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.”