Brother Steven Joseph DeMaio, SDB, made his perpetual profession of religious vows on September 7, 2018, in the chapel of the Marian Shrine in Haverstraw, N.Y.
Also professing their final vows were Brother Travis Gunther, SDB, of Conway, Ark., and Brother John Langan, SDB, of Winsted, Conn.
Father Timothy Ploch, SDB, a member of the Salesian general council who represents 13 provinces of North and American and northern South America, received their professions in the name of the Rector Major of the Salesians.
Two perpetually professed Salesians, chosen by the candidates, serve as official witnesses of the vows, like the witnesses of a marriage. The candidates’ parents accompany their sons as a sign of support and of donation.
Father Ploch in his homily reminded the three brothers and the congregation: “It might seem that Steve’s, Travis’s, and John’s profession is something they are doing. But their profession is really about what God is doing, and what God began doing in them when they were baptized and has been doing in them since—at their first profession and in their subsequent renewals of [temporary] profession. Profession is about God, about his fidelity to our three confreres throughout their lives.”
Father Ploch, speaking for himself and all Christians, also said: “My life is not about me but about God, who gave me life, who asks me to share my life, who asks me to follow the path that he has laid out for me (cf. Jeremiah’s call in the first reading). In Psalm 136 God spoke of ‘knitting [the psalmist] together in your mother’s womb.’ All of us are God’s creations, his handiwork, his masterpieces. God supplies what we need to live the vocation that he has given us.”
Father Ploch went on to cite examples from the lives of Jesus, of the Virgin Mary, and of Don Bosco of complete trust in whatever God is doing in one’s life. These are models for Brothers DeMaio, Gunther, and Langan, and everyone else, to imitate.
Brother DeMaio’s hometown was Sherman, Conn., where he lived until he was 18. He and his family belonged to Holy Trinity Parish there. His parents, Steven and Theresa DeMaio, moved to Maryland and then to Ave Maria, Fla., where they are members of Ave Maria Parish.
Brother DeMaio was born in 1985. He has an older sister, Melanie Hecht, and a younger one, Erika DeMaio.
Steve first became acquainted with the Salesians when he was serving with a Madrid-based NGO and was assigned to City of Hope, a work of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (Salesian Sisters) in Lusaka, Zambia, charged with finishing a sports project. The Salesians of Don Bosco also had a work nearby, and the joyful witness to a life of faith by so many Salesian sisters, brothers, and priests demonstrated to him through word and deed that a life of faith is not something complicated but consists in doing the ordinary with great love alongside young people and their families.
After returning to the U.S. and living for less than a year in Bayonne, N.J., Steve made a decision to become a Salesian. He gives as his motivation: “My love and desire to live a life of service, and the witness I experienced of a joyful life of faith.”
Steve entered the formation program in Orange, N.J., in 2010 and was admitted to the novitiate at Rosemead, Calif., in August 2011. He made his first profession of vows on August 21, 2012, in New Rochelle, N.Y.
After postnovitiate religious formation in Orange and his academic studies at Seton Hall University in South Orange, Brother DeMaio did three years of practical training at Salesian High School in New Rochelle (2014-2017), teaching theology for two years and serving as campus minister for one year.
In September 2017 he began theological studies at the Ratisbonne Monastery in Jerusalem, which is affiliated with the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome. He does apostolic work on Saturdays at the Salesian youth center in Bethlehem. This past summer he assisted with youth ministry at the Salesian parish of St. Philip Benizi in Belle Glade, Fla.
Asked what has been the best part of his six years of postnovitiate formation, Brother DeMaio responds, “The opportunity to study, to travel, and to become part of the lives of many different people and cultures.”
In the next few years of his Salesian life, he aspires to “study hard, pray hard, and enjoy every opportunity as I prepare for [priestly] ordination,” which he hopes will come in 2021.
Eventually, he hopes to continue ministering as a Salesian priest in high schools, but he can also see “using social media as an evangelizing tool.”
Story and photos by Father Michael Mendl, SDB