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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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Monthly Archives: December 2009

Redemptorist Father Dennis Joseph Demko died December 30 at the St. John Neumann Residence at Stella Maris in Timonium, MD, of double pneumonia and complications from Parkinson’s disease. He was 57.

Father Demko was born July 28, 1952, and professed first vows as a Redemptorist August 3, 1974. He was ordained to the priesthood May 24, 1980.

Viewing will be held January 3 from 4 to 6 p.m. at Our Mother of Perpetual Help Church, 320 Church Ave., Ephrata, PA. A prayer service will be held at 7 p.m.

A funeral Mass will be held January 4 at 11 a.m. at Our Mother of Perpetual Help Church. Burial will follow.

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Father Demko, and for the comfort and peace of his family, fellow Redemptorists, and friends who mourn his loss.


On Nov. 4, 2009, Father Michael Brehl was elected the 17th Superior General of the Redemptorists, the first Canadian to hold the position. He succeeds Father Joseph W. Tobin, of the Denver Province, who had served as Superior General for 12 years, but was ineligible for re-election due to the statutes of the Congregation.

The Director of Communications for the Redemptorist General Government in Rome, Father Gary Ziuraitis, recently sat down with Father Brehl for a post-election interview.

Here are a few excerpts (Click here to read the entire interview):


Father Ziuraitis: For the next six years you will lead 5,300 Redemptorists scattered in 78 countries. What are your priorities at the start of your mandate? What are today’s pressing concerns for the Congregation in the continents in which we work?

Father Brehl: As the Redemptorists entered this General Chapter, and as this General Chapter finishes, our first consideration is simple: Where is God calling us to bring Good News to the abandoned and the poor? Our first priority is to respond to the call of God and the cry of the abandoned and the poor with fidelity and hope. 

 In order to respond more effectively to these needs around the world, we have chosen the following priorities:

— Strengthening and developing structures which foster an effective international solidarity among all Redemptorists and those who work with us.
— A renewal of our Redemptorist Apostolic Life which will result in greater freedom and availability for the Mission.
— Formation of new members, and ongoing formation of all Redemptorists, to better equip us for missionary service to God’s people.
— A critical examination of our human and temporal resources in order to make concrete, prudent and courageous plans for the future.


Father Ziuraitis: The Congregation is characterized by a missionary impulse and evangelization. How does it live out this today in a globalized world on the one hand and a world marked by a deep crisis of values and finances on the other? 

Father Brehl: As Redemptorists, we are moved by the mission of Christ. Although he was born into a very particular place and culture, Jesus came for the world and for all people. The Good News that he brings proclaims the love of God for all, and the value and dignity of the human person. In a globalized world, this message has more and more relevance. As the boundaries between particular human communities break down and the mass migration of peoples can lead to a greater sense of abandonment and isolation, the message of Jesus gives us a more profound basis for affirming the universal values of community and respect. I would add that the message of Jesus must be understood to extend beyond the human community to the community of all creatures. …

The longings of people for meaning, for dignity, and for well-being for themselves and their children continue to resonate with the Good News of Jesus Christ. As He sends Redemptorists to the abandoned and the poor, we proclaim His message within in the present reality. …


Father Ziuraitis: In the United States and Canada, (and in other countries of the world where the Congregation is present) what pastoral challenges does it face with immigrants? Does the internationality of the Congregation help you in this mission? 

Father Brehl: Yes, the internationality of our Congregation is a great help in the mission to be present to the communities affected by mass migration. Until the present moment, I have been living in Toronto, Canada — which the United Nations says is the city most affected by immigration. About half the residents of this city were not born in Canada! In Toronto, we have Redemptorists from nine different countries serving God’s people. 

The migration of peoples presents a number of pastoral challenges. First of all, immigrants or migrants often experience a profound sense of loss, disorientation and isolation. Language, culture, family, familiarity — in many cases they have left all these behind. Some are migrating freely, attracted by new opportunities. Others are fleeing situations of danger. At the same time, migration deeply affects the families and communities which are ‘left behind’. 

Both situations present pastoral challenges. Then there are also the challenges of integration and welcome. Xenophobia, especially in societies which are affected by unemployment, continues to arise. The ‘welcoming community’ or country is not always so welcoming! 

In a very real sense, pastoral ministry begins with accompaniment — becoming neighbours. Accompaniment always leads us to ask deeper questions which are often concerned with structural questions.


Redemptorist Father Dennis Demko, who served for two decades in Puerto Rico, died Dec. 30, 2009, as a member of the St. John Neumann community at Stella Maris in Timonium, MD. Father Demko was 57 years old and had been suffering with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases; the immediate cause of his death was double pneumonia.

The only child of Joseph and Mary Janega Demko, he was born on July 28, 1952. He studied at the Redemptorist St. Mary’s Seminary in North East, PA, and made his novitiate in Oconomowoc, WI. He made his first profession of vows in 1974 and his perpetual vows in 1977. Father Demko earned a B.A. in Philosophy from St. Alphonsus College in Suffield, CT; a Master’s degree in Religious Education and a Master’s degree in Divinity from Mount St. Alphonsus in Esopus, NY. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 24, 1980, in Esopus.

During his seminary years, confreres learned that Father Demko was an all-round athlete. Father Dennis Billy, a classmate, described him as “the epitome of the typical North East, Redemptorist jock.” He played baseball, football, basketball and hockey. Father Denis Sweeney remembered his fellow seminarian as shooting 100 baskets a day on his off day — just to keep in practice.

Father Billy, an avid runner, shared with Father Demko his dream of running the marathon distance of 26 miles and 385 yards. Father Demko decided that he would like to do that also and convinced Father Billy and another classmate to train every day for six months. Father Billy recounted: “And when the big day finally came, he plodded along at his own pace with his creaky ankles and went the entire distance, the entire 26 miles and 385 yards. Later, he told me the last 385 yards were the hardest. Dennis did what he said he was going to do. He got an idea in his head and pursued it until he completed it. And I remember thinking about him back then as I still do today, ‘Now THAT took GUTS.’ And it truly did.”

For the Ordination Class of 1980, news of their first pastoral assignments came in the form of a letter in their mailboxes. Father Demko, who spoke no Spanish then, had no desire to serve in Puerto Rico, but that was where his superiors decided he was needed. After a brief immersion course in the language, he duly reported to San Antonio de Padua in Guayama, PR. Father Kevin Moley, a former Provincial Superior of the San Juan Redemptorists and later Baltimore Provincial Superior, was Father Demko’s first rector. “I sort of became a father image to him,” Father Moley said. The rector challenged the young priest: “These people are too simple and too good not to be loved.”

Not long afterwards, “Padre Dennis” returned to the rectory from his mission church with a huge smile on his face, Father Moley said. The congregation had surprised their young priest with a party for his birthday.

Father Billy noted that his friend “eventually found his footing, came to enjoy his new home, and flourished there in both his vocation and ministry. Puerto Rico would prove to be one of the best things that ever happened to Dennis. He told me so himself.”

After serving in Guayama from 1981 to 1990, Father Demko was named rector of Los Tres Santos Reyes in Aguas Buenas, a position he held for two three-year terms. During that same period, he also served on the Provincial Chapter. In 1996, he was named superior of the Nuestra Sra. de Las Mercedes community in San Lorenzo.

Father John McLaughlin, who served in the English-Speaking Region of the Caribbean, got to know Father Demko when the latter was in Puerto Rico and the two became friends. “We talked about how he felt when he was sent to PR and how he got to love it,” he said. “It was one of those situations where you don’t want to do something, but God always has a better plan.” Father Demko became “a bit of a mentor” to the younger confrere because, Father McLaughlin said, “there was a deep spirituality to Dennis and a great sense of devotion to Mary and to prayer.”

Several of the confreres mentioned this aspect of Father Demko, noting that he loved reading Thomas Merton and that he was consistent in fasting every Friday.

Father Demko returned to the Baltimore Province in 2002, concerned over the failing health of both of his parents and, as their only child, wanting to do everything he could to ensure their care. He was assigned to St. Peter the Apostle Church in Philadelphia, where, once again, Father Moley became his rector.

“Father Dennis would go 70 miles to get milk for his father,” Father Moley said, because Mr. Demko wanted a certain brand of milk that he remembered from his childhood. While seeing his parents’ suffering with forms of dementia and experiencing his father’s death, Father Demko was diagnosed with brain lesions, a prelude of his own physical and mental decline.

In 2005, Father Demko was assigned to St. John Neumann Residence in Saratoga Springs, NY, and when the Residence was relocated to Stella Maris in Timonium, MD, Father Demko was among those escorted to the Redemptorist wing of the nursing home.

In speaking about Father Demko, Father Billy said: “Dennis was a man of few words and, as I have told you, was one of the gutsiest persons I have ever met. It doesn’t surprise me that the death he would be asked to suffer, the cross he would be asked to bear, would require great courage and stamina…. the last seven years of his life, where, simply by being himself, he expressed his humble faith and trust in God in the midst of a slow, painful death, were the most eloquent sermon he ever preached.”

In addition to his mother, Father Demko is survived by three aunts, Dorothy Skulskie, Steph Demko and Anna Pogwist; his cousins Mark and Anne Zerbe, Joan and Ty Zerbe, and Frank Demko; and longtime friends Gene and Kathy Brice.


Rev. Dennis Demko, C.Ss.R.

  • Born: July 28, 1952
  • Professed: August 3, 1974
  • Ordained: May 24, 1980
  • Died: December 30, 2009



January 3
4 to 6 p.m.
Our Mother of Perpetual Help Church
320 Church Ave.
Ephrata, PA

Funeral Mass
January 4
11 a.m.
Our Mother of Perpetual Help Church
Burial to follow in Redemptorist cemetery.


"For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son …" (Jn 3:16).

During the Christmas season, we celebrate in a special way this gift of God’s love and the plentiful redemption that the little Child in the manger would win for us on the cross. Following in the footsteps of their founder, St. Alphonsus Liguori, Redemptorists put special emphasis on the crib of Bethlehem, the cross of Calvary, and the Eucharist.

In the middle of this Year for Priests, we offer a reflection on love — God’s love for us and the importance of love in the life of priests. Here’s a brief excerpt of the reflection, written by Father Robert Wojtek, C.Ss.R.:

Love is at the root of our vocation. It is God’s gratuitous initiative and it has nothing to do with human merit, excellence, talents, etc. …

As an aside, there is a lady from this parish whose son was a classmate of my brother at North East (the former Redemptorist minor seminary in Pennsylvania). To this day, that lady still repeats what I have heard her say so many times before: “I always thought your brother would be the priest. I never did think you would make it. You were always so shy and quiet.”

Why me? God’s loving initiative. There go I but for the grace of God. As priests we must be keenly aware of God’s love for us and receive that love with grateful humility. Our lived response to that love should be so passionate, intense, and focused that sparks of that love are ignited among the people of God entrusted to us.

We ask for your prayers for the Redemptorists, for their ministries and for an increase in vocations to their way of life.

For more information about becoming a Redemptorist, click here.

For information about supporting the Redemptorists in their ministries, click here.


At Christmas we celebrate many things — family, friends, the blessings of the year — but most of all the good news that God has become one of us. Jesus has come to us as a little child, has become a human being to show us the depth of his love. Our new Superior General, Very Rev. Michael Brehl, reflects on this event in his Christmas message.

As Redemptorists, we proclaim this good news all year — news of a God who has come close to us. But this message takes on a special face at Christmas time. By reaching out to the poor and abandoned in our communities, we draw people close to the manger, close to the Child Jesus who shows us what it means to love.

Just before the start of Advent, Redemptorist seminarians living at Immaculate Conception Church in the Bronx, NY, helped deliver hot meals to shut-ins on Thanksgiving Day. Parishioners also collected food for an area food bank, and cooked and served a sit-down Thanksgiving Day meal for the elderly and the homeless.

In Lima, Ohio, at St. Gerard Church, parishioners collected enough food before Thanksgiving to supply the local food bank for three months. The Christmas Angel Tree program, which collected food and toys for the needy, also produced overwhelming results. Father James McDonald said food donations filled the church’s bride’s room to overflowing. And the toys spread from under the tree to fill one side of the sanctuary.

At St. Peter’s Church and School, one of our parishes in Philadelphia, PA, parishioners and students collected toys and enough food for 60 Christmas baskets to be shared with the needy in inner-city Philadelphia.

At St. Michael’s/St. Patrick’s Parish in Baltimore, MD, donations of toys and grocery gift certificates made Christmas a little brighter for families who visited the parish’s Assisi House, which helps the needy all year.

We have much to celebrate this Christmas, especially the gift of Jesus and the generosity his love inspires. We are blessed to have many friends and supporters who help us serve the poor and those who most need to know God’s plentiful redemption. You can help us continue to draw people to the Child whom St. Alphonsus Liguori loved so much. His song, "Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle," about that cold Bethlehem night so many years ago, is still the most popular Christmas carol in Italy.

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus — in Bethlehem and in our hearts — know that we Redemptorists are praying for you and your intentions.

Christmas blessings and peace,

The Redemptorists of the Baltimore Province