Weekly News: November 11, 2013

Fr. Stephen Huffstetter, US provincial superior, in dialogue with Fr. Carlos Caamaño of Venezuela
Fr. Stephen Huffstetter, US provincial superior,talks with Fr. Carlos Caamaño of Venezuela. Fr. Carlos was a student in this past summer’s ESL program at SHST.

“A crucial time in the congregation”

The primary focus of the Major Superiors Meeting November 3-9 was the 2015 general chapter: outlining a theme for it, setting dates, choosing a planning committee and finalizing details in regards to participation and representation. It is at the general chapter where the next superior general and council is elected.

“This is a crucial time in the congregation,” said Fr. John van den Hengel in his opening remarks at the meeting. “What we choose to do at the next general chapter will set the path for the congregation for the next six to eight years, perhaps even longer.”

To set the stage for the week’s discussions, Fr. Bartolomeo Sorge – a noted Jesuit theologian, lecturer, writer, and socio-political scientist — gave a presentation on religious life in the Church and world

What the Church is experiencing now, said Fr. Sorge, is nothing less than a moment of crisis. But instead of defining “crisis” as a cause for fear and apprehension, Fr. Bartolomeo said that it is an opportunity to revisit the Church itself, including religious congregations within it and how their charisms speak to the world today.

Fr. Ornelas, superior general, and Fr. Albert Lingwengwe, general councilor
Fr. Ornelas, superior general, and Fr. Albert Lingwengwe, general councilor

“We are seeing the Industrial Revolution ending before our eyes,” he said. “We are in a transition to a new civilization.”

He spoke of the Second Vatican Council and how it called the Church to define itself in an historical context.

Pope Francis, said Fr. Sorge, brings the Church back to the spirit of Vatican II and Pope John XXIII. “It is time again to open the windows to the winds of change,” he said.

He added that it is by example that Pope Francis embraces this new era. His simplicity, his obvious love for the poor, speak volumes. “Seeing him walk into the crowd and give a poor, sick person a hug does more than the written word. That is the Gospel in action. That is what people see. That is what people remember,” said Fr. Bartolomeo.

Plans coming together

Following the input of the major superiors, the General Council finalized the chapter dates: May 17 – June 6, 2015, in Rome.

The planning commission will include Fr. Carlos Henrique Caamaño of Venezuela (a student in the 2013 ESL program at SHST), Fr. Heiner Wilmer of Germany, Fr. Léopold Mfouakouet of Cameroon, Fr. Oliviero Cattani of the North Italian Province, and Fr. Vincent Herimanto of Vietnam. They will work in collaboration with the general administration.

Fr. Zénon Sendeke of Congo shows how to carry supplies African-style!
Fr. Zénon Sendeke of Congo shows how to carry supplies at the meeting African-style!

Although the specific wording of the theme was not defined, Fr. José Ornelas Carvalho, superior general, explained that the focus will be on how SCJs, based in community, respond to the reality of the world today.

“We have to interpret our present time in the light of faith,” said Fr. Ornelas. It is a time, he continued, that calls for reconciliation on many levels.

The Dehonian charism also calls SCJs to always maintain a preferential option for the poor and disenfranchised. “We must find a Dehonian style of addressing social concerns.”

“Chapter, a time for the Spirit, for new life, and new mission,” is a rough summary of the theme. It is the task of the planning commission to give flesh to it in the next year-and-a-half.

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Bishop Zolile and the cathedral of his diocese
Bishop Zolile and the cathedral of his diocese

Zulu hymns, and a visit with a bishop

As noted previously, Fr. Tom Cassidy, former provincial superior, is spending his first months out of office visiting the countries for which he had responsibility when he was on General Council in Rome.  During his travels he is maintaining a journal; several excerpts from it are being posted on the province blog. The following two entries are from Pietermaritzburg:

“There were two things on today’s agenda. The first was to concelebrate the 8:00 a.m. Mass at St. Francis Assisi Parish, about a 15 minute drive from the SCJ formation community house. This is a parish staffed by SCJs and it is the first parish outside of the De Aar and Aliwal North Dioceses entrusted to the care of the SCJs of South Africa.

“This parish is in the colored area of Pietermaritzburg (“colored” being a South African term left over from the apartheid era). The 8:00 Mass was well attended with the church almost 100% full. The congregation was both young and old as well as a good mixture of men and women… The music was wonderful to listen to. A few of the hymns were done in Zulu and I must confess I enjoyed them above all. What struck me was the stateliness of the tunes as well as the gusto with which the congregation sang them…

“Two deacons assisted at the Mass. Both are SCJs from Mozambique who have spent the last four years at our formation house while studying theology at St. Joseph’s Theological Institute in Cedara. With the end of the semester only two or three weeks away they will head back to Mozambique to prepare for their ordination to the priesthood on December 22, 2013. The deacons thanked the parish for hosting them over the last four years and for assisting them in learning how to function in a parish setting and how to minister to the people of God in their capacity as deacons.

Click here to read other posts on the province blog site.


Fr. Joe Doscher was released from the hospital last week after being treated for a bleeding ulcer. He will continue his recovery at the Congregational Home.

Please remember

Fr. Antônio José Thamazia, a member of the South Brazilian Province, died November 6. He was born in 1930, professed in 1954 and ordained in 1959.

Veterans Day

Today, November 11, we remember in a special way those who have served in the military. The following prayer for Veterans Day was posted by the  blog “Concord Pastor:”

God of peace, we pray for those who have served our nation and have laid down their lives to protect and defend our freedom.

We pray for those who have fought, whose spirits and bodies are scarred by war, whose nights are haunted by memories too painful for the light of day. 

We pray for those who serve us now, especially for those in harm’s way. Shield them from danger and bring them home. 

Turn the hearts and minds of our leaders and our enemies to the work of justice and a harvest of peace.

Spare the poor, Lord, spare the poor!

May the peace you left us, the peace you gave us, be the peace that sustains, the peace that saves us.

Christ Jesus, hear us! Lord Jesus, hear our prayer!


Fr. Mark Mastin is an SCJ who currently serves as an army chaplain
Fr. Mark Mastin is an SCJ who currently serves as an army chaplain

In active duty

It seems fitting on Veterans Day to hear from Fr. Mark Mastin, an SCJ serving as an Army chaplain in Afghanistan. After reading reports from the Major Superiors meeting he wrote:

“I am writing from a remote area of Afghanistan, where I am visiting our soldiers. I have already logged in some 7,000 plus flying miles and 68 helicopter flights in my time here.

“As I have encountered the good and bad of war and the stress that can take its toll on soldiers, it is good to have positive news from back home, especially about the international activities of the congregation. It gives me a sense of connection with humanity.

“The thing that struck me was reading that the major superiors were reflecting on a theme for the general chapter. What flashed in my mind was the quote about being “first in war and first in peace.” [The quote is from the eulogy given for George Washington.] Well, we Dehonians, who are based in love, are first in service, first in reconciliation. Every soldier I speak to knows that I am a Priest of the Sacred Heart and senses this about me.  I have a phrase that I tell them.  It is that what we do is “Sacred Love and Sacred Service for the Sacred Heart.”  All of us are called to do this.