Weekly News: December 13, 2021

A global community serving a global church

As a part of their preparations for the January 2-7 Province Election Assembly, SCJs in the US Province are reviewing a lengthy “State of the Province.” The report from northern Mississippi paints a picture of an international church that has defined the US Province since its earliest days:

“All of our parishes are multicultural,” writes Fr. David Szatkowski, SCJ. “We have a wide variety of cultures that actively participate in our community. This includes people from Guam, India, the Philippines, Cameroon, Nigeria, Micronesia, and many others. We have a large number of Spanish speakers from a wide variety of countries and cultures from Latin America.  While English is the common language for the vast majority of our communities, and is the language of religious education, we offer one Mass in Spanish and two Masses that are bilingual each weekend.”

Not only are the people served by the Priests of the Sacred Heart from a wide variety of cultures, but the SCJ community itself continues the multicultural tradition of the province. Fr. Louis Mariano Fernandes, SCJ, is from India, Fr. Hendrik Ardianto, SCJ, is from Indonesia, ands Br. Diego Diaz, SCJ, is from Argentina.

“This has been a tremendous witness to our parishioners, who have the opportunity to hear and see SCJs from a variety of entities,” wrote Fr. Dave, who, as child of a military family spent many of his early years living in different parts of the world. “Each SCJ brings a variety of cultural backgrounds, experiences, and ministry history to our parishioners.”

Last week we noted that the US Province was built by immigrants; Fr. Matthias Fohrman, a citizen of Luxembourg, was the first Dehonian to minister in the United States. He was soon joined by several members of the German Province, one of whom – Fr. Richard Kiefer, SCJ – went on to become the first provincial superior of what was to become the US Province. Almost 100 years later, the tradition of internationality continues and grows.

Fr. Greg

Remembering a Christmas 150 years ago

Fr. Greg Schill, SCJ, chaplain at St. Joseph’s Indian School, recently gave several presentations to staff on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Fr. Dehon’s first Christmas sermon.

“I applied the sermon in the context of the social and political challenges that plagued France and other parts of Europe that year,” said Fr. Greg.  “I talked about Fr. Dehon’s concern for giving the youth a proper and appropriate education predating the foundation of St. John ’s College, the Priests of the Sacred Heart and the mission of Fr. Dehon to ‘get the priests out of the sacristies.’ I offered insights on why St. Joseph’s was founded and why the institution is still thriving 95 years since its inception. I have offered this presentation to the various departments at the school and several people have asked for more information. For me, this is one example of the commitment that the staff of St. Joseph’s has to our mission.”

Our thanks to Emily Swanson of St. Joseph’s Tiki Press for the photo.

SHSST receives Lilly grant

Congratulations to Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology, which has received a grant of nearly $1,000,000 from Lilly Endowment Inc.

The grant is being made through Lilly Endowment’s “Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative” and is to be focused on providing “exemplary specialized formation for a universal Church.” It is a three-phase initiative designed to help theological schools across the United States and Canada as they prioritize and respond to the most pressing challenges they face as they prepare pastoral leaders for Christian congregations both now and into the future.

Click here to read more.

New on Instagram

The General Communications Office now has an Instagram account. Edited by Frater Henry Nguyen, SCJ (US Province) and Fr. Ali Villarroel, SCJ (Venezuela) ­­- members of the General Communications Team – it currently features a daily message for Advent written by Dehonians. You can find it on Instagram at @dehonians. Side note: congratulations to Fr. Ali who was ordained to the priesthood on Saturday!

A reminder: the US Province is found on Instagram at @DehoniansUSA.

Journeying with migrants during Advent

“The season of Advent-Christmas-Epiphany beckons us,” write members of the North American Migration Committee. “We welcome its call even as we deal with the fatigue, the worry and fear of living in these times of the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 has put a spotlight on the injustices and inequities in our world and has connected us more profoundly to the pierced heart of humanity with myths about ourselves, our church and our countries being shattered. Yet, fittingly, the Advent season invites us to enter into one of the tenderest moments of God’s encounter with humanity.

“God’s presence among us, manifested in Jesus, brings hope for the well-being of the entire human family. Each year we return to this mystery of love and we wait patiently for the light and peace it brings. We see this love in the Visitation of Mary running to accompany Elizabeth in her moment of need. We find it in the loving witness of countless refugees risking all in search of a just life for their children. We also see this love in each one of you continuing to open your hearts to welcome refugees encountering and recognizing that Jesus himself, with Mary and Joseph, were refugees. Caring for migrants and refugees is a constituent part of the church’s care for those on the margins of society and of our own Dehonian charism as well. Today, Pope Francis asks us to go to “the peripheries” for it is here that we encounter the migrants, the refugee and the internally displaced person.”

Click here to access a PDF from the committee that includes several possibilities for living in solidarity with migrants during the seasons of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany.

Congolese social media sites “born in the United States”

During the fall semester, Fr. Floribert Bulo Dhelo, SCJ, provincial secretary of the DR Congo Province, was one of several Congolese Dehonians enrolled in the ECS program at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology. However, he came to the United States not only with hopes of expanding his English vocabulary, but also for help in sharing news of his province with the wider congregation.

“I must thank the US Province from the bottom of my heart,” said Fr. Floribert. “It has been my dream for a long time that is realized today.”

With a little help from the Communications Office, he set up a new Facebook page for his province and soon began filling it with timely news about celebrations, new ministries, prayer notices and reflections, the commemoration of Dehonian martyrs in Congo, and heartbreaking information about attacks on the province’s orphanage. “I do this with the help of my confreres,” said Fr. Floribert. “If there is something to share, they send it to me with some photos so that I can share it on Facebook.”

Soon after the Facebook page was created, Fr. Floribert created the Congolese Province’s YouTube channel. “My ‘maestro’ or trainer for the YouTube Channel is Frater Paul (Phong) Hoang, SCJ,” said Fr. Floribert. Frater Paul is a member of the province video team, currently doing his pastoral year of ministry in South Dakota. Back in Wisconsin, “Frater Truc Tran, SCJ, showed me how to film and edit a video. With this help I can say that our Facebook page and YouTube channel were born in the United States.

“The first video for the YouTube site was on November 26,” he continued.  “This was a good day for our province to remind the world about the 28 SCJs who were martyred in DR Congo in 1964. This is a significant moment, and a way for us to ask for the congregation to remember and pray for the province. The second video is about one of our colleges in Kisangani, ‘Sacred Heart.’ In this video, Fr. Olivier Bolombo, SCJ, the prefect, spoke about the history of the school, its formation and its challenges.”

Click here to visit the Facebook page of the Congolese Province, and click here to go to its YouTube channel.


Fr. Tom Westhoven, SCJ, has moved to assisted living at St. Camillus. You can write to him at:

St. Camillus Assisted Living
10101 W. Wisconsin Avenue, Unit 1136
Wauwatosa, WI  53226

Recently published

Congratulations to Fr. Vien Nguyen, SCJ, assistant professor of Scripture Studies at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology, whose review of The New Testament Commentary Guide: A Brief Handbook for Students and Pastors (Bellingham, WA: Lexham, 2020), was published by the by the Society of Biblical Literature.

“Navigating a maze of biblical commentaries in print for one’s particular needs and purposes can easily become time-consuming and overwhelming,” begins Fr. Vien. “Nijay K. Gupta, research professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary, makes the job easier for pastors, students, and serious readers of the New Testament with his expert guidance on choosing or consulting reliable, resourceful commentaries. The book is divided into two chapters. In the first chapter, “Introduction,” Gupta begins with a brief yet beneficial overview of the history of biblical commentaries and the reasons for reading new ones. He reminds readers not to use commentaries as replacements for reading and studying the Bible. Cautioning the use of free online commentaries, Gupta encourages readers to ask questions about the author’s credibility, the publisher’s reputation, and endorsement by respected academics. He also briefly discusses commentaries by pastors, one-volume commentaries, single-author commentary series, and study Bibles.”

Click here to read the full text.

New rector at St. Francis de Sales Seminary

Last week Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee named Fr. Luke Strand to succeed Fr. John Hemsing as rector of Saint Francis de Sales Seminary. Students at St. Francis do their academic training at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology.

“We congratulate Fr. Strand and look forward to continuing our close collaboration with Saint Francis in our ministry of forming apt candidates for the priesthood under his service of leadership,” wrote Fr. Raúl Gomez-Ruiz, SDS, rector of SHSST. “We also express our great gratitude to Fr. Hemsing for his unflagging service as rector over the last 11 years. It has been a pleasure working with him. May God continue to bless him as he prepares for his last semester as rector and to move into parish ministry.”

Please remember

Wouter Betjes, the great nephew of Fr. Jan de Jong, SCJ, died on December 4 at the end of a field hockey game. He was brought to an Amsterdam hospital, but doctors were unable to revive him. An autopsy showed that he had developed an infection in his heart muscle. He was 14 years old. Click here to view a memorial page, with an image of Woutre Betjes.

Bernie Sue Guy, the cousin of Fr. Mark Mastin, SCJ, recently died. “She was one of 13 children,” said Fr. Mark. “Her death comes just months after her sister died.  We grew up together in Cincinnati. She was a wonderful woman and friend.” News of his cousin’s death came shortly after Fr. Mark learned that his uncle, George Darpe, died on December 8. He was 87. “My Uncle George was the last of my uncles,” said Fr. Mark. “He was a second father to us, especially after my father had died.”

Third week

Fr. Joe

As noted previously, Fr. Joe Dean, SCJ, has been sharing reflections for Advent on the general website.

“Luke calls John the Baptist’s preaching good news,” wrote Fr. Joe.  “For many Christians, nowadays, the evangelist’s claim may not sound credible.  Who really wants to hear about winnowing fans and ‘unquenchable fire?’  Who wants to be called a vipers’ brood, or to be told: bear fruit that shows true repentance?  What joy can be found in the stark choice his harsh words offer?

“Yet John will not back off.  And, absent hearing his word and taking it to heart, we will never truly encounter the One to come.  That becomes very clear in Jesus’ ministry.  When his authority is questioned in Jerusalem, his counter question demands a stand on the origin of John’s baptism, and, by extension, his preaching.  And, in the shocking conclusion to Jesus’ amazing parable, a doomed rich man learns that if people do not hear Moses and the prophets, they will not believe, not even when someone rises from the dead—such as the Son of God, perhaps.  Our Lord is no less radical than the prophet who heralded his appearance.”

Click here to read the full reflection.

For the third week of Advent we pray…

Gracious God,
you sent an angel to the Virgin Mary.
By her faith and her fiat,
she conceived through the power of the Spirit
and brought forth a Son, Jesus.

You were pleased to accept his life
which he offered you, even on the cross.
On the third day you raised him up
and made him Lord, Christ, and Savior.
Send your Spirit to overshadow me,
that I may be your servant,
doing your will in all things
and offering myself with Christ
for our brothers and sisters.

By the gift of faith I share with Mary,
may I bring forth your beloved Son in our world.

Through me
may people hear a word of compassion,
a word of reconciliation,
and a word of good news (joy).


Prayer is from the December 12 Advent e-blast from the US Province Dehonian Associates Committee. Click here to view the full email.

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