Unable to get palms due to COVID-19 restrictions, our Novitiate Community substituted pine branches for yesterday’s Palm Sunday liturgy. Hosanna on “Pine” Sunday! Fr. Andrzej Sudol, SCJ, associate novice master, is pictured above with the novices.
Welcoming these days in faith and hope
“Beginning Holy Week on the way toward Easter we send you cordial greetings,” writes Fr. Carlos Luis Suárez Codorniú, SCJ, superior general, in his letter for Easter. “We do this amid the context of the pandemic that afflicts our world and reminds us that we are all in the same boat: one that has surprised us and affects us all. In a special way we send greetings to our confreres, friends, family and collaborators who are suffering the most, with all our love and prayer. We feel vulnerable like never before. Usual evils such as unending famines, the drama of refugees, daily injustices of all kinds, open conflicts in so many places, the continued aggression against our planet and so many other inhumane situations have not brought forth such a worldwide reaction. Perhaps it is because this time we have been threatened closely, and personally: ‘my life’ is in danger. The global reaction has been unheard of, with confinement, cessation of activities, previously ‘essential’ occupations being put aside, and agendas and schedules blown up.
“Let us not stop welcoming these days in faith and hope, living in charity with all those closest to us, while continuing to pray confidently for the world, our common home. These are times that do not escape the hand or the Heart of God. Everything that is happening calls us to be more human, sensitive and supportive. Let us thank the testimony of so many daily gestures multiplied by people everywhere, including our confreres, who bring affection and comfort to those who are having the worst time.
“Let us worry and occupy ourselves more with life, all life! When we do so, we are witnesses to Easter, the empty tomb and the morning of Resurrection.”
Click here to download a PDF of the full letter in English.
Click here to access the letter in other languages.
Fr. Theodorus Borst, a member of the Dutch – Flemish Confederation, died on April 4. He was born in 1935, professed in 1954 and ordained in 1961.
Fr. Gerhard Valerius, a member of the German Province, died on April 3. He was born in 1945, professed in 1968 and ordained in 1974.
Those celebrating birthdays in April include Fr. Jim Walters (April 17), Fr. Jim Schifano (April 19), Fr. Hendrik Ardianto (April 24), Br. Duane Lemke (April 26), Fr. Tom Lind (April 27) and Novice Thuan Nguyen (April 29). Happy birthday!
A friend to the homeless and disadvantaged
“Fr. Frank Wittouck, SCJ, has spent the last ten years serving the spiritual and the temporal needs of our residential community –– and with a delightful flair!” wrote Casey Kelly in her feature on Fr. Frank in the Magnificat Houses, Inc. newsletter. “With one knowing glance, Fr. Frank brings humor to self-discovery as he counsels residents (and often staff) through rough patches. He revels in ‘the pure joy of living with the poor.’ He enjoys ‘hanging out’ with his immediate neighbors in our prison release programs. He brings great depth to our jobs program, coaching residents in resume writing and interviewing, celebrating their triumphs and helping them move past disappointments.”
Fr. Frank is preparing to retire from his ministry as chaplain to Magnificat Houses, a faith-based, multifaceted organization that provides shelter, meals and other support to the homeless, hungry and mentally ill in Houston. Click here to read a reprint of the feature on him.
Personnel Directory updates
Updated PDFs of the North American Personnel Directory were posted on the US Province website on April 1 (no April Fool’s!). There is both a high-resolution version (16 MB) and a low-res (1.5 MB) that is appropriate for computers, smart phones and other electronic devices. The directory is found under the “Phone Book” heading in the Members section of the website. This is also where you can find the online directory, which is updated soon after changes are received. The “Phone Book” or directory section requires a password. Click here if you have difficulty accessing the information.
Theological Seminar in Cameroon revised
The International Dehonian Theological Seminar scheduled for July 12-17 in Yaoundé, Cameroon, is being revised due to the pandemic. Instead of an in-person seminar, the preparatory committee is working to develop an online experience where presentations and input will still take place, but in a new format. “Perhaps the current circumstances will also lead us to think about new implications of the theme ‘Sint Unum – Challenges and Perspectives Today,’” wrote Fr. Stefan Tertünte, SCJ, director of the Centro Studi Dehoniani, in his announcement about the change.
Dehonian named archbishop
Last week Pope Francis transferred Bishop Zolile Mpambani, SCJ, from Kokstad to Bloemfontein as metropolitan archbishop. Bishop Zolile is 63, professed his first vows in 1982 and was ordained in 1987. He served on the General Council and as Provincial Superior of the South African Province.
Click here to read more on the Vatican News site.
Click here to read a feature about the Bishop Zolile that was published on the US Province website in 2013 after he was named bishop of Kokstad.
South Dakota pastoral ministries go online
Just in time for adapted online ministries in the midst of COVID-19, the pastoral team that serves six parishes on the Lower Brule and Crow Creek reservations went live with its new website.
“Just before the corona virus hit us, I had been praying for a way that we could communicate here who we Dehonians are, as well as having a web-based tool to communicate with all of our parishioners during storms, parish events, etc.” wrote Fr. Mark Mastin, SCJ.
“Ten days ago, I got a call out of the blue from two of our parishioners, Fay and Tia Jandreau, who offered to help me create a website and to video record and livestream our masses,” Fr. Mark continued. “WOW! God does work in mysterious ways – and quickly. They also volunteered to pay for some of the costs. Within five days, we had a web platform.”
So far, the site features an introduction from Fr. Mark and a video of yesterday’s livestream of the Palm Sunday Mass.
Click here to access the site.
Easter Week resources
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has prepared a webpage with resources regarding Holy Week in the midst of COVID-19 including an at-home guide for individuals and families in both English and Spanish. Click here to access the site.
Continuing to reflect
We have invited SCJs and coworkers to share their reflections on the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on themselves personally and in their ministries. These have been posted on the US Province website, Facebook page and Instagram account. Excerpts from a few recent reflections:
Fr. Ed Kilianski, SCJ
I find myself, as most of us do, living in a time of uncertainty and fear and I am thinking of my religious community, my family and friends. COVID-19 has certainly changed our lives and, I believe, how many of us perceive the new world in which we live. It certainly hasn’t been easy for any of us. This “Staying at Home” and “Social Distancing” is challenging.
It seems to me that in this global pandemic of COVID-19, God has mysteriously asked us for this sacrifice so that ultimately it may bring us closer to Him. And in our willingness to put it all on the line, this time will be partially spent being in need of others’ help at a socially acceptable distance. We may grow weaker so that Christ can grow stronger. When given the chance, let us be truly appreciative of those on the front lines of the pandemic: doctors, nurses, medical staff of all kinds.
I think, in trying to make sense out of this experience, I realize that it’s all tied up with Fiat and Ecce Venio.
Today, this is my prayer for you: that you trust deeply in the mercy of our loving Father, just as Jesus did. I know that this is difficult; we are human, and we are afraid. But we are in this together, as one Dehonian family, one people of God.
Br. Duane Lemke, SCJ
Peace in peaceful times is easy. Knowing peace in times of anxiety — that is the difficult part. Yet, ever since those anxious disciples gathered in the Upper Room, Christ has offered peace through the experience of his risen and living Body.
I have seen many attempts to find God in the pandemic. Some seek peace through faith in a God of protection. I certainly know that impulse to ask God to protect loved ones, the vulnerable, and, of course, myself. Yet if the Gospel, pastoral experience, and life have taught me anything, it is that God’s faithful are not immune from suffering. If anything, the cross and suffering seem to be a guarantee of Christian life.
Let us open our eyes to signs of love all around us, and offer thanksgiving for those who make God’s love present in suffering. Let us take a break from anxious headlines, the endless frantic posts and notifications of social media, and make space for prayer.
Mike Tyrell, president of St. Joseph’s Indian School
I am consoled knowing that God does not give us more that we can handle. One only has to look at the life and writings of Fr. Dehon. He speaks of the concept of abandonment, not from a place of uncertainty, but out of a spirit of “placing one’s plans in the hand of a loving God and accepting successes and set-backs, joys and disappointments, mistakes and triumphs.” It is this concept of surrender that I’ve found myself hanging onto through this period. It is part of a Dehonian Sprit that inspires us in this time of need.
I am bolstered in the knowledge that the organization will survive this based on two ideas. First, we are a blessed organization with an important mission. I truly believe this. That mission has played out with a history that includes great resilience and consistency. That foundation has helped carry us through to where and who we are today.
Second, we have survived some very difficult periods over the years. The challenges during the Great Depression should have closed the school: fire, drought, plagues of insects, etc. In the 1990s we survived a period of insolvency that would have ruined other organizations. In the 2000s there was the anthrax scare and the financial meltdown of 2008. We survived all of those large struggles and many smaller ones, so now we are here to fight through these challenging times. May God bless our students, their families, our supporters, our staff and the SCJs. Stay safe. Mitákuye Oyáśiŋ.
Fr. Juan Carlos Castañeda Rojas, SCJ
I see an awakening in many priests – priests and religious women who are finding new and creative ways to “get out of the sacristies” by using social media and other forms of communication. Mass celebrations, Adoration, praying the rosary, and even catechesis is being done online. They are reaching out to their parishioners when the people need it the most and I see how important it is for people to feel that even when the Church is physically closed, they still have a connection to it and God; they still belong to their home parish.
Today, as this pandemic affects the entire world, there may not be people physically in the church buildings. But it is clear that the Church lives in the hearts of people. Processions and other celebrations were silenced, but today we can hear people praying the rosary louder, praying from the balconies or the windows of their homes. People who hadn’t gone to Mass regularly are starting to do so online.
Today we may be locked in the sacristy, but that is just a physical space. The REAL sacristy is in our hearts. It is not easy for me to be at home knowing that many people need us today more than ever; it is not easy for many of us to be away from our ministries.
Fr. Rafael Querobin, SCJ (Houston community, OLG parish)
It is strange to look at the closed church, the school without students, and the empty office. Since March 15, my steps have been limited to a triangle between the rectory, the office, and the church. The masses that we broadcast on Sundays have been a way of keeping in touch with our parishioners and with people from all over the world. We are surprised by the number of people who have followed our broadcasts.
I have faced this time of detachment as if I were living in the novitiate again. I consider my novitiate to be a unique and special time. Of course, the circumstances are different and the concerns are many at the moment. I have tried to live a personal routine of prayer, reading, language studies, and physical activities (inside my room).
After this time has passed, we will have an enormous mission waiting for us. I am sure that we will need to be with people and accompany their needs. I believe that the most important thing for us right now is to live one day at a time and do what we always said we didn’t have time for.
Click here to access the full list of reflections by SCJs and coworkers.
Click here to submit YOUR OWN reflection of the impact of pandemic in your own life.