The Dehon Formation Community: preparing for ministry and religious life

Members of the Dehon Formation Community
Members of the Dehon Formation Community

Students, priests and brothers living and praying together in community

The Dehon Formation Community in Chicago is home to an international, intergenerational community of professed SCJs and those discerning religious life with the congregation. The community not only houses the initial formation programs (candidacy, novitiate, philosophy and theology) of the province but also welcomes SCJs from around the world on sabbatical or in graduate programs.

Do you feel called to a life of community, ministry and prayer, nourished by the Eucharist and based in the love of the Heart of Christ? Click here for information on a Come and See experience with the Dehon Formation Community, a weekend where you can learn about the Priests of the Sacred Heart and explore your vocation. You can also call our vocation office at 800-609-5559.

In their own words, members of the Dehon Formation Community introduce themselves:

Initial formation

Luis Alonso Barrantes (candidate)

Luis Alonso Barrantes
Luis Alonso Barrantes

Hi! My full name is Luis Alonso Barrantes; however I like to go by Alonso. I am 45 and have been at the SCJ formation house since January 7, 2015. I am now completing my first year in college at St. Xavier University; my major is philosophy. I was born in San Jose, Costa Rica, and was raised in Los Angeles, CA. I have three brothers and two sisters whom I love and miss very much. I am one of the middle siblings.

Prior to formation I was a full time employee working in human resources for various industries including aerospace, medicine, hospitality and entertainment. I also taught Bible study and sixth grade catechesis at my local parish, attended Bible study and was active within my parish’s Young Adult Ministry.

I am excited to be here to continue to learn about religious life, but more importantly, to follow God’s will. I also look forward to one day entering the community, and through the spirit and guidance of Fr. Leo John Dehon, live out the gospel in accordance to the spirituality of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ and serve our community as a Dehonian.


Frater Justin Krenke, SCJ

Justin Krenke, SCJ
Justin Krenke, SCJ

My name is Justin Krenke and I am in my second year of temporary vows. I am 25 years old and was born in West Allis, Wis., but grew up in Milwaukee. I lived with my mom, stepdad, and two older sisters.

I learned about the Priests of the Sacred Heart from a vocational website that matched people with religious communities based on their interests. After I visited the SCJ community on a Come and See Weekend I became very interested and decided that this is the community for me.

During breaks from school I have worked in SCJ ministries. Through these experiences I learned that ministry isn’t just about going and helping people and then when you’re done, moving on to 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.

I am now in my senior year at St. Xavier University finishing up my undergraduate studies. I am looking forward to finishing at Xavier and moving on to my theological studies at Catholic Theological Union.


Henry Nguyen (candidate)

Henry Nguyen
Henry Nguyen

My name is Henry Nguyen and I am 26 years old. I was born and raised in Orange County, CA. I am a graduate of California State University, Monterey Bay, with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. I am currently attending St. Xavier University to build a foundation in philosophy and religious studies.

I was introduced to the Priests of the Sacred Heart through youth ministry where I met Fr. Francis Vu Tran and Fr. Thi Pham. After a Come and See Weekend and a long discernment, I decided to further discern my vocation by being a part of the formation house.

In my free time I am a Youth Leader (HT) and Youth Leader Trainer (HLV) for the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement (TNTT), currently serving at St. Henry’s Parish and Queenship of Mary. Previously, I was a catechist and Youth Leader at multiple parishes in California.

Outside of my ministries, I enjoy listening to music, watching movies, and exploring the outdoors by hiking and camping.


Frater James Nguyen, SCJ

James Nguyen, SCJ
James Nguyen, SCJ

I am James Nguyen, 26. I was born in Saigon, Vietnam, but raised in Seattle since I was four.  I am the middle of three boys, the oldest of whom is a Jesuit.  I am a graduate of the University of Washington (Go Huskies!) with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and sociology.

This year, I will continue my theology studies at Catholic Theological Union as well as go into my second year at Loyola University for my master’s degree in Pastoral Counseling.  I will be doing hospice ministry this year through VITAS Healthcare working with patients and their families.

In my spare time, I enjoy exploring the outdoors on hiking, camping and backpacking trips.  I love to travel and my dream is to do a backpacking trip across the Himalayas.  

What drew me to the Priests of the Sacred Heart is the charism and spirituality found in Fr. Leo John Dehon’s writings. Fr. Dehon always found comfort in the knowledge that God loved him tremendously, which is symbolized in the burning Heart of Christ.  Fr. Dehon wanted us who are dedicated to the love of God to be living examples of the love that Jesus had.  I strive to live in that spirit of our founder daily through my religious vows: “In poverty, I desire to give all I have.  In chastity, I desire to give all I am.  And in obedience, I desire to give all I will become.”


Frater Juan Carlos Castañeda Rojas, SCJ

Juancho Castañeda Rojas, SCJ
Juancho Castañeda Rojas, SCJ

Hola! I am Juan Carlos Castañeda Rojas but everybody calls me Juancho (family nickname). I am 33 and I am proud to say that I am from the City of Everlasting Spring, Medellin, Colombia. I am crazy about horses, I love cooking, and now I am exploring painting, which I also love. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends.

Since I was a kid I felt that I was called to the religious life. However, I never thought that it was going to be a long distance call and that following my vocation was going to bring me to where I am now. I began my discernment process with the Priests of the Sacred Heart in the United States in January, 2006. Such an amazing experience learning not just the language and culture, but also about Fr. Dehon. I professed my first vows with the SCJs in August, 2013. It was an amazing moment because my parents were with me sharing the gift of my vocation. I always have total support from my family even when we are far away.

My experience with the Priests of the Sacred Heart has been amazing; I always feel welcome and even though learning a new language was not easy, I have found support from members of the community. The ESL program at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology was an amazing experience because I was able to meet SCJs from all over the world. Today I live at the formation house in Chicago. Here I have found people like me who are responding to God’s call; here I found friends, but more than that, I found a home and a family.

I graduated from St. Xavier University and now I am in my third year of theology at Catholic Theological Union. I have met people from all over the world and it is amazing! This year I have the exciting experience of doing my ministry practicum at Taller de Jose, which is a place where we offer accompaniment to people with many different needs. I am excited about this ministry because I have the opportunity learn more about how I can identify the needs of the people and offer better help.

Living in another culture with people with different personalities and backgrounds is not always easy, but it is that which has helped me to grow in my spirituality as a Dehonian. Community life, prayer, school and even fun times are the things that make this experience an amazing journey. I am happy to be part of this great family, I am proud to be Dehonian.


Patrick Skahill (candidate)

Patrick Skahill
Patrick Skahill

My name is Patrick Skahill and I was born on March 17, 1970, in Los Angeles, CA. I’m the sixth child of nine, and I spent my first 18 years in L.A. before joining the U.S. military. Over the past 12 years I lived in Las Vegas, working primarily as truck driver.

It was in Las Vegas that I heard and answered the call of Christ and service to the Church. I entered candidacy on August 22, 2014, the feast of the Queenship of Mary. It has been a year since I joined the formation community here in Chicago, so my discernment has just begun. It was difficult leaving everything behind as I am sure it is for most candidates. However, I’m very pleased and happy that I made the move. I have met many interesting people so far who have shown nothing but hospitality, kindness, and patience. Praise be to God.

Currently, I am attending St. Xavier University to finish my bachelor’s degree and then will move on to Catholic Theological Union. I enjoy reading, exercise, and a good hearty conversation.


Frater Joseph Vu, SCJ

Joseph Vu, SCJ
Joseph Vu, SCJ

I have made the long move back to Chicago after two years ministering at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Houston. I am currently resuming my graduate theology studies at Catholic Theological Union. My time in Houston was great and now I am transitioning back into student life, which is a whole different world compared to parish life!

I am currently in the Masters of Divinity program for priestly ordination at CTU. This will be my fourth year of studies. I have just returned to my ministry sites here in Chicago: St. Henry Parish and the Br. David Darst Center. I really do enjoy spending time with the youth and helping them on their faith journey. The ministries at these places have helped me grow so much as a person.

I am currently in my sixth year of temporary vows with the Priests of the Sacred Heart. I met the SCJs through my youth group. My vows continually remind me of my dedication to live my life’s intent on being united with the Heart of Christ and to be in community with my brothers.

I really enjoyed my time at Our Lady of Guadalupe. It has been quite a transition back into the formation house, but some things haven’t changed at all. The workload and paperwork are pretty much the same. I hope to graduate next year from the M.Div. program.


Sharing the Eucharist is a daily part of life for the community.
Sharing the Eucharist is a daily part of life for the community.

Formation team and others in community

Br. Duane Lemke, SCJ, province formation director

Duane Lemke 2015
Duane Lemke, SCJ

“I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  How often do we recall these deeply significant words that marked our baptism?  If others are anything like myself, I imagine that the deeper impact of these words tends to get lost in the day-to-day concerns of life.  These words mark us as Christian and certainly give identity, but, above all, they speak of relationship.

This past summer, to continue my education for ministry as a formation director, I took a course about discernment according to the tradition of St. Ignatius, at Creighton University in Omaha, NE.  I was affected there by the profound closeness of the Spirit within the heart of the baptized.  The Spirit is, certainly, a guide during significant moments of life, but just as much during the day-to-day experience of living: sometimes drawing us toward choices and attitudes that lead us closer to God, and at other times repelling us from those that lead us away.  It was humbling to see God’s action and interest in me in such an intimate way.

That is my calling as a Priest of the Sacred Heart: to welcome the Spirit into my life for both the big and small things that make up a life, and to let that welcome lead me to extend God’s love to others as it has been extended to me.  I began that journey formally in 1997, when I took my first vows with the community.  It is hard to believe that my 20th anniversary is not too far away.  Time flies!  The first half of my life as an SCJ was as a member of the Pastoral Team in Lower Brule, SD.  Those were very privileged years spent with the Lakota and Dakota in Indian Country, as well as with farmers and ranchers of European descent.

For the past eight years I have been a formation director, helping form our students ––candidates, fraters and brothers –– in the charism of Fr. Leo John Dehon.  It is a privilege to be with them as they discover the moments of the Spirit as they discern their calling in life: to be a priest or brother, and to be a Priest of the Sacred Heart.  It is a joy, a challenge, but always rewarding and meaningful to be with them as they discover the movement of the Spirit within them in the day-to-day of living of religious and common life.  It is not always easy for spouses to learn to live under the same roof with each other, and it is not always easy for religious to learn how to live under the same roof with many others.

Finally, before I end an introduction to me and what I do, I must add words about my family.  My parents, my sister, brother, their spouses, and my six nieces and nephews are perhaps my best foundation in my vocation as a Priest of the Sacred Heart.  Fr. Dehon often referred to his family as the place where he first learned the love of God.  When it comes to learning how to welcome the Spirit and experience God’s love, kindness, and truth my family is a sure foundation, example, and source of strength, support, and supportive challenge for me. 

A special word about my parents, John and Judy:  they were married by a Priest of the Sacred Heart and took me to be baptized by a Priest of the Sacred Heart in Sacred Heart parish.  Without them, I would not be one myself.  Thank you!


Fr. Tim Gray, SCJ

Tim Gray, SCJ
Tim Gray, SCJ

My quiet, uneventful boyhood life in the Detroit suburbs was jolted loose in 1961 by an apparition: an SCJ named Fr. Justin Guiltnane came to our grade school to give a vocation talk, and awakened in me the desire to become a missionary. So at the age of 13, I left home for the minor seminary, and my travels continue 50 years later.

I never actually became a missionary, but I have travelled far, not only in miles, but in culture and spirituality. I have had a very interesting life. After spending way too many years in the seminary, I felt called to drop my initial plans for graduate school and a teaching career, and instead, after ordination in 1978, I began parish ministry. My first three parish experiences were in inner-city African American parishes in St. Louis, Chicago, and Detroit.

After a year at St. Rose in Detroit, I had the opportunity to spend four years in an SCJ parish in Toronto, which gave me the experience of living in another country, and another SCJ province. However, a truly life-changing experience began in 1984 when I responded to an invitation by Fr. Mike Burke, then provincial superior, to study Spanish in Mexico. For almost 30 years, most of it spent in Houston, Texas, my experience among the Hispanic people has truly been a conversion experience for me, and has deeply affected my spirituality and my pastoral action.

During all this time, I have found the SCJ community to be a very affirming and challenging place from which to look at the world from the “underside,” from the point of view of the poor and marginalized. My contact with SCJs from other provinces, especially in Latin America, affirms the ability of our Dehonian charism to cross cultural and language barriers, and bring about justice and reconciliation between peoples.

It was both surprising and appealing to me that after my sabbatical in 2011 I got the opportunity to serve in the formation community in Chicago. Ever since my student days in the 1970s I have been impressed by the vitality of the Church in Chicago, the creativity of the clergy, and the active ministry of laity.

In our SCJ house community, the students, full of enthusiasm and idealism, remind me of my own youthful days, and keep me from getting stale. The presence of graduate students from different countries also makes the house a very stimulating place to be. I keep involved outside the house by celebrating Mass (in Spanish to continue to experience that wonderful culture) at a few local parishes, and I also work with the archdiocesan ministry to immigrants. I look forward with hope both to my future and that of our province, and of the whole SCJ congregation.


Fr. Bob Bossie, SCJ

Bob Bossie, SCJ
Bob Bossie, SCJ

I was born in Boston, Mass., and raised with six siblings. Within two weeks of graduating from high school I joined the U.S. Air Force. During the following four years, I maintained nuclear weapons carrying aircraft, among other things.

A few years after the Air Force, while traveling the country as a contract worker in the military industry, I had a life-changing experience of God. At that moment, it became crystal clear that I was of God, as was everyone and everything else. Now I knew that everyone and everything was holy and worthy of reverence.

In seeking a lifestyle that would enhance that experience, I joined the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Shortly thereafter, I was amazed to find that my desire to fully give of myself was completely consistent with the spirituality of the Priests of the Sacred Heart –– I come to do you will, Oh God.

For over 30 years I ministered at the 8th Day Center for Justice, a Catholic, faith-based NGO working for social change. During these years, I let go of many of the presuppositions with which I was raised. Again, I find this to be fully consistent with the spirituality of the Priests of the Sacred Heart: to establish the reign of the Heart of Jesus in souls and societies.

I retired from full-time active ministry in 2012 but continue to be involved to a lesser extent in justice and peace activities. Community life continues to be good.

For all this I give God thanks.


Fr. Joseph Mukuna, SCJ

Joseph Mukuna, SCJ
Joseph Mukuna, SCJ

I was born in 1976 and brought up in a family of seven in Kananga (Democratic Republic of Congo). Besides my parents, I have two brothers and two sisters. I am the second in the line and the eldest son. My Dad passed away when I was in the novitiate in Cameroon.

I have had many school experiences starting with kindergarten with the Sisters of Charity in Kananga. I started high school at Saint Pius College but then entered the Minor Seminary of Kabwe in Kananga. Subjects like Latin, Greek, and philosophy were of special interest to me. Although I was good at academics, soccer, guitar and piano also interested me.

After graduating with majors in Latin and philosophy in 1995, I started my journey with the SCJs as a candidate. My first religious profession was August 12, 1999, in Cameroon. My priestly ordination was on April 14, 2007. After ordination I served as the formation director at the Sacred Heart Study House of Lemba (Kinshasa). Then I became the superior of Lemba and provincial procuror of Congo before moving to South Africa for graduate studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal while helping in the Deho International Formation House in Pietermaritzburg.

My specialization in Biblical studies at the UKZN changed my life completely. With this experience I was able to explore the Bible in varied forms and meet different people. The contextual reading of the Bible became my focus. I earned a master’s degree in New Testament Studies. In 2012, after my graduate studies at UKZN, I was assigned as pastor of Saint Clement Parish of Makala (Kinshasa). I had also the opportunity to participate in two major projects: first, with the Congolese Bishops Conference as a Bible instructor, and second, with the Pauline Sisters in Congo. I was involved in the French translation of the African Bible alongside with many other scholars. Before moving to the United States for further studies last year, I was working with street children and prisoners while teaching Scripture and the Social Teaching of the Church at institutions in Kisangani.

Now I am pursuing my education in Biblical Languages and Literature at Loyola University Chicago. I hope to earn my degree and go back to Africa and work for the Church and the congregation there. I am grateful to the SCJs in the United States, and their benefactors, for their support.


Fr. Andrzej Sudol, SCJ

Andrzej Sudol, SCJ
Andrzej Sudol, SCJ

I have been a priest for 19 years; I was born and ordained in Poland. Just after my ordination I left for our new SCJ mission in India. I worked for three years in Kerala, in the south of India, as a member of the formation team. Then, I had to leave my “first love” (India) because of visa problems. I was asked to join our mission in the Philippines where I was until recently. First I worked in a parish in Mindanao. Then I was involved with the Dehonian Youth Program, vocation promotion, and was in-charge of on-going formation of the young priests in the Philippine Region. The last eight years I spent at the formation house in Cagayan de Oro as a formation director of the postulants. Meanwhile, I studied formation and I earned a Licentiate of Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) in spirituality at Milltown, Dublin (Ireland).

I come from a town called Mielec in Poland; my whole family lives there still. My parents are now retired. My father was a technician at the airplane factory in Mielec and mother was a midwife. I have two sisters. Ewa is a teacher and Gosia is a nurse. They both are settled with their own families. I always spend quality time with them during my vacation.

Since my father was a soccer player I inherited this hobby from him. I like sports. At present I play tennis, jog and bike. I like geography, Asian cultures, meeting new people and making friends. I always wanted to be a missionary and I am grateful to God for my vocation.

At present I am staying at the formation house in Chicago and am happy to be a part of this community. It is a new assignment for me here. To be in the U.S. Province is a great adventure and a little challenge at the same time. I am studying at CTU and also assisting with formation. I always hope to follow our founder, Fr Dehon, closer and serve the Lord better.


Fr. Mark Mastin, SCJ

A recent addition to the Dehon Formation Community is Fr. Mark Mastin. He is on sabbatical following his discharge from the US Army, where he served as a chaplain for four years, including a tour of duty in Afghanistan. Click here to read more about Fr. Mark in an article published in July.

Alonso, Justin and Fr, Mark on dish duty
Alonso, Justin and Fr. Mark on dish duty