In order “to devote all [their] strength to those to whom [God the Father] will send [them], especially to young people who are poorer; to live in the Salesian Society in communion of spirit and action with [their] brothers; and in this way to share in the life and mission of [God’s] Church,” Bros. Paul Phuoc Trong Chu, Minh Duc Dang, and Dieunel Jean Paul Victor pronounced a perpetual vow of obedience, poverty, and chastity on August 9. The words come from the SDB formula of religious profession.
The two-hour Mass of Perpetual Profession took place at the Marian Shrine chapel in Haverstraw, N.Y., with Fr. Steve Shafran, provincial, presiding and receiving the vows in the name of the Rector Major. Another 40 SDB priests and brothers took part in the Mass, along with 7 Salesian sisters, 14 Salesian Lay Missioners, many members of the families of the three men who professed vows, and parishioners and friends from their home parishes and works where they have served as Salesians, especially St. Paul the Apostle Church in Springfield, Mass., and Holy Rosary Church in Port Chester.
Bros. Paul Chu and Dieunel Victor are members of the New Rochelle Province. Bro. Minh Dang began his SDB life in our province but was accepted two years ago as a volunteer for the foreign missions and incardinated in the Middle East Province. All three brothers made their novitiate at St. Joseph’s Novitiate, attached to Holy Rosary Parish in Port Chester and currently are students of theology at the Ratisbonne Institute in Jerusalem, about to start their third year of immediate preparation for the priesthood.
Bro. Paul Phuoc Trong Chu, SDB, 32, a native of Vietnam, came to the U.S. in 1992 and was raised in Springfield, Mass., where his family belongs to St. Paul the Apostle Parish. His mother is Son Thi Pham, and his father the late Duong Van Chu. He has two younger sisters.
Bro. Paul entered the Salesians as a candidate at Orange, N.J., in 2006 after earning a degree in computer science and math at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst (2005). His vocation was inspired by his pastor in Springfield, Fr. Quynh Tran, and SDBs whom he met on a trip to Vietnam. He was “drawn to working with and for young people, especially those marginalized,” and attracted by “the joyful witness of fraternal life of many Salesian priests and brothers.” After his college graduation, he felt a “growing attraction” to the idea of “offering back my whole life to God because He has been so good to me and my family.”
He made his novitiate in 2008-2009 and made his first profession of religious vows on August 16, 2009. During two years of further formation and studies in Orange, he enjoyed the philosophical studies at Immaculate Conception Seminary in South Orange and “the profound experience of spiritual direction and spiritual accompaniment by a professor at Seton Hall University.”
Bro. Paul did his practical training at Salesian High School in New Rochelle in 2011-2013, teaching religion, math, and computer science and assisting with intramural and extracurricular activities. “Though teaching was a challenging experience,” he says, “I matured much in the human, intellectual, pastoral, and spiritual dimensions.” He also found inspiration in the lives of his students.
While he is studying in Jerusalem, his pastoral ministry has consisted of assisting in sports and other activities at the Salesian youth center in Bethlehem, and in the summers at Salesian camps in the New Rochelle Province, particularly helping with faith formation activities.
Continuing his Salesian life and vocation, Bro. Paul hopes “to work closely with young people who are poor and those who need vocational guidance in life. I desire to offer the gifts that God gave me, especially in the technical field, to the service of young people and my brother Salesians for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.” He would like to help young people “be empowered by technology rather than being enslaved by it.” “Technology,” he says, “expresses our human desire to become one with our Creator.”
Finally, Bro. Paul notes that he has been sustained over the years by Jesus’ encouragement to his disciples, “Be not afraid,” and he has “been comforted many times by Jesus’ presence and friendship,” which he aspires to make known to others, especially anyone who may be discerning a vocation to the consecrated life.
Bro. Minh Duc Dang, SDB, 32, also is a native of Vietnam and immigrated with his family to the U.S. in 1992, settling in Burke, Va., where they belong to Nativity Parish. His parents Thuy Van Dang and Tin Thi Do worship also at Vietnamese Martyrs Church in Arlington. Bro. Minh is the 2d-youngest of the 6 brothers and 3 sisters.
Bro. Minh started college at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana but transferred to Seton Hall University after entering the Salesian formation program in Orange in 2006. He completed a B.A. in philosophy there in 2007. In 2008-2009 he made his novitiate, and he professed first vows on August 16, 2009. He became a Salesian, he says, because he wants to bring Christ to others.
Returning to Orange for two years of postnovitiate formation, he worked toward a master’s degree in education at Seton Hall. In 2011 Bro. Minh began his practical training as a freshman theology teacher at Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J., serving there till 2013. He also assisted with intramural sports and other after-school activities.
While he is studying theology in Jerusalem, a ordination. Bro. Minh has been doing youth work at the Salesian youth center in Bethlehem.
He credits a now-deceased priest at Nativity Parish in Burke, Fr. Richard Martin, and an aunt, Sister Binh, with stimulating in him thoughts of a religious vocation. Among the Salesians he found a good many “witnesses of joy, patience, and love.” Asked what part of his postnovitiate formation was best, he answered, “Going to confession and spiritual guidance with Frs. Peter Granzotto and Philip Pascucci.”
At the end of Bro. Minh’s period of practical training, the Rector Major accepted his application to become a missionary and assigned him to the Middle East Province. He is studying Arabic now so that he might “work with people who have been displaced by war, especially children,” in that “unstable and volatile” part of the world—and, of course, continue his aspiration to “be a witness of Christ to others.”
Bro. Dieunel Jean Paul Victor, SDB, 32, was born in Haiti and came to the U.S. in 2000 with his family. They made their new home in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and are members of St. Jerome’s Parish there. His parents, Camil and Noeleda, are both deceased. He is the sixth of their eight children.
At St. Jerome, Dieunel was strongly influenced by Msgr. Guy Sansaricq, now an auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn, and felt the desire to be a priest. Seeing a film about Don Bosco and meeting a Haitian-American Salesian inspired him to join the Salesians. He entered the formation program at Orange in 2004, and in 2007 started his novitiate. He made his first profession on August 16, 2008.
Bro. Dieunel very much admires the Salesians’ way of caring for young people, their friendliness, their availability, and their devotions to the Holy Eucharist and the Virgin Mary. Among the Salesians who most positively influenced him have been Fr. Del Labonté, Fr. Pat Angelucci, and Fr. Jim Heuser. With the Salesians he wants to spend his whole life for the young, letting them know that they are special and Christ loves them.
Bro. Dieunel did his practical training at Salesian High School in New Rochelle, teaching religion and Salesianity to all the freshman classes from 2011 to 2013. He also assisted with the Friday evening youth center and after-school intramural games.
In Jerusalem his pastoral ministry is to work with the Filipino community in and around Jerusalem. This summer he was on the staff of the day camp at Holy Rosary Parish in Port Chester.
Bro. Dieunel’s hopes for the future are simple: “To finish studying theology, to strive to be a good and holy Salesian priest, and to teach in our schools.” He would like “to specialize in education, family psychology and child psychology because I want to teach and help others, especially family and children who are in need of psychological help.”
Fr. Shafran’s homily, based primarily on the Sunday gospel (John 6:41-51), referred to Jesus as the only Bread that truly satisfies the hunger of humanity. All of us find some sustenance in our families, friends, and the Salesian Family, especially as these have helped us to know Jesus. And the three confreres making their commitment to Jesus forever are committed to sharing the Bread that is Jesus with the world, especially the young. The large congregation present for the Eucharistic celebration finds joy in their “yes” to this invitation from God and is inspired by them to reaffirm their own yes.
At the end of Mass each of the perpetually professed spoke, Bro. Dieunel first and at greatest length, Bro. Minh second and most briefly, and Bro. Paul last and at medium length. All of them thanked God, Mary, their families, and their confreres for helping them respond to their vocations. They all said something about their vocational journeys, perhaps hoping to inspire some of the young people present, as well as acknowledging some individuals who particularly helped them. All asked for prayers that they be faithful to the call they have been given.
A reception for all the participants followed Mass in the cafeteria of the Don Bosco Retreat Center, which is part of the Marian Shrine complex of ministries.