Our thanks to Mississippi Dehonian Associate Laura Grisham for sharing the following story and photos.
With their families looking on, a group of 32 people made a one-year commitment as Dehonian Associates during a prayer service in the chapel of Holy Spirit Church in Hernando, MS, on July 17. Each person signed a document stating their wish to become an associate and promised to pray a daily act of oblation, unite themselves and their everyday tasks with the reconciling love of Jesus for the Father and the world, and to continue gathering for study and prayer.
As a sign of their commitment, they were presented with the Dehonian Cross. This particular Dehonian Cross was made by a Dehonian Associate in Brazil. On the front it includes the inscription of Jesus’ response to the Father: “Ecce Venio,” (“Behold, I come to do your will”). Also pictured is an image of a hand representing the presence of God in our world and life, as well as an image of Christ presenting his Sacred Heart. On the reverse are the words “Ecce Ancilla” – Mary’s response to the angel: “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to God’s will,” along with the image of the Angel Gabriel appearing to Mary at the Annunciation. For Fr. Dehon, “Ecce Venio” and “Ecce Ancilla” sum up the Dehonian vocation of oblation: “Offer all that we are, our joys and sorrows, our successes and disappointments to God the Father.”
Fr. Vien Nguyen, SCJ, Provincial Superior of the US Province, said in his homily at the prayer service that “Fr. Dehon found in the Sacred Heart the source of his love and hope and it kept him going. Each one of us is called to participate in the mission of the Church. The Dehonian Cross, with its open space in the middle, reflects the emptiness of the world… It is our call, our vocation, to fill it with our love. May the Sacred Heart, who is the source of love for Fr. Dehon and for each one of us, inspire us always to live that vocation, to be the people of good news.”
During the past year, the newly committed associates have gathered to participate in the Dehonian Associates Spiritual Path. This program of 10 sessions is an introduction to Dehonian spirituality and is the basis of discernment for commitment as a Dehonian Associate.
New Dehonian Associate Roxanne McIngvale said after the prayer service, “My husband and I have both very much enjoyed and appreciated our experience in becoming Dehonian Associates. We have both grown up and raised our family being a part of the family of the Sacred Heart priests. However, I was not aware of who Fr.Dehon was. His commitment to serve the needs of the poor I found to be very inspirational. Learning this has further explained the mission of the SCJ community and how they have worked to carry out the purpose established by Fr. Dehon.”
Even those who have been a part of the Dehonian Associates for a number of years find participation in the group to be an exciting journey. “Over the last six years, being a Dehonian Associate has given me an opportunity to learn more about the charism of the community. Each group that explores the meaning of being a Dehonian Associate has such a wonderful perspective,” said Sacred Heart School Principal Bridget Martin. “Sharing the same ideas with different members has really opened my life to the awe of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”
Not only have the sessions provided insight into the mission of the SCJs, but the study and prayer has also served to intensify the associates’ own faith and spirituality.
Fr. Jack Kurps, SCJ, SHSM executive director and acting chairperson of the Dehonian Associates Committee, led the group their year-long journey.
“This journey helped me to better understand not only the struggles Fr. Dehon went through to create the Priests of the Sacred Heart, but it also helped me dig a little deeper into and strengthen my Catholic faith,” said new Associate Leonard Temple. “One of my favorite experiences in this program was learning about how different cultures around the world celebrate the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”
“Prior to the Dehonian meetings, I would be hit or miss on reading the daily readings,” said Gloria Moriarty, another new Dehonian Associate. “I am more aware of those in need and I try to help as much as I can. I know it may sound crazy, but I think sometimes God sends these requests our way just to see how we will respond and I certainly do not want to disappoint. I have also learned to be more tolerant of family members and I am more thankful for the small things, for example, a cool breeze that seemly happens all of the sudden.”
The new group of 26 Dehonian Associates was joined by six members of the original group of Associates formed in 2016, as they made their recommitment. Six additional new participants were unable to attend the celebration and will make their commitment at a later date.
According to Fr. Jack, plans are underway to begin a new group of study sessions on the Spiritual Path in September. More details will be available in the upcoming weeks.