Marian brother ready for the diaconate

“I am so very grateful to our Marian Helper family for their many prayers and support, not just for me but for all of our seminarians. God bless you all.”

By Dr. Joe McAleer

The Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception are pleased to announce that Br. Stephen Castellano, MIC, will soon be ordained to the transitional diaconate, the last step, God willing, on his vocational journey prior to the priesthood. 

This occurs just three weeks after Br. Stephen professed his perpetual vows with the Marian Congregation, on Aug. 16 at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Sacrament of Holy Orders
The ordination Mass will be celebrated this Saturday, Sept. 2, at 10 a.m. at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.  (Unfortunately, the Mass will not be livestreamed.)

The Most Rev. Roy Edward Campbell, Jr., auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, will confer the Sacrament of Holy Orders on Br. Stephen, who will make promises of obedience and celibacy, and to pray the Liturgy of the Hours daily.

Men studying for the priesthood are ordained as transitional deacons either prior to or during their final year of study before ordination to the priesthood. Deacons are able to preach at Mass, baptize, and celebrate weddings, while undergoing additional pastoral, liturgical, and educational preparation.

Growing up close to church
A native of Montgomery Village, Maryland, Br. Stephen, 32, is one of seven children of Ellen and Anthony (Tony) Castellano. He credits the foundation of his vocation to his parents, and an upbringing steeped in the Catholic faith.

“When I was seven years old, we moved next door to the church, St. John Neumann,” Br. Stephen recalls. “It is literally a stone’s throw from our house. So I grew up physically close to the church and in time became more spiritually tied to it.”

Attending the parish youth group during high school had a big impact. “It was a very good way to be immersed in the faith during the formative years,” he says. “We had great catechesis, but also a lot of fun.” 

Years later, Br. Stephen, like all Marian seminarians, had to take on a pastoral ministry assignment during his theological studies. He had proposed to, and was encouraged by, his formators to return to St. John Neumann to minister to that same youth group. 

“It was fascinating to go back now as a leader, to see the new generation coming up, and to observe how the Lord works in young souls,” he says. “The challenge is to keep kids grounded in prayer.”

Before the start of meetings and Eucharistic Adoration, the youth ministry team brought out a wooden box, which came to be known as the “cellphone jail.” 

“Getting downtime with God is really important for young people,” he explains. “Surrendering the cellphones encourages focus on the present moment and each other. It’s a good practice for kids.”

Marian vocation
During his college years at Mount Saint Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland, Br. Stephen’s spiritual life deepened, forming a foundation upon which he was able later to hear God calling him to the priesthood. Regular prayer and daily Mass, Bible studies, and making like-minded friends through FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) sharpened his focus.

“I found I was growing closer to Mary in my spiritual life, especially after reading 33 Days to Morning Glory and Consoling the Heart of Jesus,” Br. Stephen recalls. “Making a discernment retreat in Steubenville, Ohio, with Fr. Donald Calloway gave me a good glimpse of religious life and had a positive impact. I felt a particular calling to be a 'Marian' priest, even though at the time I didn’t know exactly how that was going to look.”

Brother Stephen joined the Marians in 2018. “It has truly been a total joy from day one,” he admits. “The time has flown by.”

The White Habit
During his profession of perpetual vows on Aug. 16, Br. Stephen was invested with the white habit, the first Marian in our province to receive this since the Marian Congregation recently approved its revival after a 100-year hiatus. 

The white habit was retired at the beginning of the twentieth century when Bl. George Matulaitis undertook the Renovation of the Marian Congregation. Adopting the attire of diocesan priests meant that Marians would blend in and not suffer persecution from Russia. Moreover, with the Renovation, the Marians received a new form, that of a clerical congregation. All clerical congregations (then as well as today) express their clerical identity (and simplicity) by wearing the priestly attire (black) that is approved by the bishops in each ecclesial territory.

“Honestly, receiving the white habit is like a dream come true,” Br. Stephen says. “We finally have a distinguishing religious garment, different from the common clerical garb of diocesan priests. The color white also highlights in a very specific way our charism, which is the mystery of the Immaculate Conception. Our founder, St. Stanislaus Papczynski, from the very beginning gave us this habit as a sign of our spiritual identity, which is grounded in Mary’s Immaculate Conception. And so the habit is a sign to the Church and to the world of who we are.”

Brother Stephen has decided to wear the white habit daily, an option for all perpetually-professed Marian priests and brothers. “I feel connected to our spiritual patrimony, and to the Marians who wore this for the first 200 years of our existence,” he says. “Some people have stopped me and asked about it, so it’s also a good opportunity for evangelization.”

First preaching
Following ordination to the diaconate, Deacon Stephen will preach his first homily as a deacon on Sunday, Sept. 3, at the 10 a.m. Mass at the Divine Mercy Chapel at Marian Assisted Living in Brookeville, Maryland. (Unfortunately, the Mass will not be livestreamed.)

As a deacon, he will continue to reside at the Marian Scholasticate in Washington, D.C. and will assist the Marian priests there in their ministries, including Marian Assisted Living, the Oblate Sisters of the Most Holy Eucharist, and St. Andrew Kim Parish in Olney, Maryland.

“I am very excited to take this first step in the Sacrament of Holy Orders and, God willing, to be ordained to the priesthood next year,” Br. Stephen concludes. “I am so very grateful to our Marian Helper family for their many prayers and support, not just for me but for all of our seminarians. God bless you all.”


You might also like...

On Dec. 8, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (a Holy Day of Obligation), God’s greatest act of mercy for any human being — God preserved Mary, His mother, from inheriting any stain of original sin.

"In a fit of madness, I started running," Br. Josh, MIC, recalls. But when his brother seminarians suggest training for a marathon, thoughts of horrible suffering and misery blazed through his mind...

Brother Josh, MIC, sat down quietly on his bed and prayed, “If you want, Beloved, I would run an ultramarathon for you.” Then, he forgot about his off-the-cuff prayer.