Sunday, April 14, 2024

Homily for 3d Sunday of Easter

Homily for the
3d Sunday of Easter

April 14, 2024
Acts 3: 13-19
1 John 2: 1-5
Scouts NYLT, Putnam Valley (with slight adaptations)
Our Lady of the Assumption, Bronx
St. Francis Xavier, Bronx

“The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses” (Acts 3: 15).

Jesus appears to the Apostles
(Duccio di Buoninsegna)

St. Peter is addressing a crowd of people in the Temple right after he and St. John cured a crippled man.  He attributes the healing to the power of Jesus, risen from the dead.  But he speaks bluntly about not only Jesus’ resurrection but also about how Jesus died:  put to death by a decision of Pontius Pilate and the people of Jerusalem.  They chose to kill “the author of life,” the Son of God who shares with his Father in creating and sustaining the universe.  But God the Father raised him back to life and offers forgiveness to the sinful men and women responsible for his death.

Not only to those immediately responsible for killing Jesus, but also to those remotely responsible for Christ’s death.  That means everyone who has sinned.  It means you and me.  All of us who are sinners have contributed to Christ’s suffering and death.

But, St. John assures us, “He is expiation for our sins, and not only for our sins but for those of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).  Jesus Christ the righteous one (2:1) obtains forgiveness for repentant sinners:  “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away,” Peter urges the crowd in the Temple (Acts 3:19).

What does repentance mean?  1st, acknowledging our sinfulness; not only in a kind of general way, but in specifics.  How have I sinned against God and my brothers and sisters?  Perhaps by an arrogant attitude, by a controlling attitude, by lying, by cheating, by taking what isn’t mine, by lusting for someone, by resentment or vengeance, by gossip, by laziness, by greed.

2d, repentance means changing that bad behavior:  “The way we may be sure that we know [Jesus Christ] is to keep his commandments.  Whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him” (1 John 2:3,5).

When we keep the commandments we are witnesses to Jesus Christ, the risen one who forgives our sins and redeems the world.  St. Peter told the crowd that he and St. John were witnesses of the resurrection.  Jesus himself told all the apostles the same thing:  “It is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the 3d day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:46-49).

They were witnesses that the same Jesus who died on the cross—“Look at my hands and my feet” (24:39) that were pierced by Roman nails; the same Jesus condemned by Pontius Pilate, the historical governor of Judea from 26 to 36 A.D.—this Jesus has been raised from the dead by the power of God; this Jesus now lives forever and saves us from our sins.  The Catholic Church continues to bear witness to this faith of the apostles, the eyewitnesses; this is the apostolic faith handed down to us.  You and I are charged, by the fact of our Baptism, to be witnesses that Jesus Christ lives, forgives our sins, and leads us “in confident hope to the rejoicing of the day of resurrection,” as we prayed in the collect—the day of our own resurrection.  “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come” (Creed).

Friday, April 12, 2024

Homily for Funeral of Eufronia Maranan

Homily for the Funeral of Eufronia Maranan

April 12, 2024
Rev 21: 1-7
Phil 3: 20-21
St. Anthony, Nanuet, N.Y.

“Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race” (Rev 21: 3).

The Annunciation
(St. Catharine's Church, Spring Lake, N.J.)

Last Monday, the Church celebrated the feast of the Annunciation of the Lord—the Son of God’s incarnation as a human being.  “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14).  God came to dwell with the human race in our flesh and blood.  “He shared our human nature in all things but sin” (Euch. Pr. IV).

The feast of the Annunciation followed right after our celebration of Easter, the celebration of our Lord’s victory over death.  The Lord who dwells with the human race and makes us his people wants to remain with us always as our God still living in our flesh (Rev 21:3).

Our Lord Jesus, risen, has defeated suffering and death for us.  “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning” (21:4), for he has defeated death for all who believe in him and follow him.  “He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body” (Phil 3:21), and so we shall live with Christ forever as citizens of heaven (3:20), his own people, his own sisters and brothers in fact.

Lala believed all this, and so she served Jesus all her life in prayer, in love for her family, in teaching the young to be honest citizens here and faithful Christians, in raising [daughter’s name] and [granddaughter’s name] in the faith and in virtue.  Her heart burned within her when she heard God’s word (cf. Luke 24:32), when she conversed with our Lord and our Blessed Mother in prayer, and when she recognized Jesus in the Eucharist (24:35) every week.  Her union with the glorified body of our Lord in this Blessed Sacrament prepared her for resurrection with him on the Last Day.

On that Last Day, all of us who have followed Jesus to “the holy city, a new Jerusalem” (Rev 21:2), will dwell with him, victors over death.  We’re filled with hope and with Easter joy for Lala and for our own destiny, thanks to Jesus Christ our Savior.

Global Vision for Salesian Missionary Volunteer Ministry

A Global Vision for Salesian Missionary Volunteer Ministry

(ANS – Rome – April 10, 2024)
 – In an inspiring display of collaboration and shared vision, the Salesian Congregation’s Youth Ministry and Missions departments have united to foster a robust and dynamic Salesian missionary volunteer program. This groundbreaking initiative traces its origins to the innovative proposal by 3 dedicated lay individuals who envisioned a unified effort at the congregational level to promote the spirit of Salesian missionary work.

The proposal resonated with the hearts and minds of both departments, leading to the formation of an official advisory team, a blend of laymen and women and of Salesians. The team was tasked with nurturing and expanding the reach of Salesian missionary volunteering. The team’s composition, with members from the USA, Australia, Zambia, Colombia, Italy, and Czechia, is a testament to the global nature of the Salesian mission.

The team comprises four committed laypeople, including two provincial delegates for mission animation from the USA (J.C. Montenegro, 2d from right)and Australia, a volunteer coordinator from the U.S. mission office (Adam Rudin, far right), and another serving in Rome’s mission department. Their dedication is matched by 3 Salesians from Don Bosco’s family: one from the Youth Ministry Department, another from the Missions Department, and a 3d who is a provincial delegate for youth ministry in Zambia. This international team reflects the Salesian charism’s universal appeal, supported by the guidance and blessings of councilors from both departments.

4 years have passed since the seed was planted, and the team’s first challenge was to develop a strong working relationship and gain a deep understanding of the state of Salesian missionary volunteer programs in the Congregation. Their dedication bore fruit 2 years into their journey by creating a strategic plan, setting the stage for a series of ambitious goals, including an international gathering of the Congregation’s main volunteer coordinators. This milestone was achieved in early March this year, marking a significant step forward in their collaborative efforts.

This initiative’s success is a testament to the synergy between the Youth Ministry and the Missions departments and a shining example of the powerful collaboration between laity and religious within the Salesian Family. It underscores the vital role that laypeople play in advancing the Salesian mission and the unique contributions they make.

As Salesian missionary volunteering continues to evolve, it stands as a hope and an exemplary partnership model that transcends borders, cultures, and vocations. This effort clearly reflects Don Bosco’s dream to mobilize a vast movement of individuals committed to serving youth, particularly those most in need, through the Gospel’s loving message.

The collaboration between these 2 departments and the harmonious integration of lay and religious members are blueprints for other congregations and organizations. They demonstrate that remarkable outcomes are possible when diverse groups unite under a common goal, particularly in the service of the young and marginalized. As this team continues to pave the way for future Salesian missionary volunteers, their pioneering spirit will undoubtedly inspire many more to join this noble cause, perpetuating Don Bosco’s legacy through the transformative power of volunteer service.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Homily for Thursday, Week 2 of Easter, & St. Stanislaus

Homily for Thursday
2d Week of Easter
Memorial of St. Stanislaus

April 11, 2019
John 3: 31-36
Acts 5: 27-33
Christian Brothers, St. Joseph’s Residence, N.R.

by Bernini, St. Peter's Basilica
“God does not ration his gift of the Spirit,” Jesus told Nicodemus (John 3:34).  He bestowed that gift in such abundance on the apostles that they became fearless preachers of the resurrection and glorification of Jesus, of “repentance and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31).  Peter invoked the guidance of the Spirit in their preaching and in their defense before the high priest and the council of elders, the very men who’d condemned Jesus:  “We are witnesses of these things, as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him” (5:32).

The power of the Holy Spirit also guided St. Stanislaus in his defense of public morality, of the sanctity of marriage, of the human rights and dignity of the Polish people against the abuses of their king.  The Spirit-led courage of Bp. Stanislaus cost him his life but has inspired the Polish people for 945 years since in their love for their faith and their resistance to countless oppressors.

St. Stanislaus

Last Monday the Church published a relatively short defense of human dignity against the numerous ways in which it’s assaulted nowadays, often in ways deemed politically correct:  by the obvious oppressions of war, human trafficking, degrading poverty, environmental destruction, and capital punishment but also by abortion, gender ideology, surrogacy, and IVF.  In the face of repressive governments and so many public voices, the Church still cries out, “We must obey God rather than men” (5:29).  We must continue to bear witness to the resurrection of Jesus and the life he extends to every child of God, led by the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

More 2024-2025 Pastoral Assignments

More 2024-2025 Pastoral Assignments

A letter published by Fr. Dominic Tran, provincial, on April 9, dated the solemnity of the Annunciation (April 8), announced almost 2 dozen assignments for the coming pastoral year.

Fr. Suarez

The responsibilities of most interest probably are those of 3 pastors or parish admininistrators.  The new pastor of St. John Bosco-St. James Parish in Chicago will be Fr. Miguel Suarez, pending the approval of Card. Cupich.  Until now Fr. Miguel has been pastor of Our Lady of the Valley Parish in Orange, N.J.

Fr. Dieunel Victor, in turn, has been appointed administrator of OL of the Valley, pending the approval of Card. Tobin.  Till now he's been parochial vicar at St. John Bosco Parish in Port Chester, N.Y.

In Port Chester, Fr. Tarcisio Dos Santos, currently parochial vicar, will become administrator in place of the outgoing pastor, Fr. Pat Angelucci.

Fr. Victor

There was one more appointment of director:  Fr. John Serio has been named director of Mary Help of Christians Center in Tampa, succeeding Fr. Franco Pinto.

Fr. Franco, already vice provincial, will move to the provincial residence in New Rochelle.  So will Fr. Rich Alejunas, outgoing pastor in Chicago; he's already province treasurer.  Both confreres are ex-officio members of the provincial council.  Fr. Franco has also been appointed the province delegate for youth ministry, putting him in charge of that 5-person staff.

Also moving to New Rochelle will be Bro. Rafael Vargas, newly named associate director of vocation ministry.  He'll work with vocation director Fr. Steve DeMaio.  They're 2 of the 5 members of the YM staff (besides Fr. Franco).

Bro. Vargas

The 2 U.S. provinces, New Rochelle and San Francisco, anticipate a novitiate program in Richmond, Calif., next year.  Fr. Joseph Nguyen is expected to resume the office of master of novices.  He'll be assisted by Bro. Tom Dion, currently coordinator of the prenovitate program in Ramsey, N.J.

Fr. Tim Ploch, outgoing director of the New Rochelle community (provincial offices, Salesian HS, and Salesian Missions), has been designated a parochial vicar in Chicago.  His Spanish-language skill will be put to very good use there, along with his pastoral sensitivities.

Fr. Dominic also announced the merger of the 2 Salesian parishes in Harvey, La., as part of an archdiocesan reorganization.  St. John Bosco and St. Rosalie parishes will become Mary Help of Christians Parish.  Frs. Mark Hyde and George Hanna will continue to serve there as pastor and parochial vicar.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Homily for Tuesday, Week 2 of Easter

Homily for Tuesday
2d Week of Easter

April 9, 2024
Acts 4: 32-37
Christian Brothers, St. Joseph’s Residence, N.R.

Students from the Salesian College in Saragossa, Spain,
form a large heart full of joy and happiness. (ANS)

“The community of believers was of one heart and mind” (Acts 4: 32).

Luke twice gives us a picture of an idealized Church (cf. 2:42-47).  Probably all of us recognize that it’s an ideal.  In fact, in the next chapter comes the story of less-than-ideal Ananias and Sapphira (5:1-11), which our lectionary passes over.  Those 2, as well as a much later falling-out between Paul and Barnabas (15:36-39), demonstrate well enuf that the internal life of the early Church was no more ideal than it is in our day.

In today’s Scripture reflection from America Media, blogger-columnist Simcha Fisher takes on the discrepancy between the ideal and reality, specifically referencing Paul’s letters to the Corinthians.  (I’ve been reading her for a long time; she’s good.)  She asks:  “What was really happening? Was the early church actually as holy and pure and single-minded as Luke describes it, or was it a pack of weasels and backsliders and hypocrites, as Paul often seems to believe? Did it start out good and then go bad immediately? Or were the glorious early accounts written by people so na├»ve and blinded by optimism that they didn’t see what people were really like? Neither explanation is especially gratifying.”

Still, Luke’s ideal is something to aim at.  We religious propose that same ideal for our communities.  Insofar as we approximate the ideal, we provide a living and life-giving example to the entire Church:  this is what it means to be disciples of Jesus, to be united in heart and mind with him.  And we do our best to sing, or at least hum, in complete harmony with Jesus and with our brothers.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Homily for 2d Sunday of Easter

Homily for the
2d Sunday of Easter

April 7, 2024
John 20: 19-31
St. Francis Xavier, Bronx

Jesus “breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit…’” (John 20: 22).

(By Kueshardt)

The 1st part of this morning’s gospel is St. John’s version of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus’ followers, i.e., upon the Church.  It’s a lot less dramatic than St. Luke’s version in the Acts of the Apostles.  That version, which we read every year on Pentecost, reports a strong wind, tongues of fire, and the apostles’ compulsion immediately to leave the upper room where they’ve been hiding and to begin preaching the resurrection.

St. John’s plainer story more effectively shows the Church’s purpose:  to bring to people Jesus’ salvation thru the forgiveness of sins.  The Church is created by the gift of the Holy Spirit to continue Jesus’ work, to reunite men and women with God thru forgiveness and mercy.  Jesus explicitly grants his followers his own power to forgive the sins of anyone who repents of them, and to hold back forgiveness from the unrepentant.

Since the time of St. John Paul II, the Church has designated the Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.  In the prayer of the day (the collect), we address God as “God of everlasting mercy,” the God who has made us his own people by washing us clean of sin in the waters of Baptism and giving us a spiritual rebirth by the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit was lavished upon us when we were baptized and again at Confirmation.  The Spirit, moreover, descends upon our gifts of bread and wine and transforms them into the Body and Blood of our Savior.  At Mass we pray, “By the same Spirit graciously make holy these gifts we have brought to you for consecration, that they may become the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, at whose command we celebrate these mysteries” (EP III).  Every day, at every Mass, God breathes forth his Spirit to bestow his love and his grace upon us.

In our gospel passage, Christ’s gift of the Spirit was most directly connected with the forgiveness of our sins.  No matter what sins we’ve committed, no matter how grave they might be, Jesus wants to forgive them, wants to lavish his mercy upon us.  After the sacrament of Baptism, he does that thru the sacrament of Reconciliation—thru confession.  What a beautiful sacrament!  We bring our spiritual weakness, our fragility, our failures to our Lord Jesus thru his priestly minister—the minister to whom Jesus has said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them.”  It’s the Spirit of Jesus himself who forgives as the priest gives absolution:  “God, the Father of mercies, thru the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and poured out the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins; thru the ministry of the Church, may God grant you pardon and peace.  And I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Why wouldn’t we want the gift of that forgiveness, that divine mercy, often?

Friday, April 5, 2024

New Learning Program Opened at Don Bosco Quetta

New Learning Program Opened
at Don Bosco Quetta

(ANS – Quetta, Pakistan – April 2, 2024) –
 On March 18 a new program, called “Early Learning Adventures,” was launched at the Don Bosco Learning Centre in Quetta, Pakistan. This initiative represents a crucial moment for the education, emancipation, and development of the Salesian community in Pakistan.

The program was presented by Fr. Sami Ghouri, SDB, director of the Centre, accompanied by the Salesians, teachers, and students. He illustrated the program, explaining how it was designed specifically to cater to children aged 3 and 4, laying a solid foundation for their holistic development.

The “Early Learning Adventures” program aims to provide a stimulating educational environment and incorporates a curriculum that includes game-based learning, early literacy, calculation, and the development of social skills. The focus is on promoting curiosity, creativity, and a passion for learning.

In addition to individual growth, the program seeks to have a positive impact on the local community, forming young students who are confident, socially aware, and curious. The commitment is to promote a generation that contributes significantly to Quetta’s progress.

The Salesian community in Pakistan strongly supports this initiative and has shown enthusiasm for the prospect of creating a vibrant learning space for the little ones. Thru the “Early Learning Adventures” project, it proposes to sow the seeds for a life of curiosity, creativity, and educational success.

The launch of this new project comes a few days after the opening of the new school year at the Don Bosco Learning Centre in Quetta.

The students were greeted by the principal, Bro. Francis Nhat, who reminded the children of the importance of turning dreams into reality and the power of active engagement in shaping our future. The Don Bosco Learning Centre in Quetta believes in the transformative power of education, considered the key to unlocking opportunities and creating a better life.

Subsequently, Fr. Ghouri took the floor, addressing the school community, sharing words of encouragement and hope. He expressed his confidence in the promise, hope, and optimism that each of the students embodies, underscoring their potential to achieve greatness through education. As educators, he stressed, it is a privilege to accompany students on their journey, enabling them to discover their passions, unleash their potential, and pursue their dreams.

Homily for Thursday, Octave of Easter

Homily for Thursday, Octave of Easter

April 4, 2024
Acts 3: 11-26
Christian Brothers, St. Joseph’s Residence, N.R.

St. Peter preaching in Jerusalem
(public domain via EWTN)

Yesterday’s 1st reading recounted how Peter and John healed a cripple at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple.  Today we hear the people’s reaction and an interpretative sermon from Peter.  Peter hastens to ascribe the amazing cure to the power of Jesus, risen from the dead by the favor of God in fulfillment of the Scriptures.  Faith in Jesus Christ leads to salvation, no matter how ignorantly one has acted—Pilate or the Jewish leaders, or we ourselves.  Peter invites his listeners to repentance “that your sins may be wiped away, and that the Lord may grant you times of refreshment” (Acts 3:19-20), which is a somewhat strange way of saying that God will renew our souls.  That’s the promise of Jesus, raised from the dead—a more amazing work of God than the healing of a crippled body.  Souls made whole by faith are the true healing that Christ offers us.