“We are here not only to continue a tradition, but to also commit ourselves to looking at the future of our congregation in North America,” said Fr. Gustave Lulendo, SCJ, in his opening remarks at the December 6 meeting of the administrations of US and Canada. Approximately twice a year the North American councils get together to dialogue on shared concerns, seek ways of collaboration, and simply connect so that each is mindful of the people, ministries and issues of their neighbors across the border. Appointed just this year as regional superior, this was Fr. Gustave’s first time hosting the event.
The meeting, which took place in Toronto, began with informal updates. Several of the SCJs had recently been in Rome where they took part in the Conference on Sacred Heart Devotion, as well as meetings of the congregation’s entity superiors, and of the General Theological Commission. This fall, the Toronto community welcomed a new member: Fr. Petrus Murwanto, an Indonesian SCJ doing doctoral studies in education. The community also looks forward to celebrating the 40th anniversary of UKI, the Indonesian Catholic community in Toronto initiated by Fr. Wayne Jenkins, SCJ.
In mid-November, SCJs in Mississippi hosted the General Finance Commission. “The commission members enjoyed seeing the various ministries of Sacred Heart Southern Missions,” said Fr. Jack Kurps, SCJ, SHSM executive director, “but more so, they appreciated the conversations that they had with our staff.” Through their conversations, members of the commission –– from all over the world –– learned much about the cultures of not only the American South, but of a multi-racial United States.
The Dehonian presence in both the US and Canada is becoming increasingly multicultural and the administrations of both entities reflect that. Dehonians from DR Congo, Holland, Indonesia and Poland, as well as Canada and the United States, are among those who serve on the North American councils. Rare is it to find an SCJ community in either entity without a mix of international Dehonians. It is the reflection of not only an international religious congregation but of a world where interculturality and migration has taken center stage.
The North American Migration Committee was developed in response to the 2013 North American Conference in which SCJs from both entities identified migration as a significant issue. The committee continues to be one of the most active collaborative efforts of the two entities; its membership includes SCJs and lay persons from both the US and Canada. Fr. Peter McKenna, SCJ, co-chair, updated the councils on the committee’s activities during the past year. They included co-sponsorship with Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology of the April, 2019 Dehon Lecture where Sr. Norma Pimentel, MJ, (Executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley) was the keynote speaker. The lecture was one of many educational efforts of the committee. “Out of awareness comes compassion, and from compassion comes a call for advocacy,” said an SCJ at the June US Province Assembly in which the Migration Committee facilitated several sessions.
Other topics of discussion at the North American Councils Meeting included the Dehon Study Center in North America (how to continue to support and enhance the work of the center, as well as the Dehonian Associates Office), the North American Theological Commission (in particular, its preparations –– in collaboration with other continental commissions –– for the July 12-17, 2020 SCJ Theological Conference in Cameroon), a commitment to continue the North American Dehonian Retreats, youth ministry (tentative plans for campus ministry in the United States, youth retreats with UKI, and the 2022 World Youth Day in Portugal), and vocation promotion (the entities hope to seek more collaborative efforts regarding vocation development; the Canadian Region recently developed a vocation committee that has a new social media project: “DehonianWay” on Facebook and Instagram).
The next meeting of the North American Councils will take place in Hales Corners, WI, on Tuesday, April 28, 2020.