Sunday, September 30, 2018

Homily for Friday, 25th Week of Ordinary Time

Homily for Friday
25th Week of Ordinary Time

September 28, 1982
Luke 9: 18-22
Eccl 3: 1-11
Don Bosco Cristo Rey, Takoma Park, Md.

After a substantial period of public ministry, after sending the apostles out to extend his ministry, and after the execution of John the Baptist, now Jesus judges it’s time to begin to reveal to the apostles who he is.  It’s not time for a complete self-revelation, lest a misunderstanding “public” put in him a false faith.  Even the 12 aren’t ready yet to understand a Christ who must suffer.

Qoheleth, the Preacher, composer of Ecclesiastes, speaks today in beautiful poetry of time, the right time for everything in our lives.  The right time is a revelation of God to us, of seeing our place in “the work which God has done” (3:11), i.e., how we may fulfill “the task that God has appointed for” us (3:10), just as Jesus opened himself to what the Father asked of him.

St. John XXIII and the 2d Vatican Council urged the Church to be open to “the signs of the times,” and so do spiritual advisors urge us as individual disciples—all those signs, all those times, all those seasons of our lives thru which God speaks to us.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Mary Help of Christians Watches over Dialog Between Church and China

Mary Help of Christians Watches over Dialog Between Church and China

(ANS – Vatican City – September 27) – In the end, Pope Francis could entrust only to Mary Help of Christians a mission so important and delicate. On the occasion of the Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China, and at the conclusion of his pastoral letter to the faithful in China, Pope Francis delivered into the care of the Celestial Mother this further step of rapprochement between the Vatican and Beijing. Pope Francis has paid homage every 24th of the month even as archbishop of Buenos Aires to the Madonna of Don Bosco, the Virgin to whom the millions of Catholics in China also are closely linked. 

The Provisional Agreement arrives after long years of preparatory work. “It is God’s time, which resembles Chinese time: it’s slow” Pope Francis joked, but just a little, on his way back from Estonia to the Vatican.

The agreement has been a negotiation in which, as the Pope has always explained, both parties have had to give up something. For some it is also a source of “doubts and perplexities”: even the Pontiff admitted this in his letter, perhaps because those who have endured for years the difficulties and problems of living in the “underground Church” now are questioning “the value of the sufferings they faced to live in fidelity to the Successor of Peter.”

The Holy Father does not ignore those Catholics: “Such painful experiences belong to the spiritual treasure of the Church in China and of the whole People of God.” Yet he looks to China “as a land full of great opportunities and to the Chinese people as the architect and guardian of an inestimable heritage of culture and wisdom.”

On the specific theme of the appointment of bishops, the Pope assures “that the nomination is from Rome; the appointment is by the Pope,” and the dialog concerns the antecedent phase, the identification of the candidates. In any case, the agreement represents a turning point for the Catholic Church in China because for the first time, it introduces stable elements of collaboration and because it proceeds in the direction of reconstituting the full and visible unity of the Church.

“Dialog is a risk, but I prefer the risk to the sure defeat of not talking,” the Holy Father had said months ago. And for the future, there is always something to look up to: “Mary, Help of Christians, for China we ask you for days of blessing and peace.” That is the conclusion of the prayer signed by Pope Francis for this special mission.

America magazine offers interesting parallels between the agreement just reached between the Holy See and China, and the 1801 Concordat between the Holy See and Napoleon.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Homily for Wednesday, 25th Week of Ordinary Time

Homily for Wednesday
25th Week of Ordinary Time

Sept. 26, 1982
Proverbs 30: 5-9
Our Lady of Lourdes, Bethesda, Md.

If you’re a daily Mass-goer, you’ve noticed that this week we switched in our 1st readings from St. Paul’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians, from which we read extensively starting on Aug. 30, to the Book of Proverbs this week.

In fact, our visit with Proverbs is a brief one, only 3 days, 3 short passages out of a book that consists of 31 chapters.  Tomorrow we’ll move on to Ecclesiastes for 2 days, omitting a 3d day on Saturday when we’ll celebrate the archangels; and next week we’ll take up Job.

Solomon Writing Proverbs (Gustave Dore')
[At one time, Proverbs was attributed to Israel's wisest king.]
In short, we’re in a stretch of readings from the Old Testament wisdom literature, a rapid overview of it.  Most of these wisdom Scriptures aren’t especially religious, as you may already have noticed this week; Job and the Psalms are exceptions.  But all of it is still the inspired Word of God.

We may ask, What is God saying to us thru these proverbs, these collections of human experience, this human wisdom?

There’s a harmony in the universe.  There’s a harmony between human learning and our Creator.  The pursuit of truth—the truth of the created world, the truth of the human character, the truth of our daily experience—all point us toward the One who is Truth.  A person of integrity tries to conform his or her life to the truth of the universe.  We can say that Old Testament wisdom presents us with a “natural theology,” a vision or record of God that we learn from observing the world—not without challenges, however, as some of the psalms and the whole Book of Job confront.

In our 3 short passages from Proverbs this week, we were urged to treat our neighbors—our fellow human beings—decently, to be humble and truthful, to avoid the wicked, to attend to the poor, to be upright before God, to respect God’s word and trust him, to seek moderation in our lives.

The reference to the Word of God in today’s reading (30:5-6) is interesting, out of character for the Book of Proverbs as a whole.

Or is it?  If all of nature is a word of God—Ps 33 says, “God spoke, and it came to be” (v. 9)—then we must listen to nature, to natural law (even our Declaration of Independence says so), to the law of God deeply inscribed in our hearts.  This law, like the proverbs of the wisdom literature, tells us to be truthful, to treat everyone with respect, to honor our parents, to note and heed God’s designs in our sexuality, to be humble before our Creator, to remember our mortality, to trust that God is just and in an afterlife will right the scales of justice with regard to the just and the wicked.

The Collect for last Sunday, which we prayed also today, harmonizes with the wisdom of the Old Testament:  all God’s commands are based on love of him and of our neighbor.  May God grant us eternal life thru our observance of his precepts—of his law—which we may discern in the world we live in and in our hearts.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Homily for 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homily for the
25th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Sept. 23, 2018
Mark 9: 30-37
Nativity, Washington, D.C.

“He sat down, called the 12, and said to them, ‘If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all’” (Mark 9: 35).

Most people like to be 1st or most important:  to win a race, to be world champs, to hold high office, to be the honored (and consulted) matriarch or patriarch in the family—or just to beat everyone else in the traffic.

Jesus gives the 12, his chosen apostles, quite a different lesson today—not once, but twice.

The gospel reading begins by telling us, “Jesus and his disciples left from there” (9:30).  “There” is the bottom of Mt. Tabor, where Jesus has just been transfigured, witnessed by his 3 favorite apostles.  At the bottom, the other 9 had failed in their attempt to help a boy possessed by a demon, which Jesus then promptly expelled (9:14-27).  When the disciples asked why they’d failed, Jesus told them, “This kind can only come out thru prayer” (9:28-29).  The 12 are failures when it comes to confronting evil, and they fail because they’re not truly in communion with God.

Then we hear, as Jesus and his disciples “journey thru Galilee,” he seeks to travel privately (9:30).  He does that in order to instruct his disciples, offering them the 1st of those different lessons about true importance; it’s his 2d prediction of his passion, death, and resurrection:  “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and 3 days after his death the Son of Man will rise” (9:31).
Jesus teaching the 12 in the house (source unknown)
When the Scriptures use the passive voice, very often it’s an indication that the true actor is God:  “The Son of Man is to be handed over.”  God is acting here.  It’s the divine plan that Jesus fall into the power of evil men who will execute him.  “Let us beset the just one, because he’s obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings,” we heard from the book of Wisdom, in a passage closely paralleling the fate of Jesus (2:12).

We must note, of course, that evil is not God’s intent, and the evil men who act do so of their own volition.  God’s will is that Jesus faithfully preach the Kingdom of God, as he has been doing.  That preaching has aroused plenty of opposition, as the preaching of truth often does, and sometimes that opposition is pitiless, and it may cost the speaker his life, as it did Gandhi, the Rev. King, and Blessed Oscar Romero.

Like earlier, when Jesus 1st predicted his passion and resurrection (8:31-33), the disciples “did not understand the saying”; unlike earlier, “they were afraid to question him” (9:32).  Earlier, Peter had challenged Jesus’ prediction and been slammed by Jesus, called “Satan” (8:32-33), for suggesting that Jesus might deviate from his Father’s plan.

Why don’t the disciples understand?  Several commentators state that it’s not because they’re naïve or ignorant.  It’s because they’re willful and obstinate.  They don’t want to understand what Jesus is talking about.  They know well enuf that their own futures are tied to his, and they don’t want to know what he’s talking about.  They don't understand and don't want to understand because they're not in communion with God.

In fact, as they continue their journey, they do just the opposite of what Jesus has been preaching:  “They’d been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest” (9:34).  At least they’re ashamed of it, or embarrassed, for when Jesus calls them on it, “they remained silent” (9:34), like kids caught in the cookie jar or a teen nabbed with naughty stuff on his Smartphone.  Or, in today’s very unhappy circumstances, we could say they’re like priests or bishops—or cardinals—who’ve been caught pursuing their own importance, their own pleasure, their own power, their own interests, rather than those of Christ’s flock.  “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice,” James warns (3:16).  We could say, with sad irony, that some of the successors of the apostles have been acting just like the apostles.

So Jesus gives the apostles a 2d lesson in true importance.  “Then he sat down” (9:35).  He assumes the position of a teacher, of one with the authority of the wise and experienced.  He speaks ex cathedra, “from the chair,” whether he was using an actual chair or just sitting on the floor of his humble home in Capernaum.  He calls the 12 to him—it’s not clear whether “the disciples” mentioned in vv. 30-31 refers only to the 12 or to a larger circle—but here he addresses his inner circle, those who will be the leaders of the larger group of his followers, those he most wants to understand who he is and what is his mission.

“And he said to them, ‘If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.’”  In later years, the Church would understand that thru his passion and death Jesus had been configured to the Suffering Servant of the prophecies of Isaiah.  By giving his life, with his blood poured out “for many” (Mark 14:24; Matt 26:28), he had been “the servant of all” and the least, the most wretched of human beings in the eyes of the Romans and of the Jewish leadership who desired his death.

But, Jesus tells the 12, that way of being the 1st, the most important, the greatest, applies to all of his followers.

To drive his point home, Jesus takes a child—maybe a son of Peter or one of the other local disciples—and places the child in their midst, then puts his arms around him (9:36).  Jesus isn’t being cute or cuddly, the way we are over infants and little kids.  In the ancient world, children were of no importance and were, socially, of not much more standing than slaves.  If the life expectancy of children was that only about half would reach the age of 5, you didn’t invest your emotions very heavily in them.  Not until children reached their teens and could pitch in with substantial work did they stop being a liability to the family.
Let the Children Come to Me (Carl Bloch)
So Jesus is turning society on its head:  “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me” (9:37).  A child is the last in society, and that’s what Jesus is like and what the disciple must be like.  At the same time, a child is receptive:  always asking questions, always curious, always eager to learn about the world, about customs, about family (until she or he becomes a teenager, of course, and already knows everything).  A child will be ready to hear the teaching of Jesus, and so should his disciples be, even when his message is a very uncomfortable one:  “The Son of Man will be handed over,” and so on; and “the 1st must be the last and the servant of all.”

As the disciples refused to believe that the cross lay ahead of Jesus, we don’t readily believe it either.  That is, like the disciples, we don’t want hardship, pain, or sacrifice—which following Jesus must entail.  In the Collect today, we prayed that we might keep God’s precepts of love of him and of our neighbor.  And don’t we often resist loving our neighbor because that’s hard?  It’s hard always to be forgiving, patient, kind, giving of ourselves.  It’s hard to take the position of “servant of all.”

Jesus continues his teaching by telling us that whoever receives him receives the Father who sent him (9:37).  Jesus has come to do the Father’s bidding, to make the Father’s kingdom known and accessible to sinners.  That, and not the pursuit of their own importance, is the mission of the 12.  That is the mission of Christ’s Church:  to be at the service of the Gospel, of making the Father known, of imitating Christ in our love for everyone, even society’s least, of preaching repentance while bringing mercy and forgiveness.  That is the mission not only of Pope Francis and the bishops, but of all of us in the ways that we live in our families, in our workplaces or schools, in our social circles, in the ways that we seek to serve people thru our parish or organizations.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

17 SDBs Celebrate Jubilees

17 SDBs Celebrate Jubilees

Photos except the last, by Bro. Travis Gunther, SDB (using your humble blogger’s camera)

Unless you’re dealing with Earth’s geology or with astrophysics, 855 years is a lot of years (even if it doesn’t quite catch up with the reported ages of the biblical patriarchs).

855 is the total number of years that the New Rochelle Province celebrated on September 8 as it honored 17 jubilarians and thanked God for their years of ministry, primarily in our province. They included priests celebrating anniversaries of ordination and/or religious profession and Bro. Sal Sammarco, celebrating the 50th anniversary of his profession.

Led by Fr. Tim Zak (left), the six priestly jubilarians renewed their commitment after the homily. L-R: Frs. Steve Dumais, Ken Shaw, John Puntino, Mike Mendl, Jim Berning, and Samson Anthony.
The other 16 jubilarians were Fr. John Masiello, 70 years professed and 60 years ordained; Fr. Sid Figlia, 60 years professed and 50 ordained; Fr. Jan Bernas, 60 years professed; Fr. John Puntino, 50 years professed and 40 ordained; Fr. Ken Rodes, 50 years professed; Frs. Rich Crager and Jim Mulloy, 40 years professed; Frs. Steve Dumais, Jack Janko, Mike Mendl, and Ken Shaw, 40 years ordained; Fr. Tom Provenzano, 25 years professed; and Frs. Samson Anthony, Jim Berning, Alain Leonard, and Eric Wyckoff, 25 years ordained.

Only ten of the jubilarians were able to be present for the celebration at the Marian Shrine in Haverstraw, N.Y.—the other seven constrained by poor health, distance, or pastoral responsibility—or, in Fr. Alain’s case, helping to host the Rector Major in Montreal.

Priest celebrants and other sacred ministers at the altar for the Eucharistic Prayer.
The celebration was originally scheduled to coincide with Fr. Angel Fernandez Artime’s pastoral visit to the U.S. When the U.S. Government impeded that visit, Fr. Tim Ploch stood in for the Rector Major. A member of the general council since 2014, representing the Interamerica Region, Fr. Tim is always happy to return to his home province, and the province more than ready to welcome him.

Following an assembly of Salesian Family members earlier in the morning, the jubilees celebration attracted a large crowd of Salesians, Salesian Sisters, Salesian Cooperators, Salesian Lay Missioners, ADMA, Don Bosco Volunteers, students from Salesian schools, parishioners from Salesian parishes, alumni, and relatives and other friends of the jubilarians, nearly filling the Shrine chapel for Mass and quite filling the pavilion after Mass for a buffet lunch.
Fr. Tim Zak (left) leads the profession jubilarians in a renewal of their vows. L-R: Frs. Rich Crager, John Puntino, Tom Provenzano, and Jim Mulloy, and Bro. Sal Sammarco.
The Eucharistic liturgy of September 8 celebrates the Birth of the Virgin Mary. Hence, Fr. Tim’s homily focused on her as “a living example that all things work for good for those who trust God” (cf. Rom 8:28, from the first reading). That was true for Mary because she responded positively to God amid so much confusion, anxiety, and pain in her life; Fr. Tim cited various episodes recorded in the Gospels.

Bro. Sal Sammarco read the Mass’s first Scripture passage, Romans 8:28-30.
Fr. Tim also noted that St. Joseph responded, as well, to what God told him to do: “to be a father to a child who was not his.”

Repeating, he said that “all works for the good for those who love God and work for him.” This becomes true in Salesian lives, which we can see if we look back reflectively and see where we tried to integrate into our lives what God has sent to us. And so “we trust him for the future.”

Finally, Fr. Tim applied that lesson to the lives of the 17 jubilarians and paid credit to their faithfulness.

During the Mass the priests present who were celebrating 25th and 40th anniversaries renewed their priestly commitment, and the confreres celebrating 25th, 40th, and 50th anniversaries of profession renewed their vows.

Fr. Tim with the priest jubilarians after Mass. Your humble blogger, with arm around Fr. Tim, attended Salesian Junior Seminary in Goshen with him in the mid-'60s (they were 2 years apart), as Fr. Puntino did also (a year behind blogger).

Fr. Puntino thanked God and others for 
the vocations of the priest jubilarians.
Speaking for the priest jubilarians at the end of Mass, Fr. John Puntino voiced gratitude to God and confreres for the grace of their vocation lived in the context of changing and sometimes turbulent times, starting for himself and his four classmates with “the year of three Popes” (1978). Bro. Sal spoke for the profession jubilarians, expressing appreciation for family and then for God, Mary, and confreres.

Music was provided by staff and students from Don Bosco Prep, Ramsey, N.J.


Amid all the after-Mass photography, Fr. Tim Ploch posed with the Salesians in initial formation 
and their formators--by God’s grace, a very large group but hard to capture quickly with a cell phone--
not quite everyone's in it. (Shot by blogger)

Monday, September 17, 2018

Homily for Monday, 24th Week of Ordinary Time

Homily for Monday
24th Week of Ordinary Time

Sept. 17, 2018
1 Cor 11: 17-26, 33
Don Bosco Cristo Rey, Takoma Park, Md.

“I hear that when you meet as a Church there are divisions among you” (1 Cor 11: 18)

Earlier in 1 Corinthians, Paul chastised the Church for factionalism based on whom they looked to as their leader or model of faith:  Paul, Apollos, Cephas (see ch. 3).  Here he faults them for a different kind of factions when they come together, i.e., to celebrate the Lord’s Supper:  this time on the basis of social class, rich and poor (11:18-21).  At this time in the early Church—not even 30 years after the Resurrection—the Eucharist was celebrated in conjunction with a meal, but those with an abundance of food weren’t sharing it with those who had less.  Picture a church potluck dinner at which every family eats only what they’ve brought and don’t offer it to anyone else.

An agape feast
(Fresco at a tomb in the catacombs of Sts. Marcellinus & Peter, Rome)
Then Paul reminds them of the origins, the meaning, of the Lord’s Supper:  Christ gave us this sacrament as a memorial of his own self-giving (11:23-24).  He who was super-rich in the abundance of God’s love gave himself to us who are so wretchedly poor (cf. Phil 2:6-7), that a new covenantal relationship might be forged between us and God (11:25).

So it ill behooves the Corinthians to ignore the poor and think only of themselves.  So any distinctions between rich and poor or between ethnic groups or anything like that is antithetical to the Eucharist, to the Body of Christ in which we participate.

And it’s one of the glories of our Salesian mission and of what we do, of who we are, at DBCR that we do the opposite of what the Corinthians were doing, e.g., in our sistering with Cristo Rey Houston last year and our mission trip to Puerto Rico this summer—and in our day-to-day school life.  Thanks be to God!  Thanks be to the grace of our Lord Jesus.  May we always “do this in remembrance of [him]”—bringing the Eucharist into our lives.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Fr. Angel Fernandez Visits Salesian Family in Montreal

Fr. Angel Fernandez Visits Salesian Family in Montreal

by Fr. Richard Authier, SDB

Photos by Fr. Alain Leonard, SDB

(Montreal – September 9) – When we first heard that the Rector Major would not be able to visit the USA, we were saddened for our confreres and the Salesian Family. When we heard that the Rector Major would be coming to Montreal, we were filled with joy.

Fr. Angel Fernandez (center) with the Salesian communities of Montreal and Sherbrooke; he’s embracing 
Bro. Gerard Richard, senior confrere of the entire New Rochelle Province.
Truly, JOY was the highlight of Fr. Angel’s visit on September 7-8. Upon his arrival on Friday afternoon, we took him to the most famous of all Canadian restaurants, Tim Horton’s, for a quick sandwich lunch. Then he was off to do an interview with Sel & Lumière, the French-speaking branch of Salt and Light. Even the interviewer was impressed with Fr. Angel’s humility, joy, and straightforwardness on youth and faith issues.  See, starting at 18:29; they speak Italian, and there are (shorter) French subtitles.

Saturday morning’s first important moment was a two-hour gathering with the Salesians of Sherbrooke and Montreal. Fr. Angel shared with us his conviction that presently the Salesian Congregation is in a very good place. Communities and confreres are in general very serene and committed. The Congregation worldwide is greatly appreciated for all we do for the young, especially the neediest, in so many dreadful places of suffering. He also spoke very openly about some of our challenges. Many of these challenges are those shared by all consecrated life in today’s Church.

The FMAs of Montreal and Cornwall--without the RM.
After lunch, Fr. Angel met with the Salesian sisters of Montreal and Cornwall, Ont. Their joy and enthusiasm were contagious. The final event of the visit was a 4:00 p.m. encounter with youths, lay collaborators, and Salesian Family members. We succeeded in a very short time in bringing together about 150 people. This session began with a mime done by youths of the Don Bosco Youth Leadership Centre. Then followed a talk by Fr. Angel, the celebration of the Eucharist in three languages, and a light buffet supper. Before and during supper, Fr. Angel was an “angel of patience” in letting so many take personal pictures with him!

Youth mime presents challenges of the young today.
Fr. Angel shared a lot of his impressions from his visit to Aleppo, Syria, and how this Salesian presence in a warzone represents the best of who we Salesians are. [Ed. note: It seems to have been this pastoral visit to Syria in April that caused the U.S. departments of State and Homeland Security to deny the Rector Major authorization to visit.] He also encouraged all not to be “complainers” but “doers of good,” no matter how hopeless a situation may seem. In his homily at Mass, Fr. Angel asked everyone the following question: “Do you really believe that God comes to save you, and do you open your sometimes-broken heart to Him?”

The Salesian Family of Quebec (and Cornwall) is very grateful to Fr. Angel for his visit. As Don Bosco’s tenth successor, he is really filled with our Founder’s spirit and heart. The Salesians are grateful to the young people and Salesian Family members for showing up with so much joy and energy, as well as to the “last minute team” that helped put together the wonderful day of September 8. “Viva Don Bosco!”
The Rector Major with young people.

Homily for 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homily for the
24th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Mark 8: 27-35
St. Theresa, Bronx
Sept. 11, 1988

“Jesus … asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’” (Mark 8: 27).

Who is Jesus?  The question comes up repeatedly in Mark’s Gospel.  In fact, his Gospel is designed as an answer to just that question.  Its 1st verse announces “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” builds to this scene at Caesarea Philippi, and climaxes with the centurion’s confession on Calvary:  “Truly this man was the Son of God” (15:39).

Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah
--unidentified stained glass (Wikipedia)
The Caesarea Philippi scene is a recognition scene—but a scene of recognition without understanding.  It’s not until we come to Calvary that recognition and understanding are reached.  Who is Jesus?  Seeing him dead on the cross, the centurion not only confesses, as Peter does today, but understands, as Peter plainly does not.

Generation after generation continues to ask who Jesus is.  That’s the core of the current film The Last Temptation of Christ.  It was the question Time posed in its cover story on the movie last month.  It’s such a fundamental question, because the answer needs regular reaffirmation, like the love between spouses.  You can’t say it just once and be done with it.

Who is Jesus?  The Gospel (as well as Kazantzakis’s novel and Scorsese’s film) answer that Jesus is the Christ, the anointed one of God come to save us and to inaugurate the reign of God, the messiah.

No sooner does Peter say this, presumably for all of Jesus’ disciples, than Jesus begins to teach that he must suffer and die.  Again Peter seems to speak for everyone, arguing and protesting.  How can God’s anointed one have that kind of a future?

Peter doesn’t understand.  The other disciples don’t understand.  I wonder whether you and I really understand.  If Christ must suffer, be rejected, and die, where does that leave us, his followers?  He tells us where it leaves us:  “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow in my steps” (8:34).

You don’t want to do that.  I don’t want to do that.  Peter didn’t want to do that.  So Peter protested, and Jesus publicly rebuked him:  “Get behind me, Satan!  You’re not on God’s side but on man’s” (8:33).

As our experience has taught us over and over, suffering, rejection, and death are part of being human.  Saints and sinners alike suffer, are rejected by others, die.  Misunderstandings, differences of opinion, accidents, disease, financial miscalculations, and rush-hour traffic affect us all.  Some of our suffering comes from the natural world; some of it others inflict upon us, or we upon others; and some of it we inflict upon ourselves.

If human beings must suffer and die, doesn’t it make sense that our messiah, the one who leads us toward God’s heavenly kingdom, should identify with our condition, and should know not only human joy but also human pain?  I think it does.  I think we can believe a messiah, a Christ, who has suffered, who has died.  This man is real.  This man know us, our struggles, our hurts, our temptations, our joys.  This man’s sufferings and death give meaning to the death we must eventually experience.  In his rejection, suffering, and death, Jesus kept faith with God his Father and opened the way to the promised land, to eternal life.  In our own suffering and deaths, we can keep faith with God thru the power and example of Jesus Christ; we can share in his messiahship, offering faith, hope, and love to a world hungry for salvation.

Who is Jesus?  Peter evidently thought it was possible to be the messiah without being human, or thought humans could live in this present life without pain.  We know that Jesus had to struggle with that temptation too.  We recall his temptations to power and fame and wealth in the desert before he began his public ministry.  Today we hear Peter tempt him. We see him sweating with fear in the Garden of Olives, praying his Father take away the cup of suffering that lies ahead.  We listen to passers-by at Calvary, as St. Matthew describes the scene, mocking Jesus:  “If you’re the Son of God, come down from the cross.  He saved others; he can’t save himself.  He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we’ll believe him” (Matt 27:40,42).  The last temptation of Christ, as imagined by Kazantzakis, is really the same as the one Peter offers today:  to flee from pain and rejection, to try to be a man without having to face suffering and death, to run from the role of messiah.

Jesus saw all these as temptations, embraced his humanity, embraced his Father’s will, and embraced the cross when misguided men forced it on him.  Then his identity was plain even to the pagan soldier:  “Truly this man was the Son of God.”  Jesus encourages us to follow him, not just to Calvary, but thru Calvary to resurrection and life.
The Martyrdom of St. Peter (Lionello Spada)

Salesian Family Assembles at Marian Shrine

Salesian Family Assembles at Marian Shrine

(Haverstraw, N.Y. – September 11) – It was supposed to be a great gathering of the Salesian Family around the father of the Family, Don Bosco’s tenth successor. It didn’t turn out that way on Saturday, September 8, at the Marian Shrine in Haverstraw. As is well known, Fr. Angel Fernandez couldn’t be present.

It was a decidedly Catholic gathering, as all the empty chairs in front testify.
He did send a fine delegate in his place, a member of our own province of St. Philip the Apostle and a member of the general council, Fr. Tim Ploch. Fr. Tim did not disappoint. He spoke eloquently in the Rector Major’s name at the SF assembly and then at the SDBs’ jubilees Mass.

Fr. Angel Fernandez sent greetings to the SF of the U.S.
A couple hundred SF members showed up on Saturday morning:  SDBs, FMAs, Cooperators, ADMA, and past pupils from New England, the New York metro area, and Washington, joined later by a couple of DBVs. A special presence was about 35 Salesian Lay Missioners, arriving for a reunion from not only the aforementioned regions but also from the Midwest, South, and Far West.

The program was scheduled for 9:00 a.m. but began much later as attendees slowly drifted in and began to greet old friends and make new ones.

After a ten-minute prayer service and a video greeting from Fr. Angel, Fr. Tim addressed the assembly, particularly by conveying the message that the Rector Major communicated during his visits to Surrey and Toronto. He has been pointing out that the second member of group of the SF that Don Bosco founded was ADMA (Association of Mary Help of Christians), specifically to remind us all that devotion to MHC is one of the two pillars that protect the Church in all its dangers.

Fr. Tim Ploch addressing the assembly.
Fr. Tim further cited the Rector Major by telling the assembly that, according to Don Bosco, the SF has two lungs, and these are the consecrated members and the lay members. The Rector Major maintains that the SF is the largest charismatic family in the Church, which means that it has great potential—not yet realized—for a tremendous impact on the young and the poor, especially those who are most distanced from their families and/or the Church.

To realize our potential, the Rector Major reminds us, the SF must maintain its communion. It needs a great dynamism and understanding of who we are together. Individualism, whether of persons or of groups, detracts from what we can do together.

The Rector Major cites outstanding examples of cooperative endeavors being carried out in India, Ecuador, and Bolivia. In most of the provinces of our region, the SF does actively work together.

The SF always has its doors open, says Fr. Fernandez. It doesn’t close in on itself. We don’t exist for ourselves but for the young and those in need.

He also says that we follow a dreamer, a prophet, who pushed boundaries.

In sum, the SF is (1) called by God (2) to work together (3) for the young. This is the identity of the SF.

Salesian Lay Missioners taking part in the SF assembly.
A period for questions and comments followed. Points were made about vocations, the need for strong families, and working in cooperation with the local Church. Don Bosco’s successor defines the role of the young in parishes as bringing hope; there is no family without the young. He also says that young people can lead lives of conviction and ideals; they can be saints, and this is a contribution they bring to us who accompany them. The SF should not be waiting on someone in SDB or FMA provincial leadership to direct them; good programs can be generated from ground level and percolate up to the top.

Small group discussions, remarks by Fr. Tim Zak about where the SF goes from here, and a wrap-up session followed, lasting almost till 11:00 a.m. Then people headed to the chapel for the jubilees Mass, after which a hearty buffet lunch was served in the pavilion.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Salesian Lay Missioners Reunite in Program's 36th Year

Salesian Lay Missioners
Reunite in Program’s 36th Year

by Clare Pressimone

(New Rochelle, N.Y. – September 13) – On the weekend of September 7-9, 35 women and men who have participated in the Salesian Lay Missioner program during the last 35 years gathered at the Marian Shrine and Don Bosco Retreat Center in Haverstraw, N.Y. Participants came from 13 states: Arizona, California, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The SLM program, established in 1983, is coordinated and sponsored by Salesian Missions USA, based in New Rochelle, N.Y. More than 800 women and men—mostly recent college graduates, but also some older volunteers and married couples, have participated.

This was the 2nd SLM alumni reunion, the first having occurred ten years ago. The 35 SLM alums who participated were commissioned in the years from 1999 up to 2017. They were missioned to Bolivia, Cambodia, the Hong Kong Province, India, South Sudan, USA, Vietnam, and Zambia.

Fr. Tom Dunne inspiring returned SLMs with his talk on Saturday afternoon.
The September 7-9 weekend included participation in the celebrations of the perpetual professions of three Salesians and the Jubilees Mass for 17 Salesians; a gathering of the Salesian Family; a talk by Fr. Tom Dunne, SDB, on the impact of SLMs around the globe; a breakout session in which the SLMs discussed how their mission experience influences their lives in the U.S; a Saturday vigil Mass celebrated by SLM alumnus Fr. Xavier Meiergerd, CFR; a dinner and a bonfire that were joined by several other members of the Salesian Family.

In his homily during Mass, Fr. Xavier reflected that “when you decide to follow Jesus, things get interesting.” The SLM alums were reminded of this as they shared their stories of mission and reminisced about what being an SLM and a member of the Salesian Family means to each of them. The importance and positive impact of the SLM program on each individual present was evident.

Many of the 35 attendees having traveled great distances, the gathering was filled with pure joy as SLMs met up with old friends, made new ones, and saw how the SLM family had grown over the years. (Some of the SLMs even brought their own families and significant others to join the fun.) Years after most had returned to the U.S., the continued commitment of the SLMs to the program which sent them to many corners of the Salesian world is a gift that would make the missionary heart of Don Bosco sing.

More information about the Salesian Lay Missioners:
SLM alumni Fr. Xavier Meiergerd, CFR (Bolivia, 2001-2002), 
and Bro. Dan Glass, SDB (South Sudan, 2012-2013).
Clare Pessimone served as an SLM in Cambodia in 2014-2016 and now works at Salesian Missions in New Rochelle while pursuing graduate studies at Fordham University.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Bros. DeMaio, Gunther, and Langan Make Perpetual Vows

Bros. DeMaio, Gunther, and Langan Make Perpetual Vows

Bros. Langan, Gunther, and DeMaio being examined before admission to final vows.
The New Rochelle Province rejoiced on the afternoon of September 7 as Bros. Steven DeMaio, Travis Gunther, and John Langan made their perpetual professions. The solemn rite of profession took place within Mass in the Marian Shrine chapel at Haverstraw, N.Y.

Fr. Tim Zak, at the ambo, conducts the examination of the brothers 
as Fr. Tim Ploch, at the presider’s chair, follows along.
Fr. Tim Ploch, general councilor for the Interamerica Region, received the brothers’ vows, presided at Mass, and preached. The Rector Major, Fr. Angel Fernandez Artime, had originally been expected for the celebration, but his pastoral visit to Syria back in April led the U.S. government to deny him permission to enter the U.S. So our former provincial, Fr. Tim, filled in for him.

With the candidates prostrate on the floor, the ministers and congregation 
pray the Litany of the Saints on their behalf.
The congregation taking part included 43 concelebrants (among them priests from Bro. Travis’s and Bro. John’s home parishes), 2 deacons, 26 other clerical and lay Salesians, 10 Salesian sisters, students from Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey and Salesian HS in New Rochelle, and a great number of family and friends of the professed.

Each of the professed placed 
his baptismal candle 
at the statue of Mary Help of Christians.
Bro. Travis professed as a coadjutor brother. Bros. Steve and John professed as students for the priesthood. In fact, both are studying theology at the Ratisbonne Monastery in Jerusalem; Bro. Steve is entering his 2d year, Bro. John his 3d. Bro. Travis continues to teach art and other courses at Don Bosco Prep and to accompany students in various extracurricular activities and ministries.

All three brothers made their novitiate at Rosemead, Calif., in 2011-2012 under the guidance of Fr. Bill Keane as master of novices, and made their first professions at Salesian HS in New Rochelle on August 21, 2012.

Fr. Tim’s Homily

In his homily Fr. Ploch reminded the three brothers and the congregation: “It might seem that Steve’s, Travis’s, and John’s profession is something they are doing. But their profession is really about what God is doing, and what God began doing in them when they were baptized and has been doing in them since—at their first profession and in their subsequent renewals of [temporary] profession. Profession is about God, about his fidelity to our three confreres throughout their lives.”

Speaking for himself and all Christians, Fr. Ploch also said: “My life is not about me but about God, who gave me life, who asks me to share my life, who asks me to follow the path that he has laid out for me (cf. Jeremiah’s call in the first reading). In Psalm 136 God spoke of ‘knitting [the psalmist] together in your mother’s womb.’ All of us are God’s creations, his handiwork, his masterpieces. God supplies what we need to live the vocation that he has given us.”

Bros. Langan, Gunther, and DeMaio listen attentively to the homily.
Fr. Ploch went on to cite examples from the lives of Jesus, of the Virgin Mary, and of Don Bosco of complete trust in whatever God is doing in one’s life. These are models for Bros. Steve, Travis, and John and everyone else to imitate.

Continuing the Celebration

At the end of the Eucharistic celebration, Bro. Travis voiced his gratitude and that of his companions. Fr. Tim Zak, provincial, followed with his own expression of thanks, particularly to the parents of the three perpetually professed and the rest of their families.

The parents of the perpetually professed confreres were asked to stand 
and receive appreciative applause. From the left: Steven and Theresa DeMaio, 
Raymond and Mary Beth Gunther, and Gerry and Fidelis Langan.
The parents of the three confreres were present: Steven and Theresa DeMaio from Ave Maria, Fla.; Raymond and Mary Beth Gunther from Conway, Ark.; and Gerry and Fidelis Langan from Winsted, Conn. Various siblings also attended.

A buffet dinner served by Market Basket of Franklin Lakes, N.J., followed in the cafeteria of the Don Bosco Retreat Center.
All the professed Salesians (except the photographer) and candidates gather 
around Fr. Ploch and Bros. DeMaio, Gunther, and Langan.