thanks Fr. Tom Dunne for his leadership service
As has been customary in recent decades, the annual spring meeting of the New Rochelle Province’s leadership concluded with the Province Day celebration, held at Our Lady of the Valley Church in Orange, N.J., on Saturday, March 21. It was the first full day of spring—and, unlike the preceding quarter-day of spring (the evening of March 20), although there was a chill in the air, there wasn’t any snow; in fact, for a while there was glorious sunshine.
|Bros. Henry Van der Velden and Bruno Busatto chatting before Mass|
|Frs. Shafran, Dunne, and Dumais at their chairs|
Getting more serious, Fr. Tom called the new season and the change in the weather a sign of God’s providence, an illustration of the coming of light and life after our harsh winter.
Jesus on trial (in absentia), and searching for an encounter with God
Taking up the Lenten weekday’s gospel reading (John 7:40-53) as the basis for his homily, Fr. Tom pointed out that Jesus has come to Jerusalem, where he encounters increasing opposition from the religious leaders. They’ve noticed his deeds and his dealings with sinners, and they feel that their power and prestige are being threatened.
Fr. Tom pointed to the courtroom atmosphere of the gospel passage, which includes a pack of prosecutors intent on justifying themselves. There’s a crowd, including the disciples, who are a jury of sorts, asked to choose or to reject Jesus. Jesus, however, isn’t present to defend himself.
|Salesian coadjutor and seminarian brothers listening to Fr. Tom|
Then Nicodemus speaks on behalf of the defendant, asking that Jesus be heard. In his earlier night session with Jesus, he’d gone from (potential) prosecutor to God-seeker. Unlike him, the other leaders are satisfied that they already possess the truth. Nicodemus didn’t understand everything, as evidenced by his dialog with Jesus, but he had experienced a life-changing conversation with Jesus, an encounter with God.
Jesus has been making it clear that no one is excluded from encountering God, from forming a relationship with God, from forgiveness, from salvation.
This Lenten season and the work of the Holy Spirit are calling Salesians today to a conversion like Nicodemus’s, calling us away from the intransigence of the religious leaders. “Do we listen to Jesus’ words in our lives?” Fr. Tom asked.
|Priests gathered at Province Day|
In his dream at age nine, John Bosco asked how he could do what God asked of him. “She will show you the way,” the gentleman of his dream told him, pointing to a majestic woman. Over the course of his life and throughout the history of the Congregation, that guidance has been realized.
Finally, Fr. Tom urged the confreres to listen to Jesus, listen to what he has to say, and remain in God’s presence.
Six years of leading and learning from the province
As soon as the liturgical ministers had processed from the sanctuary, Fr. Steve Dumais stepped to the pulpit. He surprised everyone by announcing that the local restaurant at which for many years Province Day festivities have continued after Mass had undergone a change of management, and in the process our reservation had been lost. (So the dismissal at Mass’s end really was a dismissal! Except that Fr. Steve continued speaking for nearly half an hour.)
With Fr. Tom’s six-year term of service about to conclude, and the service of some of the provincial council, Fr. Steve offered some observations about the preceding six years:
-- the young Salesians in formation bring to the province enthusiasm, optimism, joy, and hope;
-- the care that we give to our senior and sick confreres reveals the genuineness of our family spirit;
-- the ministries that we support show the depth of our commitment to the young and the poor;
-- the community is a place where we sustain our relationships;
-- the province leadership have lived up to their serious responsibilities with giftedness and dedication; here he named and paid tribute to the individual councilors who served alongside himself and Fr. Tom during the last six years;
-- meetings and planning are important; here he identified Fr. Tom as a “wonderful planner” and someone who listens readily to all points of view.
|Fr. Steve Dumais speaking after Mass|