Displays celebrate founder’s North American visit

The Province Archives recently opened three new displays in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Fr. Leo John Dehon’s visit to North America.  The founder attended the Eucharistic Congress in Montréal in August, 1910, during which he made crucial contacts with bishops from around the world who later assisted him in placing SCJ missionaries after World War I.

This full head dress, decorated with feathers from an eagle, was made by Br. Matthias Schaefer, SCJ, during the 1960s when he served at St. Joseph's Indian School. The bead work that appears with it is in the Lakota style.

Two locations that benefited from those contacts were the United States and South Africa.  In 1919, Fr Matthias Fohrman, SCJ, was sent to the United States to both raise funds for the community in Europe and to explore possibilities for SCJ ministry in the country.  Four years later, the Priests of the Sacred Heart took on St. Mary’s Mission on the Lower Brule Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, a ministry that the community continues today.

At the same time that German SCJs were settling in South Dakota, another group from the German Province started ministry in Aliwal North, South Africa.  Members of the then established U.S. Province joined the Germans in South Africa in 1948, taking on missions in De Aar.  The first two bishops of the De Aar Diocese were from the U.S. Province.

“Thus the topic of our three new displays,” said Fr. Wayne Jenkins, SCJ, province archivist.  “The first commemorates Fr. Dehon’s visit to the United States in 1910, and the other two celebrate some of the ministry that was later made possible by connections the founder made during his visit.”

One display is in the hall near the Leo Dehon Library at Sacred Heart School of Theology, and the other two are in the gathering area of the Provincialate Conference Center in Hales Corners, Wis.

The display at SHST focuses on Fr. Dehon’s 1910 visit and the two displays in the Provincialate Conference Center feature a head dress and beadwork in the Lakota tradition and beadwork of the Xhosa people of South Africa.

A beaded cow horn from South Africa.

“The Xhosa have a tradition of burying their dead with all of their prized possessions,” said Fr. Wayne.  “Thus, there are very few pieces of traditional bead work available.  Because of this, our small collection –– mainly gifts that were given to SCJ missionaries –– is increasingly more rare and irreplaceable.”

For more information about the exhibits contact the Province Archives at:  414-427-4274.