Monday, August 31, 2015

Homily for 22d Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homily for the
22d Sunday of Ordinary Time
Aug. 30, 2015
Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Holy Cross, Fairfield

“The Pharisees with some scribes … observed that some of Jesus’ disciples ate their meals with unclean hands” (Mark 7: 1-2).
The Pharisees questioning Jesus (James Tissot)

The Pharisees have a really bad reputation, and the term has become a synonym for “hypocrite” (see Matt 23).  In fact, they were “serious and devout believers [who] wanted to live their relationship with God in such a complete and continuous way that they would always be in a fit state to enter communion with him.  They tried to live their whole lives as if they were in the temple,” and that required strict observance of all the laws of ritual purity.[1]

The scribes were the scholars and teachers of the Law, the legal experts.

The ritual laws weren’t concerned with moral matters, e.g., the 10 Commandments, but matters like clean and unclean food; contact with blood or other body fluids; bodily sores of various kinds (“leprosy”); contact with Gentiles; contact with a corpse (fear of that is probably why the priest and the Levite pass by the man who has been left for dead on the road to Jericho in the parable of the Good Samaritan); details of Sabbath observance (how far you could walk, what constituted work); and—as in today’s gospel—washing.[2]

Members of both groups come to Jesus, upset that he—a devout Jew and a teacher (rabbi) with a large following of disciples—apparently permits some of his followers to eat without washing properly.  This is one of several contentious issues between these groups and Jesus; elsewhere, they object because he heals on the Sabbath, which they think is work; and his disciples have been caught grabbing some standing grain along the footpaths, shelling it, and eating it, which the scribes consider to be harvesting, and therefore work.

The rituals of cleanliness may well have had their roots in hygienic concerns.  1st-century life certainly was a lot dirtier than ours—no running water or sewage systems (except for the very wealthiest people), minimal making and using of soap (except for the rich), no knowledge of bacteria, no government inspection of food, most of the population living in houses built of stone, mud, and reeds with dirt floors, cooking done on open fires with insects buzzing around (kind of like camping, but done every day).  So there was a lot to be said for using a little bit of water when you could get it—which in hot, dry Palestine might be easier said than done if you didn’t live right next to a river or lake.

Jesus picks up 2 issues in this debate.  One issue he addresses to the Pharisees and scribes, the other to the entire crowd of people listening and to his disciples.

To the Pharisees and scribes, he says, “You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition” (7:8).  In 5 verses that our reading skips over (which you can look up in Mark at home if you wish), he provides specific examples.  Jesus doesn’t object to observance of the Law, but he does object to some practices that effectively override the intention of the Law.  In other disputations, he accuses his opponents of being so wrapped up in the minutest details of the Law that they miss the big picture, the really important stuff:  like justice, fairness, in our dealings with people; like mercy and compassion; like awareness of one’s own sinfulness and need for conversion and better faithfulness to God and to people.  Again, you can refer to the parable of the Good Samaritan, in which the priest and the Levite preserve their ritual purity against possibly touching a corpse (they don’t know whether the man by the side of the road is still alive), but they omit love for their neighbor—the point Jesus was illustrating with the parable.

In our time we too have an issue of contrast between “God’s commandment” and “human tradition,” or, more specifically, human laws.  In our lifetimes we’ve seen various practices and behaviors that 2 generations ago were unimaginable or at least universally abhorred have now been legalized, normalized, and made socially acceptable if not almost compulsory.  We can name some obvious ones that pervade most of Western culture:  extramarital sex, surrogate motherhood, divorce, contraception, abortion, homosexual relationships.  In our country and some others we could add easy recourse to capital punishment and (sometimes) too easy disregard for just war criteria.  If we’re listening to Jesus, we have to think about the divine law—whether that’s revealed in the Bible (like what Jesus says about divorce) or discovered in the very nature of things (like human sexuality)—and we have to take the divine law as the guide of our attitudes and behavior, regardless of what Congress, the Supreme Court, the state legislature, the universities, the mass media, or any other human institution may tell us we ought to be thinking and doing.[3]

Well does St. James tell us in today’s 2d reading to “welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls” (1:21), which of course means the Word of God.  Jesus in his person and teaching is the living Word of God, and the Scriptures are the written Word.  Then James tells us “to keep [ourselves] unstained by the world” (1:27), i.e., by the unclean, immoral practices of the culture around us.

To the crowd and to his disciples, Jesus puts another question:  what does “clean” really mean?  He answers that it doesn’t really mean what you might pick up from the food you eat, the utensils you use, or the dirt under your fingernails:  “Nothing that enters a person from outside can defile him; but the things that come out from within are what defile” (7:15).  You may remember that among the Beatitudes that Jesus gives us in the Sermon on the Mount is “Blessed are clean of heart, for they will see God” (Matt 5:8).  From the cleanliness of one’s heart—one’s attitudes, one’s desires, one’s integrity—comes the practice of virtue.  James identifies “pure and undefiled religion” not with ritual washings but with compassion for widows and orphans (1:27)—the most vulnerable members of society.

Negatively, in today’s gospel Jesus lists unclean thoughts and desires that come out of us in sinful behavior (Mark 5:21-22).  Unchaste thoughts and desires lead to unchaste behavior.  Envy or jealousy leads to theft or gossip and slander.  Arrogance leads to harsh and impatient treatment of others. Et cetera.  Hence it’s important for us who try to follow Jesus to guard our hearts carefully, to be wary of what we expose ourselves to, wary of what we allow to stay in our minds and attitudes.

All of us experience temptations, of course, temptations to the very things that Jesus lists (and to more, I’m sure).  The mere entrance of a thought into our heads—a jealous thought, an angry thought, an impure thought, a thought to lie—doesn’t constitute sin.  What do we do with the thought, with the temptation?  Do we mull it over, savor it, consider acting on it?  Then we’re getting into sinful territory:  from within people come all the evils that Jesus lists—“and they defile,” make us unclean and unqualified to see God.

Since we’re all susceptible to temptation and need cleaner hearts, we pray in today’s Collect that God, who is the “giver of every good gift,” “put into our hearts the love of [his] name” and a deeper “sense of reverence” for him.  In Scriptural language, the “name” means the person.  We pray that he plant a deep reverence in our hearts for his Person—and all that follows from reverencing God—and then that he “may nurture in us what is good … and keep safe what [he] has nurtured.”  That is, we pray that God deepen in us reverence for him, cultivate in us that reverence, keep it safe in our hearts.  Unspoken is the prayer that we will then speak and act reverently from the goodness, inspired and fostered by God, that lies in our hearts.

May it be so.

          [1] “Pure, unspoilt religion,” Salesians Ireland Sunday lectio divina for Aug. 30, 2015,
          [2] See the chapter “Baths in Year One” in Scott Korb, Life in the Year One (NY: Riverhead, 2011), pp. 93-110.
          [3] Before writing my homily I hadn’t seen this item about this gospel passage in the National Catholic Register (on-line Aug. 30, print edition Aug. 23:

Thursday, August 27, 2015

11 New, 2 Veteran Salesian Lay Missioners Commissioned

11 New, 2 Veteran Salesian Lay Missioners Commissioned

Fr. Steve Shafran, assisted by Fr. Mark Hyde and Adam Rudin, commissioned 13 Salesian Lay Missioners at a celebration of the Eucharist on August 14, near the end of their retreat at the Don Bosco Retreat Center in Haverstraw. A 14th SLM wasn’t present.

(Fr. Mark is director of Salesian Missions in New Rochelle, and Adam is director of the SLM program within Salesian Missions.)
Fr. Steve prays over the SLMs before conferring their missionary crosses on them.

The retreat with its commissioning rite was the culmination of an orientation period that began in New Rochelle on July 23. As usual, the orientation included an introduction to St. John Bosco, the Salesian Family, and the Preventive System; safe environment training; cross-cultural training; a week of ministry at the Salesian summer day camp and the soup kitchen in Port Chester; interactions with various Salesians, especially during the August 9-15 retreat; participation in the Mass of perpetual profession on August 9; and a lot of recreation and other fun (including a picnic, Mass, and hike at Bear Mountain under the guidance of your humble blogger).
SLMs take a breather halfway up to Bear Mountain’s 1,305-foot summit.

During the orientation, Adam was assisted by returned SLMs Amber Kraft (for her 4th time), Manny Mendez, and Matt Bauer. Manny was already signed up to do another SLM stint, helping to start a new SDB mission in Morobo, South Sudan. During the retreat, Fr. Steve Ryan talked Matt into coming down to Mary Help of Christians Center in Tampa for a 2d SLM year (he was in Juba, South Sudan, last year).

The SLMs and their missions are:
Cochabamba, Bolivia: Erin Brennan and Katie Stolz
Phnom Penh, Cambodia: Colleen Quigley and Cara Weidinger
Juba, South Sudan: Mike Gordon and Nick Ynami
Morobo, South Sudan: Colleen Burns and Manny Mendez
Wau, South Sudan: Taylor McColgan and Catherine McNeal
Da Lat, Vietnam: Dan Mathews and Steve Widelski
Tampa, Fla.: Matt Bauer and Dan Morrissey

That adds up to 6 for South Sudan at 3 sites and 2 each for Bolivia, Cambodia, Tampa, and Vietnam.

Steve Widelski wasn’t involved with the orientation; this will be his 6th mission with the SLMs since 1998. He’s served in Bolivia, Sierra Leone, Venezuela, Brazil, and South Sudan—besides several missions with other organizations. He’s done catechesis, teaching, mentoring, driving, humanitarian aid, translation, and parish work.
Fr. Steve about to put the missionary cross over Erin Brennan’s head.

The 7 men and 7 women of this batch range in age from 21 to 62, with 29 as the average. Their geographical spread encompasses the whole country: the (arch)dioceses of Arlington, Va.; Boston (2); Detroit; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Mayaguez, P.R.; Oakland, Cal.; Pensacola-Tallahassee; Philadelphia; Phoenix; St. Louis; St. Paul, Minn.; Toledo, Ohio; and Worcester, Mass. Six have attended Catholic colleges; one, private institutions (including grad work at both Yale and Harvard), and the others, state universities.

Besides the three returning SLMs (Manny, Matt, and Steve), one other has a Salesian connection: Nick Ynami from Hayward, Cal., was once a parishioner of Corpus Christi Church in San Francisco. Colleen Burns had planned to be an SLM 25 years ago, but that didn’t work out, and this time it has (no, she’s not the 62-year-old).

Fr. Steve Shafran, our provincial, presided over the SLM commissioning Mass and bestowed their crosses on the missionaries. Fr. Mark preached and assisted as they signed their commitment papers. Adam called them forward and announced their missions to the congregation, which included all the SDBs on retreat (about 40, including our 5 novices, who had arrived from Rosemead the preceding night) plus Fr. Jerry Sesto, former director of the SLM program.

Fr. Steve introduced the commissioning rite as “a graced moment for the Salesian Family and the Congregation.” He cited the self-sacrificing love of St. Maximilian Kolbe, the saint of the day, adding that any mission in life calls us to spend our lives as Jesus did. He said that it’s a grace that we can send forth men and women to touch the lives of the young around the world.
After receiving his missionary cross, Manny Mendez exchanges a word with Fr. Steve.

In his homily, Fr. Mark said that we were in a “triduum of commitment,” starting with the SLMs, continuing the next day with eight confreres’ renewing their vows, and concluding with first professions on the 16th. He said it was a blessing to begin this triduum on the memorial of St. Maximilian.

Fr. Mark compared St. Maximilian with Don Bosco as a man led by a dream and a devotee of our Lady, offering specific examples from the Franciscan priest-martyr’s life. He was like Don Bosco, also, in his devotion to the Pope, his use of the press to defend the Catholic faith, and his missionary heart.

Alluding to the optional gospel reading for St. Maximilian’s memorial (John 15:12-16), Fr. Mark continued by calling upon Salesians to sacrifice their lives for their friends (“Anyone in trouble is my friend”—Don Bosco), as St. Maximilian sacrificed his. He went on to note that it was Christ who chose us to be Salesians, and we respond to that call by making Jesus and Mary our friends and by serving the poor and the needy.

At the end of Mass, Fr. Steve acclaimed the service and hard work of Fr. Mark, Adam, Matt, Manny, and Amber in preparing the 2015 SLMs, and recognized Fr. Sesto as both former SLM director and the province’s senior confrere (at 94 years of age and 75 years of profession).
At Bear Mountain's summit, SLMs Catherine McNeal, Colleen Quigley, Taylor McColgan,
Katie Stolz, Erin Brennan, and Colleen Burns leap gleefully.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Homily for the
21st Sunday of Ordinary Time
Aug. 23, 2015
Eph 5: 21-32
Holy Cross, Fairfield, Conn.

“Brothers and sisters:  Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph 5: 21).

About 2 weeks ago there was an op-ed in the NYT by Howard Schultz, chairman and CEO of Starbucks, titled “We Need a Servant Leader.”  He was writing about what the country needs as we look for a new President.  (You may have noticed that there’s a vacancy coming up.)

1st, Mr. Schultz notes “the power of the image” of Pope Francis kneeling to wash the feet of a dozen prisoners on the Holy Thursday about a month after his election.

Then he notes the campaign bluster and political incivility to which we’ve gotten accustomed, the great economic and social problems we need to deal with, and the pessimism with which young people face the future.

The solution, Mr. Schultz believes, is “servant leadership—putting others first and leading from the heart.”  It’s not a new concept, even in the corporate world, or in other areas of life.  Athletes will take up impossible challenges for a manager or coach who believes in them, looks out for them, treats them fairly.  Soldiers will follow an officer or NCO who they know is protecting them even in dangerous situations, shares risk with them, and says not “Go ahead, men,” but “Follow me.”  Parishioners love clergy and nuns who visit the sick regularly, give attention to children, attend parish meetings, prepare well for liturgy, and are kind and gentle.

Mr. Schultz is applying his thoughts to our country’s leadership needs.  Jesus long ago applied the servant-leader concept to his followers.  E.g., when the apostles James and John asked for privileged positions in his kingdom, and then the other 10 got angry about that, Jesus told them all:  “Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave” (Matt 20:26-27).  At the Last Supper he took the slave’s role of washing the feet of his dinner guests—the example that Pope Francis follows on Holy Thursday.  In today’s 2d reading, St. Paul also applies the concept to Jesus’ followers.

In recent years this passage from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians has become controversial, so much that the lectionary now provides an alternate, shorter, politically correct reading that omits 4 verses.

A better approach, I think, is to take the sacred text as it is and face it.  What did it mean for the 1st-century Church, and what does it mean for us?  I think the key lies in the 1st line:  “Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  That line is addressed to all of us, male and female, young and old, married and single.  In terms of Mr. Schultz’s op-ed, it’s a challenge to all of us to be servant-leaders:  to lead others by serving them, like our Lord Jesus.

Family life in the Mediterranean world of the 1st century was very different from ours.  Fathers ruled absolutely—just like kings and emperors within their political domains.  The ideal ruler—of a kingdom or of a family—looked after everyone’s best interest, after what we call “the common good.”  In the Bible, the rulers of Israel were compared to shepherds and were supposed to look diligently to the needs of their flock.  Of course, human selfishness—sin—often got in the way of that ideal of serving those who depended on the leader, the head, the pater familias.

Our world is more democratic, more equal in relationships, more sharing of responsibilities.  Hence, as we read Paul, we need to take the words he addresses to wives and apply them also to husbands; and his words to husbands and apply them to wives.  The essential point remains mutual service, mutual self-giving, sacrificing one’s own comfort, interests, and even safety for the sake of the other person.  That is leadership after the example of Jesus, who—in his words—“did not come to be served but to serve,” who “came to give his own life as a ransom for” us sinners (Mark 10:45).

On Friday morning an alumnus of our school in New Rochelle stopped by my office with his teenaged daughter.  In the course of our conversation, he referred to the obedience that we religious owe to our superiors, and he compared that to the obedience that husbands in practice owe to their wives—St. Paul’s words notwithstanding, altho he didn’t say that.  In a flourishing marriage, as you know, wives and husbands are partners and best friends and are eager to please each other—to serve each other and help each other (and their children too).

Paul charges husbands with a far harder task than he does wives:  “love your wives as Christ loved the Church and handed himself over for her,” i.e., gave his life for her, “to sanctify her” (5:25-26).  Christ loves the Church absolutely, unconditionally, without any limit, even to the point of giving his life for her.  Nowadays we must hold this charge as given not only to husbands but also to wives, that each “nourish and cherish” the other “even as Christ does the Church, because we are members of his body” (5:29-30).

Paul refers to Christ’s sanctifying the Church, cleansing her, presenting the Church to himself “in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (5:26-27).  Then he says, “This is a great mystery, … in reference to Christ and the Church” (5:32).  Christian matrimony is the sacramental sign of this sanctifying work of Jesus.  (In biblical and liturgical language, mystery or mysteries usually refers to such signs, hidden realities expressed thru visual actions and audible words.)  Spouses mirror the sacrificial love of Christ for us, his Church.  Spouses assist each other in their growth as followers of Jesus, in their becoming holy.  In this, there’s no question of who’s “in charge” or who gives orders; rather, it’s a question of listening to Jesus, imitating Jesus, and helping each other (and the kids) do that; of subordinating oneself to Christ, 1st of all, and then to others for their benefit, for the common good of the whole family.  Both Jesus and Paul quote Genesis and remind us, “the two shall become one flesh” (5:31; cf. Matt 19:5 and Gen 2:24); marriage, like the Church, isn’t about me but about us.  Therefore, “be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Thursday, August 20, 2015

New Rochelle Province Welcomes 5 New Professed SDBs

New Rochelle Province 
Welcomes 5 New Professed SDBs
On Don Bosco’s 200th birthday, the New Rochelle Province gave our Father and Founder quite a gift: the first professions of Bros. Ronald Chauca, Branden Gordon, Joshua Sciullo, and Simon Song and of Fr. Derek Van Daniker.

The five newly professed confreres pronounced their vows in an afternoon Mass on Aug. 16 at Corpus Christi Church in Port Chester, N.Y. In the name of the Rector Major, Fr. Steve Shafran, provincial, received their vows. Several perpetually professed confreres who had been formation guides for the young men acted as the official witnesses.
Fr. Steve examining the candidates for religious profession about their commitment.

Besides Fr. Derek, 20 priests concelebrated with Fr. Steve, and another dozen or so coadjutor brothers, seminarians, and priests took part in the Mass (including your humble blogger, who was taking photos and scribbling notes), along with numerous members of the newly professed’s families, parishioners from Corpus Christi-Holy Rosary Parish, 14 Salesian sisters, Cooperators, and other friends of the Salesian Family. More than 300 people nearly filled the church’s seating capacity.

In his remarks at the start of Mass, Fr. Steve linked the Virgin Mary, the Eucharist, and Don Bosco’s bicentennial. Mary’s feast of the Assumption had just passed, and her church of the Holy Rosary is part of the Port Chester parish. The gospel of the day was about the Eucharist, and the Mass was taking part in a church named “Body of the Christ.” Don Bosco, so devoted to both the Blessed Sacrament and our Blessed Mother, was 200 years old that very day.

The five newly professed had completed their candidacy in three different locales: Branden in his native Toronto with the Etobicoke community; Fr. Derek at the Marian Shrine in Haverstraw, N.Y., exercising his priestly ministry; and Simon, Josh, and Ron at the Salesian formation house in Orange, N.J. Fr. Derek remained at the Marian Shrine for his prenovitiate program, while the other 4 men went to Holy Rosary in Port Chester. All of them made their novitiate, with five other men from California, England, Ireland, and Austria, at St. Joseph’s Novitiate in Rosemead, Calif., under the direction of Fr. Bill Keane.

Fr. Steve led off his homily with a food reference—which seems to come natural to church people. But Jesus identifies himself as the true, living bread, the only food that can satisfy our spiritual hungers.

Alluding to the various Old Testament readings of the last few Sundays, Fr. Steve said that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is the final link between the Old Testament and Jesus’ message. When we eat his Body and drink his Blood, we become his word, the Word, in the world.

To eat his flesh, Fr. Steve continued, is to believe in him and to surrender ourselves and allow him to change us, as he changes the bread and wine of the Eucharist. The Bread of Life has to change us: change us and our communities so that we become more like Jesus in our forgiveness of one another, in our general behavior, in our whole way of life.

Our brothers making their commitment this day, Fr. Steve said, are ready to let God change them. They want Jesus Christ to nourish them so that they can follow Don Bosco’s example. Alongside the Bread of Life, then, they will find spiritual food in our Constitutions. By spending their lives questing for holiness, they will be able to nourish others on Jesus. We hope that young people will see this in them through their pure, poor, and powerless lives and through their self-sacrificial lives in imitation of Christ crucified. Like Don Bosco, they are committing themselves to be for the young and with the young.

Fr. Steve also noted the importance of the newly professed’s families, friends, and confreres in nurturing their vocations.

After Mass there was a grand reception in the gym of Corpus Christi-Holy Rosary School, with lots of food, lots of entertainment provided by both the youngsters and the young-at-heart of the parish, and lots of Salesian camaraderie.

Profiles of the 5 Newly Professed

Bro. Ronald Chauca, SDB

Bro. Ronald Chauca, SDB, 20, comes from the SDB parish of St. John Bosco in Chicago. He’s the son of Luis Chauca and Mariana Quizhpi, likewise parishioners of St. John Bosco, and he has 3 brothers and a sister.

Bro. Ron says that he wanted to become a Salesian as a result of “the general happy atmosphere at church, the get-togethers, and the overall family feel of the parish and youth center. Really, the entire parish community helped me see and feel that I belonged to this body and more so that I belonged to God.”

Ron entered the Salesian formation program at Orange in August 2012 and continued his formation as a prenovice at Holy Rosary in Port Chester in 2013. Various formators “helped me to come to know the love and mercy of God through their witness … and I hope I can do the same to those I will serve in the future.”

Up to this point in his Salesian life, he says, he has found his “little taste” of our life to be “beautiful, with many hardships.”

In 2015-2016 he’ll be part of the Orange formation community while studying philosophy at Seton Hall University. He’ll also delve into Catholic studies and hopes to study sociology eventually.

More important, he want to devote his particular gifts and personality “fully to God and to the mission.” He wants “always to be real to God” and himself.

Bro. Branden Gordon, SDB

Bro. Branden pronouncing his vow
Bro. Branden Gordon, SDB, 28, comes from the Salesian parish of St. Benedict in Etobicoke, Ont. His parents, Ronald Gordon and Rita Pipito, also belong to the parish. He has one younger brother.

Branden entered the Salesian formation program as part of the community at St. Benedict’s in April 2013 and did his prenovitiate at Holy Rosary in Port Chester in the first part of 2014. His vocational decision he was powerfully influenced by the confreres at St. Benedict’s, who had led him back to the practice of the Catholic faith while he was in college, and then into the parish’s youth ministry. “Inspired by the witness of these men, the thought of a religious vocation immediately implanted itself in my heart,” he says, and that seed germinated for six years, eventually sprouting “thanks to the patient guidance and unswerving friendship of the Salesian community.”

Bro. Branden singles out Fr. Frank Kelly and Fr. Mike Pace as the most powerful influences on his religious development. Fr. Frank “spoke eloquently about the mercy of Jesus.” Fr. Mike “was kind and encouraging [but] not afraid to challenge me to grow.”

Bro. Branden relates: “Working and living in the community of St. Benedict made me want to become a Salesian. It took a whole community to nurture a vocation.” He lists Gospel Roads and other parish programs as “dynamic, spiritually rich” helps, and his “weekly spiritual conferences with Fr. John Puntino,” especially the way his face lit up “with affection and youthful enthusiasm for St. John Bosco” as they made their way through Don Bosco’s Memoirs of the Oratory.

As a novice, Branden went almost weekly with a Salesian brother to minister to youths held at a juvenile detention center. He was edified by the example of charity and service he saw in many other volunteers there. He was also impressed by the spiritual thirst that he discovered in many of the jailed youngsters: “It was a humbling experience to listen to their struggles, joys, and hopes and to pray with them.”

Bro. Branden’s academic program while he’ll be at Orange in the coming year is still being worked out. But he already has spiritual objectives: more personal prayer and battling against his faults. “I am realizing more and more each day how much the effectiveness of one’s apostolate depends on the depth of one’s interior life and degree of moral perfection.”

Influenced by Fr. Joseph Occhio and other confessors he’s known, he hopes eventually “to specialize in the art of confession and moral theology” so that he can extend God’s mercy to others as he has known it himself.

Bro. Joshua Sciullo, SDB

Bro. Joshua Sciullo, SDB, 22, comes from Jacksonville, Fla., where he belonged to Immaculate Conception Parish, as his parents Mark and Jody Sciullo still do. He has 2 older brothers and an older sister.

One of Josh’s pastors in Jacksonville, Fr. Leon, was particularly influential in his spiritual development, encouraging the boys to serve Mass and everyone to avail themselves of Reconciliation.

Josh came to know the Salesians through his family’s devotion to Don Bosco. Josh’s love for young people and the joy he saw in the Salesians he met made him want to become a Salesian. He entered the formation program at Orange in July 2011 and was a prenovice at Holy Rosary in Port Chester in 2013-2014.

In the coming school year he’ll be part of the formation community at Orange and will study theology and philosophy at Seton Hall University.

Bro. Josh has a particular interest in vocation ministry, seeing in that the possibility of “journeying with my brothers in Christ, to share experiences and grow in love.” No one should be afraid to consider a religious vocation, he says, because “we are all broken and all trying to grow in holiness.”

Bro. Simon Song, SDB

Bro. Simon Song, SDB, 26, from Nanuet, N.Y., is the son of Kyu Sup and Chung Soon Song. He has 2 brothers and 2 sisters.

Bro. Simon met the Salesians through Fr. Gus Baek, SDB, and the Reborn Young Christ ministry that he has established for Korean-American youngsters in Stony Point. Bro. Simon calls himself “the troublemaker that Fr. Gus decided to keep!”

Besides Fr. Gus, Fr. John Grinsell at Orange had a particular influence on Simon with “his example of hard work and being joyful. His sense of humor is absolutely contagious!” Simon had entered the formation program at Orange in August 2012, and he moved on to the prenovitiate in Port Chester the following year.

He has become a Salesian for “the opportunity to work with young people for the rest of my life. The young people have helped me come back to the faith. The dream of Don Bosco to live, work, and die for young people is what initially attracted me to become a Salesian.”

As part of the Orange formation community, Bro. Simon will enroll in Seton Hall University’s pre-theology program. He hopes to begin a Master’s program in family therapy and counselling. He’s eager to continue learning.

Bro. Simon would like to specialize in family catechesis, i.e., reach not only youths but also their parents with the Gospel message.  He believes that we need to work with all members of the family.

Fr. Derek Van Daniker, SDB

Fr. Derek Steven Van Daniker, SDB, 36, comes from Lexington, Ky., where he was a member of Mary, Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish. His parents, Relmond and Dolly Van Daniker, remain members. He has 3 sisters and a brother.

Fr. Derek graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2001. One of his high school teachers had already “put the thought in my head” of becoming a priest. After a short period as a school teacher, he studied theology in Toulon, France, from 2005 to 2009, and was ordained in the congregation of the Little Brothers of the Eucharist. Unfortunately, that congregation “became defunct in 2011,” and Fr. Derek returned to Lexington as a priest of the diocese.

Looking to re-enter religious life, Fr. Derek was pointed toward the SDBs by a former candidate. He says, “Upon visiting the Salesians and reflecting on their mission and charism, I was impressed most by their focus on youth ministry and the holistic approach they have to serving youth, especially those on the fringes of society.” He became a candidate at the Marian Shrine and Don Bosco Retreat Center in Haverstraw and also was a prenovice there.

During his novitiate year in Rosemead, he found “one of the most formative moments” to be the novices’ annual mission trip to Tijuana during Holy Week, “working alongside the Salesians (lay and SDB) who run youth centers in the surrounding barrios.” He really enjoyed his daily contact with the local youths and migrants there: “There was a beautiful exchange between us and the people of trust, mutual respect, and friendship.”

Fr. Derek will be part of the formation community at Orange for the first time this year and will undertake study toward a Master’s degree in teaching, concentrating on certification in secondary math and education of students with disabilities.

He looks forward to “being formed in an even deeper way in the Salesian charism and spirituality,” which “is a simple yet rich way of doing ministry.” He adds, “I want to learn as much as I can from my fellow Salesians about how to serve youth in the spirit of Don Bosco.”

Next, Fr. Derek hopes to return to school teaching and perhaps to become a missionary. “I have already had the privilege to do both for several years,” he says, “and I would love to be sent out once again for these works.”