Newly professed Brother John Patrick Castonguay will continue his preparation for the priesthood with studies in Immaculate Conception Seminary on the campus of Seton Hall University, South Orange. Courtesy photo
Newly professed Brother John Patrick Castonguay will continue his preparation for the priesthood with studies in Immaculate Conception Seminary on the campus of Seton Hall University, South Orange. Courtesy photo
Brother John Patrick Castonguay believes God has called him to a life of true brotherhood, one in which he will do his best to help young people discover God, “helping them to be ‘Good Christians and honest citizens.’”

Such was the reflection of Brother John, who made his first profession of vows as a brother in the Salesian of Don Bosco community Aug. 15 at the Marian Shrine in Haverstraw, N.Y.

He was one of three to profess vows with many in attendance at the Mass, including 22 Salesian priest concelebrants, 14 Salesians, family members, students and alumni from Don Bosco Prep, Ramsey.

Brother John, 27, grew up in Pennington with two younger sisters and a younger brother. The family belonged to St. James Parish until the family moved to Michigan during his sophomore year of high school; his parents, John and Theresa, now live in Richboro, Pa.

“I was privileged to be a part of the Children’s Choir starting from age four through high school, eventually assuming a leadership position,” Brother John said, reflecting on his time at the Pennington parish. “[It] gave me an extremely positive experience of the Church from a young age … I learned how to place my talents at the service of God and the Church.”

Brother John credited Children’s Choir director Barbara Lysenko with helping shape his “joyful experience of parish life … My experience taught me that the gifts I have are meant to be shared with others.”

While pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy and history from Fordham University, N.Y., he began considering religious life and the priesthood.

“An experience of prayer at Mass, especially in recognizing the Real Presence in the Eucharist, inspired me to consider placing myself at the service of God and his Church,” Brother John recalled. “I was introduced to the Salesians through a friend of mine who recognized some gifts for youth ministry and a desire to live in community life with a genuine family spirit. I was inspired by the spirit of Don Bosco and the examples of Salesians that I had met to be a ‘sign and bearer of God’s love for the young.’”

Pursuing his passion for music, Brother John sang and directed vocal music ensembles, arranged music, and took part in international a cappella and barbershop quartet competitions. Earning his bachelor’s degree in 2015 from Fordham, followed by a master’s degree in education from Providence College, R.I., in 2017, he concurrently taught history and chorus in a Catholic high school in Massachusetts.

Brother John completed a year of novitiate in the Salesian community of Richmond, Calif., guided by master of novices Father Joseph Nguyen of the San Francisco Province.

During his candidacy year from 2017-2018 at Don Bosco Prep, and then his prenovitiate from 2018-2019, he found in the local Salesian community “incredible models of joyful fraternity [and] self-sacrificing love for the young people at Ramsey.” He was naturally drawn to Salesian spirituality’s “two pillars of the Blessed Sacrament and Mary Help of Christians.”

Brother John will continue his preparation for the priesthood at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Seton Hall University, South Orange, studying music in addition to philosophy, theology and French courses.

“I am hoping to deepen my musical skills so that I can help young people see God in something that they are passionate about,” he explained. “The true gifts, passions and skills that we have are gifts from God that we have a responsibility to cultivate and use for the benefit of others.”

He hopes “to continue to grow as a man of prayer, allowing my relationship with God to illuminate every aspect of my life” and to continue to serve God, his brothers, and the young.

 “For young people considering religious life and/or a priestly vocation, I would encourage them to seek out a spiritual guide and to seek out opportunities to experience this way of life,” he advised. “Like any life that is worthwhile, it includes sacrifices, but it brings out the best that you are capable of. It is also essential to develop a prayer life. God is the greatest friend that we could have, and we would make time for our friends. He gives us the guidance that we need when we trust in him.”

Father Michael Mendl, SDB, contributed to this article.