Welcoming and celebrating
During an Adoration service August 14, the Priests of the Sacred Heart welcomed Justin Krenke to the novitiate.
A candidate for the past three years, Justin, 22, has been a member of the Dehon Formation Community in Chicago, attending St. Xavier University.
“I learned about the SCJs from a vocational website,” said Justin. “After I visited the community on a ‘Come and See’ weekend I became very interested and decided that this is the community for me.”
During his candidacy Justin has done everything from volunteer work with Sacred Heart Southern Missions to playing Fr. Leo Dehon, the congregation’s founder, in a presentation during this year’s Mission Education program in South Dakota.
Each time that he has taken on a new task with the community Justin says that it has helped him to learn more about himself and ministry. After serving with SHSM last year he said that he came to the realization that “ministry isn’t just about going and helping people and then when you’re done, moving on the next project. Ministry is about making connections with people, talking with them, and learning about and from them. It’s about showing people that you truly do care about their situation and you want to be able to help as much as you can, even if it’s just listening.”
This past summer Justin helped with the ESL program at Sacred Heart School of Theology.
Now, he heads back to Chicago with novice master Fr. John Czyzynski, to begin his novitiate year.
“As I have come to learn more and more about the SCJs, how they live, the work they do throughout the country and around the world, and as I have come to grow not only on a spiritual level but on a personal level, I felt that the time was right to learn more and come to a fuller understanding of what it would mean for me to become and SCJ,” said Justin about entering the novitiate. “I am looking forward to the year ahead and I hope to learn all I can to prepare me to take my first vows.”
Click here to read Justin’s reflection on the readings done during the prayer service prior to his entrance to the novitiate.
The Priests of the Sacred Heart welcomed two new members to the community on August 15 when James Nguyen and Juan Carlos Castañeda Rojas (“Juancho”) professed their first vows during a morning liturgy at Sacred Heart School of Theology.
The two SCJs reflect the changing face of the congregation, a religious community that is increasingly more international, even within the U.S. Province itself. Juancho is originally from Colombia and James was born in Vietnam, though he and his family have been in the United States since James was four.
Juancho has the longest history with the Priests of the Sacred Heart. He came to the United States in 2006 to study English and eventually found his vocation with the congregation.
“Since the very first day I arrived here, I felt welcome,” said Juancho, 31. “Somebody said to me once that it does not matter where you are or what you do; if you are happy then that is where you belong. Well I am REALLY happy with the Priests of the Sacred Heart so it is here where I feel that I belong!
“I identify myself with the charism and foundations of the community.”
Now fluent in English, during the novitiate year Juancho said that he learned another language:
“I am learning a new language, one that I now call DLH (Dehonian Language of the Heart). Thank you Fr. Byron [Haaland], you made me realize that in your sharing. ‘I speak Dehonian’ were the words Fr. Byron spoke that had a huge impact on me. While ESL taught me how to speak English and communicate, DLH taught me to indentify myself as a Dehonian.
“English, as any other language, has many rules; grammar and correct pronunciation make it a hard language to learn. But I learned that the Dehonian Language of the Heart has only one rule which is called ‘Generosity.’
“You might ask, ‘That’s it?’ Well, DLH is taught from one heart to another; it is a language that is translated through actions as well. It is fairly easy and there is always a place for everyone. We are all called to this learning adventure.
“I am very happy to realize that I have many teachers who can teach me every day not just new a word in English but also a new word in the language of Fr. Dehon, the Language of the Heart, through their experiences and their examples of how they live.
A quick fit
James, 24, entered candidacy only two years ago but immediately felt at home and applied for novitiate as soon as possible.
“What drew me to the Priests of the Sacred Heart is the charism and spirituality in Fr. Leo Dehon’s writings,” he said. “Every SCJ that I have met shows such passion and hospitality in his ministry. They express the mission of being prophets of love and servants of reconciliation in their daily lives. I was inspired by Fr. Dehon saying that going out to the world with a Bible is not just enough as we should also be carrying a newspaper – or now an iPad!”
During the novitiate year novices visit each of the province’s communities to learn about its ministries and meet its members. James said that one of the most signficant visits for him was with the retired priests and brothers in Florida. He wrote that “those who know me, know that I love apples, from apple pies to Applebee’s to the Apple iPad. But I never reflected upon apples until I ran across Zechariah 2:8 during the novitiate, ‘… whoever touches you touches the apple of God’s eye.’
“It was a simple, but profound statement. It made me think of when we were visiting the SCJ retirement home in Pinellas Park, FL. Of the many wonderful people we met during our novitiate trips was Br. Gabriel Kersting. Although he has Alzheimer’s disease and cannot remember much from the past, just seeing his mere presence and his joyful witness to religious life was so graceful. At 91, Br. Gabriel experiences and sees things for the first time, like a child, on a daily basis. ‘I think of heaven a lot. And I believe I am close to it each day, but I feel like a kid again,’ he says.
“One of my favorite memories of him was when we were walking down the pier at St. Petersburg’s and we saw a boy with Downs Syndrome. He pulled me aside and said, ‘Look into those eyes, how can you not see the grace of God in it?’ Looking back at that moment today at the end of the novitiate and after being shown to see the world through the lens of our founder, Fr. Leo Dehon, I realized each one of us are all apples of God’s eyes.”
The newly minted SCJs return to the Chicago Formation Community to continue their studies in theology.