Meet an SCJ: Br. Duane Lemke

Br. Duane Lemke, SCJ, director of the Dehon Formation Community

I am biased. The best two views in the world can be found in Lower Brule, SD, and Chicago, Ill. Nothing compares to the Missouri River dominating the Dakota horizon as seen from the bluffs overlooking Lower Brule, nor the skyline of steel, glass and light as seen after dark from Chicago’s Adler Planetarium. Of course, I am biased.

I spent my first ten years of ministry with the Lakota, Dakota and settlement people in and around Lower Brule. As a member of the Catholic Pastoral Team, I ministered to youth and elders, taught religious education to youth and adults, and was a pastoral associate to St. Michael’s Parish in Kennebec. Memories of the people, events and experiences I had there will always be with me, and continue to influence my ministry.

I am now in my third year as director of our formation program [student program] in Chicago. Amid the hustle, bustle and energy of Chicago’s Hyde Park, I help form candidates: men who are seriously discerning a call to become a Priest of the Sacred Heart. Formation ministry is quite different from parish ministry, but I count myself fortunate to be with these young men as they celebrate, struggle and study at school while preparing themselves for novitiate and religious life at home. I also count myself fortunate to be a formation director with Frs. John and Vien. As a team, we — I hope — make the Dehon House of Studies a place of prayer, study, support, challenge and laughter.

I came to the Priests of the Sacred Heart in January 1995, after my collegiate years at the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota. During my own years in formation, I earned a master’s degree in Pastoral Studies from Catholic Theological Union and, more important, professed vows as a brother in 1997. During my own years of initial formation I began learning how to be a Priest of the Sacred Heart: one who is called to promote God’s love in the heart of people and society. Of course, this latter school is one that never offers a graduation and has a lifelong course of study!

I couldn’t close without mentioning one final view: the water tower of Lantry, SD, silhouetted against a fiery sunset (this tower being the sole line in Lantry’s prairie sky). This view can be seen from the farm where I was raised, and still welcomes me home when I return to see parents and family. My parents, John and Judy, continue to live and work in and near Lantry. My siblings Marta and Brandon (with his wife Phoebe and their five children) live and work in Pierre and Dupree, SD. At this view, my story comes full circle, for it was there that I met the Priests of the Sacred Heart, who married my parents, baptized me, ministered to me in my youth, and first taught me about the love found in Christ’s Heart. Without them, I wouldn’t have seen Lower Brule nor Chicago, nor been introduced to the people who also call these areas home.


My Dehonian Playlist

“As a Catholic, and as a Dehonian, I’ve found grace in my natural love for music,” wrote Br. Duane when describing “My Dehonian Playlist,” a music blog that he maintains.  “Many times the lyrics and music I love have become fodder for deeper faith, even if the song is not overtly religious; often when the song is not overtly religious. As a minister, I’ve also made use of songs such as these in teaching and passing the faith on to other generations.

“In this blog I will introduce you to ‘My Dehonian Playlist.’  It is a real playlist.  These are songs I turn to when I want to re-energize my commitment as a religious brother, as a person of faith.  These are songs that I find have inspired and challenged me to live well my particular slice of our great, wide faith.  Just like that handwritten journal gave expression to my aunt’s favorite music, I hope for this blog to be a record of those songs that are worth my time and that serve as an inspiration to my faith.”

Click here to go to the blog.