At the end of this year, Fr. Mike DeLaney, C.S.C., will transition from his role as Director of the Holy Cross Mission Center and move to Montreal, Canada, to begin preparations for a new role as Rector of Saint Joseph’s Oratory, a position he’ll officially assume in May 2020.
We had an opportunity to sit down with Fr. Mike and talk about his four years with the Mission Center and find out what he’s looking forward to in his new assignment.
1. As you reflect on your four years with the Mission Center, what do you consider the most important accomplishments in terms of projects, initiatives and relationships with your Holy Cross family around the world?
What a question! Arriving in the summer of 2015, I hoped to be able to establish new relationships across the globe between our ministries and our Holy Cross communities. What I believe we have been able to do is help build a sense of our internationality as a province in Holy Cross and to see the blessing it is for all of us – those abroad and those in our province – to broaden our understanding of Holy Cross mission as it is lived around the world. It is great for me to know that students at our colleges and universities are not just raising money for a good cause in a foreign land, but they know that it means much more since they are all in the extended Holy Cross family, and they come to have deeper knowledge of the world and the Congregation, and the needs of people everywhere, and their motivation is much deeper at the level of heart and soul.
We have strengthened our relationships with each of the regions we serve, and most of that is through personal relationships, knowing one another, valuing what each culture has to offer and appreciating the way the Holy Cross and life in the Church is lived locally.
I hope that we have also been able to help people see that while there are people poor in the world, some who live in dire poverty whom we try to help, that they are much more than that. That they are our Brothers and Sisters, and they have richness in their lives, their culture and their faith. I hope that we have all learned a bit more about the international mission’s richness, and we are all better off and more enlightened and grateful for being a part of the Holy Cross family.
2. What have been some of the most impactful experiences you’ve had with the Mission Center?
Visiting the beautiful land of Bangladesh and coming to know so much and see the life and vitality of this early mission land as it thrives with Holy Cross priests, brothers and sisters serving the people of Bangladesh in some of the most challenging places and doing it with great love and dedication. Coming to know so many of our Holy Cross there, and especially our young religious with all the zeal they have to be good and faithful servants of the people of God. It is a great example to me!
Knowing the people and the lands of East Africa where we serve and witnessing the great faith and desire to serve the people of God through the ministries of Holy Cross. Renewing and creating new relationships with so many religious there. They too remind me of the good desires they have to serve the people of God in the best way that they are able. I learn so much from them
Being able to establish and support in great ways programs for women of the world and to highlight the needs of women and children. Truly the poorest in the world is a poor child, and women are so often unable to be educated or have many freedoms and are often the victims of injustice. In small ways across the Holy Cross world, we are responding to the great need of women and children. It has been done wonderfully for years in each of the regions, but we have been able to highlight it and make it a priority to recognize these initiatives by our religious in beautiful parochial schools or social service ministries across the world.
3. Sharing and reinforcing the “internationality” of Holy Cross has been a priority of yours. How have you seen that come to fruition?
We are on the way. I have heard from many members of the Province, a good number of our benefactors, students at our schools and members of our parishes that they see Holy Cross in a broader sense globally. We have had more experiences for our young men in formation to spend time in the mission countries we serve and have had a good number of groups from our colleges, universities and parishes have service experience or immersions to our ministries in Latin America, Africa and Bangladesh. We are on the way. I hope it never will come to fruition, because we have to always continue to see our internationality and connectedness with one another around the globe.
Interestingly, as I have done presentations and talks in Bangladesh, Latin America and elsewhere, they too have learned new ways to reflect on our internationality, and we now have a Bengali priest serving in Chile as an example of first steps as well.
The international house of formation in Chile is a place where young men from Chile, Peru, Brazil, Haiti and Mexico study and have their formation as temporarily professed religious together. I have been personally involved in that project since about 2010, and now it is in full function. These young religious will come to know Holy Cross internationally from the very beginnings of their formation. For our men in formation, these experiences all promise to have a future impact on the sense of international brotherhood as well as serving and collaborating in international mission across the continents.
4. Another recurring message of yours has been “connectedness,” whether among the Holy Cross community, donors and other lay collaborators, students and others. Have you seen these audiences respond to this message?
They have responded with great zeal! From a grade school boy who knows everything about Jalchatra, Bangladesh due to the parish twinning at Christ the King parish, to our students who dedicate their time and energy to raising money … through boxing, baking cookies and selling them weekly to others, to the dodgeball tournaments, the pen-pal exchanges, clothing and food drives … and these are just a few examples of our current students whom I hope will find meaning in this and want to be connected for many years to come!
Our donors and benefactors have responded so very generously to so many needs and whenever we have had more urgent needs, they reach out to help often placing their trust in me to make the decision on where their gift is most needed. It is also beautiful to see long time benefactors, who may write me regularly, how many prayers and how much support there is for the international mission work from so many people, and they have been dedicated for so many years!
Our lay collaborators do so much to make it all happen! I try to keep others informed of the many good works of Holy Cross, share the photos we receive and tell the story so that each one doing their part here, in their commitment to Holy Cross, come to see that what they do truly does go to help.
5. What would be your parting message to donors who have supported your vision along with the men and ministries of Holy Cross around the world?
I hope they will continue to support the ministries of Holy Cross around the world. There will always be a way for them to do great things with their generosity and faithfulness to us. I also ask them to keep praying for those who live in difficult conditions and are striving to live a decent life, raise their children with values and in the faith. Each act we share is a sign of hope and peace for people – most of whom will never be known by name – but people need that hope and peace in their lives and for their future.
6. While a new director for the Mission Center hasn’t been named, what guidance would you offer your replacement?
Of course, it depends who is named, but first of all, I would say to get to know the regions of Holy Cross we serve that he does not know, and get to know the Holy Cross religious and hear them tell their stories, their hopes for their ministry and witness. In the first couple of years, I hope that he can spend considerable time in East Africa, Bangladesh, Peru, Chile and Haiti (where we have established a few projects and is a great richness in the life of Holy Cross I hope that many will get to know).
Secondly, keep that global vision alive and be welcoming to those who come to the United States and encourage all to welcome them.
There are many things, but to be able to tell the stories to our benefactors, members of our schools and parishes, and the Holy Cross religious themselves. As others gain more insight and understanding, the new director will be able to help build more and more links between good people connected with Holy Cross across the globe.
7. You’ve been through a number of transitions in your religious life. How do prepare yourself for a transition and specifically, how have you been preparing yourself for the new assignment at the Oratory?
I have been asked to take on a great responsibility at the Oratory. This is the ministry that our first saint, Brother Andre Bessette, C.S.C., humbly began which has evolved into a great international site of pilgrimage, healing and prayer. I first prepare myself to be sure that they have asked the right person to take on the leadership there!! It is an honor to have been considered and selected by the Congregation to serve as Rector in this patrimonial ministry of the Congregation.
I have been trying to finish up my work at the Mission Center well, refreshing my reading, speaking and writing of French, but I am mostly focused on finishing well so that the Mission Center leadership transition will be smooth and our benefactors are cared for here, and our Holy Cross brothers around the world have been cared for in our response to ministry assistance and other needs.
In all of it, I have been drawn in my prayer to respond and prepare with great humility that I will have a lot to learn from living in yet another culture and province of Holy Cross and also realize how important it has been to be trusted with leadership for many years in our province in the United States. I continue to trust that God is guiding all of this in my life, and I will be given the courage and ability to do the best that I can once I get to Montreal.
Fortunately, having grown up in Central New York, I know what long, snowy winters are like … living in South Bend has reminded me …. I am fully prepared (like it or not!) to take on the winters in Montreal!!
8. Do you have a sense as to the 3 or 4 most critical objectives you’ll undertake at the Oratory?
I do. Some have been given to me by the Board of the Oratory and by the Canadian Province. There are a few, and as I have understood them, I have come to see and understand a bit better why they think I might be able to do them. They are all things I care deeply about and try to do in my ministry.
a) Build a significant group of religious from our international regions of Holy Cross to serve at the Oratory and make it truly a more representative ministry of the entire Congregation.
b) Strengthen the Holy Cross identity of the Oratory. How do we help infuse the mission of Holy Cross to those who come to pray, worship, spend time and take part in the activities there? They too will benefit from knowing of the great Congregation globally for whom the Oratory, Br. Andre and St. Joseph are very important as well!
9. Saint André Bessette, C.S.C.,the first member of the Congregation of Holy Cross to be beatified and the founder of the Oratory, is a figure that unites and inspires all members of the Congregation. Do you see opportunities through the Oratory to further expand the “internationality” and “connectedness” of Holy Cross?
Yes, I am a global thinker by nature and will always be. That is likely why I have been asked by Holy cross to serve in different places internationally. The Oratory needs to strengthen its relationship to the wider world of Holy Cross. I hope we will find new ways to welcome Holy Cross religious from around the world to come for short retreats and visits as well as prepare retreats on St. André and St. Joseph and take these retreats from the pastoral team at the Oratory to the far off lands of Holy Cross to build those bridges. I also have an idea to highlight the many ministries, programs, projects, schools and parishes named for Br. André and help all of us, in Canada as well as around the globe, to see his impact in the lives of Holy Cross religious, communities and ministries around the world. We will look to explore new ways through communications and technologies to have the best ways to share the good story and link others around the globe to the Oratory! The connectedness is important to truly serve well at, what the Congregation has deemed, our Patrimonial Ministry of the Congregation.