spent listening to confessions for teenagers, young college students and adults at the Steubenville Life Teen Weekend Conference. The gathering had close to 3,000 participants.

Throughout all those hours I did not feel tired but instead felt energized as I fulfilled what our founder, Fr. Leo John Dehon, asked of us: to be Prophets of Love and Servants of Reconciliation (Rule of Life No. 7).  When he said this, Fr. Dehon must have had modern-day youth conferences in mind. Well, maybe not quite a vision of a 21st century music-filled, loud and exuberant praise-and-worship youth conference where one is lucky to get maybe five hours of sleep a day.  However, our founder knew that we are all in need of forgiveness, spiritual repair, and most of all, a sense of love and belonging.

Preparing for Mass

Fr Dehon was very astute in his observations about a world in need of help and change, a Sacred Heart transplant if you will.  Fr. Dehon must have realized that if we help our young people feel wanted and cared for, then perhaps the future of the Church and World will be in good hands; it would be a world full of hopeful and constant reconciliation, especially in our families where love begins and ends.  I believe that Fr. Dehon tapped into this understanding very well by establishing his own successful youth programs. Having served in youth ministry for most of my life and having performed thousands of hours of counseling throughout my religious and military life, I see that our young people want to be listened to and feel that they have a place in which they fit. They need to know that they matter and have value and purpose in life.

Fr. Dehon wanted members of his religious community to be available to help bring God’s message of love, reconciliation, and reparation to all people as a remedy for “the lack of love in the Church and in the world.”  In other words, he wanted his men to be the instruments of God’s healing for all forms of spiritual ills caused not just by personal sin but the byproducts of public sin, such as social injustices found in poor living and working conditions and inappropriate  wages. These impact a person not just spiritually but emotionally, physically, and psychologically.

As Priests of the Sacred Heart, we continue this mission of Fr. Dehon to be prophets of love and servants of reconciliation for people and the world in Christ through our whole lives, our prayers, our works, and in our sufferings and joys (cf. NQ XXV, 5).