Sunday, August 26, 2012

Three First Professions for N.R. Province

Three First Professions
for New Rochelle Province 

Bros. Steven DeMaio, SDB, Travis Gunther, SDB, and John Langan, SDB, pronounced religious vows as Salesians of Don Bosco for the first time at a Mass of Religious Profession on Tuesday, Aug. 21, in the chapel of Salesian High School in New Rochelle, N.Y.

Fr. Tom Dunne, SDB, provincial superior of the SDBs in the Eastern U.S. and Canada, received their profession.

For the first three years of their life as SDBs, men make annual vows. Ordinarily a vow for three years follows, leading up to perpetual profession at the end of six years.

Bro. Steve and Bro. John professed as members of the Salesian Society studying for the priesthood, Bro. Travis as a lay member of the Society, i.e., he will remain a brother (also called a coadjutor brother). In the Salesian Society there is equality between clerical and lay members except in what concerns the sacrament of Holy Orders.

The three newly professed men completed a year of novitiate at St. Joseph’s Novitiate in Rosemead, Calif. Prior to that, they were in two periods of formation called candidacy and prenovitiate.

Following their profession, all three will return to the SDB house of formation in Orange, N.J., to continue their religious formation and their academic studies at Seton Hall University in South Orange. Bro. Steve and Bro. John will take up studies such as philosophy that prepare for ordination, while Bro. Travis will study fine arts and education. He aspires “to continue to deepen my relationship with Christ, to get to know my new community, … to give my best in my new ministries.” He expects that art will be a vehicle of communication for him in a SDB high school, youth center, or retreat center, through which he can “communicate something to others we could not do in words” and “explore things we are struggling to understand.” Art, he writes, “lets us see the world in new ways.”

Twenty-three priests, including Bro. John’s former Franciscan pastor, Fr. Bruce Czapla, O.F.M., concelebrated, and two deacons assisted Fr. Tom. Many SDB brothers, the four current prenovices, Salesian Cooperators, family members, and friends of the newly professed also took part in the Mass, which was followed by a buffet lunch on the grounds of the high school.

The rite of profession involves a presentation of the candidates for profession and an examination of their intentions, similar to those of the rites of Baptism and Holy Orders; a homily; the pronouncing of the vow of obedience, chastity, and poverty; blessing and presentation of their religious garb to the newly professed (clerical shirts for the seminarian brothers, a medal for the lay brother); and presentation to them of the Constitutions of the Salesian Society.

The parents of the candidates accompany them before the provincial as the candidates come forward to make their vows. The parents rest their hands on their sons’ shoulders as a sign of support and of the gift they are making to the Church.

Two perpetually professed SDBs, chosen by the candidates, serve as official witnesses of the vows, like the witnesses of a marriage.

Bro. Steven Joseph DeMaio, 27, was born and raised in Sherman, Conn., and belonged to Holy Trinity Parish there. His parents, Steven and Theresa, have since moved to Towson, Md., and worship at the Church of the Nativity in Timonium. He also has two sisters.

Bro. Steve came to know the SDBs as a lay missionary volunteer in a program, called VIDES, of the Salesian Sisters. He served for six months in Lusaka, Zambia. He was so impressed by the sisters, as well as their male counterparts, there—including, he says, their “spirit, charism, joy”—that when he came home he decided to join.

He entered the formation program in Orange in 2010 as a prenovice (his missionary service being accepted as his period of candidacy). He hopes to “learn every day and experience what life has to offer” and to “continue to grow in my formation.” He hopes eventually to work in music and media as an apostolate, finding that these “really bridge the gap between young and old, religious and young person.”

He enjoyed the novitiate year in California, where he was able to meet “so many wonderful members of our Salesian Family out west,” and where he found loving support for his formation experience.

Bro. Travis Adam Gunther, 24, comes from Conway, Ark., where he and his family have belonged to St. Joseph’s Parish. His parents are Raymond and Mary Beth Gunther, and he has a younger brother, Tyler.

Bro. Travis met the SDBs through a friend who was involved already in Salesian youth ministry at a summer camp in Belle Glade, Fla. The friend invited young Travis to take a job as a counselor, and for six weeks he lived in the SDB community there, “sharing in their work, prayer, and community life.”

He was assisted in his discernment process by two of the Benedictines at Subiaco Abbey in Arkansas, and he “most appreciates” the monks’ “hospitality, prayerful life, and showing me the joys of religious life.”

In 2008 he applied to become a candidate for SDB life and went to Holy Rosary Parish in Port Chester, N.Y., for a year to assist with youth ministry there. Then he spent two years in the formation community at Orange, including his prenovitiate in 2010-2011, as well as two summers of camp apostolate in Tampa.

As a Salesian, Bro. Travis wants “to change the world, work for young people and the poor.” He loves “St. John Bosco’s spirituality,” he writes, and adds that “Salesians have fun.” “Ultimately,” he says, “I want to be a Salesian because it is where God is calling me. I also can see myself becoming a saint as a Salesian and helping others become joyful saints as well.”

During his novitiate year in California, Bro. Travis particularly enjoyed his summer apostolate at Camp St. Francis in Watsonville, where “everything we had learned about being Salesian, we had the opportunity to put into practice. I saw the best and worst in myself and with the help of God and the community was greatly affirmed in my vocation.”

Bro. John Gerard Langan, 28, is from Winsted, Conn., where he and his family have been members of St. Joseph’s Parish. His parents are Gerard and Fidelis Langan, and he has two sisters, Kathriona and Patricia.

A friend introduced Bro. John to the SDBs when he was discerning his vocation, and he followed up by reading a biography of St. John Bosco. After reading that life, he writes, he “recognized similarities in [Don Bosco’s] work with young people and my own faith journey.”

As his discernment continued, John was guided by his pastor, Fr. Bruce Czapla, O.F.M.; the SDB vocation director, Fr. Franco Pinto; and his director during his candidacy, Fr. Pat Angelucci.

John entered SDB candidacy by teaching sophomore religion at Salesian High School in New Rochelle and living with the SDBs who staff the school in 2009-2010. The following year he was a prenovice in the Orange formation community.

Returning to the Orange community, Bro. John hopes “to listen and learn more about Don Bosco and the Salesian charism and continue to deepen my relationship with Jesus Christ.”

In the future he would like to use outdoor activities, such as mountain biking, to “provide young people an opportunity to quiet themselves and recognize God’s relationship with them and who he made them to be.” He says that his own “passion” for this sport “helped me gain strength in overcoming struggles in my own life.”

Like Bro. Travis, Bro. John loved the summer experience at Camp St. Francis in Watsonville, Calif. “I had an amazing time,” he writes, “getting to know the young people and praying and playing with them. I was able to push myself beyond my comfort zone and deepen my trust in God even more.”

In his homily for the profession Mass, Fr. Tom said that the day affirmed the continuing presence of God in his Church.

Fr. Tom stressed that in religious profession the three young men were responding to the love that God first bestowed upon them, citing the words of the rite: “May God, who has shown His love … by inspiring you to make this holy decision, help you to bring it to fulfillment….” He also referred to the Scripture reading from the prophet Jeremiah (1:4-9), “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.”
Fr. Tom preaching. The 3 novices, or candidates for 1st profession, are seated in front of him.

He told the candidates for vows that they were responding to God’s personal and intimate love by committing themselves to a special relationship of love and intimacy with God. He told them that they would be assisted in developing this relationship by the Virgin Mary, Help of Christians, first disciple of Jesus, who lived in the community of the Holy Family and the community of the early Church and who served her cousin Elizabeth.

This day on which Bros. DeMaio, Gunther, and Langan have committed themselves completely to the One who loves them may well be the happiest one of their lives, Fr. Tom stated. They give their freedom over to God’s will, their love to him above all other persons, their worldly concerns for the mission to the young and the poor.

Beginnings are sweet, Fr. Tom observed. “The follow-up is more difficult.” And, like a marriage, the long-term following of Christ is a lot of work. That this relationship will grow cannot be taken for granted. The reading from St. Paul to the Ephesians (4:1-6) spoke of our relationship with God; that passage is a primary source for our lives.

He also stressed that, just as the vows are a response to God’s loving them first, the professed will have to remember that the apostolate they will do, the community they will live in, even their vows, are not theirs but his. “God loans them to us,” he said, “and we have to return them to him in better condition than we received them.”

The gospel reading (John 6:1-15) reminds us that God is the only absolute in our lives, Fr. Tom said. The simplicity with which one lives his vows should enhance one’s self-giving; it only gets complicated when the vows become laws about how one has to obey, observe boundaries, and render an account.
Fr. Tom hands the Salesian Constitutions, or Rule of Life, to Bro. Steve

Finally, Fr. Tom asked the new confreres to treasure two documents: the Mass booklet for this rite of profession, and the Salesian Constitutions. The liturgy booklet contains the readings that the newly professed chose, which express so well the self-giving they undertook in their profession. In this booklet and the Constitutions they will have sure guides to living out their commitment faithfully, practicing what St. Peter urges: “Be all the more eager to make your call and election firm, for, in doing so, you will never stumble. For, in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you” (2 Pet 1:10-11).

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