Congolese religious brothers celebrate vows at Crosiers' Minnesota priory

ONAMIA, Minn. (OSV News) - Members of the Crosier Fathers and Brothers gathered in Onamia to celebrate a profession of solemn vows and a renewal of vows by two of their Congolese brothers.

Brother Salama Kasereka Vivalya professed solemn vows and Brother Eric Kalimbiriro Kadalikashereza renewed his vows at Holy Cross Priory Church with members and friends of the community - some present and others watching online.

After a year of intensive English study at Arizona State University, Brothers Salama and Eric, who are both from Congo, are now studying theology at St. John's School of Theology and Seminary in Collegeville, which is in the Diocese of St. Cloud.

There are currently six Congolese now living with the Crosiers in the U.S., two in Phoenix and four in Onamia.

"The Congolese bring a natural fraternity, even in our intercultural living, as well as a formality in culture and personal presence flowing from their tribal structures," said Father Kermit Holl, prior of the Crosier Priory in Onamia. "They also bring a very sincere gratitude for life and a spirit of humor, despite the challenges of war violence and a lack of resource development that they know so well in their homeland."

The Aug. 18 celebration of vows topped off the conventual priory chapter meeting held annually at the priory. At this year's meeting, held Aug. 14-18, they welcomed the master general of the order, Father Laurentius Tarpin, who was visiting from Rome.

"Both Salama and Eric are in the United States to grow in their Crosier vocation as they participate in the international post novitiate in English, a program established by the master general of the order in 2020," said Crosier Father Hubert Kavusa, their formator.

As their formator, Father Hubert is responsible for helping the newer members of the order from Congo and Indonesia continue to discern their vocation to Crosier religious life and help them adjust to their new community while also learning a new language and a new culture.

"Above all, my role as a formator is to be a loving brother for my younger brothers," he told The Central Minnesota Catholic, St. Cloud's diocesan magazine.

Brother Salama, 28, first learned about the Crosiers in 2009 when a Crosier priest visited his home parish, Sainte Therese d'Avila (St. Theresa of Avila) in Beni.

"In our conversation, he told me his experience as a Crosier," Brother Salama said. "He said that he is dedicated to serving the church and the community. This talk left a deep impression on me, sparking my interest in the Crosier way of life."

Brother Salama made his first profession of vows Sept. 14, 2017.

"The desire to join the Crosiers was born from a sense of spiritual calling that grew over time," he said. "As I engaged in a period of discernment and formation, I felt a strong resonance with their charism of seeking God through community life, prayer and the apostolate of touching the suffering with hope."

He sees his solemn vows as a commitment to building community in a life of prayer, and ministry as a Crosier religious, he said.

As a student at St. John's, he is embracing the opportunity to deepen his understanding of faith and the spirituality of the Holy Cross, the pillar of the Crosier order, he said.

"If there is anything I'd like people to know about me, it's my profound gratitude for the support of my Crosier religious community throughout my journey," Brother Salama said. "The Crosier way of life is not just a solitary path but a shared pilgrimage, and I'm blessed to have companions who continue to guide and inspire me."

Brother Eric, 29, joined the Crosiers in 2015 after first hearing about them from a sister of the Company of Mary Our Lady in Bukavu. His home parish is Saints Martyrs de l'Ouganda (Holy Martyrs of Uganda) in Ciherano in the Archdiocese of Bukavu.

"I decided to join the Crosiers because of the spirituality and charism," he said. "I liked their lifestyle."

Brother Eric first made his profession of vows Sept. 13, 2019.

"It is very touching to hear our Congolese confreres speak of loving their Crosier vocations so much, and their Congolese confreres so much, and their hope for the progress of Congo so much that the sacrifices that they are being asked to make are ‘easy' for all the greater good that will flow from it," Father Kermit said. "That is a humility and generosity that is inspiring."

Father Kermit said that the welcome that these men have received in the community has been kind and enthusiastic.

Caption: Brother Eric Kalimbiriro Kadalikashereza renews his vows and is blessed by Crosier Father Laurentius Tarpin, master general of the order, during a special Mass at Holy Cross Priory in Onamia, Minn., Aug. 18, 2023. (OSV News photo/Dianne Towalski, The Central Minnesota Catholic)