Monday, September 26, 2011

Salesians Celebrate 26 Jubilarians

Salesians Celebrate
26 Jubilarians The Salesians celebrated 1,600 years of vocational fidelity—divided among 26 priests and brothers—at the Marian Shrine in Haverstraw, N.Y., on Sunday, Sept. 25.

The jubilarians included 17 men celebrating anniversaries of religious profession: Fr. Bob Savage, 75 years; Frs. Jim Curran, Eugene Palumbo, and Phil Pascucci, 70 years; Fr. Jerzy Schneider, 65 years; Frs. Louis Aineto and Frank Wolfram, and Bro. Andy LaCombe, 60 years; Frs. Tom Dunne, George Harkins, Joseph Ho, and Tito Iannaccio, and Bro. David Iovacchini, 50 years; Bro. Bernie Dubé and Frs. Mark Hyde, Jim McKenna, and Stephen Schenck, 40 years; and Fr. Zgibniew Majcher, 25 years.

The jubilarians also included 14 priests observing ordination jubilees: Fr. Bob Savage, 65 years; Frs. Jim Curran, Eugene Palumbo, and Phil Pascucci, 60 years; Frs. Louis Aineto and Dominic DeBlase, 50 years; Frs. Bob Bauer, Paul Cossette, John Grinsell, Joseph Ho, Frank Kelly, and Jeremiah Reen, 40 years; and Frs. Vincent Paczkowski and David Sajdak, 25 years.

The jubilee observance included the celebration of Mass at the chapel of the Marian Shrine. Fr. Tom Dunne, the provincial of the Salesians’ New Rochelle Province, presided and preached. Fourteen of the 26 jubilarians were able to be present, the others prevented by infirmity, distance, or pastoral commitments.
In addition to the jubilarians there were 34 other concelebrating priests and a deacon. The chapel was filled with several hundred family members, Salesian brothers, Salesian sisters, Salesian Cooperators, former Salesians, past pupils, and other friends of the jubilarians, and faithful who regularly worship at the Shrine on Sundays.

Fr. Dunne’s homily noted that the Sunday gospel involved a response to God’s call, and the prophetic reading pointed to the cost of failing in one’s vocation. For those celebrating an anniversary of religious profession or ordination, he said, these readings were both helpful and sobering. So we can reflect on fidelity in fulfilling our vocation.

For Salesians, Fr. Dunne continued, vocational fidelity entails community, the evangelical vows, and mission. He cited very brief examples from the lives of the jubilarians.

It isn’t just “perseverance,” counting off so many days till a jubilee comes. Fidelity involves struggling through difficulties and growing in one’s vocation. It means saying “yes” to God’s call even after having sometimes said “no”—an ongoing conversion. It means letting go of ourselves and embracing the cross. We appreciate the spirit of sacrifice these 26 confreres have shown over the course of 25, 40, 50, 60, 65, 70, and 75 years, Fr. Dunne said.

A banquet followed, at which Fr. Steve Schenck spoke the gratitude of all the jubilarians. His thanks included the confreres who preceded them in the history of our province, laying the foundation for their vocations and apostolic work; the Congregation that gave them such an excellent education and the opportunity to develop their specific talents for ministry; the young, collaborators in the mission, and other people in their lives; men and women who’ve shown them the real meaning of heroism; and finally, those who’ve “put up with” them in daily community life.
At the dinner the 50-years-professed confreres were presented, on behalf of the Rector Major, with a statuette of Don Bosco. As the senior confrere present, Fr. Phil Pascucci (right, in photo above) presented the statuette to Fr. Tom, and Fr. Tom presented one to Fr. Joseph Ho. Frs. Harkins and Iannaccio and Bro. Iovacchini, who weren’t present, will receive theirs at another time.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Homily for 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily for the
25th Sunday

in Ordinary Time
Sept. 23, 1984
Matt 20: 1-16
Salesian Junior Seminary, Goshen, N.Y.

I won't be using a written text for my homily tomorrow, but it will be on this parable and will offer the same basic truths from Jesus' teaching that I presented in this homily 27 years ago.

Jesus was a tremendous teacher, a tremendous public speaker. (He probably could even have made Latin interesting.) One reason was that he told stories. These stories were interesting because they reflected everyday life. But they often had surprise endings that made a point and caught his listeners off guard. The ending, and the point, were frequently beyond our everyday experience.


Grapes photographed by Mary DeTurris Poust at the Abbey of the Genesee

The parable in today’s gospel is a case in point. We have a vineyard—a likely setting not only in 1st-century Palestine but also in this part of NY State. We have a landowner who needs harvesters, and we have the unemployed hanging out in a central spot.

The landowner hires the men for a denarius each—an honest day’s pay for 12 hours (the ordinary workday was dawn to dusk). As the parable goes on, the man keeps returning to the town square and hiring more workers, but the monetary arrangement is left somewhat vaguer: “I will give you whatever is just” (20:4).

The day ends, and the foreman brings out the pay. So far, so good. We expect the 1st hired will get paid 1st and the last hired, last, and the workers will be paid in proportion to their work.

As you heard, we get surprised. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. The 1st reading tipped us off when Isaiah proclaimed, “My thoughts aren’t your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord” (55:8).

What’s going on here? What’s the point that Jesus is trying to make?

As we know from numerous situations in the Gospel, Jesus was criticized by the religious leaders for associating with people whose lives were tarnished, people who didn’t lead 100%-pure lives: publicans, the men who collected taxes for the Roman oppressors and grew fat by gouging their fellow Jews; and that broad category of people called “sinners,” those who didn’t observe all the details of the Law—maybe they ate unclean foods, maybe they did work that was ritually unclean, maybe they dealt regularly with the Gentiles, maybe they didn’t go to the synagog, maybe they talked in study hall, and of course, maybe they did things that we too would consider sinful.

Jacob Willemsz de Wet's painting of the workers in the vineyard coming to collect their day's wage

The outlook of the Pharisees was simply to avoid these people and let them go to hell. They didn’t want to get soiled themselves, and many of them took intense pride in their own uprightness and legal perfection. You remember that other parable Jesus told, the one about the Pharisee and the publican who went up to the temple to pray, and how they prayed, and which one Jesus commended (Luke 18:9-14).

To the scandal of the Pharisees, Jesus not only associated with these so-called riff-raff, but he enjoyed their company and won many of them over. These were ordinary, struggling human beings, trying to make a living, trying to have a little fun in a very hard everyday life, and trying, essentially, to be decent people. And Jesus makes 3 points in the parable:

1. At what point we accept the Lord’s invitation doesn’t matter. All who answer the call can come into the kingdom and be full citizens in it.

2. Eternal life—membership in the kingdom of heaven—is a freely-given gift of God. We don’t earn it. We don’t deserve it. It’s not measured out according to how much time or effort we put into it. The only criterion is Christ’s call and our answer. And,

3. We have no business comparing ourselves to anyone else in the vineyard. If, in the last analysis, we’re all sinners and all forgiven by God in Christ, how can we be upset about whom he forgives, or when he forgives them, or how he forgives them, or what gifts he gives them? How can we think that we can judge anyone’s fitness for eternal life, when we could still be standing around the square waiting for the Lord, or anyone else, to pay attention to us?

Perhaps we can remember these points in our own lives when it comes to dealing with other people. Jesus has invited us to be in his kingdom, and all of us need that invitation, i.e., need to be saved from our sinfulness. I’m struggling with my sinfulness, and I have to allow that you’re struggling not only with mine but your own. We’re challenged to be patient, considerate, generous with one another, like the master of the vineyard, and not to jump on top of each other all the time. We can appreciate his goodness to us; we can also appreciate his goodness to everyone else and give them time to grow—an especially important point for us in the seminary, and also for families.

May the Lord grant us not only his forgiveness but some of his own large-heartedness.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fr. Joseph Bajorek, SDB

Fr. Joseph Bajorek, SDB (1916-2011)

Fr. Joseph Stanislaus Bajorek, SDB, died on Sept. 14, 2011, at the Van Dyk Manor nursing home in Ridgewood, N.J. At 95 years of age, he was the senior member of the Salesians’ New Rochelle Province. He had been a member of the Salesian community of Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J., since 2002. Although suffering from dementia for several years as a result of vascular disease, he had been in reasonably good health otherwise until recently.

Fr. Bajorek born on March 8, 1916, in Yonkers to Clement and Rose Kieltyka Bajorek, members of St. Casimir’s Parish, where Joseph was baptized four days later. He was also confirmed at St. Casimir when he was eleven.

Joe enrolled in Don Bosco Polish Institute—now Don Bosco Prep—in 1930, and upon his graduation four years later entered St. Joseph’s Novitiate at Newton, N.J. He made his first profession of vows as a Salesian on Sept. 8, 1935, and then did his college studies at Don Bosco Seminary, graduating with a B.A., cum laude, in 1938. During his senior year he also served as a teacher and general assistant of the high school seminarians on the same campus.

As Bro. Joe he continued his practical training at Salesian High School in New Rochelle in 1938-1940, teaching English and beginning a master’s degree program at Fordham University. He studied theology in Newton from 1940 to 1945, his studies interrupted in 1941-1942 by a serious case of tuberculosis. In the 10-point grading system used at the time, he average 9.4 over his four years of study. He was ordained by Bishop Thomas McLaughlin of Paterson in Newton on July 1, 1945, together with Frs. Victor Andreoni and Charles Farina of the San Francisco Province.

Following ordination he was assigned for one year to his alma mater, Don Bosco Prep, as teacher and what was then called “catechist.” He would return there for an eleven-year stint, in 1954-1965, again as catechist (till 1960) and teacher. In between, he taught at Don Bosco College for eight years (1946-1954). He also taught for a year (1956-1957) at Queen of Apostles College in Harriman, N.Y.

Fr. Bajorek had a brilliant mind and, whether at the high school or the college level, was highly regarded as an educator.

He wrote in 1981 that in addition to English he “also taught other subjects—the hard way—as they were assigned to me. These included French, history, general science, and other [sic].” By “the hard way” he seems to have meant that he wasn’t especially qualified in those subjects, as he was in English. He also indicates elsewhere that he taught some Latin. As regards the catechist assignment, he wrote in 1981, “It may be presumptuous on my part to equate the Catechist of an earlier era with today’s DRA,” who in 2011 is known as the coordinator of youth ministry (CYM). The catechist prepared religious services and looked after the infirmary—in that era all the Salesian schools were boarding schools.

From 1948 to 1950 he completed his M.A. in English at Fordham, specializing in British literature; his dissertation was entitled “The Acquaintance of Adam Mickiewicz with English Writers and English Literature.” From 1965 to 1974 he was president of Don Bosco College Seminary in Newton. Ironically, he completed a PhD in education from NYU in 1976 after completing his presidential term. His unpublished dissertation, The Council of Trent and the Second Vatican Council: a comparison of objectives and policies in seminary training, runs 514 pages.

Fr. Bajorek became College president just after the College won accreditation by the Middle States Association. According to a report in the Newark archdiocesan newspaper, The Advocate (Sept. 30, 1965), he was "the first official president" of the College--the dean of students having filled that function previously. As president he strove to meet and maintain the standards expected by that organization as well as the State of New Jersey and the U.S. Department of Education. During his term non-Salesian students began to take courses there, including Salesian sisters, Benedictine monks, and Capuchin seminarians. Some of the faculty came from the same groups, as well as a few laymen, especially to teach the sciences. Beefing up the math and science departments was an accomplishment of Fr. Bajorek’s term, in response to a need of the province for qualified school teachers in those areas. Another concern was to develop suitable academic programs for coadjutor brothers, who had no need to major in philosophy. He was also well aware that the seminarians had to balance their academic work with apostolic activities such as teaching CCD, helping out on weekend retreats, and assisting in the boys club on campus.

Fr. Bajorek had a very dry sense of humor. For instance, one of his favorite jokes in Newton was to ask the brother who came around in the morning to empty the waste baskets whether business was picking up.

Upon stepping down as college president in 1974, Fr. Bajorek became vice director of the Salesian Center in Columbus. The community was mostly the students of theology taking courses at the Pontifical College Josephinum but also included the staff of the Salesian Boys Club and some brothers studying at other colleges. He remained in Columbus until 1979.

In 1979 Fr. Bajorek came to the provincial residence in New Rochelle to serve a single three-year term as director. He was then assigned as assistant pastor at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Mahwah for twenty years (1982-2002), where his fluency in Polish proved a useful pastoral asset. A former provincial, Fr. Jim Heuser, said, "Regarded as a man of deep devotion, he was zealous in administering the sacraments and the epitome of gentleness in his dealings with all."

Fr. Bajorek retired to Don Bosco Prep in 2002 and remained there until November 2010, a content and treasured member of the Salesian community. Health needs led to his moving into Van Dyk Manor for his last months.

Fr. Joe Bajorek (right) with his friend Fr. Chester Szemborski at the province's jubilee celebration in 2005.

Fr. Bajorek is survived by three nieces: Joan Takacs of Melbourne, Fla., Julia Murdzek of Simsbury, Conn., and Lucia Melnychuk of Rye Brook, N.Y.

Fr. Bajorek was waked in Mary Help of Christians Chapel at Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey on Sept. 16. The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on Sept. 17, Fr. Tom Dunne presiding and Fr. Jay Horan preaching. Fr. Bajorek was laid to rest in the Salesian Cemetery at Goshen.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Homily for 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily for the
24th Sunday
in Ordinary Time

Sir 27:30—28:7
Matt 18: 21-35
Sept. 11, 2011
Christian Brothers,[1] Iona College, N.R.

“Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight” (Sir 27: 30).

Here’s a photo taken at Seton Scout Reservation in Greenwich in January 1997. [2]


In it you see me with Troop 40’s Scoutmaster Michael Andrew Boccardi (behind the Coleman stove) and an assistant scoutmaster (Ron Dingler).


You’ll find Mike’s name on one of the plaques at Ground Zero.
Each of the plaques at Ground Zero has 11 columns of names--and I don't know how many names are in each column, but it looks like at least 30--of those who were murdered here by religious fanatics. Photo 2/24/05.


He worked as an investment broker on the 97th floor of the North Tower. Mike was an Eagle Scout, bred in Troop 40, and became Scoutmaster when he was 23, and he was 30 on 9/11. Altho his job was investments, his life was young people. You don’t often see 15- and 16-year-old boys cry, but they did after 9/11, and some—older now, obviously, still do. We’ll have a memorial Mass for him tomorrow at St. Ursula’s in Mt. Vernon, where Troop 40’s based, and there will be more tears, probably including mine.

9/11 provoked tears and anger and much more in all of us. Therefore it’s important for us to listen to the inspired wisdom of Jesus ben Sirach in today’s 1st reading as well as the divine teaching of Jesus of Nazareth in the gospel: “Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. The vengeful will suffer the Lord’s vengeance…. Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven” (Sir 27:30, 28:1-2). “In anger his master handed him over to the torturers…. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart” (Matt 18:34-35).

Without a doubt Americans felt justifiable anger on 9/11—the more so when we saw of Palestinians dancing in the streets after the towers came down.

What we justifiably felt, however, is distinct from justifiable responses. As Sirach indicates, hugging our anger and allowing it to dictate a vengeful response isn’t acceptable to the Lord. Indeed, Jesus our Redeemer commands us to forgive.

How did you react when you heard that our Seals had gotten Osama bin Laden? You probably didn’t dance in the streets; but some of our fellow citizens practically did. Did you smile? Did you exclaim, “Yes!” Did you hear and agree with the Vatican’s statement: “In the face of a man’s death, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibilities of each person before God and before men, and hopes and works so that every event may be the occasion for the further growth of peace and not of hatred”?[3] Did you pray for Osama, then or earlier, asking God to change his heart and pardon his sins? Have you ever prayed that 9/11’s 19 hijackers and all the other murderous terrorists be forgiven and saved in God’s mercy?

It’s not our place to determine whether they owed God 10,000 talents, compared with our mere 100 denarii (cf. Matt 28:23-34). (The late biblical scholar Fr. Raymond Brown informs us: “The annual income of King Herod was 900 talents; thus the 10,000 talents forgiven by the master can be expressed in our terms by ‘billions.’ It would amount to about fifty million denarii, contrasted to the hundred denarii not forgiven to the fellow servant.”[4] It’s not our place to weigh our sins in God’s balance, for “he remembers sins in detail,” Sirach says (28:1), and—given our gifts of family, education, freedom, and faith—perhaps our sins weigh a lot more than we imagine. (I hope not, but I have to trust in God’s mercy, and entrust to that same mercy everyone else, no matter how much I detest their attitude or their behavior.)

Forgiving those who hate us and seek our harm, and praying for the conversion of their hearts, doesn’t mean doing nothing. Speaking as president of the American bishops, Abp. Dolan earlier this week offered an appropriate twofold response to 9/11 or any similar moral outrage.[5] One response is, “We resolve today and always to reject hatred and resist terrorism.” That is, we act to defend ourselves and to protect others from murderous behavior, from oppression, and to bring to justice those who wage war on the innocent or commit any other crime. We do so not with indiscriminate vengeance on our minds, not to “get even,” but only with reasoned and measured actions to remove threats against ourselves or others.

The 2d response is: “We remember how our nation responded to the terrifying events of that day—we turned to prayer, and then turned to one another to offer help and support. Hands were folded in prayer and opened in service to those who had lost so much.” And in his own column in this week’s Catholic New York, our archbishop expanded on that: “New Yorkers were shocked, scared, angry, saddened and shaken by the unforgettable death and destruction of 9/11, true; but, New Yorkers were not paralyzed or defeated! They immediately rallied, becoming people of intense faith, prayer, hope, and love, as the rescue, renewal, resilience, rebuilding, and outreach began. And it has not stopped since.”[6] Great and horrible events, whether man-made or natural, whether a 9/11 or an earthquake in Haiti, remind us of our limitations, our frailty, the very temporary nature of our lives, and our dependence upon God for our safety and our salvation. They also remind us how much we need and depend upon one another and how much we can truly do for one another, even in our frailty.

Let’s close with the prayer offered by Pope Benedict when he visited Ground Zero on April 20, 2008: “O God of love, compassion, and healing, look on us, people of many different faiths and traditions, who gather today at this site, the scene of incredible violence and pain….

“God of understanding, overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy, we seek your light and guidance as we confront such terrible events. Grant that those whose lives were spared may live so that the lives lost here may not have been lost in vain. Comfort and console us, strengthen us in hope, and give us the wisdom and courage to work tirelessly for a world where true peace and love reign among nations and in the hearts of all.”


[1] With as many lay people present this evening as brothers.
[2] The photo hangs in my room near my desk.


Photo lifted from The Deacon's Bench

Friday, September 9, 2011

Salesians Commission Volunteers for 2011-2012

Salesians Commission
Volunteers for 2011-2012
The Salesians of Don Bosco in the U.S. have commissioned 14 lay volunteers for mission during 2011-2012. Thirteen will serve as Salesian Lay Missioners (SLMs) in Salesian missions overseas, and one will serve as a Salesian Domestic Volunteer at Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park, Md.

The volunteers received two weeks of orientation at Maryknoll and a Salesian summer day camp in Port Chester, N.Y., followed by a week of retreat with Salesians at Haverstraw-Stony Point, N.Y. The 14 were commissioned during Mass closing out the retreat on August 6. Fr. Tom Dunne, provincial of the SDBs in the Eastern U.S. and Canada, presided over the commissioning.

The 14 volunteers include 11 women and 3 men. They come from California, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.

Pictured with the newly commissioned SLMs and SDV are Adam Rudin, SLM program director (back row at left), and Jayne Feeney, his assistant (back row center); Fr. Steve Ryan, in charge of the Province Office of Youth Ministry (arm on Adam); Meg Fraino, SDV program director (back row, 3d from left); Fr. Mark Hyde (in vestments), director of Salesian Missions, to which the SLMs are attached; and Fr. Tom Dunne (back row, at right).

Eight volunteers are in the their 20s, recent graduates of Aquinas College (Grand Rapids), Catholic University of America (Washington), Gettysburg College, University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers (New Brunswick, N.J.), Texas A & M (College Station), or finishing up at Texas Tech (Lubbock). Three are in their 30s and three in their 50s, leaving behind or taking temporary leave from careers in education, health care, youth ministry, and business.

Six of the overseas volunteers will serve in Bolivia, two in Cambodia, three in Ethiopia, and two in the Far East. Some will teach English in Salesian schools, some will teach other skills, some will care for orphans, some will do community outreach, and one will help in a parish. Not all the sites are Salesian, but all look after poor young people who are at risk.

Seven of the volunteers left for their missions by the end of August and one on Labor Day. Another four expect to depart in the third week of September. The last two will take leave after Christmas.

The commissioning Mass was attended by almost two dozen Salesians, by the family of one SLM, by friends of others, and by three returned SLMs who had served in Rwanda and Ethiopia. Taking note of the presence of all these, Fr. Tom said in his homily, “No one goes overseas alone.” They go, he said, with the support of many other people and with contact with others.

Fr. Tom observed that at the Transfiguration of Jesus (the feast of Aug. 6), Peter, James, and John had nothing with them when they met God on the mountaintop. When they and the rest of the apostles went out to preach the Good News, God was all they had to depend upon; they had to leave behind all their extra “tools” like extra clothes and money. He told the soon-to-depart missionaries that they also would have to leave a lot behind when they went out to be evangelizers. He cited the examples of people he knew who did just that and had life-changing experiences: meeting the Lord in their own emptiness and in the joy of the people to whom they were sent.

The Salesian Lay Missioners include:

Aubrey Brewis is from Plymouth, Mich. After graduating from the University of Michigan with majors in sport management and communications, Aubrey worked as a celebrity consultant with Octagon in Washington, D.C. She left on August 28 to serve at Hogar Sagrado Corazon, a girls orphanage, in Montero, Bolivia. Aubrey says that she hopes to “grow closer to God through serving my brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Katie Chandonnet is from Fremont, Mich. She just graduated from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, majoring in Spanish and minoring in teaching ESL. Katie left on August 28 to serve with the Salesian Sisters at Colegio San Francisco Javier in Okinawa, Bolivia, teaching English and doing community outreach. She says, “I joined the SLMs in order to work and live in a community where I get the opportunity to challenge the youth and myself both physically and spiritually, creating an environment that encourages growth in faith, hope, and love.”

Marnie Commins is from Fairfax Station, Va. Her older brother Christopher was an SLM in India in 2009-2010. Marnie just graduated from Gettysburg College, majoring in health sciences. She left on August 29 for Don Bosco Mekanessa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to serve as an English teacher, with the intention of “serving Christ through the young and the poor.”

Kaitlin Darnell is from Henrietta, Tex. She is a senior at Texas Tech in Lubbock, majoring in exercise sport science and education, and planning to graduate this fall. She expects to depart just after Christmas for Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to serve with the Salesian Sisters at Don Bosco Skills Training Center, working with young girls. She says that she’s becoming an SLM “to serve, to share God’s love.”

Marcelle Farhat is from North Brunswick, N.J. She is a graduate of Rutgers University, where she earned a B.A. in math and an M.A. in math education. Marcelle will leave on September 5 to serve with the Salesian Sisters at Colegio San Francisco Javier in Okinawa, Bolivia, teaching and doing community outreach. She wants to “love Christ by serving and loving the least of us” and “to give a year back as I’ve been given so much.”

Carmen Hilmes is from Atlanta. She is taking a leave from her job as operations manager for the TAS Group in Alpharetta, Ga. She is planning a September 21 departure for Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to serve with the Salesian Sisters at Don Bosco Skills Training Center, teaching young girls. Carmen wishes “to experience service and immersion into another culture” and help others, sharing “her life talents in any way God is willing to use [her] open hands.”

Angela Marie Maiorano is from Claremont, Calif. She’s a passionate Dodgers fan. Angela has volunteered with the Olancho Aid Foundation as a junior high school teacher in Honduras and was a chaperone for World Youth Day in Sydney in 2008. She’s planning to leave on September 21 to serve at Hogar San Francisco, a girls orphanage in Cochabamba, Bolivia. She says, “In order to meet Jesus fully, I need to be with my brothers and sisters in various situations” and “community is also important.”

Judy Mathias is from Beaverton, Ore. She has taken a leave from her supervisory position with Legacy Health in order to serve at Hogar San Francisco, a girls orphanage in Cochabamba, Bolivia. She has done several short overseas mission trips in recent years. Judy says: “The Salesian spirituality touched my heart. I want to live out that spirituality of joy and service, working with youth with the support and prayers of the Salesian community.” She’ll leave for Bolivia on September 23.

Paul Miller is from Marietta, Ga. After retiring from the airline industry, Paul recently completed a certification course in ecclesial ministry at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala., and will begin practicing ministry with the Salesians at Don Bosco Catholic Church in Dilla, Ethiopia. He plans to depart on September 20 and expects to teach and to help in the health clinic and feeding center there. He want “to serve youth by my example and to radiate the love of Christ.”

Marie Prosser comes from Ellicott City, Md. Marie has already done a year of domestic volunteer service with the Capuchins. Marie earned a B.S. in chemical engineering at the University of Delaware and then an MAT in secondary science from the College of Notre Dame of Maryland. Influenced in part by participating in World Youth Day at Cologne in 2005, for some time she has wanted to teach in Africa. After a seven years’ teaching experience, including two at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Baltimore, she believes she’s ready now to teach overseas. Planning a January 2012 departure, she’ll teach English at Don Bosco Mekanessa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Marie says, “Don Bosco is awesome!”

Mona Rominger is from San Antonio, Tex. Mona attended Texas A&M, majoring in sociology. She left on August 29 for her mission at Hogar Sagrado Corazon, a girls orphanage, in Montero, Bolivia. As an SLM she hopes “to grow in love, to surrender myself and my life for the greater good of my brothers and sisters, to love fully and give graciously.”

Cathleen Soltis is from Julian, Pa. She graduated from Lock Haven University with a major in math. As a Salesian Domestic Volunteer, Cathleen will teach and engage in youth ministry at Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park, Md., which is co-sponsored by the Salesians and the Archdiocese of Washington. Already a deeply committed Christian, she entered the Catholic Church last spring. At DBCR, where the school year began late in August, she hopes to deepen her faith as she helps the students grow in theirs. She’ll be working with another Domestic Volunteer, Kelly Schuster, who went to DBCR last year and loved the ministry so much that she’s doing a second volunteer year.

For information about the Salesian Lay Missioners: http://www.salesianlaymissioners.org/

For information about the Salesian Domestic Volunteers: http://www.salesianym.com/domesticvolunteers/

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Homily for 23d Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily for the
23d Sunday
in Ordinary Time

Sept. 4, 2011
Matt 18: 15-20
Christian Brothers, Iona College, N.R.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone” (Matt 18: 15).

Matthew’s 18th chapter, composed some 5 decades after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, deals with some practical matters of church life.

The passage immediately preceding our gospel reading this evening is the parable of the lost sheep (18:10-14), which instructs the shepherds of God’s flock to go looking for those who stray and to restore them to the safety of the flock and its shepherds. It also confirms the identity between the shepherds and heaven by comparing the shepherd’s joy when he recovers a lost sheep with the rejoicing in heaven over one sinner’s repentance.

Then we come to our passage on fraternal and ecclesiastical correction, i.e., to a passage that speaks of how someone actually goes about recovering a strayed sheep.

In recent years the Church has certainly seen the immense cost—in financial, moral, and pastoral terms—of our failures in fraternal correction. Those failures may have been due to ignorance, poor judgment, cowardice, misplaced priorities, or some other reason, but failure to protect and guide the flock of God there was.

Correction is one of the hardest tasks one can have. Every parent of a teenager knows that only too well. So does any English teacher who’s tried to straighten out kids’ grammar. How much greater the challenge of that moral correction of which Jesus speaks: “if your brother sins….”

The 1st challenge most of us face, whether parents or religious, is the acute awareness of our own shortcomings and sinfulness. Jesus, after all, also tells us to remove the 2x4 from our own eye before trying to get a splinter out of someone else’s (Matt 7:5). Parents talking to teens and tweens about alcohol or cigarettes may be challenged about their own habits; and perhaps challenged also about their youthful experimentations when counseling about sex and drugs. Religious superiors calling their confreres to renewed poverty, more prudence regarding chastity, more willing obedience may be challenged about their own habits, past and present. Humility, tact, and more are demanded of whoever would practice fraternal correction.

The 2d challenge is to discern when to correct. The Gospel speaks of “sin,” not of every annoying habit that a confrere or family member might have. What is serious enuf to warrant intervention, and at what level of intervention? Jesus speaks of one-to-one intervention, of small group intervention, and of action by the entire community. The one considering another’s fault would do well to weigh matters carefully and to pray over the situation.

A 3d concern is the seriousness of this issue. I alluded already to the scandal caused by the Church’s failures to correct straying sheep. In the 1st reading, Ezekiel compares the prophet to a watchman, a sentry (33:7-9). The sentry is responsible for protecting an encampment or a city against its enemies, and the results of his failure to be alert, his failure to challenge any encroachment, could be disastrous. His speaking out against all who approach, his providing of warning to all within, are a practical act of that love of which St. Paul speaks today: all the commandments are summed up in love of neighbor (Rom 13:8-10).

Correction of a brother or sister who’s doing something wrong is a practical act of love for that brother or sister. It may also be an act of love for the larger community, protecting it from physical or moral harm, from bad example, from false doctrine. Thus a family member has a serious responsibility to intervene if a parent, a son, a guest is using alcohol before driving; a superior or a brother has a responsibility to intervene when a confrere is flouting some aspect of the Rule; the Church hierarchy has a responsibility to intervene when someone publicly teaches false doctrine or advocates immoral behavior.

A 4th consideration is the purpose of such interventions. Note that Jesus says, “If he listens to you, you have won over your brother” (18:15). The aim of fraternal correction is the restoration of harmony, of good order, in the community, in the family; it’s the salvation of someone who’s wandered off the way of Jesus. Many a parent has, with sorrow, punished a child “for the child’s own good.” Sometimes parents have to resort to tough love because nothing else has worked, and sometimes religious superiors and bishops have to do so too. The burden on them all is that the motive must be love and not retaliation, not venting their frustration, not compelling the sinner to conform to some personal ideal of the parent or superior, not some other self-interested motive.

Finally, Jesus instructs the disciples to treat a recalcitrant sinner “as you would a Gentile or a tax collector” (18:19). The brother who refuses to listen to the Church is no longer to be considered a brother but an outsider, cut off from fellowship, from communion.

This, however, doesn’t mean to utterly abandon the sinner; for Jesus doesn’t abandon tax collectors and Gentiles. Even if we should have to separate a brother from the community because of some grievous fault; even if the Church should have to excommunicate someone because of his behavior or doctrine—we remain obliged to imitate Christ’s love for that person in our own behavior, to pray for him, to continue to offer the hope of redemption. This runs counter to our instincts, as Jesus’ treatment of tax collectors and sinners ran counter to accepted practice among his fellow Jews; we want to cut off completely people who disagree with us or who’ve grievously offended us, to give them up as hopeless, lost, irredeemable.

Not so Jesus. Even as he recognizes people as outsiders—cf. his treatment of the Syro-Phoenician woman in the gospel 3 weeks ago—he still invites them to come to faith, to repent, to join or rejoin the community. He never withholds forgiveness from those who are open to the grace that’s ever on offer. And forgiveness will be the subject of Jesus’ teaching as this 18th chapter of Matthew continues—ironically, or providentially, in our gospel reading next week: Sept. 11.

When Unexpected Guests Drop In

When Unexpected Guests Drop In
One of the ministries of our community here at the provincial house is hospitality. We receive guests from all over the Salesian world, coming to the New York area on business or pleasure; and family members, friends, alumni, members of the Salesian Family, friends of friends, et al.



Sometimes unexpected guests drop in--like Fr. Benedict Groeschel late one nite when there'd been very heavy rain and he couldn't get to his own home at nearby Trinity Retreat House because the street was flooded.

And then there are the flying squirrels (photo). Five of them have dropped in on us without any prior announcement (who even knew they were in the neighborhood?).
On Aug. 26 I found what turned out to be such a critter in a 5-gallon catch-bucket that I keep under a broken drainpipe in Salesiana Publishers' book storeroom. I took it to the New Rochelle Humane Society, who were entranced and, with the help of the Wildlife Help Hotline, soon found it a home--as I learned this morning when I found 4 more, siblings of the 1st presumably, in the same bucket and called the NRHS for advice. They directed me to the WHH, which in turn connected me with the adoptive mother of sib no. 1, to whom I delivered them late this a.m.

They're cute, but no one here wants to raise them. Even after we had a mouse problem a couple of months ago, I can't convince the guys to get another cat to replace Tinkerbelle,
who dropped in unannounced and hungry one morning, and stayed for 12 or 15 years (no one remembers exactly when she showed up) after Bro. Andy and I fed her, and attempts to find her owner failed--she was wearing a NRHS license. She passed on to the Happy Mousing Grounds on Feb. 7, 2009.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

God Bless the Salesians!

God Bless the Salesians!

Last year around this time, Fr. Steve Leake, director of the house of formation in Orange, N.J., blogged that the house was full (http://salesianity.blogspot.com/2010/09/salesian-vocations-2010.html)--with candidates to SDB life; young, recently professed SDBs; and of course their staff/guides ("formators").

This year five of those candidates have moved on to the novitiate (http://sdbnews.blogspot.com/2011/08/five-new-novices-for-new-rochelle.html), five of the young SDBs have gone off to practical training in one of the houses, and one has been ordained (http://sdbnews.blogspot.com/2011/07/fathers-matt-de-gance-and-mike.html) and come to Salesian HS here in N.R. In their places have come one young SDB starting his theological studies, four who just finished their novitiate and made their 1st professions (http://sdbnews.blogspot.com/2011/08/three-new-brothers-for-new-rochelle.html), and a new batch of candidates.

The net result is a host of 22 men in the various stages of formation in the house at Orange: 7 young professed SDBs (from both U.S. provinces) and 15 candidates (for the Eastern Province), as seen in the photo above, sent out by Fr. Dominic Tran, our vocation director.

God is indeed blessing the Salesians in recent years.

Homily for 22d Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily for the
22d Sunday

in Ordinary Time
Aug. 28, 2011
Matt 16: 21-27

I was scheduled to celebrate 2 Masses at St. Michael's in Greenwich again on Sunday, but Hurricane Irene changed a lot of people's Sunday plans. Here's the homily I prepared but didn't get to preach.


“Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly” (Matt 16: 21).

Last week, in the gospel passage immediately preceding this one, Simon Peter identified Jesus as the Christ, the Anointed One of God. Jesus admitted to that identification and brought out some of the implications of who he is. The passage ended with an admonition from Jesus that the apostles should “tell no one that he was the Christ” (16:20).

Why tell no one? Isn’t Jesus’ message “Good News”—which is the literal meaning of Gospel? For now, tell no one because no one understands what being God’s Anointed really means. They don’t understand the nature of this Good News. Not even the apostles. Not even Simon Peter.

Jesus today begins to explain his mission as the Christ. He is to suffer, to be subjected to the cruelty of the rulers of the earth, to be killed—and to rise.

Peter and all the apostles, and every other 1st-century Jew, expected that the Christ, the Son of David, Anointed of God, would be a worldly ruler who would deliver Israel from foreign oppression and exalt Israel above all other nations. The Messiah would bring hope and change; would inaugurate an unending golden age.

So the apostles, Peter included, don’t understand this suffering stuff, and they’re not ready to accept it.

Furthermore, they see and reject the implications: if our leader should suffer and die, what about us?

That’s right, Jesus says: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (16:24). The way to the glory that you seek—a different kind of glory than you imagine, entirely different because it’s not worldly at all—is the way of the cross. And everyone who belongs to the Christ must walk that way with him in order to attain the glory—resurrection, the “saving” of your life (16:25) for eternity. Everyone must suffer and die before rising and attaining the glory of the kingdom of God when the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and repay everyone according to his conduct” (16:27).

What does it mean to take up Christ’s cross and deny yourself? Jesus draws out a distinction between saving one’s life in this world, profiting in this world, and carrying his cross, following him, even losing our lives for his sake. The way of the world is not the way of Christ. The way of the world is power and pleasure, self-seeking and wealth; the way of Christ is self-emptying, seeking God, service, building up and assisting our sisters and brothers.

At World Youth Day a few days ago, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the Way of the Cross with hundreds of thousands of young people from around the world. Among other things, he told them: “Christ’s passion urges us to take upon our own shoulders the sufferings of the world, in the certainty that God is not distant or far removed from man and his troubles,” because Christ became human himself, enduring suffering and death. The Pope prayed that Christ’s love would “increase your joy and encourage you to go in search of those less fortunate. You are open to the idea of sharing your lives with others, so be sure not to pass by on the other side” of the road “in the face of human suffering, for it is here that God expects you to give of your very best: your capacity for love and compassion.”[1]

Further, to follow Christ we may have to say and do things that aren’t popular, that aren’t politically correct, that are counter-cultural: about the dignity of every human being, about local and national priorities, about what our children should be taught, about family life. As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, our hearts will be where our treasure is (Matt 6:21). We have to decide what we treasure: the values and pseudo-truths that society and the culture promote— Hollywood and slick magazines and advertising in general, the New York Times and politics and academia; or the values and authentic truths that the Bible teaches, and the successor of St. Peter and the bishops and the entire Catholic tradition. From what will we seek to profit? “What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?” (16:26).

There’s another truth about carrying the cross with Jesus. We’re going to suffer in this world, whether we like it or not, whether we choose it or not. And we’re going to die eventually. We don’t have to like those facts, and we shouldn’t like them, but we can’t deny them. We can accept inevitable suffering—not seek it out, and trying to mitigate it as best we can—but what’s unavoidable, we can finally accept with grace, and inevitable death as well as part of our personal union with Jesus Christ. Jesus accepted these as part of the human condition, the deepest evidence of how close God is to us, how much God wants to be with us, and to have us be with him forever. In the patristic reading for the Divine Office today, St. Augustine writes:

Let us then follow Christ’s paths which he has revealed to us, above all the path of humility, which he himself became for us. He showed us that path by his precepts, and he himself followed it by his suffering on our behalf. In order to die for us—because as God he could not die—the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The immortal One took on mortality that he might die for us, and by dying put to death our death.[2]

We reciprocate by saying, “Yes, Jesus, I will walk along with you, carrying my own cross”— anxiety, pain, illness, bad news, spoiled plans, loss, betrayals, all “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” all the unpleasantness life throws at us. Whatever we suffer, whether it be because we’re disciples of Jesus or simply because we’re frail human beings, we can turn our sufferings into Christian worship. That’s what St. Paul says in the 2d reading today: “I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship” (Rom 12:1). We don’t offer our bodies as literal holocausts on an altar, as various pagan religions have done thru human sacrifice; we offer them in a spiritual sense—offer whatever is related to our bodies, our emotions, our minds: pain, illness, anxiety, bad news, and, yes, resistance to temptation, because oftentimes (we all know it) our bodies make war on our souls; many of the 7 deadly sins are bodily-based.
Whatever life throws at us is no worse, no less fair, than the cross of Jesus, his “great suffering from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes” (Matt 16:21)—the suffering of the most innocent human being who ever was. But if we’ll follow him with our own cross, then surely we’ll end up where he did: passing from the cross to resurrection and everlasting life.

[1] As reported by Catholic News Service, 8/19/11.
[2] Sermon 23A, LOH 4:189.