Weekly News: February 1, 2021

Accidental Missionary

In 2019, Fr. Juan Carlos Castañeda Rojas, SCJ, went to his native Colombia for what he thought would be a brief family visit while renewing immigration papers. At the time, he was a newly ordained priest serving at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Houston. But as with much during the past year, plans didn’t go quite as planned. On October 19, 2020, instead of returning to Houston, he went to Ecuador to join the Dehonian mission there.

“I have always said that God works in mysterious ways and this time, once again, the change in my life is not an exception to that rule,” said Fr. Juancho.

Fr. Leo John Dehon sent the congregation’s first missionaries to Ecuador in 1888. Due to several complex problems, the mission did not succeed and Dehonians left the country in 1896. One hundred years later the Spanish Province took up the mission anew. The district now consists of two communities in Quito and one on the coast at Bahía de Caráquez. District members have included SCJs from Spain, Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador and now, the US Province.

“It brings me joy to see how our brothers here have touched many lives,” said Fr. Juancho in a video interview. “Sometimes we take many things for granted and need to be challenged by seeing another reality. Being here renews my commitment to follow our founder’s call to get out of the sacristy and go to the people.”

Click here or on the image above to view the video interview. It was put together by our formation community.

The front entrance of the new shelter

Shelter hopes to open in April

As with many projects during this year of pandemic, construction of the new Family Violence Women’s Safe Shelter in Eagle Butte, SD, is moving slower than hoped. BUT, as Greg Fischer, the center’s executive director notes, it is still moving. The electrical rough-in on the east wing is close to complete, sheet rocking on the west wing is scheduled to start February 1 and continue in the east wing a week later. Insulation is 80% done (vital for indoor work to continue in the midst of a cold South Dakota winter), and placement of the rest of the outside siding is scheduled for the next two weeks. The completion date hasn’t been set, but the construction manager is shooting for early April. Of course, as with all construction timelines, many factors can affect it.

The shelter is a ministry of the Sacred Heart Center, in Eagle Butte, which was begun by the Priests of the Sacred Heart (Dehonians) and continues to be sponsored by St. Joseph’s Indian School. One of the unique aspects of the shelter is that it will have designated space for teenage males, and mothers with teenage sons. Often it is difficult for a shelter to accommodate these young men.

Thomas and Prem

Two more earn degrees in multicultural theology program

Before remote learning became an almost universal response to pandemic safety, Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology already had a hybrid Master’s of Theology program in place. “Adveniat Regnum Tuum Pathway: a Master of Arts Initiative,” is an MA program designed in partnership with the District of India and SHSST. Seminarians in India do much of their coursework online, supplemented by onsite courses taught by a visiting instructor (Fr. Charles Brown, SCJ, has gone to India to teach courses on Paul and on the Synoptic Gospels), and locally at at Vijnananilayam, an institute of philosophy and theology operated by the Capuchins. Plans also called for one to two semesters of study at SHSST.

In 2019, the first Indian student – Meghanand Bandanadham, SCJ – arrived in Hales Corners for the on-site SHSST portion. However, COVID-19 ceased travel before future students could come to the United States. Adaptations were made, and last week, two more Indian SCJs –– Thomas Raju and Prem Kaleel Raguman  –– were able to complete their written and oral comprehensive exams for the MA degree.

Both are seminarians in temporary vows. They hope to make their final vows in December, and pursue ordination in 2022.

“This MA program with SHSST was very helpful in my intellectual formation,” said Prem. “The subjects we have dealt with these last few years are very deep and thought-provoking.” He noted the challenge of doing the work for the MA program on top of his required classes in India. “But I very much enjoyed it, and I am joyful for having completed it.”

Reflecting on his experience, Thomas said that “I am very grateful to the US Province and all the members of the SHSST faculty for their constant love and great support. This course made an integral impact on my life. It was a beautiful opportunity to experience a new kind of learning, particularly by contextualizing and concretizing the subjects, allowing me to become aware of the challenges of proclaiming the gospel and at the same time, encouraging me to prepare myself for future ministry with much hope.”

Congratulations to both students, as well as SHSST in moving forward with the initiative!

Celebrating Catholic Schools Week

“Catholic Schools: Faith. Excellence. Service,” is the theme of this year’s Catholic Schools Week, which runs from January 31 – February 6.

“As we begin Catholic Schools Week, we celebrate our community,” writes a staff member at the SCJs’ Holy Family School in Holly Springs, MS. “A central aspect of Catholic education is learning the importance of service to others. [This week] our students will be writing notes of thanks to local community leaders such as our mayor, the fire chief and police chief, our local firefighters, police officers, and especially our donors.”

Pictured above are staff at Our Lady of Guadalupe School in Houston, who kicked off Catholic Schools Week yesterday with an Open House. The US Province also operates St. Joseph’s Indian School in South Dakota and Sacred Heart School in Southaven, MS.

Click here to access Dehonian educational materials from “Schools in Collaboration,” including a PDF of Fr. PJ McGuire’s text, Dehon the Educator.

“Give children an education of the heart, as well as a cultivation of the mind,” wrote Fr. Leo John Dehon. The founder’s priority on education continues to be carried out by SCJs throughout the world.

Please remember

+ Fr. Sergio Filippi, a member of the Portuguese Province, died on January 28. He was born in 1935, professed in 1952, and ordained in 1961. Fr. Sergio was one of three SCJs in the Provincial House in Portugal who test positive for COVID-19. He isolated in his room with what appeared to be minor symptoms. Fr. Sergio was said to be in good spirits during regular communication with the community during his quarantine. Unexpectedly, he died peacefully in his sleep.

+ Fr. Ezio Toller, a member of the Mozambique Province, died on January 26. He was born in 1936, professed first vows in 1954 and was ordained in 1964.

Funeral information for Fr. Bob Tucker

The wake and funeral for Fr. Bob Tucker, SCJ, will be Saturday, February 6, at Sacred Heart at Monastery Lake. Due to pandemic precautions, it will be closed to the public. Plans are being made to livestream the funeral; information on how to access it will soon be shared via email and social media. The wake begins at 9:30 a.m. and the funeral is at 10:30 a.m.

World Day of Consecrated Life

In 1997, Pope John Paul II called for consecrated life to be promoted throughout the universal church. He declared February 2, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, to be observed as World Day for Consecrated Life. February 2 is also known as Candlemas Day, the day on which candles are blessed symbolizing Christ who is light of the world. So too, those in consecrated life are called to reflect the light of Jesus Christ to all people.

Fr. Peter McKenna, SCJ, shares materials prepared for the day. Click here to access the introductory letter; click here to download the prayer service.

Click here to read a letter for the day written by Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Virtual council meetings

[With apologies to the US Postal Service motto:] “Neither snow, nor rain nor a pandemic stops the Provincial Council from the swift completion of its appointed meetings.” On top of the pandemic protocols of self-isolation, the Midwest also received its first significant snowstorm this week shutting down travel for many. But just like the proverbial postal worker trudging through the snow, the Provincial Council meetings went on with the help of video conferencing (and a few DIY initiatives, including cell phones held to conference call microphones; a modern-day version of cans on a string). January’s meeting topics included the continued renovation and updating of Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology, the next steps for the Dehon Study Center in North America (Fr. Charles Brown, SCJ, was recently appointed as its director), the postponement of the Province Election Assembly due to the pandemic (instead of July of 2021, it is delayed until January 3-7, 2022), and the province’s future internal and external ministerial obligations and how the province can best prepare to meet them.