Weekly News: January 6, 2019

A focus on ministry

“Our Future: Together in Community and Ministry, Part III” begins at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, January 7, at the Provincial Conference Center. It concludes with midday Mass and lunch on Thursday, January 9.

“’Ministry’ will be the focus of our 2020 conference,” wrote Fr. Ed Kilianski, SCJ, in his letter of November 7. “For several years we have spoken about developing a new ministry. Already a small group has begun to brainstorm on possibilities in young adult ministry. Is this where we want to focus our energies, and if so, how do we make it happen?

“It is also important to talk about our current ministries. How well do we know about ministries outside of our particular areas? To have meaningful conversations about our ministries we need to have a comprehensive understanding of what those ministries are. I do not want discussions about ministry to simply become debates about what to keep and what to let go. Together, we need to prayerfully discern what we as Dehonians are called to do in the United States at this time.”

The conference is for SCJs in the province under 70 who are in active ministry; (as well as SCJ students, novices and candidates). It is the third such conference; the first was held in 2018.

Institution of Acolyte

Frater Henry Nguyen, SCJ, will receive the Institution of Acolyte during the Provincial Conference liturgy on Tuesday. He is pictured at the top of the page during last year’s conference. Frater Henry is a seminarian at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology; he is scheduled to do his cross-cultural year in Chile, beginning mid-summer.

Visit the province Facebook page next week to view photos from the liturgy, as well as other conference moments.

National Migration Week

“Promoting a Church and a World for All” is the theme for this year’s National Migration Week, January 5-11. The Catholic Church in the United States has commemorated the week for nearly half a century. It is a call to stand in solidarity with and care for those who are excluded and marginalized, including migrants, DACA and TPS holders, refugees, and those seeking asylum.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has produced a toolkit of resources for the week. Click here to access it.

“In an era that has become increasingly anti-unauthorized-immigrants, the Church is inviting us to respond in a way which is human, just, and fraternal,” said Fr. Vien Nguyen, SCJ, during one of last year’s Dehon Lectures (the focus of the day was immigration/migration). “The Church is inviting us to care for those on the margins, which was the passion of our founder, Fr. Leo John Dehon, and is the mission of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.”

Fr. Steve with Fr. John Strittmatter, an American SCJ who has spent most of his life in South Africa

A visit to South Africa

Fr. Stephen Huffstetter, SCJ, vicar general (and former US provincial superior) recently wrote about his December visit to the South African Province. It was an opportunity for him to meet for the first time Fr. John Strittmatter, an American SCJ who has devoted most of his life to the people of South Africa.

“The Republic of South Africa has been an important part of the US province’s missionary outreach for many years,” wrote Fr. Steve. “I first remember hearing about this apostolate as a teenage high school student at Divine Heart Seminary. On a visit home, one of our alumni and a former superior general, Bishop Joseph DePalma from the De Aar Diocese, celebrated Mass for us. He impressed on us the difficulties of ministering to the various groups of faithful separated by the apartheid system, but also the faith, resilience and beauty of the people.

“Over the years, I heard many similar stories from missionaries. Besides parishes, we staffed trade schools in Aliwal North and in neighboring Lesotho. A seminarian a few years ahead of me served his apostolic internship overseas and his letters home kindled my interest further.”

One of the primary reasons Fr. Steve was in South Africa was to be a part of the province’s assembly, during which, SCJs held elections.

“Before the election, each of the finally professed members had a chance to highlight for the group what he saw as the greatest needs for the province,” wrote Fr. Steve. “The three candidates for provincial superior then spoke about themselves and their vision for the province. Fr. Chris Grzelak, SCJ, who was eventually elected, spoke about how becoming provincial superior would cost him a high price – putting aside his ministry as a theology teacher in the seminary for a time. It is so true that anyone called to leadership will likely have to pay a price by giving up another apostolate where he is doing good work.”

Click here to read Fr. Steve’s full text.

Fr. Carlos Luis and Fr. Levi with Dehonians in Venezuela. The former superior general, Fr. Carlos Enrique, is on the far left.

Dehonians in solidarity with people of Venezuela

Fr. Levi dos Anjos, SCJ, recently wrote about his experiences traveling with Fr. Carlos Luis Suarez Codorniú, SCJ, in Venezuela. The general visitation of Venezuela was in December. Fr. Carlos Luis ministered in the South American country for many years before his election in 2018 as superior general. The visitation was very much a homecoming for him. “Fr. Carlos Luis is in the hearts of these people,” wrote Fr. Levi.

Reflecting on the situation in Venezuela, Fr. Levi wrote that “Our religious brothers suffer with the people; they eat little. There is no abundance. It’s sad to see the crowded and dimly lit buses, cars stopped on the roads because they are broken, endless queues to get petrol, police allied with the traffickers so that they can also support their families, many young people in prisons, many children alone in the streets.

“Our parish has many families whose children have left the country. They left in search of a better life in Peru, Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Chile. From there they send the little that they earn so that their relatives in Venezuela can buy cornmeal to make arepas (a type of cake) to eat with grated cheese. This is the main food of Venezuelans.

“Despite so much sadness and suffering, the Venezuelan people don’t give up… For many years, families have opened their doors to the Catholic community to do excellent work in an environment where there are drug and violence problems. Many people have found the way of faith thanks to the work of our confreres. This is where Father Dehon wants us!”

Click here to read Fr. Levi’s full text.

Please remember

Fr. Vittorio Benzoni, a member of the North Italian Province, died January 3. He was born in 1943, professed in 1960 and ordained in 1969.

News from Lower Brule

Fr. Mark Mastin, SCJ, shares a bit of news from Lower Brule, SD. “The photo above shows Ron Wright, far left, and Dn. Steve McLaughlin,” wrote Fr. Mark, who is pictured on the right.  “All year, I try to get St. Mary’s involved in some kind of outreach. This past summer, we held a car wash to raise money for the women’s shelter. This fall and winter, Lower Brule Ministries teamed up with Lewis Drug for a winter clothing drive. Ron Wright, our longtime maintenance man, and I picked up four truck loads of clothing and delivered them to St Mary’s in Lower Brule and the Golden Senior Citizens secondhand store in Fort Thompson. When word got out about the high quality of clothing, we nearly had a stampede into St Mary’s Church!”

Home for Christmas

Fr. Jan de Jong, SCJ, spent Christmas at his family parish of St. Urbanus in Nes ann de Amstel in the Netherlands. “I was baptized there, I did my first Mass there, I celebrated my 50th anniversary of ordination there,” he wrote. “I have been celebrating Christmas with the parish for the past five years. Without me they would not have a priest for Christmas. Many families come for Midnight Mass and the Christmas day Mass. It is wonderful time!” Fr. Jan is pictured below during Christmas Mass.