Two Friars Approved for Solemn Vows.

On Wednesday, April 6th, 2011 the Provincial Council approved Br. James Chia and Br Scott Brentwood for Solemn Vows. It has been a long journey for these two men from vastly different worlds.

Br James grew up in Malaysia, an independent country in Southeast Asia.  This country, still close to Br James’ heart, is very diverse. Besides the native Malays there are many other ethnic groups including Chinese and even some Europeans.  The religious beliefs are even more diverse. According to the Population and Housing Census 2000 figures,  approximately 60.4% of the population practiced Islam of which only the Sunni branch is allowed; 19.2% Buddhism; 9.1% Christianity; 6.3% Hinduism; and 2.6% practice Confucianism, Taoism and other traditional Chinese religions. The remainder was accounted for by other faiths, including animism, folk religion, and Sikhism while 0.8% either reported having no religion or did not provide any information. Despite all these differences of belief, Br James grew up in a devote Catholic family that emphasized hard work, honesty, and especially devotion to their Catholic faith.  Br James will often be seen at work or helping others.

Br Scott and Br James as Novices with the late Fr Marino.

Br Scott, on the other hand, grew up in the United States. He and his family are from Southwest Virginia. He attended Carroll County High School in rural Hillsville, VA. Much of that area of the state is Protestant, yet Br Scott found the fullness of truth in the Catholic faith. After graduating High School in 2000, Br Scott went on to obtain bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Philosophy from Old Dominion University. Br. Scott is known for his intelligence and wit. He is always interested in having a good conversation about political science or religion or any number of topics. Br Scott is, also, always open to using his knowledge and talents to aide those in need.

As providence would have it, these two vastly different men were inspired to join the Order as postulants in August 2004. Living at the Monastery of Our Lady of Mercy, they learned the basic tenants of our Catholic faith and how to live in community. Now after 7 years of formation, Br James and Br Scott are preparing to make their definitive consecration to God in the Order. Sometime this summer, they will together prostrate before the altar as a sign of their total submission to God. Then, they will kneel before the Major Superior and make vows of chastity, poverty, obedience, and the fourth vow of redemption.

We congratulate Br James and Br Scott on being approved for Solemn vows. May the Lord who has begun this good work in you bring it to completion.


Amazing India

Fr Ken Breen, Mercedarian priest, spent 13 years as a missionary in India. Here is his story.

It all began in the fall of 1996.  I attended our 3 week once in a lifetime permanent formation encounter taking place at our community in San Felice, Circeo, Italy and it was during this time, seeing photos of the children adopted by our parishoners in Italy and hearing our Provincial‘s concern: a longing for someone to go to help out at our emerging formation program. Strangely enough, we were joking about sending people to India and for some reason I just said, “okay, I’ll go!”

I don’t know really why I said it.  And all I can recall at that very moment was the certain closeness of St. Teresa of Lisieux, the little flower giving me a certain comfort that this was the right thing to do. As I look back on it, it is no surprise that this has come about in my life since I heard my father’s mother was interested in India and my Mom has been part of a Little Flower mission circle all her life.

The biggest challenge was the visa. I never could get a residential visa without the risk of rejection so I had to go all those years as a tourist, consoled by the words of Jesus: “The birds of the air have nests and the foxes have lairs but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

So off I went and began a journey where I was so amazed at the depth of culture in this wonderful country, a culture of faith that allows us to cultivate more easily the fruit of vocations to our own Order, the Order of the BVM of Mercy and my principal work there throughout the years has always been the teaching in English medium (no need to learn the local languages). My classes were in either the subjects mainly about our Mercedarian Charism and Religious life as the Novice Master or assistant, and/or teaching phonics and insight into the dynamics of the English language.  My hobby there was dealing with all the computer and audio visual needs, but all in all, it was a great adventure in the amazing ways of our wonderful Lord’s call to a new and more abundant life lived now in the joy of giving and loving (Bl. Mother Teresa) and following our Redeeming Savior, Jesus Christ.


In Jesus and Our Lady of Mercy,

Fr. Kenneth Breen, O. de M.

Son of Fundamentalist Family Becomes Mercedarian Priest

He calls himself the least likely of men to become a priest. Rev. Justin A. Freeman, O. de M., was ordained for the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy on Nov. 13, 2010. Here is his account of how he found his way to the priesthood.

Q. How did you become a priest?


God’s ways are loving, but often inexplicable. I am probably one of the least likely of men to become a Catholic priest.

I was born in a small Virginian town—Warrenton—in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains.  My family members were of the Church of Christ, a fundamentalist group that was founded to “restore” the primitive Church.    My family lived on a small farm in Catlett, a village of a couple hundred  people.  We lived on a gravel road.  Our closet neighbor (my grandmother!) lived a half mile away.  I occupied my time by fishing, reading, and playing with my sister and our pets, which were dogs, cats, and even a couple of ducks.

When I was in the ninth grade, my family moved to northern Virginia.  The D.C. suburbs were quite a culture shock to a boy from Catlett.  It was there that I discovered the Catholic faith through a friend.

Q. What was your family like?

I am the oldest of two brothers and one sister.  My sister Jennifer, only twenty months younger than me, is a social worker in Washington State.  My brother Clayton is 26 and is in diving school.  Samuel, the youngest, just turned 18. He is a senior in high school. My dad is a retired firefighter.  He now works as a fire inspector in Rockville, Maryland.  My mother is a nurse.

Q. At what age did you become a Catholic?


I was received into full communion with the Catholic Church at age 17 at St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax, VA.  Like many “converts,” I felt at home in the Church.

After graduating from George Mason High School in Falls Church, I attended a small liberal arts college in south central Virginia.   I majored in political science.  In college, I worked for the Social Security Administration as a “student-clerk.”  Living so close to D.C. gave me the opportunity to intern for Preston Gates, a major lobbying firm specializing in energy issues and insular affairs and for a major political party.

Q. What made you think about becoming a priest?


I started thinking of the priesthood even before I was formally received into the Church.  The Rev. Daniel Mode, the priest who received me into the Church, even hinted once that I might one day become a priest.

Q. How did your family react to your becoming a Catholic, and wanting to become a priest?


Initially they were not very supportive.  But now they are proud.

Q. What attracted you to the priesthood?


The example of many good and dedicated priests that I witnessed early on in my journey to the Faith.  They were men who were completely dedicated to the Truth and to helping others.

I joined the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy in 2003 at the age of 24.  I professed vows in 2005 and was ordained a priest on Nov. 13, 2010.   It has been a long, and at times difficult, journey to the altar.  May He give me the grace to be a good and faithful Mercedarian priest.