To the Dehonian Family

“We are called to be brothers and sisters to all, without prejudice and without fear”

What follows is a message from Fr. General to the “Dehonian Family,” those who share in the spirituality and charism of the Priests of the Sacred Heart, including co-workers and other collaborators in ministry. Click here to read a lengthier text by Fr. General, written to fellow SCJs.

Dear brothers and sisters of the Dehonian Family,

Grace and peace in the Heart of Christ!

We are a family that grows inspired by love of the Heart of Christ. On June 15, we celebrate together the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, invited to let our thirst be quenched by the contemplation of the pierced side of Christ on the cross (Gospel of the day), a symbol of total love and a life given to the Father and to humans .

On the occasion of this feast, the General Administration is accustomed to send a letter to the Congregation. You can read it on our web site or obtain it from the religious community in your area. [click here to read it on the U.S. website] With it came an outline of a prayer vigil, which you may want to use at one of your meetings before or after the feast. This year’s letter is an invitation to open ourselves to the universal love of the Heart of Christ and, therefore, to the internationality of the SCJ mission which can now be found in forty-one countries on four continents.

In many of these countries, the Founder’s charisma has been shared with the laity, as Father Dehon did in his time. In recent decades a good number of lay men and women have responded to the call of God to live their baptismal vocation and the spirituality of the Heart – filled with love for the world – making their own the feelings and attitudes of the heart of Christ. To each one of you, we send a cordial greeting on the occasion of our feast.

We also greet the religious institutes and fraternities of consecrated laymen and women, guided by the Dehonian spirituality. We are all invited to “look on him whom they have pierced” (John 19.37) and to deepen what we have learned from him: a total love for the Father and an unconditional devotion to serve others. We draw upon Father Dehon, especially in his deep desire for an intimate union with Christ, loving the Father and our brothers and sisters as intensely as did his Lord, our Shepherd and Teacher.

Father Dehon understood that the heart of Christ is none other than the person of Christ who loves, the incarnate Son of God, who took on a body and the conditions of normal human life, alive with love for the humanity that he has come to save. For this Heart no sacrifice is too great. The Gospels show us that every word, every gesture, sign and teaching came from a heart full of love, full of compassion for sinners, the sick and the poor. His was a heart full of joy for the faith of the tax collector and the gift of the poor widow with only one coin. With the same love of his heart he spared the life and forgave the sin of the woman caught in adultery, proclaimed the Good News to the people, and called his disciples and taught them how to follow him. In the end, it led him to give his life on the cross. The blood and water poured out to the last drop are an eloquent expression of a life fully given.

Fr. Dehon left us the treasure of this heart, so that we may learn from him, and like him to give ourselves. The love of the Heart of Christ is not an unattainable goal. Already St. Paul said that love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 5.5). Not only are we loved by God, but God has made us capable of loving in the same way. He has made us capable of renewing our feelings and thoughts according to His will, and to change our personal agenda in order to follow His plan. The heart of every Dehonian is invited to become like the heart of Christ.

Being like Him is the basis of our ability to be open to the other, also to the one who has not yet accepted the Gospel or needs to accept it again. It does not matter whether this person is from my country or from another. “Teach all nations,” (Mt 28.19) Jesus said.

Among the lay people, who are members of the Dehonian Family, there are some who, as volunteers, have had a mission experience in other countries, even for a short time. There are also those who have given their energies to campaigns for financial assistance to certain Dehonian missionaries. Some of them pray in their homes for the success of the SCJ missions in countries where the SCJ charisma has been introduced. Others work to coordinate and promote the growth of the Dehonian Family in its various branches.

Not everyone can go to other lands. They can, however, participate in the mission of the local church and being open to its different tasks. From the pierced Heart of Christ we learn to open ourselves to the poor, excluded from society because no one else pays attention to them, to those who have distanced themselves from God and the Church, because other appeals were more powerful that the testimony of love on the part of Christians and to those who are without hope and who cannot find a meaning in life. We are called to be brothers and sisters to all, without prejudice and without fear.

There are, of course, in communion with the Congregation, also other forms of active participation in mission projects and other expressions of SCJ spirituality. For instance, we are pleased to remind you that, in the month of July, the congregation is organizing a General Conference in order to reflect on the evangelization and education of new generations. This is a great challenge for the Church and, of course, also for the whole Dehonian Family. Immediately following the conference, there will be a meeting of the Superiors of all the SCJ provinces, regions and districts. Among other matters, there will be presented a project that has been in the works for some time: a mission to China. There are two other issues that deserve the attention and prayers of everyone, that is, the Synod on new evangelization which will be held next October, and the Year of Faith, which Pope Benedict XVI has proclaimed.

Also, note that in the week of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, there will be the second meeting of the Working Group that has given itself the task to prepare a Formation Guide for lay Dehonians. We thank the lay members and the religious who have answered the questionnaire we sent to you to obtain your views. We count on the continued participation by all so that we may arrive at a formation handbook which, we hope, will be an effective aid for everyone.

In keeping with the letter sent to the SCJ Congregation, we renew the invitation “to open ourselves to the universal love of God, revealed in His Son. He has come to share our humanity and to bring us the gifts of the Spirit, transforming us in his image and giving us a share in his own life and making us promoters of a new humanity according to the plan of the Father.”

In communion with and at the service of his Kingdom, we wish you a joyous and fruitful celebration of the Sacred Heart.

Fr. José Ornelas Carvalho, Superior General and his Council