“It is significant that the administrations of both entities – both busy with many things – stop what they are doing to take the time to come together,” said Fr. Gustave Lulendo, SCJ. “It is an acknowledgement of how important such dialogues are and how important it is that we are together.”
Fr. Gustave is the regional superior of Canada and was host to the October 24 meeting of the North American Dehonian administrations in Toronto. The councils have returned to their twice-yearly meeting schedule, alternating their gatherings between the US and Canada. The last meeting was March 28 in Hales Corners, WI.
Collaboration was a reoccurring theme throughout the October meeting: collaboration with other SCJ entities, with international Dehonians, with the laity, with religious of other communities, and collaboration with the general administration.
Both the Canadian Region and US Province increasingly welcome SCJs from other entities to join them in community and ministry. In doing so, both have come to realize the importance of giving their international brothers appropriate time to prepare for their new assignments in unfamiliar cultures.
The US Province now uses a two-year preparation guideline adapted to each person. Depending on the needs of the individual, the program focuses on English language skills, American culture, SCJ culture in the United States, and the cultures of the Church in the US. During their preparation, international SCJs help at churches (within the guidelines of their visas) to learn first-hand about American parishes. The international SCJ also receives preparation specific to his assignment, such as learning about Native American culture for ministry in South Dakota, or the culture of the American South for service in Mississippi.
The Canadian Region is also examining how it can better prepare its international members. As Fr. Greg Murray, SCJ, a member of the Canadian council said, “A newcomer not only needs to learn about Canadian culture, but the subcultures that are a part of it.”
Internationality was quickly evident at Monday evening’s dinner, hosted by the Sacred Heart Community just west of downtown Toronto. Tables and chairs were pushed together tightly in the historic house to accommodate the 15+ guests. Coming together for the meal were SCJs from Brazil, Canada, DR Congo, India, Indonesia, and the United States.
Internationality describes Dehonian ministry in North America, but also the SCJs themselves.
Collaboration with laity
The councils discussed international collaboration, but also collaboration with the laity in ministry (many lay people hold key positions in ministries and committees), and in the sharing of Dehonian spirituality. Various Dehonian Associate programs have begun in Toronto, northern Mississippi, and Houston. Councilors emphasized that the charism of Fr. Leo John Dehon is not just a gift to the Priests of the Sacred Heart, but to the Church as a whole.
Members of the two administrations talked about how they can better share that charism with others and incorporate Dehonian spirituality in homilies and other public outreach. How does Dehonian spirituality speak to the issues of today?
This was a theme that continued in discussions about vocation discernment. Sharing the Dehonian charism is a way to open young people to the possibility of pursuing their call to the priesthood, to religious life with the SCJs.
Looking toward the future
Other topics discussed during the day-long meeting included next year’s General Chapter in Rome, possibilities for collaborative North American gatherings centered on themes such as the 100th anniversary of the founder’s death (August 12, 2025), a collaborative response to social justice concerns such as climate change, and discussion of the North American Dehonian Theological Commission (the councils reviewed and approved the commission’s revised statutes).
The next meeting of the administrations of the US Province and Canadian Region will take place on April 4, 2024, in Hales Corners.