Dehonian Spirituality


Dehonian Spirituality is a weekly e-publication. Mailed most Fridays, it includes prayers and reflections based in the spirituality of Fr. Leo John Dehon, founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart (Dehonians). Text from a recent issue of Dehonian Spirituality appears below.

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March 15, 2019
Theme: “World Day for Cultural Diversity”

Reflections from Fr. Leo John Dehon, founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart

In a Dehonian point of view, missionary work is not so much or only an activity.  It is itself a style: opening up oneself to the other, confronting the “different,” living in solidarity.  And this, in the light of the spirituality of the Heart of Christ, a Heart open to humanity and to the world.

In this, one rediscovers the spiritual value of the missionary choice.  Even today one can reaffirm what Fr. Dehon said concerning the value of offering and immolation which the missionary choice requests and involves.  It is carrying the cross with Christ for the salvation of the world, and walking along the roads of the world.

In his diary, Dehon writes, “Charity in action, in compassion, in the spirituality of the Eucharist and prayer, that is also our object.  In action: missions in other countries, missions to [South] America and Africa.  Jesus has allowed us to carry the cross with him, both for our purification and for the salvation of souls” [1903]

In this context, I would say that a profoundly Dehonian attitude is one which has a taste for dialogue with the cultures and the peoples of the world.  The earthly experience of our Founder has given us a model.  We are not called to repeat the choices that he made nor to copy his initiatives, but to interiorize that which animated him and the characteristics which guided his choices: his taste for knowing people, attention to problems of society and in the whole world, the capacity to have a good relationship with everybody, the preoccupation to not stop at the surface of problems and situations.

Our missionary work has today made contact with worlds, peoples, religions, and cultures which had never been touched before by the nonetheless long story of the communication of the Gospel.  The “geography” of the Church has changed and certainly the “geography” of our Congregation has also changed.  All this reminds us that we are called to think about the horizons of the world: our Congregation cannot close itself up at the level of “provincial community.”

I believe that it is precisely by the interior attitudes of Fr. Dehon that we have today been sent out again, as a Congregation on the roads of our world.  And so, the motto of the XXI General Chapter becomes filled with meaning.  We are called, as children of Fr. Dehon to travel the roads of the world with a heart open in solidarity, with a heart which has no fear and never closes itself in pessimism, with a heart that is able to set itself alongside the men of our time and share their sorrows and joys, labors and hopes.

“Far from making us strangers to people, our profession of the evangelical counsels puts us into greater solidarity with their life” [Rule of Life 38a].

Excerpt from, “The Missionary Spirit in Fr. Dehon,” Alessandro Capoferri, SCJ, Dehoniana 2004/1


Lived and Shared: contemporary expressions of Dehonian spirituality

Kelly Kornacki

One of the first things that I notice about seeing SCJ spirituality expressed in my work with the English and Culture Studies [ECS] Program is the feeling of connection that the students have with one another.  Sharing a deep love of Christ provides a firm foundation for building friendships across what could easily be barriers.  The students and teachers are firmly committed to getting to know one another, and discussions both in and outside of the classroom are filled with fascinating information as new English language skills allow us to share stories of our cultures, families, countries, etc.

This truly opens our eyes to the struggles and victories that others have faced.  Without this experience, many of us would never have learned about the genocide in Rwanda, the barriers to Catholicism in China, or the difficulties of bringing the Gospel to the inhabitants of the Amazon region in Brazil.  Reading about these things is one thing; hearing them from someone who has lived them is quite another.

Spirituality is also evidenced in joy.  These men move out of the sacristy and into the classroom, which becomes their job for however much time they have to study English.  While they take this job seriously [and four hours of classwork a day plus another two to four hours of nightly homework is no easy task!], the classroom environment is not one of drudgery.  Instructors set the tone on day one that laughter is encouraged.  Learning a language is difficult, and if one is nervous about making mistakes it becomes impossible.

Therefore, we laugh with each other, not at each other.  Laughter unites us and becomes another lingua franca.  It is common to have our classroom doors closed as the volume can become distracting to others, but to us a lively discussion intermingled with laughter is the sign of a successful lesson.  We instructors have been told that we do not teach the language of English; rather, we teach the language of love.  We consider ourselves to be truly blessed to have that opportunity.

Another way that spirituality is expressed in the ECS program is in the patience and support that students show one another.  It is an example of how we should all treat our fellow human beings.  Watching two people finding a way to negotiate meaning as they both have limited English skills and no other common spoken language is truly heartening.  Why would anyone put so much effort into this interaction?  It is because we all truly want to get to know one another and learn from/about each other.

When this happens, we learn about our commonalities and learn to respect our differences.  The students are living examples of how the world can be united one relationship at a time.  When this attitude is multiplied by the number of students who have attended the ECS program over the years and have then returned to their home countries, the impact potential is truly incredible.

Generous SCJ support will allow another sixty students to live aspects of SCJ spirituality this summer by participating in the ECS program.  As several students have told us, no one leaves the program the same as when they started it.  Using new language skills, these men can now spread the Gospel in more locations and to more people than ever before.  Fr.  Dehon is proud of this, of that I am sure!

Kelly Kornacki, Director of ECS
Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology

For more information about the program, contact Kelly at


Reflection questions: seeds for personal understanding and growth

The spirituality of the Heart of Jesus can be described as a heart open to humanity and the world.  How might you express:

  • a taste for dialogue with the cultures and peoples of the world?
  • a desire to learn about our commonalities and to respect our differences?
  • a commitment to live in solidarity through patience and support of each other?


Prayer: hands lifted in prayer, hands prepared to serve

March 21 is World Day for Cultural Diversity.  The image is of the 15th UN Assembly on Indigenous Issues.  In your kindness throughout the week, please remember in your prayer someone in your life or neighborhood who seems “different” or “other.”  Notice how your prayer might be encouraging you to action.  You may find helpful the following prayer by St. Dionysius of Alexandria, who died in 264 CE.

God the Father,
origin of all that is divine,
good beyond all that is good,
fair beyond all that is fair,
in you are calmness, peace, and concord.
Heal what divides us from one another
and bring us back into the unity of love,
bearing some likeness to your divine nature.
Through the embrace of love
and the bonds of godly affection,
make us one in the Spirit
by that peace of yours that makes all things peaceful.
We ask this through the grace, mercy, and tenderness
of your only begotten Son, Jesus our Lord.