The blessings of long-term commitment

Frater Juan Carlos Castañeda Rojas professes final vows 

On February 3, Frater Juan Carlos Castañeda Rojas, SCJ, made his perpetual commitment to be a Dehonian, a member of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.

His path to final vows was a long one that began in Colombia, where he was born and raised. There, he was invited to discern his call to priesthood in the United States. Frater Juancho often jokes that “I didn’t think that my call would be such a long distance call!”

He entered the ESL program at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology in 2006. Seven years later, he professed his first vows as a Dehonian.

Comparing his first profession to the decision to make his perpetual vows, Frater Juancho said that he feels much more confident in taking the next step in his vocation. At a time when long-term commitments are challenging for many, we asked him to reflect on his decision:

QUESTION: Compare how you felt when you made your first profession of vows as opposed to your perpetual commitment.

Frater Juancho gives thanks for the many people who have supported him.

FRATER JUANCHO:  I think it was more difficult to make the decision to take my first vows than it is making my perpetual profession. Even though I was sure that I wanted to become an SCJ, a Dehonian, by professing my first vows, I was a bit unsure about it because of the question in my mind of where God really wanted me to be. That became a bigger question after I saw some of my classmates leave the congregation for different reasons. So, I also had to ask myself if this was the place God wanted me to be.

But today I have no doubts about taking perpetual vows. All my experiences with the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart have told my heart that this is the place that I belong; this is where God has truly led me!

QUESTION: What are the challenges of perpetual vows?

FRATER JUANCHO:  The challenge for me is to continue to grow in my spirituality and to give all of my energy to the service of God in this congregation. I have heard and begun to understand that formation does not end after finishing theology or initial formation but is instead a continuous and ongoing process during our entire lives. So, the real challenge for me is to continue giving my best for the good and growth of our mission as SCJs.

QUESTION:  What are the blessings of such a commitment?

FRATER JUANCHO:  The blessing is in giving myself with love and receiving the love and support not just of my brother SCJs around the world but also the support of my family and friends. This reveals to me with certainty that I am not alone in this journey.

Frater Juancho with his long-time formation director, Fr. John

QUESTION:  If a person is already living the Dehonian charism, what difference does it make if he makes perpetual vows? Is it just a step on the path to ordination?

FRATER JUANCHO:  It is more than a path to ordination because we have great religious brothers who are members of our congregation who also have made the commitment of professing perpetual vows. It is celebrating not just with the Congregation but also with our families and friends our desire and willingness to give our entire lives to responding to God’s call by continually living our vows.

QUESTION: Did you have hesitations about making a perpetual commitment? If so, what helped you in your discernment?

FRATER JUANCHO: As I said, I did have hesitations when I took my first vows. But I think that all of my experiences during my time in formation have helped me in my discernment to know that making this perpetual commitment is the right thing for me to do. I must say also that my pastoral experience in Brazil was a very important opportunity for me to strengthen and affirm my desire to make my perpetual vows. [Frater Juancho recently did his pastoral year –– a requirement prior to final vows –– in Brazil, working in youth ministry.]

QUESTION: Are your friends and family supportive of your decision to make your final profession? Do you think that many people outside of religious life understand what it means?

FRATER JUANCHO: One thousand percent of my family and my friends support my decision to make my final vows! They have all been incredible companions on my journey to this decision. Yes, there were times I had to explain the details of religious life to some of my friends who had questions about it. But at no time did any of them do so with the intention to discourage me from the path I had chosen for my life.

QUESTION: Do you find that young people, or people in general, have difficulty in making long-term commitments today? If so, why? What do you think might help people in discerning a long-term commitment?

Praying before the Blessed Mother during the ceremony

FRATER JUANCHO: I will say that young people in general have a problem with long-term commitment. It is not necessarily their young age, but the maturity of the individual person that makes it difficult to make a long-term commitment. I think that the society we live in plays a very important role in making such a decision because of the challenges of materialism, individualism, and the high expectations they leave us with.

QUESTION: Is there anything else that you would like to say or share in regard to your perpetual profession, or about the Dehonians?

FRATER JUANCHO: Today more than ever I remember the words that my father said to me many times: he told me that nothing we want to achieve is impossible, although some things we want to achieve are very difficult. But with hard work and dedication everything is possible.

I truly believe that God calls us in mysterious ways and always has a plan for us. I have also learned that we do not receive all the things we want or desire when we want them, but that God always gives them to us in the proper time. As I continue my vocational journey, I want to thank all the people in my life who have always been there to support me and lead me. They include other people in formation with me and my fellow classmates, even those who are no longer with us in the congregation, my family and all my friends, and of course, the Priests of the Sacred Heart and others who have always believed in me.

Click here to view photos from Frater Juancho’s final vows ceremony.