Click on each photo for a personalized message from each of the men in formation.
Dcn. Ky Nguyen
I am Dcn. Ky Nguyen, a Salesian of Don Bosco. I was born in Vietnam in a Salesian family (my father was a former student of the Salesians). Almost every year growing up, Salesians visited my family and gave us some gifts, e.g. balloons, stickers, and books of Don Bosco, Salesian saints, and Mary Help of Christians. I enjoyed reading these small books. Like any young child, I loved miraculous stories. Because of my dad’s connection with the Salesians, I knew many of them since I was young. I usually had opportunities to visit and stay in Salesian communities. When I was in high school, I usually went to a nearby Salesian community to play soccer and work with the Salesians.
Throughout childhood, my family and Salesians often suggested that I should become a Salesian. However, I did not think about it until I began university in 2004.
In the summer of 2009, as a candidate, I was sent with the Salesians to an island in Southern Vietnam for a summer camp. Because of the distance from the mainland, the children on this island did not have the same opportunities, i.e. good education, new technologies, etc., like the children in big cities. For three months on the island, we organized many activities for these poor children. We helped them with the school work, taught them to play musical instruments, organized sports tournaments, went camping with them, etc. I realized that when I was with them, my life was more meaningful. There was something in my heart that called me to follow Don Bosco’s charism to help the poor children. Thus, I joined the Salesians of Don Bosco, making my first profession in 2011.
In 2016, I moved to the Salesian Province of Canada and Eastern USA, to continue my formation and prepare myself for a future harvest. After four years in the US, I have had the chance to serve young people in another environment. Even though there have been cultural and linguistic challenges, I find that I am blessed to be with young people in another country.
Br. Thomas Junis
Br. Francis Nguyen
My name is Br. Francis Nguyen and I am from Annandale, VA, about 20 minutes away from Washington, DC. I started feeling God’s call at a turbulent time in my life. At that time, I had recently graduated from Virginia Tech, about one year out. I was studying for the MCAT to get into medical school throughout my first year of post-graduate life. As a 23-year-old, I knew I wasn’t doing myself a favor studying something I did not have a passion for. As the deadline for medical school applications wound down, I felt increased pressure and anxiety in my life since I did not have everything in line or a future mapped out for myself. I shortly gave up on that idea and started praying more.
There were two moments in my life that initiated my desire to want to know Jesus more: one was when my father asked me if I wanted to attend my cousin’s ordination, who is a Salesian, and the second was the day that my grandfather passed away. Both these events occurred within one month of each other. Soon enough, I was getting signs left and right from random people at my church coming up to me and saying that they would pray for me and also from my aunts telling me how great of a religious I would be. At the time, I was also a youth servant leader for my church and felt great joy serving and being a friend to the young.
From then on, I started to discern and take my calling seriously throughout the next year. On May 16, 2018, I received the call from Fr. Dominic announcing my acceptance as a candidate of the Salesians of Don Bosco. I must thank my family, friends, parish pastor / assistant pastor, spiritual advisors, and youth group who have nurtured and prayed for my vocation and calling. Please remember to keep me in your prayers, as I keep you in mine.
Carlos Cerda Gutierrez
I was born in the Town of Moroleon, Gto, Mexico in 1999, and I am the only child of Carlos Cerda and Julia Gutiérrez. I was raised in Mexico, mostly by my mom and my grandparents. At the age of 13, I was able to come to this country and complete my four years of high school. The parish I attended belonged to the Diocese of Joliet in Illinois. This parish is 90 percent Hispanic ministry. The Order of the Carmelites, who run the parish, have been very supportive of my vocation.
In this parish, I helped and collaborated with youth ministry. Therefore, I fell in love with service to the youth. People also often value my joy and humor.
Br. Branden Gordon
Br. John Castonguay
Br. John grew up in Pennington, NJ. He is the oldest of four children (two boys, two girls). In his family, he learned devotion to the Eucharist and the Virgin Mary.
Br. John started to discern religious life as he attended Fordham University and evolved in his prayer life and a desire to give his life to God’s service. Due to his experience working with young people, a friend suggested he consider the Salesians.
He earned an M.Ed. in secondary education at Providence College.
Br. John will join the Salesian formation community in Orange, NJ, and will take pre-theology and Spanish courses at Seton Hall University.
Having pursued his passion for music, John sang and directed vocal music ensembles, arranged music, and partook in international a cappella and barbershop quartet competitions. Br. John expects to use his musical talent and love for teaching to build relationships with the young and introduce them “to God through beauty and joy.”
Pascal-De-Madeleine Maitela Mukuye
My name is Pascal-De-Madeleine Maitela Mukuye. I was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo on April 02, 1986 in a very poor but very Catholic family. Due to wars in the country, I became a refugee in Zimbabwe. In 2009, I was brought from the refugee camp to Canada and settled in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.
I first started thinking of priesthood when I was about 6 years old. However, due to extreme poverty back in Congo, I was unable to follow the priesthood road. After arriving in Canada, I felt in my heart that God continued to call me. Because of my love of prayer, I explored the vocations of a couple religious orders. I also discerned the diocesan priesthood. But my soul was yearning for community life.
Towards the end of April 2018 I was introduced to the Salesian charism, Salesian spirit and Salesian moto “Give me souls, take away the rest.” After reading the life of St. John Bosco, my heart was full of joy. I said to myself: “for many years now, this is what my heart has been looking for.” In January 2019 I decided to approach the Salesians in Toronto. After spending close to a year in four different Salesian communities, my soul is at peace.
My favorite Biblical passage is “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk. 1:38). If it is God’s will that I continue to live the Salesian charism, spirit and motto, may God’s will be done.
My name is Nicholas Jandernoa and I grew up in the small town of Pewamo in Michigan. I have one older brother and three younger sisters. While in high school, I was physically active (I am still active and love sports) and played football and golf. After high school, I did missionary work with NET Ministries for two years. NET stands for national evangelization teams. NET’s main focus is to encourage young people to love Jesus and embrace the life of the church. It started in the 80’s in St.Paul Minnesota and branched out to other countries. My first year, I did NET in Ireland, I was on a team of six young adults and we were assigned to a rural parish in Co. Meath. I helped facilitate many things such as religious education classes, youth groups, bible studies and more. My second year, I did NET in Scotland and I was on a team of 10 young adults and we facilitated 112 retreats around the country of Scotland! It is through my experience with NET ministries that I discovered I had a desire to work with young people and had a passion for helping them through the transitional years of life.
After I finished with NET Ministries, I wondered what to do next. I worked as an electrical apprentice shortly after my missionary work was done. Up until this point, I had never put much thought into joining religious life. I then had a meeting with my parish priest. He saw something special in me and he asked me if I ever discerned priesthood. I shared with him that I had thought about it and went on a couple seminary visits while in highschool but it didn’t attract me. I went to tell him that I have never put much thought into religious life. He then encouraged me to not be afraid to explore the possibility of religious life. I then started looking up orders I thought I might be interested in. I knew a bit about Don Bosco and that he worked with young people and I saw that he started the religious order of the Salesians whose focus was working with the youth. I prayed about it for quite awhile. I had to stop working due to COVID-19 and that gave me more time to examine my life and what was actually important to me. The thought of being radically set apart for God seemed very attractive. This led to me travelling down to Tampa Bay to help out with the Salesian summer camp at Mary Help of Christians to help discern if the Salesians were right for me. I had a great experience and I was confident that I think God might be calling me to start the formation process. I applied and later got accepted into the formation process and I am now residing in Orange New Jersey where I am studying at Seton Hall University. I can see myself in the future, as a religious brother helping to carry out Don Bosco’s mission of caring for young people and helping them get to heaven.
Br. Joshua Sciullo
Br. Kevin White
My name is Br. Kevin White and I am a post-novice with the Salesians of Don Bosco. I first started thinking about becoming a Salesian priest when I was a senior at one of our Salesian high schools, Don Bosco Prep. There was a new priest assigned to the school that year that showed me who the person of Jesus was. His example and his guidance allowed me to start a personal relationship with God. I started to pray more on my own and I also started to go to confession regularly. I felt a peace in myself that I had never experienced before.
Around this time I started to think about becoming a Salesian priest. I was inspired by what this Salesian priest was doing and I could see myself doing what he did; I was drawn to the Sacraments. I also wanted young people to have the same experience of Jesus Christ that I had, and through prayer I felt that the way God was calling me to fully give of myself was through becoming a Salesian priest.
I have just made my first profession and I am now entering the post-novitiate phase of my formation. These past four years of Salesian life have been some of the best and most growth-filled of my life so far and I’m excited to see what God has in store for me in the future as a consecrated Salesian.
I was born and raised in north-central Texas, Fort Worth, Texas.
I am a cradle Catholic and I’ve had the great blessing of being taught and shown the faith by my parents and my uncle who is the current Bishop of Little Rock. I remember that I was attracted to the priesthood at a young age and I really wanted to be like my uncle who was a priest (currently, a Bishop). I loved the sense of peace and purpose that I felt while accompanying my uncle to minister to his parishioners.
I felt God’s call to be a priest or religious as a boy, but only after serving full-time for two years with Catholic volunteer programs did I discern that I needed to act. I spent the first year of the volunteer years with the Salesian Lay Missioners where I served youth at Saint John Bosco parish in Chicago, Illinois.
After discerning through those volunteer experiences, I joined the Diocese of Little Rock and spent two and a half years as a seminarian. I decided to leave the Diocese of Little Rock because it did not seem to be where I was called to be at that time.
I’ve spent the last four and a half years working as an employment case worker for refugees in Fort Worth, TX with an organization called World Relief. I believe God has been leading me through this time to come to the Salesians. I discerned a vocation with the Salesians because I felt God tugging at my heart to join the ministry to the young and the poor. I am happy to be on the journey to God and to serving God.
Thank you to my family, friends, coworkers, the Salesians, and young people for praying for me and encouraging me. Above all, thank God for His love and Blessing. Please keep me in your prayers as I keep you in mine. Thank you!
Br. Daniel Glass
Ten years ago, I lived in a world of certainty. After high school graduation, I went to Georgia Tech in Atlanta, where I studied engineering. Then, six years ago, I went abroad to South Sudan as a Salesian Lay Missioner.
After my experience, I felt a call to the religious life. I started formation in the novitiate and focused on committing to God’s calling me to be a Salesian. While I never had an "ah-ha" moment that led me to my vocation, each step gave me consolation that "yes, I’m where God wants me to be." These little bricks built up a strong, solid foundation knowing this is what God wants me to do.
Once I felt convinced of my vocation, I opened my heart again to being a Salesian missionary. I needed to be sure of two things: first, that I was called to religious life, and second, that I was called to religious life as a Salesian of Don Bosco. Rooted in my vocation as a consecrated Salesian, I continued to discern my missionary ad gentes vocation. Both answering my calling and applying for the missions were very similar. They were motivated by my realizations of the little things, what I’m passionate about, and what moves my heart. Looking back, I also realized "this is more than just a nice thought."
In May 2021, I learned that I had been accepted as a Salesian missionary. I was very excited! When I first saw the email, I thought "this is real!" As of September 2021, I have been in Sherbrooke, QC, and will leave for the Congo in November. Yet I remain motivated by the unknown.
While I’m excited and [before learning of having been chosen for the Congo] a little nervous not knowing where I’ll go, this is something I always had in my heart and mind. The blessing of uncertainty is that it leads to an open heart and leaves you open to possibilities. Plus, I’ve been professed for three years and with the Salesians for six years. Whatever you got, I’ll take!
I also hold onto the hope and excitement I feel in God’s plan. Although I don’t know where I’ll be, I know that every step I take is a step closer to grow in the mission and in faith with the young and leads us closer to God and Jesus. I have the hope and excitement that God will always be with me and that God has something beautiful in store for each of us.
Hope is also something that I envision carrying me through these next few years. In five years, God willing, I’d be preparing to be ordained and I hope I will be confident and comfortable to take steps towards ordination. I hope to be faithful to the calling and closer to Christ in my ministry as a priest. And I pray to be someone who’s continuing to grow deeper and more willing and freer to give everything to the mission for Christ.
I also remain guided by scripture and Our Lady. One of my guiding scripture quotes that’s led me is at the end of the Gospel of Matthew: "Behold I’ll be with you always till the end of time." No matter what it is, there’s the promise Christ will be with us. I’m also inspired by the title of Mary as Star of the Sea. Whether you’re a traveler or weathering storms, we know that to have Mary as our Mother and champion is a true blessing.
Br. Paul Hotovy
I grew up in a strong Catholic family in Omaha, NE. God blessed me with good parents and five active siblings. My mother and father made Mass and evening prayer an important part of our routine when I was growing up. During high school and college, I always had a feeling that I should go to church and pray, but my faith was superficial and did not impact my life. I was fortunate to get into the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) at the University of Notre Dame. I was sent to Pensacola Catholic High School in Florida to teach high school math and social studies. There were many great witness to authentic Catholic life there: my principal, local priests, and my coworkers. As a young man from Notre Dame, I was always sent on the class retreats and eventually I was asked to give testimonies about prayer and being Catholic. Preparing for these talks made me examine my own meager faith and I started asking bigger questions about myself and about Jesus Christ. Slowly, I started to understand that being Catholic was about a relationship with God and not just a series of tasks to accomplish. I also realized that following Christ could never be one of many things but had to be, whether I liked it or not, the most important part of my identity. I began to pray more, read spiritual books, and attend Mass more often. Ultimately, I asked the big question, “God, what do you want to do with my life?”
I decided that MAYBE I should consider the priesthood or religious life. I moved back to Omaha and started working at the Catholic high school that I attended. I prayed more but did not feel ready to make any big life decisions. Through the grace of God, Fr. Dominic Tran was celebrating Masses at my home parish, St. Leo’s, in Omaha during the summer of 2016. We talked after Mass one day and then had dinner a few times together. He told me about the Salesians and the life of St. John Bosco. I was enamored with St. John Bosco and his whole-hearted commitment to young people. I spent the summer of 2017 in Chicago at Camp Don Bosco and felt fulfilled living, praying, and working in that community. Ultimately, these were enough signs for me to take the next step to officially join the Salesians. I thank God for placing so many people in my life to steer this stubborn young man into the direction of religious life with the Salesians.
During my first year (as a candidate), I taught American History at Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, NJ. This was a rewarding experience because I got to see a Salesian school first hand. During my pre-novitiate year, I stayed in Ramsey to take classes focused on Salesian spirituality, the Old Testament, the Catechism and human formation. Additionally, I was able to help around the school – taking students to a soup kitchen each week, coaching cross country, and directing traffic in the morning.
My name is Nathan Gonzalez, and I was born in Hartford, CT. I was baptized and received first Holy Communion in a small parish called Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Hartford. I received first communion when I was 11 and within that same week my family and I got in the car to move down to Tampa, FL. After a few weeks of being in Tampa I asked my mom why we hadn’t been to Mass in a while. She told me that it’s because I am not Catholic anymore. I ended up wondering which state line did I cross that changed my religion. That was the end of that conversation and I stopped identifying as Catholic. We became Protestant and started church hopping from different churches/congregations that my parents felt they belonged to. Eventually they settled on one, but I never really felt like I belonged. I spent my middle school and early high school years growing up in that church. After a while I stopped going altogether because the worship style never really fit me. Fast forward to the summer of 2018. I was fresh out of high school and in need of a job. I was then employed as a summer camp counselor at Camp Mary Help located at Mary Help of Christians Center in Tampa. Through the summer camp I learned about the Salesians and who they were. I learned of the preventive system, safe environment protocols and most importantly how to follow the examples of various Salesian saints.
I still wasn’t identifying myself as Catholic, but I experienced the Salesian method working among young people. I made a choice to be a model of this method so that I could help bring faith and fun together at camp. I took this mentality with me whenever I was working with the young. Whether I was at summer camp, leading retreats or working my after-school program job, I tried to carry the Salesian spirituality with me simply because of the positive experiences I had at camp. Eventually I realized that I was still Catholic and had never stopped being Catholic. It was then that I decided to join RCIA for the Sacrament of Confirmation and fell in love with the faith again. I also developed a passion for the Salesian charism most notably through my desire to teach catechism after my confirmation was made.
I knew that I wanted to somehow be more Salesian, but I didn’t feel the call to priesthood, so I looked into the Salesian Lay Missioners and the Cooperators, but I didn’t feel called to those either. It wasn’t until I was living on campus during the summer camp of 2020 that I was introduced to the Brother vocation. After much prayer and discernment, I came to the realization that this was the call I had been feeling all this time. The call to become a Salesian Brother. I am now learning to aim my days towards educating and evangelizing the young and the poor in an effort to get myself and others to heaven.