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.

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