Brother Branden Gordon, SDB, 28, comes from the Salesian parish of St. Benedict in Etobicoke where his parents are also members.
Branden entered the Salesian formation program at St. Benedict's in April 2013 and did his prenovitiate at Holy Rosary Parish in Port Chester, NY in the first part of 2014. The confreres at St. Benedict's had a powerful influence on his vocation journey. They first led him back to the practice of the Catholic faith while he was in college and then into the parish's youth ministry. "Inspired by the witness of these men, the thought of a religious vocation immediately implanted itself in my heart," he says, and that seed germinated for six years, eventually sprouting "thanks to the patient guidance and unswerving friendship of the Salesian community."
Brother Branden singles out Father Frank Kelly, SDB, and Father Michael Pace, SDB, as the most powerful influences on his religious development. Father Frank "spoke eloquently about the mercy of Jesus." Father Mike "was kind and encouraging [but] not afraid to challenge me to grow."
"Working and living in the community of St. Benedict made me want to become a Salesian," he says. "It took a whole community to nurture a vocation." Gospel Roads and other parish programs were "dynamic, spiritually rich" experiences and his weekly spiritual conferences with Father John Puntino, were important to his growth, "especially the way his face lit up with affection and youthful enthusiasm for St. John Bosco" as they made their way through Don Bosco's Memoirs of the Oratory of Saint Francis de Sales.
As a novice in California Branden regularly joined a Salesian brother to minister to youths held at a juvenile detention center. He was edified by the example of charity and service he saw in many other volunteers there. He was also impressed by the spiritual thirst that he discovered in many of the jailed youngsters: "It was a humbling experience to listen to their struggles, joys, and hopes and to pray with them."
While Brother Branden's academic program in the coming year at the Salesians' formation community in Orange, NJ is still being worked out, he already has spiritual objectives: more personal prayer and battling against his faults. "I am realizing more and more each day how much the effectiveness of one's apostolate depends on the depth of one's interior life and degree of moral perfection."
Influenced by Father Joseph Occhio, SDB, and other confessors he's known, he hopes eventually "to specialize in the art of confession and moral theology" so he can extend God's mercy to others as he has known it himself.