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Oblate provincial to be president of DeSales University

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Dialog reporter

 

Father James J. Greenfield has been leader of the Wilmington-Philadelphia Province since 2008

 

Father James J. Greenfield, provincial of the Wilmington-Philadelphia Province of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales since 2008, has been elected the fourth president of DeSales University in Center Valley, Pa., effective next Jan. 1, the university announced March 16.

Father Greenfield, 55, a member of the university’s board of trustees for nearly 15 years, will be the first alumnus of DeSales to become its president. He graduated from what was then called Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales in 1984 with a degree in politics. He succeeds Oblate Father Bernard F. O’Connor, who has served since 1999. Read more »

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Oblates ready for second year of ministry at Oratory

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Dialog Reporter

St. Thomas More Oratory serves the Catholic community at the University of Delaware 

NEWARK — It’s been a year since the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales assumed pastoral leadership at the St. Thomas More Oratory, and the Catholic community at the University of Delaware continues to evolve.

The pastor, Oblate Father Ed Ogden, has a new associate and has brought some new ideas to the Newark campus, but he has tried not to undo the good that has been done by Kim Zitzner, the longtime director of Catholic campus ministry at UD. Read more »

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Wilmington Oblates host their superior general

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Dialog reporter

 Father Kiesel found his vocation with the order in Brazil, now he leads the order from Rome and the road

WILMINGTON — He lives in Italy, but Father Aldino Kiesel keeps a close eye on the work being done by the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales throughout the world. This month, Father Kiesel, the superior general of the congregation, has had an opportunity to see the local Oblates in action during a visit to the Wilmington-Philadelphia Province.

Father Kiesel visits each of the provinces once every four years, and his stops in the Diocese of Wilmington have included the Oblate facilities in Childs, Md., Salesianum School and Christ Our King Parish. He also traveled to DeSales University in Center Valley, Pa., and parishes in New Jersey, Virginia, Florida and North Carolina. Read more »

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Oblates will minister at U.D. Oratory

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Dialog Editor

 

Bishop Malooly has announced that the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales will begin to minister at the diocese’s St. Thomas More Oratory at the University of Delaware in Newark this summer.

Oblate Father Edward F. Ogden will be pastor and chaplain at the oratory after the spring semester at the university. Dominican Father J. Ambrose Eckinger, the current pastor at the campus ministry center, is slated for a new assignment by his order.

“I want to thank the Dominicans for their service at the University of Delaware Catholic Community at St. Thomas More Oratory,” Bishop Malooly said in a statement Tuesday. Read more »

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Oblates made an impact on Father Brian Zumbrum, and now he hopes to

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Dialog reporter

 

WILMINGTON — Father Brian Zumbrum, ordained in 2013 as an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, has found his vocation within his vocation. Now in his second year at Nativity Prep, the tuition-free middle school for boys in Wilmington, Father Zumbrum has an opportunity to combine his passion for teaching with that of working in an urban setting.

“My entire formation has been immersed in the urban world,” he said recently in his office at Nativity. “The urban setting can be a very difficult one, and not everyone’s matched for it, but I am. I thrive in the day-to-day craziness that sometimes can come, but also in that sense that everything we do truly does matter.” Read more »

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Oblates to minister at Elkton parish

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Dialog editor

 

Immaculate Conception Church in Elkton, Md., and its mission church, St. Jude in North East, Md., are now in the pastoral care of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales.

Oblate Father James R. Yeakel began his ministry March 1 at the parish during a Mass concelebrated with Father Anthony Giamello, a priest of the Diocese of Wilmington, who was serving as administrator. Read more »

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Salesianum students attend ordination of faculty member in school’s gym

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Staff reporter

 WILMINGTON — From many appearances, the ordination of Michael Vogt to the priesthood for the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales was the same as any other ordination. There was the altar, the bishop, fellow priests laying their hands on his head, and proud family and friends looking on.

But in other ways, Father Vogt’s ordination on Jan. 27 was very different. For one, it was held in the gymnasium at Salesianum School, where the new priest is a campus minister and theology teacher. And there likely have been few ordination Masses that were followed by a “victory lap” of sorts, as Father Vogt circled the gym to thank the students, who packed the bleachers, each section rising to give “Rev,” as he is affectionately known, a standing ovation as they chanted his name. He graciously returned the applause.

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Sallies’ lesson plan on Jan. 27: Holy orders

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Staff reporter

WILMINGTON —For Mike Vogt, the running stops Jan. 27.

That’s when, in front of the Salesianum School community of which he has been a part for the past two and a half years, Vogt will be ordained a priest of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, completing a process he began almost 36 years ago.

Vogt, 53, joined the Oblates right after he graduated from North Catholic High School in Philadelphia in 1976 and, for the next decade, he was in formation with them and with the Diocese of Allentown. Then, as his ordination approached, he had second thoughts.

Rev. Mr. Mike Vogt, who will be ordained an Oblate priest at Salesianum School on Jan. 27, distributes the Communion cup during a recent school Mass. (The Dialog/DonBlakePhotography.com)

“Basically, I got cold feet and left,” Vogt said recently at Salesianum, where he is part of the campus ministry team and a theology teacher.

“I had some doubts about myself and my own worthiness. I guess you could say a lot of it was rethinking, some confusion. There were some personal crises in my life, and I think I needed to take a step away and catch a breath.”

In the interim, Vogt had a bi-coastal odyssey. He taught high school in Philadelphia for seven years, then moved to California, where he did some acting in commercials and worked in sales for CBS. He also ran two sober-living facilities for men.

Vogt said he used a lot of what he had learned in teaching and in community life at the sober-living houses. In a way, he was practicing his vocation in California.

“As somebody used to say to me, ‘You took off the uniform but you never really got out of community,’ he said. “I still had a sense of mission and I think of service to the people of God, but was just confused.”

In 2003, a priest friend from Philadelphia told Vogt he was the pastor of twin parishes in West Philadelphia and that he could use some help, so Vogt returned to his hometown and became a pastoral associate, eventually moving into the rectory. There, the pastor asked Vogt why he kept avoiding the call.

“He said, ‘It’s time to stop running,’” Vogt said.

 

The ‘call’ lingered

The Oblates accepted Vogt, and although he had already met the academic requirements and been ordained a transitional deacon, he had to go through formation and make his vows again. He had changed, as had the Oblates and, to  some extent, the church, and both sides needed to know they were on the same page, Vogt said.

“I was never laicized, was never asked to, nor did I want to. Somebody told me I had the longest transitional diaconate in the history of the church,” he joked.

Throughout his life, he said, he knew something was missing. “No matter what I did, the call never went away. It was always on my shoulder.

“It was really good priests, brothers, nuns and my folks who were saying, ‘Maybe you didn’t make a mistake the first time. Maybe you were doubting yourself.’”

Oblate Father James Greenfield, the provincial, was the congregation’s vocations director when Vogt returned. They had known each other since 1979, when Father Greenfield joined the Oblates. He said the Oblates handled Vogt’s inquiry as they would any other and that they have no particular policy on the age of candidates.

“We did a review of what’s been happening over the years, we make sure the candidate’s been under spiritual direction and has been for at least the previous three years,” Father Greenfield said.

A gap of that many years is unusual, Father Greenfield said, but sometimes it takes a while to be certain.

“It’s a clear sign to really trust and believe in the slow work of the spirit. Sometimes we live in a world where we expect instant results, but vocation is something that happens day by day, we grow into it,” he said.

Vogt said he first felt the call at Holy Innocents School in Philadelphia, where he was an altar boy and would find himself drawn to the church, where he would sit in the back “and feel at home.” He liked the sense of mystery he felt.

He met the Oblates at North Catholic and was attracted to the brotherhood he saw among them. No matter what they did at the school — teaching, administration, staff the bookstore — they were happy.

“They truly believed you could live Jesus and follow the Lord now, and that was just as dynamic as following him in 33 A.D. in Nazareth,” he said.

Theologically speaking, his philosophy fits well with the teachings of St. Francis de Sales.

“De Sales believed in practical holiness, that it was not having to go into a monastery, that we’re called to be the best of who we are according to the Gospel of where we’re at, and to follow that. Francis was imminently practical and down to earth, and that’s what struck me about the Oblates,” he said.

 

Students part of journey

He is enjoying his campus ministry work and teaching theology at Salesianum, where the students just call him “Rev.” He wasn’t a reverend, and he wasn’t a mister. They were at a loss as to what to call him.

At Sallies, he leads retreats, such as one for the sophomore class recently in Camden, N.J., where they worked in a soup kitchen, helped the homeless and straightened up a park for neighborhood children. He is also involved in liturgy preparation and penance services, although until now he has not been able to hear their confessions. He is looking forward to saying Mass at the school and in nearby parishes.

In his free time, Vogt likes to take walks, see movies and “get lost” in bookstores.

He is also a familiar face at Salesianum athletic events and likes to be present in the students’ lives. He tells them all the time that they are part of his journey.

“They get to see someone, regardless of age, who’s in formation, who’s growing with them, who’s not arrived, who’s studying, who’s learning what priesthood and what religious life is all about,” he said.

 

Ordinations are usually in church

 

When Rev. Mr. Vogt is ordained to the priesthood on Jan. 27, it will mark a first for the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, Salesianum School and Bishop Malooly.

Instead of the Cathedral of St. Peter, where most diocesan priests are ordained, or St. Anthony of Padua Church, where the Oblates have held ordinations in the past, Vogt will complete his journey to the priesthood at Salesianum School, in front of the students, faculty and staff with whom he has spent the last two and a half years.

Because the students have been such a big part of Vogt’s life the last three years, the Oblates wanted to find a way to have them at the ordination. They talked about transporting students to one of the local churches, but decided, with Bishop Malooly’s permission, to hold the ordination in the school gymnasium.

“The idea was that this has been where I minister, and the transporting of the entire student body and faculty to one of those places would be a major problem,” he said.

He added that he is sure there are a few vocations among the student body, and if they see an ordination, perhaps someone else will realize he has a call. His parents, Albert and Mary, will be there, as will younger brothers Larry and Greg and their families.

Bishop Malooly said the suggestion came from the Oblates and he has no problem with the arrangement. Most students do not have an opportunity to witness an ordination, and this is a way to encourage vocations.

“Usually you would prefer to celebrate it in a church, but I was delighted to do it this way. And he’s part of the faculty there, so it will be very meaningful for them,” said the bishop, who will be doing an ordination outside a church for the first time.

“I love doing ordinations. Any time you ordain a priest, it’s most meaningful,” he said.

Oblate Father James Greenfield, the provincial, believes this is the first priestly ordination at Salesianum, although he was ordained a deacon in the school’s former chapel.

As unlikely as the gymnasium seems for an ordination, Vogt said it is appropriate. Students will be sitting across from each other and God is found in each other.

“The bottom line was, I don’t care what building it is as long as the people of God to whom I am going to serve are there. Buildings are wonderful, but the church is more than a building. It’s the people of God,” he said.

 

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Oblates’ founder to be beatified

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Dialog Editor

Pope Benedict cleared the way for the beatification of the founder of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales on Dec. 19 when he authorized the approval of a miracle attributed to Father Louis Brisson.

Beatification means Father Brisson will be know as “Blessed.” In causes for sainthood, beatification is the step before canonization.

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