Category Archives: Uncategorized

Indian District begins its first mission

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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.

Henry

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

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.

 

 

 

 

Feast day in the Philippines

Cassidy Philippines feast day

Fr. Tom (red shirt) with the new class of postulants

Fr. Tom Cassidy writes about celebrating the Feast of the Sacred Heart in the Philippines, where he is currently assisting with the English program:

Our principal celebrant for the Mass was Fr. Ronald Basco, SCJ, who was ordained on May 19The homilist was Fr. Donald Longo, SCJ, the out-going superior who will leave on Monday for Manila for further studies.

One of the highlights of the Mass was the reception of the new postulants; this was done by Fr. Frank Pupkowski, SCJ, in his role as regional superior, and was assisted by Fr. Patrick Gutib, SCJ, the new postulant director. There are 12 in this postulant class equally divided between Filipinos and Vietnamese.

Fr. Donald is not the only one leaving the local community. Fr. Arthur Guevara, SCJ, will leave in a couple of weeks to take up his duties as the pastor of our new parish on Leyte. He is also the regional treasurer and will continue in that capacity. That will require him from time to time to return to Cagayan de Oro. The Philippines being an island nation means either he flies or drives and takes a ferry boat between Leyte and Mindanao. Finally, Fr. Richie C. Gier, SCJ, who was the orientation year formator will also be going to Manila for his new assignment.

Following the Mass those present were given the opportunity to receive a blessing from the newly ordained priest. A custom here is to kiss the hands of the priest before he imparts his blessing. Naturally, with a large crowd of local community members, plus the guests, this took awhile and gave the caterers time to finish their set up.

Filipinos love a good party (fiesta). And no major fiesta would be complete without a roasted pig! These tend to be much smaller then pigs we would find in the States.

Pork was not the only meat served. We also had beef and salmon on a bed of pasta — a fish I enjoy. And, of course, what meal in this part of the world would be complete if it did not start off with rice!

Reflecting on the meaning of mission

The beginnings of a new parish hall in Big Bend, SD

The beginnings of a new parish hall in Big Bend, SD

Fr. Vincent Suparman, a member of the pastoral team based in Lower Brule, SD, reflects on his experience of mission:

Whenever I have refreshment after Sunday Mass, the people of Big Bend talk about Frs. Yvon Sheehy, James Walters, Thomas Westhoven, Mike Burke, Bernie Rosinski and Chuck Wonch. When they want to correspond with them, I give them the address of Sacred Heart at Monastery Lake, which I remember by heart. That is, expect for Fr. Bernie, since he is still here in South Dakota. Big Bend is a tiny church located about six miles off Highway 34 between Stephan and Pierre, SD. It is about 48 miles from the Lower Brule Community House, our home-base for mission ministry.

Fr. Vincent

Fr. Vincent

In the spring of 2013, praying in a rear pew while waiting for the people to come for Sunday Mass, I heard the sound of spring rain outside the church. In the stillness of a Sunday afternoon I could feel the rhythmic drops against the glass window. I was thinking about nature’s power, but also the spirituality of the Sacred Heart that inspired many priests, sisters and lay people to remain faithful to meeting the spiritual needs of the people here in the prairie. I am fortunate to be listed among them. I have always empathized with the older people in the church that I serve. Many of them are really good storytellers. They aren’t all necessarily joke-tellers, but they do know how to put a biblical message in their jokes.

After Sunday Mass, coffee and snacks are always provided. Sr. Charles, OSB, and one or two parish women are responsible for this weekly refreshment. On ordinary Sundays we have fewer than 15 people at Mass. More than that and we would say, “Wow, we have a big crowd.” That is Big Bend, the smallest parish among the six parishes we serve. Here everybody knows everybody else. They do not live near the church. Many of them live and work in Pierre, a 20-minute drive west from Big Bend. As pastor I respect them with appreciation for what they have given to the church. No matter what happens, they struggle to remain faithful. I do not know about their inner spirit. But, whenever I see them singing at Mass, I am happy and proud to be with them.

Sometimes I think of my mission journey. While sitting behind the wheel of the car, I often hear a soft voice whisper, “If you really saw the gift of life you have been given, you would not throw it away.”

“Life is the greatest gift, “ I once told a group of young teenagers in Colorado. This “proverb” makes me aware of how my position in life can easily turn to my comfort, my comfort zone, and my desire to be appreciated and loved. I remember my spiritual director who told me that I was alive for a reason, to go out and find it. Building walls around my life is easy. I am pretty good in recapturing a past experience. But I would rather decide to keep one or two things that give meaning to my life and move forward.

When I was first assigned in the mission I thought that I would bring something new and change the people’s hearts and minds. I thought the people whom I served were mine. But they are not. They are gifts and I was consecrated to be a   Priest of Sacred Heart to proclaim the Good News, not to condemn,  to be with the people and to serve them. When I began to see the people as gifts, I began to change. A gift and a possession are treated differently. I believe that the work of the Spirit continues; it is an unbreakable thread weaving through life as we pray in psalm. Within the context of mission journey I will face adversity, but the power of the Holy Spirit emerges in so many ways.

Big Bend, SD, October 18, 2015 (Mission Sunday)

Celebrating feast of the Holy Rosary in India

SH Nambur feast pic

Sacred Heart church in Nambur

Fr. Tom Cassidy will soon conclude his time in India… at least for now. He returns to the district every few months to assist with formation and administration. In today’s entry he writes about celebrating the Feast of the Holy Rosary at Sacred Heart parish in Nambur:

Last evening the entire community traveled the short distance from the novitiate house to Sacred Heart Parish in Nambur to celebrate the Feast of the Holy Rosary with the parish. We were invited by Fr. Ravindra Moparthi the assistant parish priest who has been acting pastor for the last month while Fr. Dharma Raju Akula, scj, has been in the US for a month-long introduction to how the US Province runs its financial office and fund raising. Fr. Dharma is joined in the States by Fr. Michael Benedict, the district treasurer and the two of them will be returning to India next Monday.

The one lane bridge that we need to cross from the novitiate side to the parish side is partially closed and has been reduced to perhaps half a lane. The Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi of Ignatius Gonzaga, Br. Bapuji, one of the novices, and I all piled in and on a motor taxi to make the journey. Originally only a couple of sisters were to go with us but our driver learned the motor-taxi coming from the other side of the bridge was not able to make it over the bridge so our numbers increased.

Feast of the Holy Rosary in Nambur

Feast of the Holy Rosary in Nambur

Well when we got to the bridge it was absolute chaos. It reminded me of how Italians can blur lines to the point it almost feels like every man for himself! The difference between the two cultures? Often in Italy when a traffic light went out someone would get out there and direct traffic and sooner or later everyone would obey as it was the best way to get traffic flowing. Alas no volunteers appeared at the bridge and no one would budge! We were at a disadvantage in that part of the bridge still open was on the side of the traffic going the other way and they just kept coming. After sitting there for about 10 minutes Bapuji and I got out and decided to walk the rest of the way to the Church.

The walk took between 10 and 15 minutes and at least by then some of our brothers had managed to cross over. By the time Mass finally began everyone was accounted for. As you’ll note from the photo the Mass was going to be outdoors since the interior of the church would not be large enough to hold the expected crowd.

There were eight of us who concelebrated. Fr. Ravindra did not as he was busy with practical matters from helping out the choir to arranging things needed at the altar. A local diocesan priest was the main celebrant with another preaching the homily. Other then guessing that he was talking about Mary since we were celebrating the Feast of the Holy Rosary there was nothing I could understand in his 45 minute homily. Well once in a while when he’d throw in a Praise the Lord, Alleluia repeated three times by him and the congregation I could understand that.

At the end of Mass I was asked to bless a statue of the virgin which was then carried around the church in procession three times. On the first go around four of the priests carried it to be replaced on the last two go rounds by men of the parish and some of our brothers from the novitiate as well.

It was harder than it looks because the statute and platform carried some weight, but what made it more difficult was the uneven ground around the church. Gratefully there were no accidents and all who marched around were able to keep their footing — sometimes with a bit of assistance from those nearby.

After the procession it was time to eat. Tables were set up in church and the first to eat were the priests and sisters. We on one side and the sisters facing us from the other side. Rice with chicken was the main course. Naturally all ate with their hands. I was offered a fork and spoon but by then I was halfway through my meal so declined to use them. Dinner done, Fr. Rino Jose and I were given a ride home by one of the parishioners. Since cars can’t cross the bridge we had to take the long way around a trip of about five kilometers (3.10 miles).

Happy birthday in the Indian style!

Fr. Tom was well-remembered by the Indian community for his birthday

Fr. Tom was well-remembered by the Indian community for his birthday

On his last Sunday in India, Fr. Tom Cassidy writes about celebrating his 73rd birthday “Indian style.” Fr. Tom returns to the United States this week. He writes:

I woke up this morning at 5:30 am to give myself plenty of time to get ready for the short drive to Vempadu. We planned to leave at 7:00 am. My 73rd birthday was last Tuesday but since I was in Chennai at the time the Eluru community is celebrating it today. Actually for me it’s been an almost daily celebration starting in the novitiate at Nambur until today. It won’t stop here as I’ll have two more celebrations: one next Thursday with my SCJ community at Sacred Heart at Monastery Lake and then next Sunday with my family.

Fr. Tom's birthday door

Fr. Tom’s birthday door

One of the local house traditions is to decorate the door of the person celebrating his birthday. That tradition was certainly kept this morning. When I opened my door around 6:00 am and with the house just getting up the bright blinking lights staring me in the face felt as though the sun was approaching its zenith! I’ve learned Indians love bright colors and bright lights, especially the kind that twinkle. I have no doubt there are more Christmas lights in India then anywhere in the world and that they are used not only at Christmas but for celebrations of all kinds the year round.

Since this is Sunday and most of the brothers are off at one time or another to their ministry experience and there is no set time for breakfast the usual cake cutting and flower presenting and HEARTY BIRTHDAY greetings did not take place. That will be this evening instead. We’re going to have outdoor adoration at 6:30 pm followed by a program in my honor and supper. My dear friend Hari (Haresh) Kumar, scj, said I should be ready for two surprises. I have a pretty good idea of one. He asked for my sister’s (Marge Bray) email address as she had some pictures of me he requested (and got). Hari is good with the computer so I suspect something with these photos and the computer may pop up this evening — I’ll let you know tomorrow.

Fr. Gopu and I did manage to leave at 7:00 am. It’s about a half hour drive to Sacred Heart Parish. I think it’s about 32 kilometers (19.8 miles). Normally some of the brothers would travel with us but they left at 6:30 am to drive into Eluru to pick up some sisters who help with the music and teach catechism after Mass. When the brothers were late in coming I should have guessed something was up. It turned out they not only had to pick up the sisters but a birthday cake large enough to feed the congregation.

Fr. Jojappa Chinthapalli, scj, the pastor, had the Dehonian youth group participate in the Mass and at its end I presented them with t-shirts for the men and hats for the ladies. I wasn’t aware that I’d be given credit for the gifts but that’s what Fr. Jojappa said so I was asked to present them to each person who in turn wished me a happy birthday. I was presented with a collage photo put together by Deacon Suresh Gottom, scj.

The Mass and post-liturgy presentations took about two hours. Fr. Gopu was the celebrant and Fr. Jojappa preached. Both of them and Deacon Suresh had to go to the parish substations for Masses. All along I thought there were two substations but it turns out there are three. The normal schedule is one substation has Mass at 6:30 am and the main church (Sacred Heart) at 7:45 am with the other two stations at 10:00 am. Now all of these are on Indian time with the start being an approximation as was the case today. Since we went long the two 10:00 am Masses started sometime after 10:00 am.

Fr. Jojappa stayed after Mass to take me over to the construction site of the new community house. Our North Italian Province is providing the financial support for its construction. According to Fr. Jojappa, with luck the building will be done in about seven months.

The community house is only about a five-minute walk from the church. It’s surrounded by rice paddies. They have raised the land by about six feet to ensure that it will remain dry in the rainy season.

Finally I waited with for everyone to come back from the substations as Fr. Jojappa had prepared to serve ice cream and the last of my birthday cake for our brothers and the sisters. A nice touch to end my morning visit to the parish. We made it back to Eluru at about 12:40 pm and joined the rest of the community for lunch.