Weekly News: March 30, 2020

Continuing to reflect and adapt

“Do not allow the daily news to carry us away from our focus on Jesus,” said Frater Long Nguyen, SCJ (pictured at the top of the page), reflecting on the impact of COVID-19 during yesterday’s gospel reflection. “How do we continue to live in the world in light of the Resurrection of Jesus? How do we live in light of this widespread illness? Jesus declares that he is the light of the world and uses the contrast between light and dark to illustrate an example. Jesus continues to call us to follow him, the light, so we might not stumble in the dark. He has provided the faithful many examples of being a healer and a servant through other passages of the Bible. Jesus also shows us to be loving, courageous, tenacious and diligent despite many challenges and hardships on our faith journey.

“God did not promise us that our faith journey would be easy, therefore he calls us often to seek strength through the Eucharist.”

Click here to read Frater Long’s full reflection.

During the past week, SCJs and coworkers have been sharing their reflections on the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19). These have been posted on the US Province website, Facebook page and Instagram account. Excerpts from a few recent reflections:

Fr. Byron Haaland, SCJ (Novice Master for the US Province)

Fr. Byron

My dad was a builder of homes. This meant that he would spend time and money at City Hall obtaining the necessary permits for the many aspects of construction. The lesson he attempted to teach me was “Don’t fight with City Hall. Do all the requirements and your life will be happy.”

During this pandemic “City Hall” has spoken. We are to pull back from our little daily freedoms and hunker down in place.  New requirements seem to be posted throughout the day. It invites madness and cabin fever. Temptations abound to break these rules, to cheat just this one time.

All these directives, of course, afford us all an opportunity during this season of Lent. It offers us TIME to be STILL and LISTEN to the God of our hearts. It’s as if the entire world has been invited to participate in a sort of novitiate experience. Certainly, lots of things must be attended to these days but it also gifts us with TIME.  It is what we choose to do with this TIME that makes all the difference. Don’t fight City Hall. Choose to be happy in place.

Read Fr. Byron’s full reflection.

Kory Christianson (Executive Director of Development, St. Joseph’s Indian School)

Kory Christianson

Our work environment is changing almost daily, but our office has three priorities during this time: ensure staff and student safety; provide on-going service to donors; and raise funds for our programs. The virus forced measures upon us to reduce personal contact. We stopped all business travel for at least two months. It changed in-person meetings with our vendor partners to Zoom or Skype meetings.

Even in a relatively low impact state such as South Dakota, a level of uncertainty and anxiety in the workplace looms. The Sword of Damocles hovers on such worries, as “How will this change our service to Lakota families and children? How will this affect my own family? When will this end and who might contract the virus? Can we keep the organization financially strong? In my personal and professional life, I am trying to focus my prayers seeking strength and wisdom. How can I use this situation to help others and be a better father, husband, son, brother, friend and co-worker?

Read Kory’s full reflection.

Fr. Christianus Hendrik, SCJ (South Dakota community)

Fr. Hendrik

Surely, this is one of the hardest times for me as a priest, passing through weekends without being able to see my people in the parishes, celebrating the Mass alone. I felt really bad that today I could not do a funeral for one of our parishioners who passed away couple days ago. Social distance is needed to protect our vulnerable people, especially the elderly and those with conditions such as diabetes, pneumonia, cancer and breathing problems.

Amid this uncertainty in our lives I offer daily Mass and prayers in private. During this time I have moved into a deeper consciousness about how precious the gift of life that God has given me, to be His mediator – as a priest – offering Masses and prayers for the safety and protection of our people from this pandemic.

Of course, we are in dire need of a vaccine and I pray a lot for the experts to find one. But beyond that, I encourage people to take a leap of faith to believe and rely more on God’s help. Far beyond our fears we need to take this time of isolation from distractions of the world and have a personal renewal where we focus more on the ONLY thing in this world that really matters: Jesus Christ, Emmanuel (God is with us), our Lord and savior.

Read Fr. Hendrik’s full reflection.

Pam Milczarski (Major Gifts Manager for the Province Development Office)

Pam Milczarski

What has changed for me during this health crisis?

So much, my day to day interactions with my fellow office staff, travel to visit our donors and to my family have been curtailed. The inability to go where I want when I want halts me daily when I think about going to the store or anywhere.

What hasn’t changed for me during this health crisis?

My faith, period. I know that these uncertain times are affecting people in more ways than we know. What I do know is that while I am working from home, reaching out to our donors, my family and friends via phone calls, emails and social media, that is most important.

Keeping positive and prayer is what we must continue to do and if not for own sake, for those who suffer from loneliness, depression and children who can’t understand the impact. Offer prayers, offer hope even when you are feeling hopeless.

Read Pam’s full reflection.

Fr. Dominic Peluse, SCJ (Spiritual Director, Province Development Office)

Fr. Dominic

After having ministered at many parishes as a deacon and then as a priest, my new “parish” is at the Province Development Office where I am the Spiritual Director. With the coronavirus certainly affecting all humanity, I have received many, many letters and calls, not only from our donors but from others who have found references to the Priests of the Sacred Heart.

Some of the many questions asked are: What will happen if I miss a First Friday devotion? When and how can I receive Holy Communion? If I am dying, will someone be able to bring me the Last Rites (Sacrament of the sick)? Is it possible for you to hear my Confession? With the virus affecting the economy, many apologize for not being able to contribute anything more to the ministries of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.

Listening to them on the phone I often ask if they have any special intentions when I celebrate Mass. I am often in awe at the responses that I receive and how grateful they are that their prayers are on the altar.

Read Fr. Dominic’s full reflection.

Steve Koepke (SHSM Director of Donor Relations)

Steve Koepke

Life for me has become almost surreal. So much seems to have changed, to have been taken away. Still, I count myself among the very lucky ones. I have my health and get to come into the office (for now anyway) and that gives my life a somewhat normal rhythm. More importantly, I feel my job here at Sacred Heart Southern Missions affords me the opportunity to be part of the solution to issues facing our country at the moment. I recently heard where one of the largest casinos down in Tunica has closed for a month. They have 3,200 employees, mostly part time. During the shutdown they’re keeping on 150. Imagine the strain that puts on the pocketbook? I’m sure we are about to see people who have never set foot in a food pantry, nor ever expected to, in their lives.

As always, our donors remain a source of inspiration to me. After discussing the situation with one man he emailed me the next day saying he was sending $10,000 as a gift to support our efforts to provide food. Many others have also been responsive to our efforts to help those in need. It is truly humbling.

Read Steve’s full reflection.

Also, Mark Peters, province director of Justice, Peace and Reconciliation, shares his reflection on the impact of COVID-19 in the most recent issue of the JPR News:

“Social justice education and advocacy are tough sells in the best of times, and it may be the last thing anyone wants to hear about now. But of course, the likelihood is great that the poor, the migrants, the homeless, prisoners and minorities will, as usual, bear the brunt of the suffering to come. Right now, refugees from violence, poverty and climate change are huddled outside our border, facing all the same horrors as a month ago, but now extremely vulnerable to this pandemic as well. So I won’t be closing up shop anytime soon!” Click here to access the March, 2020, issue.

Click here to access the full list of reflections by SCJs and coworkers.

Click here to submit YOUR OWN reflection of the impact of pandemic in your own life.

CMSM offers resources

The Conference of Major Superiors of Men has an extensive webpage of resources regarding COVID-19, including online workshops and tutorials on livestreaming, video conferencing and guidelines for adapting ministries. Click here to access the site.

Links to resources and other materials regarding the pandemic are available on a special page on the US Province website. The “Coronavirus” link is in the red bar at the top of all pages in the site. Click here to access it directly.

Click here to submit a resource to add to the page.

Two book reviews published

Congratulations to Fr. Vien Nguyen, SCJ, who recently had two book reviews published by the Review of Biblical Literature (RBL). RBl is published by the Society of Biblical Literature, the world’s largest and most influential academic society for biblical studies.

Click on either link to access a PDF of the review.

Lee, Jin Hwan. The Lord’s Supper in Corinth in the Context of Greco-Roman Private Associations. Lanham, MD: Lexington/Fortress Academic, 2018.

Stone, Meredith J. Empire and Gender in LXX Esther. Atlanta: SBL Press, 2018.

Budget reminder

Several people have contacted the Provincial Treasurer’s Office about the budget process, wondering how it may be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. “It is difficult –– on all levels –– to make plans with so much uncertainty,” said Dn. David Nagel, SCJ, Provincial Treasurer. “But I ask that you still continue with the process as outlined.”

This means that budgets are to be submitted by April 3.

“There will most likely be difficulties and adaptations for us individually and for our ministries,” continued Dn. David. “However, we still need to begin with a plan from which we can adapt as needed. Together, we can continue to serve those in the greatest need.”

Questions regarding the budget process can be directed to John Kuxhause, Kevin Stanke or Dn. David. Office hours are limited due to the implications of the virus, but all staff are checking messages regularly.

Prayer requests and updates

Fr. Tom Cassidy, SCJ, was released from the hospital on March 26 after several days of antibiotic treatment for a burn on his foot.

With India on lockdown because of COVID-19, getting from the hospital to the SCJ novitiate in Nambur (about eight miles) posed a challenge. Instead of having an SCJ simply pick him up upon his discharge, Fr. Tom rode in the back of an ambulance in order to clear the four checkpoints between the hospital and the Sacred Heart Ashram. Fr. Tom will remain at the novitiate until travel restrictions are lifted. His regular home in India is at Christu Dehon Nivas in Eluru.

Mike Erato, director of plant operations at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology, was released from the hospital on March 27after being admitted to treat an abscess in his intestine. He extends his gratitude for prayers and best wishes.

Fr. Greg Speck writes with news about his niece, Christa Speck: “My niece remains in quarantine. She is feeling much better but that may be because the antibiotics are clearing her pneumonia. However, she still has not gotten the results of her coronavirus test. The test was done over seven days ago in New Jersey. The state has been having difficulties with managing the tests and getting the results to the proper people. Until she gets the results her husband has to remain in quarantine. My niece is in her 40s and the coronavirus exposure was from a 26-year-old worker. Thanks to all for the prayers and thoughtfulness. My family is greatly appreciative.”

As noted previously, Christa was recently diagnosed with pneumonia. In addition, she was exposed to a worker who tested positive with coronavirus. Her health situation is complicated by the fact that she has a depleted autoimmune system due to treatments for rheumatoid arthritis since childhood.

Please remember

Br. Albano Schroeder, a member of the South Brazilian Province, died on March 24. He was born in 1942 and professed in 1966

Sr. Elizabeth Marie Hoell, SSND, died on March 26 at the age of 87. She was a member of the SHSST formation department faculty for a number of years.

Klingler Social Justice Award nominations

Nominations for the Klingler Social Justice Award are due by April 15. You are invited to nominate an individual or a group for their actions and / or leadership in inspiring others to service, social action, greater compassion, raised awareness and / or deeper understanding of social problems and their root causes.

The award includes a donation of $1,000 to the recipient’s charity or organization of choice. Send your nominations to justdir@usprovince.org or call 414-427-4273. The recipient will be announced in May.


St. Joseph’s Thrift Store in the news

KELO News in Sioux Falls, SD, recently highlighted the work of St. Joseph’s Indian School Thrift Store in a segment on its website.

“St. Joseph’s Indian School Thrift Store has been providing outreach support to several South Dakota communities for over 20 years. The program visits communities including Eagle Butte, Wanblee, Okreek, Fort Thompson, Martin, Kyle, Allen, Mission and Potato Creek. They say the program typically visits the communities three to four times each year…

“Thrift Store support Robin His Law coordinates the donations, boxes over 400 items and loads a full trailer to make the journey across the state.”

Click here to read the full story.

With students home with their families during the pandemic, St. Joseph’s has also been delivering food to many communities.


The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) has reaffirmed Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology’s accreditation for another 10 year period. Congratulations!

Urbi et Orbi

Pope Francis held a special Urbi et Orbi on Friday from the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica.

“Usually a colorful event reserved only for Christmas Day and Easter Sunday, this extraordinary blessing was held in keeping with the gravity of the current global situation, as more than half of the world’s population is confined to their homes to prevent the spread of Covid-19,” reported the Vatican News website.

“Standing in a deserted St. Peter’s Square with a steady rain falling, Pope Francis spoke to the world through all the means of modern communication: Facebook, YouTube, TV, and radio.”

Click here to read the full report at Vatican News:

Click here to read Pope Francis’ text.

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