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Home WHO WE ARE Assumptionists Profiles Bro. BRIAN VERZELLA, A.A.



Interviewer – Would you share a bit about your background: family, childhood, early education etc.?

Bro. Brian - From my earliest childhood memories, God has occupied a central place in my life. I can recall as a youth being captivated by a painting in my bedroom wherein Jesus is seated among a group of children, so at ease and welcoming. This image instilled in me a sense that Christ was accessible to me and spurned a longing to know him, as friend and as Lord. I was born a “Cradle Catholic” with parents who instilled the faith in me from an early age. Although I was born into the Latin Church, many of the formative years of my youth were spent within the Byzantine Rite, due in part to certain “innovations” that had gained prominence in the sometimes tumultuous post-Conciliar Church in the U.S..· In time, however, my family and I would make our way back to the Roman Catholic Church.

– Where/how did your Assumptionist roots begin? Did anyone in particular have a significant impact on your life?

– It was during my employment at the Franciscan Hospital for Children in Brighton, MA in 2004 that I first encountered Assumptionist spirituality in the person of Brother Ronald Sibugan, A.A. (now, Father Ronald), who was volunteering there at the time.· When I moved to Worcester shortly thereafter to begin a new job, I was fortunate to chance upon Ron while I was out riding my bicycle one day. As it turned out, he had recently moved to Worcester in order to continue his studies at Assumption College. And so began my relationship with the community at Emmanuel House, as well as an increasing familiarity with the spirituality and charism of the Augustinians of the Assumption. Over the years, I have also had the privilege of taking part in a number of vocation discussions and retreats, as well as being a member of the Lay/Religious Alliance group, all of which have served to bolster my faith and familiarize me with the distinctive Assumption spirituality.

– Would you share some of your formation memories? Do you have any favorite scripture passages?

– My novitiate, which took place in Manila, Philippines, was my first experience living outside of the United States. This privileged time not only afforded me an “apprenticeship to prayer” and a deepening knowledge and affinity for the Assumption charism and family, but it also exposed me to realities which were foreign to my relatively sheltered and homogeneous upbringing. Some of my fondest formation memories involved simple encounters with the Filipino people, especially during our apostolate within impoverished areas. To say that they were a welcoming people would surely be an understatement. And while it is true that we were there to provide a service to those in need, it was essential that we approach the poor humbly, with a willingness to be evangelized by them.

One of my favorite scripture passages, which appears in the gospels of both Matthew and Luke, is the occasion in which Jesus blesses the children: “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Prior to beginning my candidacy with the Assumptionists, I worked with children and young adults with special needs, among whom I felt as much a student as a teacher. These exceptional individuals taught me so much about love, friendship, acceptance, understanding, compassion, joy, and overcoming obstacles through perseverance. It seems as though many of the virtues most pleasing to God come effortlessly to these remarkable souls.

– Have you experienced growth in the living out of your Assumptionist charism?

– Yes, most certainly! But as my novice master, Fr. Ngoa Ya Tshihemba, was so fond of saying, “Formation is a lifelong process.” Similarly, the process of embodying the Assumptionist charism will also be an ongoing process, one that involves increasingly greater acts of surrender and sacrifice. As I assess my current similitude to the demands of our Rule and charism, I am made painfully aware of the growth I have yet to engender. Ultimately, of course, it is God who sees to the growth while I must remain diligent in preparing the soil.

– Would you share any happy memories/stories?

– In 2011, I was privileged to take part in a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France and Madrid, Spain for World Youth Day. There, I had the opportunity to meet many individuals from all over the world, many of whom were part of the international Assumption community. It was inspiring to see the legacy and spirit of Father d’Alzon flourishing among people from such diverse and widespread backgrounds. In hindsight, this event helped to fan the flames of my vocation discernment and set me on the path of religious life.

– What hobbies or other interests do you have?

– I am an outdoor enthusiast. Whether it be a multi-day backpacking adventure or a stroll in a park, I love being outside. I am a soccer player, too. Music is also a passion of mine. I enjoy composing songs on the piano and overlaying vocals, drums, and instrumentation with the help of music software. Perhaps music ministry will play a prominent part in my future.

– What is your vision and/or hope for the future of the congregation and/or the Church?

– As in every age, we are facing new challenges in our time, and the life of the religious often stands in sharp contrast to the culture in which he lives. In describing the character of the French people of his day, Father d’Alzon said that they suffered from a spirit that was “utilitarian, mercenary, egoistic, . . . materialist,” and “paralyzed by personal interest.” Today, our society likewise struggles to exorcise similar demons. With views on Christianity ranging from apathy and indifference to outright contempt and scorn, it is imperative that the community of believers offer a loving, compelling testimony and witness to the love and preeminence of God. As Pope Francis has repeatedly expressed, Christians must allow the joy of our relationship with Christ to shine through us and suffuse all that we do. Furthermore, we must strive to meet people where they are at and speak in a language they can understand and to which they can relate. Echoing the words of Saint Paul, the Rule of Life states that “our missionary vocation invites us to become ‘all things to all people.’” This certainly does not imply a “watering down” or relativizing of Truth. It is not the job of an Assumptionist to make others “feel good” by engendering a “least-common-denominator” brand of Christianity. On the contrary, we are tasked with sharing the whole of divine revelation with frankness and disinterested love.

– Is there anything about you that you would like to share or that would surprise others?

– While I am not what one might call an “avid bird-watcher,” I have a fascination for· all things avian. I am also intrigued by indigenous cultures, especially those native to the Americas. Lastly, I’ve always wanted to be a bread baker’s apprentice!

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