Our future together in community and ministry

Fr. Ed

“Our Future: Together in Community and Ministry, Part III” took place at the Provincial Conference Center in Hales Corners / Franklin, WI, January 7-9.

This was the third in a series of yearly conferences for SCJs in the US Province who are in active ministry. “It has been my hope and the hope of the Provincial Council that each conference can be another step on the path to learning, as a community, how to intentionally live, pray and work together better, recognizing each other’s diversity but also our shared Dehonian values,” said Fr. Ed Kilianski in his opening remarks.

Click here to read his full text.

In 2018, SCJs under 70 in active ministry came together for the first time to reflect on how they can better live and minister together in a US Province that looks much different than even just a few years ago. It is a province that is filled with diversity: Dehonians from all over the world bringing the flavors of their own cultures but united in one Dehonian charism. It is a province with men from Asia, Europe, Africa, South and North America. In ministry, it is a province that increasingly collaborates with others, including other religious and many lay people.

Sr. Cathy Bertrand, SSND, facilitated the gathering. She is a familiar face to SCJs for her many years of work with the community.

Tuesday’s panel discussion with Dn. David, Fr. Hendrik and Fr. Jim

Reflections and advice

“Be open to new possibilities,” was the common message that Dn. David Nagel, Fr. Christianus Hendrik and Fr. Jim Walters shared with younger SCJs and students during a panel discussion during the first afternoon of the Provincial Conference. The veteran SCJs were asked to first talk about the ministries in which they had served, and then offer advice to the next generation who will carry on the Dehonian charism in the United States.

The ministries represented on the panel were diverse. Dn. David has been in food service, formation, development, education, and for the past 15 years, has served as provincial treasurer. Fr. Hendrik, originally from Indonesia, did retreat ministry and mission work (including a brief stint in West Papau where he contracted life-threatening malaria) before being called to the missions of South Dakota. Fr. Jim prepared to be a French and Latin teacher but had to quickly learn Spanish when the needs of the seminary unexpectedly changed. The language led him to a love of Hispanic ministry; he served in several Spanish-speaking parishes, and for many years has been the director of the Hispanic ministries program at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology.

“Always be open, always be willing to give things a try,” said Fr. Jim. “No matter how unfit or ill-prepared you may feel, you are following in the footsteps of others who felt just as unsure and eventually found their way, found a way to continue the work of our founder.”

“As you grow as a minister, you will discover new ways of doing things, you will bring new ideas to ministry,” added Dn. David.

Sr. Cathy introduces Wednesday’s panelists

Hope for the future

“I have a great deal of hope for the future,” said Br. Duane Lemke during Wednesday’s panel discussion. After veteran SCJs were asked to offer advice to the next generation, a panel of four younger members of the community – Frater Paul Hoang, Frater Henry Nguyen, Br. Diego Diaz and Br. Duane Lemke –  spoke about their hopes and vision for the province as they look at the future of the Dehonian presence in the United States.

Br. Duane

“This province started with only five SCJs,” continued Br. Duane. “They did fantastic things, and we can do fantastic things. We are smaller in number than what we have been at other times, but this is what God is calling us to be at this moment. In our conversations among each other I hear a passion to move toward the future.”

Several panelists spoke of hospitality, hospitality that they have felt from their brother SCJs but also the hospitality experienced by those impacted by SCJ ministry. “We must offer our hospitality in all that we do, especially to youth,” said Br. Diego Diaz. Hospitality is a way of helping young adults feel at home in the Church, he added.

“By creating opportunities for young people to come together we also create opportunities in which we can share our charism,” said Frater Paul Hoang.

Reflecting on what was heard in Tuesday’s panel discussion, Frater Henry Nguyen said that “we need to continue to be open to the Spirit, the Spirit is leading us. To thrive individually and as a province we need to be open to the possibilities presented to us, even when those possibilities might not seem like something that we want to do.”

And finally, when asked about an experience that gave each panelist a clear sense of “being Dehonian,” most spoke of a time when they realized that their concept of home was no longer just with their family of origin, but with their SCJ family.

“It was when I looked forward to ‘going home’ after a visit with my family,” said one of the panelists. “I enjoyed being with my family, but I looked forward to going back to my ‘home,’ my home with my SCJ brothers. That’s when I realized that I was a Dehonian.”

Br. Diego leads the student choir.

Next steps

For several years the province has been talking about developing a specific ministry to young adults. Although that could take several forms, including a youth ministry team that could animate all of the province’s parishes, a significant number of SCJs endorsed the idea of a campus ministry team. It would require no less than three SCJs in community.

An informal group has already met to discuss possibilities for young adult ministry. Before the end of the conference, SCJs were asked to indicate whether they were open to serving in such ministry. Although most who volunteered are not immediately available (some are in formation, others have ministerial obligations that cannot immediately be changed), nearly 20 people put their names on the list. In February, the youth / young adult ministry group will meet to discuss how they can move forward. It is hoped that a new ministry can be in place within the next one to two years.

Conference participants also reflected on current ministries, and in particular, internal ministries such as administration, formation and vocations. Each SCJ, novice and candidate was asked to indicate in writing which ministries he could see himself doing in the future. It was emphasized that the responses were non-binding, but they did show a wide variety of interests and openness.

The conference closed on Thursday morning with Eucharist. It was a multilingual Mass led by a choir that included Dehonians from St. Lucia, Argentina, Vietnam, Togo and the United States. In preparation for an upcoming surgery, Fr. Ed Kilianski received the Anointing of the Sick during the Mass.

Fr. Ed and Frater Henry during the Rite of the Institution of Acolyte

Institution of Acolyte

Frater Henry Nguyen received the Institution of Acolyte during the opening Eucharist of the conference. A student at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology, Frater Henry is 30 and professed his first vows in 2018.

Originally from Orange County, California, Frater Henry is in his fifth year of formation. Before entering candidacy, he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from California State University, Monterey Bay.

In his third year of theology, Frater Henry did an intensive CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) program in San Antonio with CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System last summer. “With this experience, my understanding of the theology of pain and suffering grew more and more as I made myself available in order to be present with the sick and dying and their families,” said Frater Henry. He is scheduled to do his cross-cultural year in Chile, starting midsummer.


Click here to view an online photo album from the conference.