PITTSBURGH, PA (April 12, 2017) Growing up in California, Bro. Michael Suazo, C.S.Sp., knew from the fourth grade that he wanted to enter a religious community as a brother.
“I remember being inspired to enter consecrated life by the Divine Word priests and brothers working in my home parish of St. Patrick in West Oakland, Calif., when I was a child, and later by a Spiritan vocation poster I had seen when I was a teenager,” said Bro. Michael. “My parents were supportive, though confused that such an aspiration would be coming from a fourth grader!”
But it was the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans) that would win out, and his religious formation involved entering the Spiritan seminary in Houston, Tex., in 1971, when he was 17, followed by further formation in Glenwood Springs, Colo., and San Antonio, Tex.
His first profession in the consecrated life as a Spiritan brother was in 1975. Bro. Michael had fulfilled that childhood dream, and has not regretted making that decision as a youngster. He has compiled a travelogue of various assignments for the Spiritans within the U.S. Province, serving in Louisiana, California, Texas and Pennsylvania.
Recently, Bro. Michael joined with more than 225 of his peers from 15 different religious communities for talks and fellowship at the Brothers Symposium at the University of Notre Dame, in South Bend, Ind. The symposium was an outgrowth of the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life’s “Identity and Mission of the Religious Brother in the Church” document in 2015.
Bro. Michael enjoyed spending time with his peers, and believes it’s important to have that support among others in consecrated life, both religious men and women. He is the only Spiritan brother in the U.S. Province of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, though other Spiritan provinces around the world have active and retired brothers.
“Though we may have different charisms within each distinct religious community, there still remains collegiality and some common issues among brothers that enables us to bond and to provide support for each other,” he said.
In fact, when he was stationed in San Antonio, Tex., back in 1995, Bro. Michael chaired, organized and hosted the Religious Brothers Conference (RBC), entitled, “The Brother: A Gift to the Collaborative Church.” This year, the RBC assembly, entitled “Brothers: Ministers at the Margins,” is set for July 17 – 20, 2017, in Los Angeles, in Bro. Michael’s home state of California. And this May 1, marks the Inaugural Religious Brothers Day, celebrated on the feast of St. Joseph the Worker.
Throughout his time with the Spiritans, Bro. Michael has been involved in administration as Provincial Secretary, served as pastoral associate at different Spiritan parishes and in various outreach ministries to the poor and marginalized. He currently serves as director of vocations for the U.S. Province and assistant manager of the Spiritan Retreat Center in Bethel Park, Pa. He also is a member of the Robert Morris University (Pittsburgh, Pa.) Campus Ministry Advisory Board.
“Getting young people interested in the religious life these days can be challenging,” said Bro. Michael. “But you just have to meet people where they are; try to relate to them and help them to discern a calling. It can be a long process, over several stages, and I try not to lead them into either being a brother or ordained as a priest. I just allow the Holy Spirit to lead them to that conclusion for themselves; their own choice.”
Bro. Michael explained that members of religious communities make solemn vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, with some orders being apostolic or missionary, which means they are active within the world, such as with the Spiritans; or monastic, which means they live and work within a monastery or religious community; or within a cloistered setting, living out their charism of prayer and solitude. Brothers can also contribute through their training and education as doctors, lawyers or teachers within their religious communities and for the people they serve.