Last Friday veteran, award-winning religion reporter Gary Stern of the Journal News, our local Gannett newspaperdid a telephone interview with Fr. Tom Dunne. The JN serves several counties just north of NYC. Back in January, when Fr. Tom's appointment was announced, Gary also blogged about it (using material that I'd forwarded to him--doing my job).
[If you'd like to check out a good general religion blog, go to "Blogging Religiously" at http://religion.lohudblogs.com/ ]
Here's the column Gary published in yesterday's paper:
Catholic order appoints province leader
The Salesians of Don Bosco, the worldwide Catholic order dedicating to
serve youth and the poor, will install the Rev. Thomas A. Dunne as its new
leader for the eastern United States and all of Canada on Wednesday at Salesian High School in New Rochelle.
Dunne, a Brooklyn native, was ordained in 1972 and has served the Salesians in numerous posts. He is beginning a six-year term as provincial superior and will be based at the Salesians' Eastern Province offices in New Rochelle.
"You're never really prepared for something like this," Dunne said. "It's about taking each step as it comes and staying focused on the mission -- with a spirit of faith."
Dunne faces the challenge of taking on Salesian operations in Canada, which have just fallen under the purview of the Eastern Province. The move represents a tightening of resources at a time when fewer men are become priests and brothers.
"We're looking at it more as a stimulus package than a downsizing," he said. "By bringing all of our resources together under one community heading, we might be able to do a better job at what we're supposed to do."
In addition to facing a decline in vocations, the Salesians are still dealing with the fallout from the Catholic Church's sex-abuse crisis. Several Salesian provinces around the world have faced accusations of abuse -- including the transfer of abusive priests -- and the order's San Francisco-based Western Province reached a $19.5 million settlement with victims last year.
Asked if the Salesians have begun recovering, Dunne said: "I don't know if we ever will.
"There has been a wound inflicted upon the young people by some of our members and a wound we have inflicted upon ourselves," he said. "It will take a process of healing that will come in God's own time. I don't know when that will be. In the meantime, our heart goes out to those who have been so severely damaged."
He said the order is now trying to be diligent about preventing future abuse and carrying out its mission to protect the young.
From 1992 to 2006, Dunne served as director of the Office of Youth Ministry in the Archdiocese of Boston, the nexus of the sex-abuse crisis.
"You hear more and more people ask how we could have missed so much," he said. "That's something I'll be thinking about for the rest of my life."
Dunne, 66, will become provincial superior as the Salesians -- the
second-largest Catholic order in the world -- celebrate their 150th anniversary.
And he'll finish his term in 2015, the year of the 200th birthday of Don Bosco, the Salesians' founder.
He said the Salesians have to rely more on laypeople as the numbers of priests and brothers declines. He noted that Don Bosco worked only with laypeople from 1841 to 1859, when he founded the religious community.
"If we're going to be true to our founding, it has to be contextualized within a larger group of people serving the young," Dunne said.
"More laypeople and young people are collaborating with us, and they
have a wonderful spirit."
The Eastern Province includes 165 priests and brothers running five schools, including Salesian High School, and 13 parishes, including Corpus Christi and Holy Rosary in Port Chester. The Salesians also operate the well-known Marian Shrine and Don Bosco Retreat Center in Stony Point.
The Canada Province includes 30 priests and brothers who oversee one
school, seven parishes and a camp. Dunne plans to visit the Canadian operations soon.
"I've spent 40 years in youth ministry, working mostly with laypeople
working with kids," Dunne said. "Now it's working with the whole Salesian
community. It is a different way of looking at the same reality."
Wednesday's installation service will take place at 5 p.m.