Remembering our founder, Venerable Leo John Dehon

IMAGE ABOVE: students at Our Lady of Guadalupe, Houston, in their Dehonian shirts on Founder’s Day

“’Go to the people’ was the way of life embraced by Fr. Leo John Dehon, founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart. Despite being born into a wealthy family, he chose to serve the working class and struggling families. He fell in love with the people in his first assignment as a parish priest and saw their struggles. He was determined to respond to their spiritual needs in the name of the church. Instead of letting them come to him, he went to them. Fr. Dehon and his fellow religious priests went to factories where workers labored long hours to administer sacraments to them. He challenged Christian factory owners to adhere to the social teaching of the Church and improve the working and living conditions of the workers. He established youth organizations and clubs for children whose parents labored long hours in the factory, providing a safe place for them to receive support and catechism to grow in the faith.

“In his own way, he testified to the love of God revealed in the Sacred Heart.”

– Fr. Vien Nguyen, SCJ, speaking to students and faculty at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology

Scroll below to access text and photos from Founder’s Day events 

Fr. Dehon

We celebrate March 14 as “Founder’s Day,” the anniversary of the birth of Fr. Leo John Dehon on March 14, 1843. Special events are held throughout the world to commemorate the founder, and in a special way, to pray for vocations to continue his dreams into the future.

“If we delve into the life of Fr. Dehon, we can sense a man of great humility, charity, and gentleness,” wrote Fr. Vien Nguyen, SCJ, in his Founder’s Day letter to employees and other collaborators. “To the young people he ministered to, he’s known as a good father, or ‘très bon père.’ He genuinely cared for the factory workers who were exploited and impacted by the Industrial Revolution. The long working hours kept many workers away from their families and the church. In response, Fr. Dehon founded clubs and schools for young people. He sent his fellow priests to the factories to ensure that the workers’ sacramental needs were met. Furthermore, he challenged factory owners to implement humane working hours and conditions for their workers. Fr. Dehon was inspired by and faithful to the Catholic social teaching and wanted his fellow clergy and religious, as well as the laity to protect the dignity and rights of the vulnerable.”

In his homily at the SCJ community Mass at Sacred Heart at Monastery Lake, Fr. Jim Schroeder, SCJ, reminded fellow Dehonians that “Leo united his whole life with the Ecce Ancilla of Mary, the full but passive acceptance of the action of God the Spirit, with the Ecce Venio of Jesus, the full and active readiness and willingness to work to bring about the Reign of God in souls and in societies.  Part of that work was to make reparation, to pray to God for those alienated from Him, and to work to repair the break in their relationship.  Another essential part of that work was to strive with others to Tikka Olam, to Repair the World, to remedy the sin and lack of love in the world and in the church.  Reparation in a spiritual way is nothing without reparation, or repair work, in the human world.”

Reflecting on the Sacred Heart itself, Dr. David Richo, in his one-hour Zoom reflections held in conjunction with Founder’s Day, noted that those called to a devotion to the Sacred Heart “not only have a calling, but we also have the special graces, the charisms, that allow us to dedicate everything that I might say, everything that I might do to the deepest purpose and longing of the Sacred Heart. And what is that deepest purpose? Nothing less than Thy Kingdom Come! A world of justice rather than injustice. A world of peace rather than war. A world of love rather than hate and division.”

Click on the following links to access photos and texts from Founder’s Day:

Fr. Vien Nguyen’s March 14 letter to SCJs

Fr. Vien Nguyen’s March 14 letter to employees and other collaborators

Fr. Vien Nguyen’s homily for the Founder’s Day liturgy at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology

Photos from the SHSST Founder’s Day liturgy

Fr. Jim Schroeder’s homily for the Founder’s Day liturgy with the Sacred Heart Community at Sacred Heart at Monastery Lake

The Founder’s Day letter of Fr. Carlos Luis Suarez Codorniú, SCJ, superior general

Photos from the Reception of Ministries Ceremony of Frater Jacob Smith, SCJ (Lector), Frater Thuan Nguyen, SCJ (Acolyte), Frater Truc Tran, SCJ (Acolyte) and Frater Michael Wodarczyk, SCJ (Acolyte)