Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bro. Matthew DeGance Makes Perpetual Profession

Bro. Matthew DeGance Makes Perpetual Profession

In an ancient, solemn ritual in the chapel of Don Bosco Prep High School in Ramsey, N.J., Bro. Matthew Michael DeGance, SDB, professed his perpetual vows on Saturday, August 8, before about 200 Salesians, family members, and young people.

Bro. Matt, 32 years old, is a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where his parents, Joseph and Jacqueline DeGance are still members of St. John the Baptist Parish. They, as well as his numerous siblings, nieces, and nephews were present at the profession rite.

Bro. Matthew with his parents, Joseph and Jacqueline.
Bro. Matt is a graduate of the University of North Florida (Jacksonville), where he earned a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy. He began working as a therapist after graduation.

The DeGance family have known the Salesians for many years, having counted as friends the late Frs. Peter Lappin, SDB, and August Bosio, SDB. That friendship nurtured in Matt a love for Don Bosco and a vocational seed—the seed already having been planted in his family. Consequently, after giving some thought to the diocesan priesthood and the Franciscans, Matt decided in 1999 to enter the Salesian formation program at Orange, N.J.

After a year of novitiate at Mary Help of Christians Church in New York City, Bro. Matt made his first religious vows on August 16, 2001, in New York.

Bro. Matt lies prostrate on the floor as the Litany of the Saints is sung.

After additional postnovitiate formation, he was assigned to Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey from 2005 to 2007. He taught biology and theology, directed an intramural sports program, and was an assistant coach of varsity, JV, and freshman volleyball. With Fr. Steve Leake he cofounded a faith-centered student group called Kepha that was a kind of Salesian oratory program, including prayer, service opportunities, study, and recreational outings. Although not specifically trained as a teacher, he found himself well prepared for his apostolic work in and out of the classroom at Ramsey and has grown to love the school apostolate.

Since the fall of 2007 Bro. Matt has been studying theology at the Ratisbonne in Jerusalem. He finds it fascinating to be so close to such sites as the Holy Sepulcher and to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and the earliest Christians. He appreciates being able to connect the Scriptures with his daily life experience.

Another great advantage to studying at the Ratisbonne, according to Bro. Matt, is the international experience. Besides a teaching staff from around the Salesian world, the student body includes 49 Salesians from 21 countries. That offers many cultural perspectives on Salesian life.

Bro. Matt is among seminarians at the Ratisbonne installed as lectors or acolytes at a Mass in the spring of 2008.

Pastoral work in Jerusalem pays a lot of attention to the numerous Filipino workers who are there. The seminarians offer them adult catechesis, days of recollection, liturgical assistance, as well as youth ministry. In his first year, Bro. Matt also had the opportunity to help the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul in their work for abandoned handicapped youngsters of all faiths.

During the last two summers Bro. Matt has served in the summer programs of St. John Bosco Parish in Chicago, whose population is mostly Hispanic.

Bro. Matt looks forward to diaconal ordination next June and priestly ordination in 2011. After that he would be pleased to return to the classroom, sports programs, and young people in general. The turnout of youngsters at his profession Mass on August 8 indicates that young people, too, would be pleased if he returned to them as Fr. Matt.

Fr. Thomas Dunne, SDB, superior of the New Rochelle Province of the Salesians, told the province earlier in the week that Bro. Matt’s “act of total self-giving and divine consecration is a powerful sign of God’s grace to the professed members of our province, to those in initial formation, to the entire Salesian Family, and to the young in our province.”

Fr. Dunne presided over the profession Mass at Ramsey. In his homily, using readings chosen by Bro. Matt (Gen 12:1-3; 2 Cor 4:7-15; Matt 16:24-27), Fr. Dunne connected this year’s 150th anniversary of the Salesians of Don Bosco with Bro. Matt DeGance’s answer to God’s call to serve God by serving the young. He noted that the self-emptying required of a professed religious as he lives the vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty is an imitation of the paschal mystery of Christ, who emptied himself for sake of human salvation. He said that the earthen vessel of which St. Paul speaks is an image of the sinful frailty of human beings, including consecrated persons. The religious brings his own brokenness to his mission, to his community, and to his consecration as he tries daily to die to sin and to his human frailty.

Bro. DeGance pronounces his vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty before Fr. Tom Dunne, provincial, and the witnesses, Fr. Pat Angelucci and Bro. Jim Wiegand. He holds a lighted candle to show that his religious profession is a continuation of the commitment that he made in Baptism to follow Christ, the light of the world.

For his part, Bro. Matt finds that being a consecrated Salesian is “a great gift” from God, one that he would encourage any young person to accept without fear. The Salesian vocation is rich in peace and in the happiness of doing God’s will, and Bro. Matt cannot think of any spirituality that is more attractive than Don Bosco’s.
At a reception for Salesians, family, and friends following Mass, Bro. Matt says thank you to God, the Blessed Mother, Don Bosco, his parents, his confreres, and many others.

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