Category Archives: Misc SCJs

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.

 

Come and See!

Lambert Nguyen (California), Cristian Ramos (Florida) and Michael Wodarczyk (Wisconsin) took part in the September 6-9 Come and See visit. Our vocation office hosts several Come and See weekends throughout the year to give young men an opportunity to learn about religious life as a Dehonian brother or priest. Are you discerning a vocation? Contact our vocation office to learn about our Come and See weekends. Call 800-609-5559 or email us at vocationcentral@wi.twcbc.com

Frater Henry Nguyen, one of our SCJ seminarians, writes about the September 6-9 Come and See Weekend hosted by the province vocation office and formation community. It is an opportunity for those discerning a vocation to religious life to literally “come and see” the Priests of the Sacred Heart and learn more about what it means to be a Dehonian. Henry writes:

Three Come and See participants visited our formation program from Thursday to Sunday. It was a packed itinerary. Participants joined the Sacred Heart Monastery community for Holy Hour. This month’s Holy Hour was prepared by Fr. Bob Tucker, SCJ, who focused on two topics: the Word of the Lord and the Eucharist. Participants experienced Dehonian spirituality through the words that were proclaimed, either from the Gospel or from the SCJ Rule of Life.

The focus on Friday was the Dehonian formation program. Participants met with staff from either Marquette University or SHSST depending on each person’s educational background and needs. Of course, since the formation community is now in Wisconsin, a visit to Kopps’s Frozen Custard was also on the itinerary.

A recurring event in the Dehonian formation program is the First Friday program. The Sacred Heart Novitiate hosted the first gathering for the 2018-2019 academic year. Fr. Ziggy Morawiec, SCJ, Vice-Rector of Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology, was our speaker. He spoke on the Contemporary Word and Dehonian Spirituality.

Br. Diego and Jacob lead music during prayer

I saw a continuing theme in the Word as we heard the Word of God proclaimed the day before during Holy Hour. We were reminded that the Word was made by God and that the reality of the Contemporary Word is the language of poetry. To help us understand Dehonian Spirituality on an intimate level, Fr. Ziggy shared a personal story of his life and how love inspired him into action. It was from his experience of the love of the Lord that he professed final vows with the Priests of the Sacred Heart. He has hope for all of us to experience that love in formation and for the rest of our lives. Dehonian spirituality is rooted in the love of the Heart of Jesus. After the presentation, we headed back to Sacred Heart Monastery where Fr. Yvon Sheehy, SCJ, and the community hosted a social with appetizers and games.

Saturday, Jacob and I took our guests on a city tour, (I have to say that this was my first time really getting out to explore the city too). We visited McKinley Marina and the lakefront, as well as the Milwaukee Public Market and the Historic Third Ward neighborhood. It was truly a nice day for the city tour.

Saturday night, we took part in the province jubilee celebration at Sacred Heart at Monastery Lake.

Before they left I asked each of the visitors about their visit and told them that I hoped to see them again. They were all very appreciative of the hospitality that they received from the SCJ community.

 

Why am I a brother?

Br. Diego (far left) with fellow SCJs preparing a meal

Today, May 1 (the feast of St. Joseph), is the second annual Religious Brothers Day. Br. Diego Diaz, a Dehonian from Argentina currently studying ESL at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology, shares the following reflection:

The Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a religious family made up of both priests and religious brothers. Together, we live the gift of the love of Jesus that impels us to be missionaries wherever the Church calls us.

Many ask me why I am a brother and not a priest. On this day dedicated to the vocation of religious brothers, I’d like to share my responses to the question:

I AM A RELIGIOUS BROTHER because the first call of Jesus is to create in the world a universal brotherhood where we are all brothers and sisters in the same God.

I AM A RELIGIOUS BROTHER because I identify with that aspect of Jesus, to be a brother among brothers, serving from my ministry, creating new bonds of brotherhood and friendship wherever it is needed.

I AM A RELIGIOUS BROTHER because our Dehonian mission of oblation and availability makes us intercessors before God, working to make present the Kingdom of God in the realities where we are called to and sent by the community.

The vocation of brother is a call to us all, men and women, because the world has a universal thirst for fraternal and egalitarian relationships.

The heart of Jesus is the open heart of God who wants to become the brother of humanity and embrace it.

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.