Fr. Dennis Hartigan Makes Perpetual Profession
You could say that Fr. Dennis Hartigan made his perpetual profession 40 years late.
|Before Mass: Fr. Dennis Hartigan (l) and Fr. Tim Ploch|
After coming to the Salesians as a Son of Mary in 1969, Dennis was part of Fr. Ted Ciampi’s “first batch” of novices in 1970-1971 and professed in 1971. But after practical training as a missionary in the Dominican Republic and first year of theology in Columbus, he discerned a calling to the diocesan priesthood and left the Congregation. He was ordained for the diocese of Toledo in 1981 and went on to a distinguished “career” as a pastor and high school administrator, earning a doctorate in education from the University of Dayton along the way.
But Fr. Dennis felt that something was missing in his life, and around 2011 he began investigating a return to the Salesians. Fr. Tom Dunne, who was provincial at that time, and his classmate Fr. Jim McKenna encouraged him, and he re-entered as a candidate with the community at Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J., where he was a very popular teacher. The Congregation didn’t require that he make a new novitiate, and so he was admitted to temporary profession on October 3, 2014, in the presence of the Prep’s entire student body and faculty.
|Fr. Dennis reading the formula of profession before 2 official witness (Fr. Jim McKenna, back to camera, and Fr. Tom Dunne (at right) and a congregation of about 100 members of the Salesian Family and personal friends.|
Last year Fr. Dennis took his talents and his ministry to the Salesian formation community at Orange, N.J., and the faculty of Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University. From both Ramsey and Orange he also provided priestly ministry to the Salesian Sisters’ provincialate community in Haledon. The sisters treasured his service.
This year Fr. Dennis moved again, joining the “Washington community” that serves Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park, Md., and has been residing in Silver Spring, Md., since the Salesian withdrawal from Nativity Parish in Washington in 2014. (This makes him a community-mate of your humble blogger. It’s a VERY lively community!)
Having made his profession, in a lovely symbolic gesture Fr. Dennis placed his lit candle
in front of the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Fr. Tim took his homiletic cue from the three Scripture readings and the responsorial psalm, which had spoken of God’s call and a disciple’s response. In fact, from the opening of the Mass Fr. Tim addressed that point, citing the Salesian Rule of Life, which calls our religious profession a sign of the loving encounter between the Lord, who calls, and the disciple, who responds.
He began the homily proper with a startling statement: “I do until I don’t.” Referring to the commitments that married people, consecrated people, and priests make, Fr. Tim observed that sometimes people change their minds. They say, “I do,” but at some later point their commitment weakens and they change it to “I don’t” and abandon it.
But, the preacher said, God doesn’t change his mind. He is faithful. Whether God is calling the prophet Jeremiah or Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his flock, the divine commitment is permanent, perpetual. It’s never, “I choose you until I choose someone else.”
And the disciple is challenged to answer with as complete a commitment. In evidence of that, Fr. Tim stated, when Fr. Dennis will sign the document of his profession, he’ll do so at the altar, not at a side table (above). The altar is the rock-like sign of God’s permanent, sacrificial love. After his profession, Fr. Dennis will be given a medal imprinted with the Good Shepherd, a sign of his commitment to the young that is like Don Bosco’s commitment, like the Lord’s own commitment to carry us like lambs on his shoulders.
|Holding the Good Shepherd cross, Fr. Tim reads the formula that accompanies its bestowal.|
Fr. Dennis has been called from his mother’s womb, like Jeremiah; dedicated from eternity to be a disciple of the Lord and a missionary of the Lord. He’s invited to draw hope, strength, and joy from what the Lord said to him when he was baptized, when he made his first Communion, when he made his first profession, when he was ordained: that he is loved by God and is called to spread that love. Fr. Dennis is responding, “I do, forever.” All of us, whatever our Christian vocation, can respond with to the Lord with the same “I do, forever.”
After Mass, a spaghetti supper was served in the retreat house cafeteria.