Gabriel, Mark and I were in Mexico by the 10th of May 2022 to study Spanish while staying at “Templo de la Santisima Trinidad”. This was an extremely valuable experience that allowed us to have a 6 week ‘warm-up’ to this new environment and culture. I would be lying if I told you it was easy. Our first 3 days felt like we had been there for 3 weeks! Our program was done by the 1st of July at which point we headed to Ixtapaluca to begin our Novitiate at “Semenario San Alfonso”. The first 3 months was a lot of adjusting; as we had men made up of many different cultures trying to live and work together (Jalisco, Chiapas, St. Lucia, Vietnam, America, China, Philippines, Canada and Sri-Lanka). Our first 3 months we slowly got a working schedule with our typical day beginning at 7am and ending at 9:30pm:
However, this schedule would change throughout the year with things being moved around. Outside of our schedule we each had jobs that rotated monthly and weekly; weekly we changed who washed dishes and who led prayers as hebdomadary and antiphonaries and monthly we had coordinator roles (being in charge of different parts of the house i.e groundskeeper, housekeeper, animals) or specific cleaning responsibilities (chapel, old hallway, new hallway etc.). Thankfully for the guys who joined this year they do not need to worry about shoveling pig deposits because we ate two and sold two, but they do need to care for the sheep (which is much easier). It’s unfortunate because I think it's quite the humbling experience having to clean up after others (good training for the future).
Overall, this year helped me understand how as a Redemptorist I am not simply a part of the Canadian province but rather part of something much larger, and I am excited about that. Having had the opportunity to experience some of the many cultures that make up our Congregation I am hopeful that through our differences we can make it work if we continue to keep our eyes on Christ the Redeemer and avoid our own cultural bias’. In addition, I cannot forget to mention the Mexican people, because this was my first true experience of ‘being close to the people’ or more accurately ‘the people being close to us’. Every home we went to we were always reminded as we left, “mi casa es su casa”. I had never felt so much love and generosity from people who barely knew me, anytime anyone asks what I love most about Mexico I would reply ‘the people’ (the food, especially Mole is a close 2nd).
I hope you enjoy the photos below that probably do a better job than my words at expressing what a novitiate in Mexico could look like.
Canadian Redemptorist Students 2023
Prayer, Renewal, and Community: The Redemptorist Student Gathering, 2023
From May 15th to 19th, Redemptorist students from Canada and the United States gathered for the first time since before the COVID Pandemic. The Gathering occurred at the Redemptorist Retreat Center in Oconomowoc, WI, and the participants included Provincials, Formation Directors, Vocation Directors, and students from the Provinces of Canada, Baltimore, Denver, and the Vice-Province of Extra-Patriam. The participants from the Province of Canada included myself, Noel Oco, Michael Smolinski, Raymond Douziech, Santo Arrigo, Remi Hebert, who will be going San Antonio to the Formation Community as co-director.
Each day began with Morning Prayer and breakfast, after which everyone gathered for a lecture presented by Monsignor Stephen Bosso (Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee). The talks focused on the power and creativity of the Word, especially in preaching. After the lecture, the students would have the afternoons free, while the Provincials and Formation Directors participated in meetings. On Tuesday afternoon, many of the students went to Holy Hill, a Discalced Carmelite Shrine in Hubertus, WI (where some of us made the trek of climbing the 178 steps to the top of the bell tower! See picture at right). Mass was celebrated each day before supper, and the evenings were usually free so the community could gather for fellowship. On Thursday, Steven Urban, Antonio Montoya, and Scott Partin (all students from the Denver Province) renewed their vows to the Congregation. Participating in that joyful celebration with my fellow confreres was such a blessing.
It was an insightful week of prayer, reflection, and connecting with students from different North American Provinces. This was the first student gathering I was able to attend, and I look forward to participating in next year's get-together! Please continue to pray for more vocations to the Redemptorist way of life, especially within the North American Conference. Also, pray for the students already in formation so that they may persevere and continue to listen to where God is calling them.
Canadian Redemptorist Students 2022
Ordination of Alfredo Medina Ramos
May 27th, 2021 will be written as a very special day in the Chronicles of the Province. The setting for this special day is Zacatecas, Mexico and the Cathedral dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady. The church is a world heritage site and thousands of tourists come yearly to see its unique architecture. The original church was built in 1568 and the present Cathedral dates from 1752.
It’s a balmy 31 degrees and the Neo-Spanish Baroque Cathedral Basilica dominates the historic centre of the city. As the noon Angelus bells ring, attention focuses on the procession that began at the entrance of the church.
Everyone in the procession is wearing a mask, a reminder that we are still in a pandemic. The people in the pews are also wearing masks but this does not stop the enthusiastic singing of an opening hymn. At the end of the procession walking in front of the Bishop is our deacon, Alfredo.
The interior of the Cathedral is simple yet striking. Large Doric columns line the nave and the front of the building. The massive altar dominates the sanctuary while a modern altar piece rises majestically against the front wall. On it are various sculptures of saints, topped by a magnificent sculpture of the Assumption and above Our Lady is a picture of the Trinity looking down on the People of God.
The bishop, Siegfried Noriega Barceló (pictured at right), began with a warm welcome to the large number of clergy present, to the Redemptorists, to
the family of Alfredo, the people of Malpaso (Alfredo’s hometown), visitors from near and far and those watching on the internet. The bishop also spoke about his own personal connection to the Redemptorists. His mother had a great devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. He was inspired by the Mexican Redemptorists prior to his ordination and had Redemptorists teaching him when he studied in Rome.
The bishop set a tone of formality but also created a prayerful and relaxed celebration. In his homily he spoke of the ordination as a “great fiesta” for the Church. He reminded us that we had just celebrated Pentecost, a celebration of the birth of the Church, the presence of the Holy Spirit. At the heart of the Church is the Eucharist. He talked about the priesthood of the faithful and how certain individuals were chosen to exercise our common priesthood in a special way particularly as a celebrant of the Eucharist. Christ, through the hands of the priest, comes to be our food. The priest in turn is to be food for the people through his service. He is the presence of God announcing the Gospel of Jesus and the reign of God. In short, the priest’s mission is to be Eucharist.
The rite of ordination began with the presentation of Alfredo to the bishop by Fr. Carlos Flores Rodríguez C.Ss.R., Provincial Councillor, a delegate of Fr. Charles Duval, our provincial. Fr. Rodríguez affirmed that Alfredo was a worthy candidate for ordination. The bishop confirmed this vocation and called Alfredo to the order of ministerial priesthood.
First, were a series of questions addressed to Alfredo beginning with the question if ordination was something Alfredo wanted. In a clear voice Alfredo replied, “Quiero, si.” “Yes I want/wish (it).” Before the prayer of consecration Alfredo was robed in his chasuble by his mother. In a touching scene Alfredo in his new chasuble knelt before his mother and she imparted her blessing and kissed him. It seemed to symbolically mean that she, on behalf of the family, was blessing him and releasing him to the Church.
The rite of ordination proceeded with the imposition of hands and the anointing of Alfredo’s hands. After the ritual Alfredo joined the Bishop and concelebrants at the altar. The Eucharist continued and concluded with Fr. Rodriguez thanking the bishop on behalf of Fr. Charles and the Redemptorists. He also thanked Alfredo’s family for this gift to the Church and our Congregation. In reply, Alfredo also offered a brief thank you to all.
We are grateful for the gift of Alfredo. This has been a long journey for him and we are appreciative for the gift of perseverance. We hope that he will find great joy in his priestly ministry and find that he can truly be “Father” Alfredo to many.
The closing hymn seemed highly appropriate and a reflection of Alfredo’s journey. A translation of the refrain would be: “Here I am Lord, take me, a priest I want to be forever.”
March 15th, the feast of St Clement Mary Hofbauer was a special day of celebration in the house of formation. We not only remembered St Clement but we also had the Investiture of the habit for our three novices.
We were pleased to have Fr. Provincial, Fr. Charles, with us. He offered us an inspiring reflection on the sanctity of St Clement and a reminder from St Alphonsus that we join the congregation to become saints. St Clement became a saint in his time and we have to become saints in today’s world. We do so as individuals and as a community, striving ever more to preach the Gospel anew. Fr Charles pointed out that the concept “anew” implies not only adaptation but also innovation. We have to continually strive to bring the Gospel message a-new to our brothers and sisters today, as St Clement did in his day.
Fr Charles challenged the novices who were receiving the habit. This investiture is a step on the road to profession as a Redemptorist. It is owning a symbol of what we strive for as Redemptorists as messengers of hope to a wounded world. At the same time, it is also frightening to wear a habit because it reminds the wearer of the need for integrity when preaching the Gospel. We must be what we claim to be.
Wearing the habit, Fr. Ray, the novice director, reminded the novices is like the towel Jesus wore when he washed his apostle’s feet; it is a sign of service, a declaration that we are putting on the Servant Christ. It is taking on an identity that draws us to the heart of the Mission of Jesus, to bring good news to the poor. It is an identity that says “Here I am, I serve, I am sent, I walk with.”
The novices were assisted in putting on the habit and rosary by the professed members of the community. Each novice had made their rosary and putting it on proved to be harder than it seemed – even with the frustration of a broken chain, which situation Brother Raymond rescued by loaning his own rosary. Once the novices were vested we proceeded with prayers for each one, prayers for our congregation and for its leadership. The Eucharist was a special celebration and a thanksgiving for our Canadian province. The presence of our Candidates also witnessing the investiture was an inspiration for their own journey. The chapel radiated with joy and the click of a multitude of photos.
A Joyful Day with the Lord!
By Fr. Ray Douziech, C.Ss.R.
On September 03, 2020, Alfredo Medina-Ramos was ordained to the diaconate by Bishop Robert Kasun, CSB, auxiliary Bishop of Toronto in a moving ceremony at St. Patrick’s National Shrine Church. Even though protocols were in place because of the pandemic, these did not take away from the celebrative mood, the solemnity yet intimacy of the ceremony.
With the adept master of ceremonies, Fr. Paul Dobson, all the elements of the ordination were flawlessly choreographed. Dr. Robin Williams played the pipe organ with Amado Amarante as the soloist. The formation house provided the reader and altar servers (Benedict Nicholas as reader, Noel Bustillos, Andrew Phillips and Mark Suezo as altar servers). Fr. Charles Duval, the provincial, called Alfredo to the altar while Fr. Ray Douziech declared the worthiness of Alfredo to be raised to this sacred order.
The Redemptorists were well represented. We were scattered throughout the church with appropriate social distancing and masks. In all there were 14 Redemptorists from St. Patrick’s community and from the House of Formation. Office staff from the Formation House and St Patrick’s and Lay Associates were dispersed through the pews as were a good number of parishioners. Alfredo had invited some friends from the Spanish parish, San Juan Bautista, as well as the pastor Fr. Jose David Peres Florez. Fr. David had given Alfredo an alb and a beautiful deacon stole as a gift from the parish.
Alfredo’s family could not come but Alfredo was thrilled to hear that his mother, siblings and their families did gather to watch the ordination live-streamed through Facebook. Gabriel Ciang did the videography while Noel Oco provided ample photos for great memories.
All in all, the day turned out to be impressive and unforgettable. We all rejoice with Alfredo that his long journey to priesthood has finally come this far. He is well prepared for the office of deacon and is ready to be of service to the Church and the Congregation here in Canada. Deacon Alfredo begins ministry in St. Mary’s Parish in Saskatoon on October 1, 2020.
Although July 24, 2019 marked the official start of the 2019-2020 North American Redemptorist novitiate, the launch was the result of several months of sometimes-hectic preparations to get the Lima house in order, in particular the third floor where the six novices would be living. Major renovations were done in several bathrooms, new floors were installed in a some of the bedrooms, and furnishings purchased for bedrooms and common spaces. The kitchen was also renovated with new appliances installed (stove, fridge, freezer, and dishwasher). Kudos to Fr. Jack Kingsbury CSsR (Conference Coordinator for North America), Kevin Devine (Baltimore facilities manager), Fathers Mike Sergi CSsR, Jim Szabonya CSsR, and Mike Houston CSsR, the parish staff, and numerous parish volunteers for all their help in getting the house ship-shape. In addition, the two Directors of Novices (Ed Eherer CSsR and Chuong Cao CSsR) spent the better part of a week picking up supplies, stocking the house pantry, and procuring hardware, houseware, software and any other kind of ware you could imagine. I’m convinced that Fr. Chuong is now on a first-name basis with the staff at the local Sam’s Club.
On July 22, the novices finally arrived – two young men from the Denver Province (Jose Montoya from Houston, and Steven Urban from Salina, Kansas) and four from the Extra-patriam Vice-province (Dai Ho and Vinh Nguyen from Houston, and Joseph Nguyen and Bao Tran from Portland, Oregon). After taking a day or so to settle in, we were ready to start on July 24. We gathered in the house chapel to celebrate the Eucharist and officially inaugurate the new novitiate year. Fr. Jack Kingsbury presided and offered the novices some words of wisdom on this most auspicious day. We were also joined by Fr. Joseph, the formation director of the Extra-patriam Vice-province who had accompanied his novices to Lima.
The first few days involved typical orientation stuff – getting acquainted, filling out forms, looking at schedules, household nuts and bolts, and so on. We also had the chance to check out a couple of attractions in the area: the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum (in his hometown of Wapokaneta - first picture below) and the Ohio Caverns (near Zanesville - second picture below).
Once the dust has settled, we will be having our opening retreat in nearby Sylvania under Fr. Jack Kingsbury’s direction. Then it’s “getting down to brass tacks,” as the saying goes. I must say that in the short time we have been together, I’ve encountered a great spirit of openness and generosity. These will be important ingredients in making for a successful year. Add to that a good measure of prayer.
At the Shrine of Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré
By Fr. David Purcell, C.Ss.R.
Grace and peace abound, for those who make the pilgrimage to Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré for her novena and the feast day on the 26th of July. I invite vocation inquirers to come and work side by side with Redemptorists at this time of year. These men lead prayers, give short testimonies, do some manual labour, experience common prayer and meals in a community, and meet Redemptorists and pilgrims from around the world. This year we worked alongside Fr. Douglas James who deepened our understanding of the times, symbols, and language of Jesus, and of his disciples. Fr. Douglas is from a diocese in Sri Lanka. We also were blessed to meet **four Redemptorists from Burkina Fasso; and a diocesan priest from Burkina Fasso.
Of course it was not all work. Here we are enjoying ice cream at the end of the evening candlelight procession. From left to right are: Nick (inquirer from Nova Scotia) Fr. Emmanuel**, Ben (Redemptorist candidate), Fr. Douglas (English novena), Fr. Pascal**, Fr. Norbert** (standing), Fr Aimé**, Fr. Maurice (diocesan priest). Each evening as we relaxed after a long day, and often at morning prayer, our confreres from Burkina Fasso treated us to some wonderful songs and great drumming! You can catch a sample of their music on this link as they were part of a brilliant and moving multi-cultural opening ceremony.
Yes, just in case you missed it - Ben was recently accepted as a Redemptorist candidate and will join our student program in Toronto this coming fall. Please keep him in your prayers as he makes this transition.
We also met Gérald C. Lacroix. He weaves humour and stories into his preaching and is renowned for his preaching. The team at the Basilica facilitated each evening, a liturgy of the Word in French, with lots of singing, the preaching of the Cardinal, and also testimonies from a variety of lay people and clergy. He is also an exemplary bishop, and known to be a very good pastor. It was also good to meet Cardinal Lacroix, the person - seen here at the breakfast table. He shared with us about his family, and asked us for prayers for his sister who is receiving treatment for cancer. He told us how his father, after seeing the Pope on television who was bracing against the cold, then knit a white, wool scarf for the Holy Father. Yes, if you see Pope Francis wearing a white, thick, hand-knit scarf, it came from the hands of Cardinal Lacroix’s father.
I am heartened by the men who are taking an interest in our community from across Canada. For example, Nick is from Nova Scotia. Please remember to invite men to inquire about the Redemptorists. Please ask them to consider joining us for a few days or a few weeks, next summer, at Le Sanctuaire de Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré!
Student Gathering in Canandaigua
By Fr. David Purcell, C.Ss.R.
I am often asked by people in general, but especially by people who are inquiring into the Redemptorists, whether we have any students. Yes, we do have students.
Every year at this time, we gather many Redemptorist students into one place for a week of prayer, meals, fun, and a workshop. In the picture above, you see students who are from Canada and the United States, and one student who has come from Ireland. Of course, not all the students were able to attend, including five students from Canada who had to miss out on this great experience that took place near Canandaigua Lake, New York this May.
Some of you know Brothers Eumir Bautista C.Ss.R. and Ivan Dzhur C.Ss.R. These men are studying to become Redemptorists in Canada. They renewed their profession of vows to the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer.
Seen from left to right are Fr. Charles Duval C.Ss.R. the newly elected Provincial Superior for Canada, and Frs. Peter Hill C.Ss.R. and John Sianchuk C.Ss.R., who were witnessing the renewal of vows for Brothers Ivan and Eumir.
During the workshop portion of our week, Fr. Raphael Gallagher C.Ss.R., explained how to read his newly published book, “Conscience, Writings from Moral Theology by St. Alphonsus.” Fr. Raphael explained how people in the time of St. Alphonsus, very like our own era, were wondering how to find some certainty when trying to make good choices in life. We learned the method that St. Alphonsus proposes to help us choose the Good. In the picture below, from left to right you are Redemptorist Frs. Jack Kingsbury, David Louch, Raphael Gallagher and John Sianchuk. Frs. Jack, David and John are members of our North American Spirituality Commission. This Spirituality Commission along with Liguori Publications, helped to publish and distribute this new book.
As usual, the food at these gatherings is fabulous and was certainly made more enjoyable by the company we shared at table. Fr. Mark Miller our newly elected Regional Superior and Fr. Ray Douziech are featured here. Fr. Ray is the director of students at our Toronto student house. We also have student houses in New York city, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio, Texas.
From this summer through to next August of 2020, our students at the stage of novitiate will be living at our monastery in Lima, Ohio. Pictured here from left to right are Frs. Chuong Cao and Ed Eherer, who will be the directors of novices for this coming year.
Well I was too focussed on praying, during the prayer time, to get you a picture of that; however, I did mention above that in addition to prayer, workshop, and food, we also had fun…
If you would like to join in the Gospel friendship that we share in the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer; or if you would like to encourage someone to become a member of the Redemptorists, then please give me a shout.