Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Good Night, Irene

Good Night, Irene

We did a lot of prep on Friday and Saturday to get ready for Hurricane Irene's arrival in the early hours of Sunday a.m. Her leading edge--off-and-on rain squalls--started already on Saturday a.m.

By the time she got here, tho, she wasn't a hurricane any more--"only" a tropical storm. Not much consolation to the people in upstate N.Y. and Vermont, according to subsequent news of flash floods and marooned communities.
In N.R. we had lots and lots of rain and occasional strong gusts of wind. The photo above, taken from our porch at 8:54 a.m., shows rain driven sideways and most of the screening on the outfield fence ripped up.

The wind and rain knocked down a lot of little branches from our maples, pines, spruces, oaks, and beeches, and a couple of good-sized limbs in the row of trees along Lefevre Lane. Directly in front of our front door, over the driveway, a very large limb was severely cracked (above, shot from above) but didn't come down. We'll have to have our tree doctor come in and remove it. On Monday Bro. Andy and Fr. Terry spent hours clearing and chipping the debris from along Lefevre.

Then there was the tide, which peaked around 10:30 a.m. It came over the seawall and about 10 feet into center field. Actually, that's not the farthest some of us have seen it reach--but the most, recently.

And by 11:30, Irene was pretty much gone. From our tower, this shot shows the undisturbed construction site (county water treatment plant) across Lefevre Lane, and the municipal marina beyond. At center left you can even see that Air Canada is flying again.

We thank God that we had no major disruption to our lives--only the minor one of not being about to go out for our regular Sunday Masses; and only very minor damage on the property. We pray for those who weren't so blessed.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Following Up on World Youth Day

Following Up on World Youth Day
Offer young people a path to holiness

On Aug. 26, five days after the conclusion of WYD in Madrid, Fr. Fabio Attard, the Salesian general councilor for youth ministry programs around the world, offered a personal reflection on what the experience meant for the 7,000 Salesian youths who took part, and for the Salesian Family in general.
(ANS - Rome) - World Youth Day in Madrid is now over in terms of an event. But what is not over are the effects the experience would have aroused in the hearts of many young people. Listening to and re-reading Benedict XVI's addresses, I think there are four key terms in this celebration of faith.

The first word is one that invites young people to “be not afraid.” The Pope repeatedly urged young people not to be discouraged by an environment hostile to faith, an environment which even ridicules the very choice of faith. His words were comfort, not confrontation. The Pope opened the door of consolation that comes with the choice of faith to those who welcome it with courage and simplicity.

Along similar lines, the second goal that the Pope indicated to young people was to “overcome mediocrity.” On at least three occasions Benedict expressed simple yet profound thoughts on the need to overcome the culture of emptiness that people find themselves swamped by. Anyone who accepts the challenge of faith leaves the merely horizontal level behind and discovers the beauty of the mystery that gives meaning to time and history.

It is here, then, that the Pope offers a way forward, by being anchored in Christ, which means to build one's house, one's own life story, on rock, steadfast in the faith. Pope Benedict's invitation does not come as something alien to young people and their story. Young people seize this invitation at the heart of their plans for their lives. Someone like me who spent several hours in the confessional at El Ritiro Park during the days in Madrid knows how young people welcomed the Pope's words. The experience of forgiveness and reconciliation that the young pilgrims had in Madrid was not a once-off experience. They have good experience of the sacrament of Reconciliation, and frequent it often.

The last key point of World Youth Day in Madrid, then, was the Pope's invitation to them to go back home happy, but not only in themselves. Someone who has had the good fortune to encounter Christ cannot keep him selfishly to himself. Someone who has had the experience of discipleship now has to proclaim it, has to be an apostle. And the Pope asked young people to be faithful and happy witnesses – the two sides of a life of faith. Whoever believes seeks to be faithful, and fidelity finds true joy, true happiness.

Madrid was an “upper room” experience for a week, where one sensed the faith of a generation of young people who are tired of emptiness. It was a joyful place for many young people who are in search of truth, beauty. We met young people of all languages, races and cultures. They are happy young people who seem to be friends forever – friendship that is faith in Jesus Christ.

For us Salesians now is the time to offer them true and lasting experiences, not just events – experiences that will mark their lives and not just entertain them for a while. Don Bosco invites us to give them the true happiness that is the path to holiness. And holiness, for the young pilgrims, is no longer a word that brings shame, but only strength! The challenge is ours!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Homily for 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily for the
21st Sunday
in Ordinary Time

Aug. 21, 2011
Matt 16: 13-20
St. Michael, Greenwich, Conn.

“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father” (Matt 16: 17).

Jesus continues to travel with and instruct his disciples. Today he asks them who people think he is, then what they think. Simon Peter gives the correct answer, but he doesn’t advance to the next round. He has no idea what his answer means, as we’ll hear next week. Being the Messiah puts Jesus’ physical life in jeopardy, and the physical lives of all who follow him. But this is no game; the prize is eternal life.

We don’t know whether Simon Peter is speaking for the 12 or only for himself. What is clear is that he’s speaking under divine inspiration: “You’re blessed, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood hasn’t revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” Probably without his realizing it, Simon has been granted revelation, an insight into divine truth. Jesus isn’t just any human being, not just any prophet. He’s the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One of God; still more, he’s “the Son of the living God” (16:16).

Jesus acknowledges the truth of what’s been revealed to Simon, and he recognizes the blessing that’s been granted to his outspoken disciple. God the Father has singularly chosen Simon, has blessed him with this insight, this revelation.

Not everyone’s favored like Simon. Not everyone’s granted the gift of faith, of knowing who Jesus is, of being chosen to be one of his followers, to encounter “the Son of the living God.”

At this point in the gospel, that faith and that blessing are rather limited. Maybe Simon speaks for all 12 apostles. The blessing is his alone as Jesus speaks it. But it’s no longer his alone. All who today recognize that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, have been favored by revelation from the heavenly Father and are blessed. God has chosen us, as much as he chose Simon Peter, to be blessed with the faith to know Jesus, to follow him, to belong to him, and—as the Gospel promises—to prevail even against death. This is a rare blessing, even today, calling for our gratitude as well as our efforts to be faithful.

How rare is this blessing? Consider that, by a very rough estimate, only 1 person in 6 of the world’s population is Christian in name, and even fewer in practice.

Jesus doesn’t stop with recognizing how his heavenly Father has blessed Simon son of Jonah. He builds upon the Father’s choice. “And so I say to you: you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church” (16:18).

The 1st point in Jesus’ words here is that he gives Peter a new name, a new persona—as Abram became Abraham when he entered a new and special relationship with God (Gen 17:5); as Saul will become Paul when he becomes Christ’s apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 13); as many religious take a new name when they become monks or nuns; as a newly elected Pope takes a new name. Simon son of Jonah’s new identity is “the Rock,” Kephas in Aramaic and Petros in Greek, the sturdy foundation on which Jesus will be able to build his Church, on which the whole community of Jesus’ disciples will rest firmly and securely. The faith that Peter speaks he will share and guarantee for all who follow Jesus.

St. Peter, holding keys, steers his ship, symbol of the Church
(main altar, St. Patrick's Cathedral, N.Y.C.)
The 2d point is that Jesus intends his teaching to last, to be preserved and followed in a permanent community. The word “church,” ekklesia in Matthew’s Greek, means a group of people who’ve been gathered together. Jesus is calling together a great assembly of people whose Rock will be Simon—Simon who’s received divine revelation and given voice to that revelation. This revelation isn’t private but communal. Being a disciple of Jesus is no private affair but a public one.

Nor does Jesus stop there in the charge or mission he gives to Peter: “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against” this community, this church. “Netherworld” is hades in Greek, the world of the dead. In biblical language, it’s where God’s enemies belong; it’s the world of the devil and his allies, malignant spirits and malignant human beings. An alternate English translation is hell.

Jesus is giving a rock-solid assurance that his eventual victory over death—his resurrection—will be shared with the community of his followers, with the faithful members of his Church. No earthly power—and, Lord knows, many have tried, including Roman emperors, Protestant reformers, Japanese shoguns, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, and countless lesser tyrants—no earthly power will subdue or overcome Christ’s Church. Sin cannot defeat, conquer, crush, sink his Church; not even the sins of the Church’s own members, however many or terrible those sins may be—because Christ is stronger; he’s “the Son of the living God.”
Finally, Jesus will give to Simon Peter “the keys to the kingdom of heaven,” with the power to open and shut, to bind and to loose. Jesus is bestowing upon Peter real authority, an authority we often refer to in jest when we speak of Peter as the doorman at the pearly gates.

What is the nature of this authority Jesus gives to Peter? One commentator—a Protestant, incidentally—writes: “An authority has been given which extends from the work of Jesus…. This responsibility includes the making of decisions. Decisions on earth have to be made which have validity in heaven. . . . They may include decisions about the Christian way or about the life of the church.”* The Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 553) is more specific: Peter has “authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church,” and “the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgments, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church”—an authority that Jesus gives generally to the apostles (Matt 18:18) but particularly to Peter; and only to Peter does he give the keys to the kingdom of heaven.

The Church’s authority to forgive sins offers to men and women in every age and all places the possibility of prevailing over the netherworld, over death. Victory over death can come only from the defeat of sin, the removal of sin, cleansing from sin.

Well and good that the sins we have committed be forgiven. Thank God! But teaching authority—the teaching of truth, the teaching of the authentic way of living as Jesus wishes—this is related to defeating sin. Followers of Jesus also want to avoid sin in the 1st place. Jesus pronounces “blessed those who hear the word of God and observe it” (Luke 11:28); he compares the person who obeys his teachings to a wise man who builds his house on a solid rock foundation (Matt 7:24-25)—an image like what he says to Peter today. We need to know how to live virtuously. And for that, we’re assured by Jesus’ promise, Peter speaks authoritatively, opening heaven to those who listen to what Peter says on behalf of Christ’s Church, closing it to those who separate themselves from Peter and the Church. The Church, with Peter in the lead, teaches us what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s moral and what’s immoral, so that the gates of the netherworld might not prevail over us, so that the devil might not claim our lives and lead us into the realm of death.

If Peter died in 67 A.D., crucified upside down in Nero’s amphitheater on the Vatican hill, but “the gates of the netherworld,” the powers of hell, are not to prevail against Christ’s Church founded upon Peter, then somehow Peter must remain the Rock beneath this permanent community called the Church. Peter’s office as the keeper of the keys, as the guarantor of the apostolic faith Peter professed to Jesus, has indeed continued. The men who succeed Peter as bishops of Rome keep the keys to the kingdom of heaven; the man we call “Pope” is now the foundation Rock of the Church that Christ built on Peter. That’s why a million youths have welcomed Pope Benedict XVI in Madrid as if he were a rock star. He is a Rock star, with a capital “R”—Peter’s successor, the rock on which rests Christ’s Church, guiding us toward eternal life in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Fresco painting, above: St. Peter holding keys
Church of Quo Vadis, Rome

* Ivor Jones, “Matthew,” in Sowers & Reapers: A Companion to the Four Gospels and Acts, ed. John Parr (Nashville: Abingdon, 1997), p. 94.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Five New Novices for N.R. Province

Five New Novices
for New Rochelle Province

SDB Novices Christopher Carlson, Kyle Zinno, Steven DeMaio, John Langan, and Travis Gunther pose with provincial Fr. Thomas Dunne (3d from right) in front of a statue of St. John Bosco at the provincial house in New Rochelle, Aug. 18.

Tonite, Aug. 20, the new Salesian novitiate for the U.S. was (re)inaugurated at Rosemead, Calif., in the presence of the provincials of both provinces, Frs. Tom Dunne and Tim Ploch.

God has blessed the American provinces with 7 novices this year, 2 for San Francisco and 5 for New Rochelle. They began their novitiate year this evening and, God willing, will be ready to make their religious profession next year on Aug. 21.

Fr. Bill Keane of the N.R. Province continues to serve as master of novices.

Someone remarked to this blogger this morning that the U.S. novitiate has been a little like Don Bosco's "wandering Oratory" (in the period 1841-1846 before it stabilized at what became the motherhouse of the Salesian movement). Since the sale of the former novitiate building at Don Bosco Seminary in Newton, N.J., to Sussex County in 1989, our novices have been formed in Rosemead, London, New York City, and Port Chester; and now back to Rosemead. There was also a separate novitiate in Canada for a time.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Three New Brothers for N.R. Province

Three New Brothers
for New Rochelle Province

Bros. Eduardo “Eddie” Chincha, Adam Dupré, and Marc Stockhausen made their first religious profession as Salesians on Aug. 16 during an evening Mass at Holy Rosary Church in Port Chester, N.Y.
The church was nearly full with the families of the newly professed, 37 Salesian priests and brothers, led by two provincials, Fr. Tom Dunne of New Rochelle and Fr. Tim Ploch of San Francisco, 23 Salesian sisters and novices, 1 Don Bosco Volunteer, 1 Salesian Lay Missioner, and numerous Cooperators, parishioners, and other friends of the Salesians.

During the last year the four novices, including Jared Anderson from Los Angeles, who will make his first profession on Aug. 21 in Bellflower, have been an intimate part of Holy Rosary parish life through their presence and their ministries.

Bro. Marc Stockhausen, 24, comes from Cleveland. His parents are Robert and Barbara, and he has two siblings. He was introduced to the Salesians by another candidate and counts a number of religious priests as his mentors. He entered the candidacy program at Orange in 2008 and also stayed with the Salesians in Tampa for a time.
Bro. Marc Stockhausen with his parents

Bro. Adam Dupré, 24, from Cranston, R.I., is one of Robert and Patricia Hickey’s six children. After learning about the Salesians from an Internet search, he went to Orange in 2007 and has found particular support from Fr. Steve Leake, Fr. Dominic Tran, and Fr. Bill Keane.
Bro. Adam Dupre with his parents
Bro. Eddie Chincha, 22, his parents Alberto and Lucia, and his three siblings are long-time members of Holy Rosary Parish. With much encouragement and support from Fr. Ploch when he was Holy Rosary’s pastor and from Fr. Rich Alejunas, Eddie became a candidate in Orange in 2009.
Bro. Eddie Chincha with his parents

Jared Anderson, 24, will make his profession on Sunday, Aug. 21. The Los Angeles native met the Salesians when he attended St. John Bosco H.S. in Bellflower. His parents are Richard Rakitis and Alison Anderson, and he has one sister. At Bosco, Jared says, Fr. John Roche “was a huge influence on me,” showing “me just how fun faith was,” guiding the future candidate and giving him opportunities for ministry. He entered the Western Province’s candidacy program at Rosemead in 2009.

All four newly professed brothers look forward to serving the young and the poor through Don Bosco’s charism.

The rite of first profession, while not as solemn as that of perpetual profession, includes some of the same elements: the calling of the candidates for profession, their response, an examination of their intentions, prayer for them, the profession of vows, signing the document of profession, and the presentation of a Salesian medal. In addition, newly professed “clerics” (or seminarians or students for the priesthood) receive and put on their clerical garb. (All three of the newly professed brothers, and Jared Anderson too, are students for the priesthood.) And all the newly professed receive a copy of the Constitutions of the Salesian Society.

The theme of two of the Scripture readings that the brothers chose for the Mass was the Good Shepherd (Ezek 34:1-16; John 10:11-18). Fr. Dunne, presiding and preaching, expressed his joy with that theme but began his homily with a quotation from St. Francis de Sales about the liberty with which one responds to the love that God shows us. Fr. Tom referred to “God’s seductive call of love” and said that the three about to make their vows were returning that love fully and freely by committing themselves to live the evangelical counsels in community for the sake of carrying out a mission of Christ.

Turning then to the Good Shepherd theme, Fr. Tom called it an icon of who we are as Salesians. We identify our calling as that of being good shepherds. In fact, the first Scripture quoted in our Constitutions is partly from the Ezekiel reading of the Mass (34:11,23). This icon, he said, is indelibly placed on our hearts by our vocational response. And Fr. Tom commented on the Good Shepherd image of the cross given to members at their perpetual profession.

But, he went on, we’re not really shepherds. We’re among those following the Good Shepherd; we’re part of the flock.

A shepherd, said Fr. Tom, knows each of his sheep by name and leads them to safe pastures. The sheep recognize his voice and the sound of his tin whistle. Accordingly, we listen to the tune of the Lord and to his words as we follow him. This listening, of course, begins in prayer.

And we call other sheep to join the flock through our community life and through our mission. We help lead the young away from danger and toward safety—by playing the tune of the Lord, resonating it for the young. We lead the young toward holiness by how we live out poverty, chastity, and obedience.
Fr. Tom Dunne preaching in the nearly filled church

Our fidelity, Fr. Tom said in conclusion, means more than just “sticking around”; it means growing in holiness ourselves.

At the beginning Mass, Fr. Tom noted that one reason for choosing Aug. 16 as profession day is that it’s Don Bosco’s birthday.

Bro. Eddie was chosen by his classmates to offer words of thanks at the end of Mass. He began by observing that it was Fr. Tom’s 50th anniversary of profession. The congregation responded with sustained applause. Then Bro. Eddie thanked the families of the new brothers, the people of Holy Rosary and all of Port Chester, and their Salesian brothers and sisters for their help and support.

Fr. Tom added some thanks. He called upon the parents of the newly professed to stand and accept the applause of the congregation. He thanked the Holy Rosary staff and parishioners for the example of their lives and the support of these Salesian vocations.

And then, since the U.S. novitiate will be moving to Rosemead this week, Fr. Tom “handed off” the prenovices—Chris Carlson, Steve DeMaio, Travis Gunther, John Langan, and Kyle Zinno, all of whom were in the sanctuary as servers—to Fr. Tim Ploch; and he added Fr. Bill Keane, master of novices, to the list of gifts. Fr. Bill flew to Los Angeles on the 17th; the prenovices and Fr. Tom are scheduled to fly out on the 19th. The new novitiate will be formally inaugurated on the 20th at 4 o’clock.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Homily for 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily for the
20th Sunday
in Ordinary Time

Aug. 14, 2011
Is 56: 1, 6-7
Matt 15: 21-28
Christian Brothers, Iona College
St. Vincent’s Hospital, Harrison, N.Y.

“The foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, ministering to him, loving the name of the Lord, and becoming his servants—them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer” (Is 56: 6, 7).

The mission of bringing the Lord God to the Gentiles is the common thread of the readings this evening/today. Altho Jesus makes it clear that his mission was to the Jews, when he elicited faith from the Canaanite woman and treated her with mercy, he was beginning the fulfillment of what Isaiah had prophesied centuries earlier about foreigners—Gentiles—becoming part of God’s people, coming to worship the Lord on Mt. Zion and finding joy in the temple of the Lord. In his commentary on this passage from Matthew’s Gospel, William Barclay writes: “There are tremendous implications in this passage. Apart from anything else, it describes the only occasion on which Jesus was ever outside of Jewish territory. The supreme significance of the passage is that it fore-shadows the going out of the gospel to the whole world; it shows us the beginning of the end of all the barriers.”
Jesus and the Canaanite woman (image lifted from The Deacon's Bench)
One of the implications that Barclay draws out is that this Canaanite woman was more than merely some foreigner, some non-Hebrew. “She belonged to the old Canaanite stock, and the Canaanites were the ancestral enemies of the Jews. Even at that very time, or not much later, Josephus could write: ‘Of the Phoenicians, the Tyrians have the most ill-feeling towards us.’” Jesus is really pushing the barriers, opening a path that Peter and then Paul will follow in a few years, to bring God’s mercy to the Gentiles (Rom 11:13,30,32). Jesus’ mission is truly to be universal.

That universality is expressed, e.g., in our 3d Eucharistic Prayer: “From age to age you gather a people to yourself, so that from east to west a perfect offering may be made to the glory of your name.” It will become more evident when we start using the new translation of the Roman Missal in the fall. That passage is taken from the prophet Malachi: “From the rising of the sun, even to its setting, my name is great among the nations; and everywhere a they bring sacrifice to my name, and a pure offering” (1:11). “From the rising of the sun to its setting”: this is geographical universality, covering the whole earth; it’s temporal universality, covering all day, every day.
Without the breaking of these barriers, Christ’s mission of salvation would have been very narrowly constrained. Not only were—and are—the Jews a very small people among all the people of the earth; but very few of them listened to Jesus and accepted him as the living Word of God, then or in succeeding centuries. If his mission were only to the Jews, then God’s salvation would hardly be universal.

Like the Canaanite woman, however, in Peter and Paul’s time the Gentiles came actively seeking that Word of life: Cornelius the Roman centurion sending for Peter and his Good News, the Greeks listening to Paul’s preaching in the synagogs and the streets of one town after another and seeking to “join themselves to the Lord, minister to him, love his name, and become his servants.”

So from its earliest days the Church, the assembly of God’s holy people, has been outgoing; has been missionary. [Your own Christian Brothers roots are missionary, resting spiritually and culturally as it were, on the island of Iona.] When the entire American Church was still officially a mission territory under the curial jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (which it was until 1908), the Salesians came here as missionaries—missionaries to pastorless Italian and Polish immigrants. For generations American dioceses have been manned by the FBI—the “foreign-born Irish” clergy who went out in wave after generous wave of missionaries all over the world, making real the mandate of our Lord to preach the Good News everywhere. Six weeks ago Maryknoll, the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, celebrated its 100th anniversary—a celebration of the mission to the Gentiles: the Chinese, and then the Japanese, the Africans, priestless Latin Americans.

[You do so well to pray for your young confreres in India, Zambia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Papua New Guinea, and Latin America—the fruits of your missionary endeavors, the future “apostles to the Gentiles” of your congregation; and to bring young confreres here to Iona to broaden their educational experience and their formation as brothers. This is one way in which we, here at home, can indirectly follow Christ’s example of eliciting faith from the nations, can carry out his command to spread the Good News.]

If we can’t go to the missions, we can still be missionaries: by prayer for missionaries, after the example of St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, patroness of the missions who never left her convent in Normandy; by financial support of missionaries and specific missions; by encouraging people to consider a missionary calling. Just last Saturday we Salesians commissioned 13 lay missionary volunteers who will be going out for a year of service in Bolivia, Cambodia, Ethiopia, and elsewhere. We’ve been doing this for years, and many of these young people—and some aren’t so young—find their service among orphans and in our schools so fulfilling that they sign up for a 2d year; this year a young woman in Cochabamba, Bolivia, signed up for 3d year.

Finally, and most important, we can be missionaries by faithfully living out the Gospel of Jesus ourselves, for that is silent preaching that we have found joy in the Lord’s house of prayer, a house whose doors are open to everyone everywhere.

[Bracketed passages only at Iona College]

Salesian Sisters: New Novices, New Sisters, and More

Salesian Sisters:
New Novices, New Sisters,
Perpetual Vows, & More

The first year novices of the Salesian Sisters (FMAs) have put together a 9-minute YouTube show of their reception into the novitiate and several events related to the religious professions of their "older" sisters: the blessing and presentation of the habit to the novices about to make their first professions; the first professions of 5 sisters; the renewal of vows by a large number of young sisters; and the perpetual professions of several. Enjoy! Here's the link: http://youtu.be/p4AvEc8FDNA

Friday, August 12, 2011

Preparing for Don Bosco's Bicentennial

Preparing for
Don Bosco's Bicentennial

On Aug. 16, the birthday of St. John Bosco, the Salesian Family will launch a 3-year period of preparation for celebrating the 200th anniversary of his birth. Fr. Pascual Chavez, the rector major, announced the plan last Jan. 31 in a letter to the Salesians.

Today ANS (the SDB international news service based at HQ in Rome) published a short interview with Fr. Francesco Motto, director of the Salesian Historical Institute at HQ, about what it means to get to know DB.

Just a few days before the beginning of three years of preparation for the bicentennial of Don Bosco’s birth in 2015, ANS asked Fr. Francesco Motto, director of the Salesian Historical Institute in Rome, to suggest how we can learn more about this saint from Turin.
For Fr. Motto there are three stages in getting to know Don Bosco better:
-- Read the themes of the historical Don Bosco, whether religious, moral, dogmatic, political, cultural, economic, etc., in the light of analogous problems and recent events, so that they can be useful to us today.
The Salesian historian starts from the simple question: “Which Don Bosco?” because “there are dozens of images of Don Bosco in books, reviews, journals, videos, film, and fiction.” He quotes the remark of Fr. Chavez’s in the strenna for 2012: “Our approach to Don Bosco, using appropriate methods of historical research, has led us better to understand and assess his human and Christian greatness, his practical brilliance, his skills as an educator, his spirituality, and his work, which are fully understood only if deeply rooted in the history of the society in which he lived.”

Understanding Don Bosco is a subject dear to the heart of the Rector Major, Fr. Pascual Chavez. Taken up in the first theme of the Salesians’ 26th General Chapter in 2008–“Return to Don Bosco”–it was put forward again to Salesians in his letter of January 31, 2011, in which he outlined the journey of preparation for 2015: a knowledge of Don Bosco’s life story, his educational method, and his spirituality.

Fr. Motto’s suggestions – available in the Service section of ANS – are not limited to the mere knowledge of the historical data; as outlined by the Rector Major, they include consideration of the educational and spiritual context.

-- Go back to genuine and certain sources, “meaning authentic texts from Don Bosco, his writings, published by him or by his sons, on-line or on paper”;

-- Go further into the sources – even those which are most certain and valid–going beyond “a superficial and simplistic reading. It is necessary to understand the ideas and mental constructs of Don Bosco, his own values and those he adopted, his style of written and spoken language, his method of drafting and re-drafting.... A theological reading of the sources can be enhanced by a social, economic, or political reading. The supernatural must take account of natural factors. Don Bosco is not an ‘island’ in the sea of his times.”

Fr. Motto ended by explaining that “when he has understood, indicated, and explained the context, the events, the causes, and the consequences, the historian has completed his task. To his ‘historical’ interpretation there needs to be added the ‘existential.’”

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Salesian Pilgrims to World Youth Day

Salesian Pilgrims
to World Youth Day

Several groups of young pilgrims accompanied by SDBs, FMAs, and youth ministers, have left for Madrid to take part in WYD. (From around the world some 7,000 members of the Salesian Youth Movement are converging on the Spanish capital.)

The group organized by the New Rochelle Province's Youth Ministry Office in South Orange has set up a blog to record their travels, thoughts, and experiences, which they've invited me to share with anyone interested in following them: http://symmadrid11.tumblr.com/

Monday, August 8, 2011

Bro. Miguel Suarez Makes Perpetual Profession

Bro. Miguel Suarez
Makes Perpetual Profession

Bro. Miguel Suarez, SDB, made his definitive commitment to God in the Society of St. Francis de Sales on Saturday, Aug. 6. The solemn Rite of Perpetual Profession of the vows of obedience, poverty, and chastity took place within Mass at Holy Rosary Church in Port Chester, N.Y.

Fr. Tom Dunne, provincial, presided and preached. Eighteen Salesian priests concelebrated. The congregation also included members of Bro. Miguel’s family, Salesian brothers and sisters, Cooperators, Salesian Lay Missioners, Holy Rosary parishioners, former students of Bro. Miguel from Salesian High School in New Rochelle, and friends.

Miguel, whose parents are deceased, was born in Mexico City and came to the U.S. with some of his family in 1985. They settled in Port Chester and joined Holy Rosary Parish, which was Miguel’s first contact with the Salesians.

He soon became very involved in the parish’s youth ministry program. Influenced by Fr. Tim Zak, coordinator of youth ministry, and the late Fr. John Murphy, coordinator of ministry to the Hispanic community, Miguel eventually realized that he would like to work with young people and immigrants as they were doing.

So in 2001 Miguel applied to enter the Salesians and joined the candidacy program at Orange, N.J. Two years later he was admitted to the novitiate at Mary Help of Christians Parish in Manhattan, and on Aug. 16, 2004, he made his first profession of religious vows there.

Bro. Miguel returned to Orange for postnovitiate formation, during which he completed a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at Seton Hall University in 2007. During his practical training at Salesian High School, he taught religion and coordinated the intramural sports program. As part of his religion teaching he took up John Paul II’s theology of the body, on which he speaks occasionally to parish and youth groups.

In 2009 Bro. Miguel resumed his studies for the priesthood at the Salesian Theological School in Tlaquepaque, Mexico. After a year he transferred to Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall and re-entered the formation community at Orange. There he directs the RCIA program for Spanish-speakers at Our Lady of the Valley Church, to which the formation community is attached, and serves as a general assistant to the young candidates first trying out Salesian life.

He anticipates ordination to the diaconate next spring and to the presbyterate in 2013.

Bro. Miguel says, “God’s call is a blessing for me, for my family, for my friends who’ve supported me all these years.”

Holding a baptismal candle just lit from the paschal candle (right), to show the link between the call to Christian discipleship received in Baptism and the call being answered in religious life, Bro. Miguel Suarez pronounces perpetual vows before Fr. Tom Dunne and two witnesses (Fr. Steve Shafran and Bro. Tom Dion).

In his homily at the profession Mass, Fr. Tom noted that it was the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. He said that the apostles had followed a “vocational path” to meet God on the mountain with Jesus, and in a similar kind of way Bro. Miguel is following a path with Jesus in poverty, chastity, obedience, community life, and the Salesian mission of bringing the Gospel to all people.

Fr. Tom said that the Lord had chosen Bro. Miguel and led him by a myriad of experiences and circumstances to this day. “The Lord worked hard, and Miguel responded,” making a commitment to listen to the Lord always, as the Father’s voice instructed the three apostles on the mountain.

Fr. Tom also pointed out that perpetual profession is not the end of one’s commitment, but is a commitment to continued growth in discipleship, one day at a time, forever. He urged Bro. Miguel never to lose his sense of being consecrated to God, of serving the young, of living in community.

Then, noting the death earlier that same morning of Fr. Pat Diver (see post below), after 48 years of Salesian life—the last year spent in illness, unable to do anything but offer his sufferings to God on behalf of the young—Fr. Tom reminded Bro. Miguel that the vocation of a consecrated person is a vocation “to be,” not just “to do.”

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Homily for 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily for the
19th Sunday
in Ordinary Time Aug. 7, 2011
Matt 14: 22-33
Willow Towers, New Rochelle
St. Vincent’s Hospital, Harrison

“He went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone” (Matt 14: 23).

Have you noticed that whenever Jesus prays, he’s alone? Even when he takes disciples with him, when he asks them to keep vigil and pray with him, they fall asleep and leave him, in effect, alone (26:36-45).
In one sense, this is fitting. As important as community is, as important as Church is—each of us must be in a personal, one-to-one relationship with God. No one else can keep vigil for us. No one else can be a close friend of God on our behalf. Each one of us has to stand alone before God and account for himself or herself.

One of the changes in our translation of the Mass texts next Advent is going to reflect this singular relationship to which God calls us. No longer will we profess “We believe in one God, we believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, we believe in the Holy Spirit.” Reflecting the Latin text, Credo in unum Deum, etc., and reflecting the individuality of our Baptism, we’ll say, “I believe.”

I am responsible before God for confessing the Catholic faith, for living as a genuine disciple of Jesus, and for praying—for being in a relationship of praise, of penitence, and of gratitude with my Father in heaven. So our prayer, in this sense, is always an isolated act and state of being, even when we’re surrounded by our fellow believers, as we are right now; even when we’re praying for others and others are praying for us—all of which is very important.

There’s another meaning in the gospel verse and passage, tho. Over and over again in the gospels, Jesus is the only one in a committed relationship with God. The apostles are good men, but they don’t demonstrate at all that they’re God’s men. They certainly aren’t ready to be canonized. One of them will never make it. Jesus tries to teach them to pray (6:6-13), but we never actually see them doing so until after his resurrection. So Jesus is alone, by himself, in seeking God’s will, in trusting God’s will, in acting on God’s will, in living for God.

Christ Walking on the Water, by Amedee Varin

All of which makes the situation of the disciples in the gospel story a wonderful metaphor. When we say that someone’s at sea, we mean he’s lost, wandering, entirely unsure of what to do or where to go or how to get himself out of some pickle. When someone’s swamped at sea, he’s in imminent peril. Such is our life—our spiritual life, our moral life, the very direction of purpose of our lives, unless we’ve integrated God into our lives. That requires prayer. The apostles will always be lost, always floundering, until they learn to turn to God, to trust in God, to put themselves into God’s hands (cf. 14:30-31).

And so will we. Like Peter, we need for Jesus to reach out a hand and save us—or guide us, forgive us, console us, strengthen us. Like Peter, we have to call out to God for that help. We have to pray.

Jesus saves Peter, by Rembrandt

Fr. Patrick Diver, SDB

Fr. Patrick Diver, SDB (1943-2011)

After a long bout with cancer, Fr. Patrick Diver, SDB, died early in the morning of August 6, 2011, at Fr. Hudson House, a hospice in Elizabeth, N.J. He was 68.

Fr. Pat (left) with Fr. John Grinsell in May 2006.

Father Tom Dunne, our provincial, said that in these final months of nearly 48 years of consecrated life Fr. Pat offered himself fully to God’s will and promise.

Fr. Pat was born in Boston on August 5, 1943, to Patrick and Mary Connolly Diver. Within the month he was baptized at St. Margaret’s Church in Dorchester, which remained the family’s parish.

Following his graduation from Don Bosco Tech in Boston in 1961, Patrick enrolled in Don Bosco College Seminary in Newton, N.J., as a candidate for Salesian life. In August 1962 he entered the novitiate, also in Newton, and made his first profession of religious vows on August 16, 1963.

Like all Salesian seminarians, Bro. Pat majored in philosophy at Don Bosco College, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in June 1967. He minored in classical languages.

Having volunteered for the foreign missions, Bro. Pat was sent to the Philippines, where he taught at Don Bosco Academy in Pampanga, the province’s high school seminary, from 1967 to 1970. The students greatly appreciated him as a teacher and friend. One of them, Fr. George Militante, is now provincial of the South Philippines Province, and on Aug. 9 he wrote: "We, especially those who were under him in Don Bosco Juniorate, San Fernando Pampanga, remember him fondly and are grateful to him for a job well done as practical trainee."

At the same time he undertook a master’s program in guidance and counseling at De La Salle College’s Graduate School of Education in Manila, completing his degree in May 1970. One of the papers that he presented for the degree was titled “The Counselor in the Salesian System of Education.”

Bro. Pat returned to the U.S. in 1970 to study theology at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Worthington, Ohio. He was ordained in Columbus on March 30, 1974, and awarded a master of arts in theology from the Josephinum in June of that year.

Fr. Pat’s first priestly assignment was as dean of students at Don Bosco College in Newton (1974-1976). Twenty-one years of school apostolate followed, during which he ministered as a guidance counselor at St. Dominic Savio HS in East Boston (1976-1980), treasurer at Dom Savio (1980-1984), and director of the school (1989-1995); he was treasurer at Mary Help of Christians School in Tampa (1984-1988) and then principal there (1988-1989), and guidance counselor at Don Bosco Tech in Paterson (1995-1997). He later had another short stint as guidance counselor at Savio Prep in East Boston (2003-2004).

Fr. Pat made a lasting impression on the young men at Savio. One alumnus, C. David Surface, writes: “He was the most honest and caring priest I have ever known. His influence helped to shape my life both professionally and from a family perspective…. I will never forget him and how he made my days at Savio truly special.”

During his first assignment in East Boston he was certified as a school guidance counselor in Massachusetts (1978).

Fr. Pat worked in parishes, too. He was pastor of Mary Help of Christians Church in Manhattan for a year (1997-1998), associate pastor at Nativity Church in Washington (2002), acting pastor of St. Theresa’s Church in Leeds, Ala. (2003), and pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Elizabeth and director of the Salesian community there (2004-2010).

From 1998 to 2002 Fr. Pat was director of Salesian Missions in New Rochelle, coordinating a vast fundraising program in service to Salesian missionary activities all over the world.

In 2007, while he was pastor in Elizabeth, Fr. Pat was found to have colon cancer and went through a long treatment and recovery.

In the summer of 2010 Fr. Pat completed his pastorate and directorship in Elizabeth and was assigned once more to the formation of young Salesians as a very experienced and highly valued staff member at the Don Bosco Residence in Orange. Late in the spring of 2011 cancer returned in a very serious form. When treatment was unavailing, he entered hospice care.

Bro. Gus Ramirez, one of the young Salesians from Orange, said of him: “Fr. Pat Diver was a great example of perseverance and love for the young. I will always remember him as the vital man who loved the young to the last minute of his life.”

Fr. Pat is survived by his sisters Kathleen Tubman and Maureen Fitzgerald, both of the Boston area, and by his Salesian confreres of the New Rochelle Province.

Fr. Pat will be waked at St. Anthony Church in Elizabeth on the evening of Aug. 8 and the afternoon of Aug. 9. Fr. Tom Dunne will preside over the Mass of Christian Burial at St. Anthony’s on the 9th at 7:30 p.m., and Fr. Tom Ruekert will preach, at Fr. Pat’s request. On Aug. 10 Fr. Pat will be buried in the family plot at Newton Cemetery in Newton, Mass.