Contemporary expressions of Dehonian spirituality
Contemporary expressions of Dehonian spirituality
March 13, 2015
In a letter written to Bishop Thibaudier after he received the decree of suppression from Rome, Fr. Dehon wrote, “Our Lord is now asking me to destroy what He asked me to build. I cannot entertain, not even for an instant, the slightest thought of resistance. That would be sheer folly. I can say nothing else except my fiat! [“Let it be done.”]
Fr. Dehon’s response gave an insight into the spirituality of oblation and immolation. Fr. Dehon obviously wanted his young Congregation to flourish and grow. He did not want his Congregation to be suppressed, but even in the face of destruction he would not do anything that would lessen their fidelity to God the Father. He accepted it despite the fact of how devastating it might be.
The ministry of vocation is both exciting and challenging. It can create a spiritual and emotional rollercoaster. On one hand, it can be very exciting and a privilege to accompany an individual in exploring his lifelong religious calling. On the other hand, it can be very challenging and frustrating when you look but do not seem to find someone who wants to answer the call.
The Founder’s spirituality has served as one of the guiding principles in my ministry of vocation. There are times that I have been discourged to say the least, expecially when a potential candidate has “discerned out” after a long discernment with us. Personally, I would like them to “discern in” with us; I want to “push” them forward because I believe that they could be a wonderful addition to our Congregation. However, “I can say nothing else except my fiat” even when a potential candidate is “discerned out” regardless how disappointed I may be.
Fr. Dehon’s fidelity and faithfulness to the will of God has taught me an important lesson. Even when things do not go according to my liking, God is still at work. I need to do my part; God will take care of the rest.
Quang Nguyen, SCJ, Vocation Director
February 13, 2015
Life-threatening complications from a badly injured knee set Silvia Bertozzi on a path toward her vocation as a consecrated virgin living the Dehonian charism. 33 years old and in an intensive physical therapy program near Bologna, Italy, she said, “I realized that I needed to mend more than my body, I needed to mend my heart and my faith.”
As Silvia struggled to regain her physical health through three months of grueling therapy, her faith began to heal with the help of an SCJ priest who became her spiritual director. “My devotion to the Sacred Heart was rediscovered and grew during my convalescence, shaped more and more by the Dehonian charism,” she confirmed.
“I made a private promise to God that if I could walk again I would serve in the Dehonian mission in Mozambique.” The inspiration for the missions came from both her physical therapist, who volunteered in Africa, and her SCJ spiritual director, who had been a missionary in Mozambique.
Once Silvia was able to walk again she contacted her employer, who agreed to give her a year’s sabbatical. She spent much of it in Guruè, Mozambique, teaching electronics, English, and computer science at a vocational school operated by the SCJs.
On Sundays, she accompanied SCJs on their visits to remote mission stations. “During this time I learned to give without expecting thanks in return, to respect without imposing my culture and my views on others. Those days helped me to mature as a person as well as confirm me in the decision to offer my entire life to God.”
When Silvia returned to Bologna, she talked to her spiritual director about the experience. “I told him of my desire to consecrate my life to God, to live the Dehonian charism,” she said. “I wanted to live in the full charism, without dilution. It was the Dehonian charism that swept me away and set my spiritual life afire.”
Both her spiritual director and her bishop suggested that she become a consecrated virgin.
“What attracted me was the fact that I could choose to live according to any spiritual charism approved by the Church,” she said. “Since I already embraced Dehonian spirituality, I could continue and thrive in it.” Silvia’s consecration was on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, May 30, 2005.
Today, Silvia lives in Finland and works for Noika. Outside of her full-time job, her hectic ministry schedule includes sacramental preparations for children and teens, adult catechesis, lay Dehonian formation, and a variety of other pastoral activities. “I read whatever is available on the spiritual works of Fr. Dehon,” she said, “but most of what I learn about the Dehonian charism comes from sharing my life with the Dehonians.”
Reflecting on her life since those first days at the rehabilitation center, Silvia says, “The past ten years have been amazing! The love of God has shaped me and Jesus’ heart propels me to dare to be more and more of what he calls me to be. Each day I reply with Ecce Venio [“Behold, I come to do your will”] and Ecce Ancilla [“Behold, the servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to your word”]. My vocation as a consecrated virgin is fueled by that love. Tender and compassionate, it encompasses me. Truly, Fr Dehon has left us the most precious of treasures.”
Silvia Bertozzi serves on the five-person Dehonian Family Organizing Committee.
February 6, 2015
“What does it mean to be a Lay Dehonian? To me, being a Lay Dehonian gives me an identity, an identity that is both a privilege and a responsibility. The Ecce venio of Christ [“Behold, I come to do your will”] and the Ecce ancilla of Mother Mary [“Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word”], and the Vivat Cor Jesu [“May the Heart of Jesus live!”] are the maxims that I have slowly absorbed in my active involvement with the Dehonian community and which I firmly believe will sustain me in my journey through a life of faith.
“My Catholic education instilled in me the commitment to faith, instilled in me a sense of conscience [social awareness and responsibility] and the importance of prayer and service from which we gather strength to face life’s challenges; to do more for God. Being involved with the SCJs and knowing their spirituality has given me a feeling of being at home. It is this sense of home that embodies everything about the Dehonian Spirituality that I have embraced as a way of living my faith and understanding the meaning of my existence.
“Dehonian Spirituality adorns and beautifies my vocation, and my duty and commitment in the secular world. It shapes my identity [“Who am I?”], my purpose and place in living [“Why am I here?”], and how I live my live [“What values do I hold?”]. The Dehonian Spirituality of love and oblation, availability and self-surrender, and reparation struck a chord in my heart. The charism of Fr. Dehon has enhanced the good in me and strengthened my relationship with God and loving devotion to his Sacred Heart: loving him more deeply, knowing him more clearly, following him more closely.
“What strikes me most about Fr. Dehon is his passion for God and his commitment to social justice. And this, my brothers and sisters in Christ, will guide me as I continue to practice my legal profession, as an educator, in my advocacies, in the different religious congregations which are my clients and whom I bestow free legal services, as well as my involvement in the parish managed by the SCJs and in the formation house. All is in the service of God and for his greater joy and glory.”
Grace Escobia, Lay Dehonian and member of the International Organizing Committee for the Dehonian Family
January 30, 2015
“How religious life helped me to appreciate SCJ spirituality” is the question that kept me worried for the past month. To tell the truth, this question never came to my mind. However, I must admit that it made me realize that the way of life is influenced by the ambiance in which we are raised.
This ambiance I dare call SCJ spirituality. It could be summarized by the four main quotes taken from the Gospel: “Thy Kingdom come, I am the servant, Here I come, and Let them be one.” For me they became the pole of attraction of my religious life.
Religious life brings people together to share their understanding of this very one pole of attraction and put it into action. Once we join the Club, we are bound by its laws. We are no more individuals but rather partakers in the beautiful adventure of building a world of love and peace.
This being said, my personal religious life seems to have been a stream of blessings throughout the years. I have been privileged to be appointed to communities living their vows in a family spirit. In most of the communities I found a mentor to teach and to lead me in the spirit of our common pole of attraction, the above-mentioned Gospel quotes. They also prepared me to take over from them some responsibilities, acknowledging my limits and incapacities. In such moments, it is good to feel the complementarity in religious life. Whatever one cannot achieve, somebody else will do it for him!
In my religious life I also learned that when “the call” comes, the reply must come fast: Here I come! So I did, without hesitation or doubt, leaving the rest to Holy Providence and to the Mercy of God. That is how I was led to the Congo where I shared life in a spirit of creative abandon. I served for 15 years in many different fields, trying to establish a climate of justice and peace in the population. This is incredible to say but, especially in hardships, I felt the reality of what alliance is! It is really amazing to see how the Lord works in a religious community! Our ways are not always His. During those years, I was arrested twice and then expelled from the country. Then I could really feel the support of the community. What words cannot express, faith does!
Along the years, the SCJ spirituality has been the lighthouse of my religious life and I appreciate every moment of it. It is now time to recommend my religious life to the great Mercy of God, especially for all the good things that I failed to do. Gratitude is not a word strong enough to cover all the graces that I received in my religious life.
J. Claude Bédard, SCJ
January 16, 2015
Fr. Dehon’s first appointment was to an industrial town called St. Quentin, north of Paris, France. It was here that he immediately recognized that working conditions, housing, and the quality of the factory workers’ lives were appalling, as they lived in dire poverty. Fr. Dehon jumped into the dirty, tired world of St. Quentin with gusto because he believed that we respond best to God’s love by trying our hardest with others to meet the needs of those around us.
What has always inspired me the most as I glimpse into the life of Fr. Dehon and has helped to shape my own Dehonian life and ministry was Fr. Dehon’s deep conviction of the all-loving presence of God. On a personal level, the love that Fr. Dehon experienced changed everything in his life! The hearts of the people with whom he ministered and who ministered to him took hold of the choices that Fr. Dehon made. He astutely and compassionately invited people to a common table, entered into a dialogue, and together with them, discerned the signs of the times. Not only did he denounce the reality of the moment but he also announced new Gospel alternatives for what people were experiencing. Fr. Dehon was a man who not only got his hands dirty but in the process his heart was stretched open. Continuous conversion seemed to be the mantle that he wore.
Appalled by the plight of immigrants and refugees, hearing of their sufferings and being challenged by situations of injustice, twenty Roman Catholic religious congregations of women and men and their associates and friends have chosen to walk “together in ministry for a better Toronto” through the creation of Becoming Neighbours, a host program in which immigrants and refugees during their initial adjustment to Toronto are matched with companions and prayer partners. Becoming Neighbours promotes two-way cultural enrichment and sharing while assisting immigrants and refugees to become active participating members of the community. Their stories compel us to seek just, compassionate and comprehensive immigration policies. I feel blessed and privileged to be and to offer a Dehonian presence and voice with the Becoming Neighbours ministry.
In his “Message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees” Pope Francis reminds us that we, as members of the Church, are to be “pilgrims in the world and the Mother of all, particularly with the poorest and most abandoned, migrants and refugees, who are trying to escape difficult living conditions and dangers of every kind.”
Peter McKenna, SCJ
January 9, 2015
One can say that I am good corresponder. It probably began when I was drafted into the army. I served in Korea and missed my family and friends. Mail Call are two beautiful words when you are far away from people you love and care for and so I began my letter writing. As the months went by I was writing more and more and receiving many replies. It made me feel that I was not that far away from friends and family. It was also in Korea when I first began to communicate through a tape recorder.
My ministry as an SCJ took me to many countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, including Canada and many places in the USA. I was able to visit my own families in Ireland and Switzerland. I was blessed by meeting so many of my SCJ brothers and people of different cultures. My circle of family and friends increased as did my correspondence.
I send them my best wishes and congratulations on their birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions. I know that it makes them happy. When I am aware of someone who is suffering, whether it be a health problem, loss of a loved one, loneliness, or whatever, I let them know by an appropriate note or card or both that they are in my thoughts and I pray for them. I know it brings them hope and comfort.
It is only in recent years that I see my correspondence as a ministry. At times it can become difficult to keep up with so much correspondence but for me it is the right thing to do.
Johnny Klingler, SCJ
December 19, 2014
Self-oblation is at the core of SCJ spirituality. It has been since the foundation of the Community, though, I think, not always perceived that way. It was Fr. Dehon’s focus from the very beginning when he named the Congregation “Oblates” of the Sacred Heart. When Rome suppressed the Foundation due to an unfortunate misunderstanding of the term “revelation,” and later gave its approval after some needed clarification, Fr. Dehon renamed it “Priests” of the Sacred Heart, retaining the same basic meaning since the priest identifies himself with Christ at the altar of oblation. The Congregation was then firmly established and it flourished everywhere.
Ever since Fr. Giuseppe Manzoni, SCJ, elaborated extensively on this change of wording in one of our past retreats, did the idea of self-oblation as “celebrant” in the Liturgy and in “ministerial service” become a real and lasting focus in my life. I saw my priesthood and daily interaction with people in the missions and in parish ministry in a much clearer and more meaningful light. It has made considerable difference in my personal spiritual life and in my relationships, not perfectly yet, but as age makes a difference, so does this sense of self-oblation in my life.
It is precisely this focus—this charism at the core of our spirituality—that can make our SCJ vocation so meaningful and appealing to the new wave of young men seeking entrance to the seminary. Noticing a remarkable attraction in seminarians and junior priests of the diocesan priesthood to the “inner life,” seeking a personal relationship with Christ, it seems to me that this charism needs to be put once again at the forefront of our vocation appeal. A life of self-oblation may be just the kind of antidote young men are looking for to fill the void left by an overdose of the secular in today’s world.
Fr. Edward Griesemer, SCJ
December 12, 2014
This is my seventh year working at Our Lady of Guadalupe School in which I have served the community as a teacher, assistant principal and now as principal. I grew up fortunate enough to have parents who made providing me and my brothers with a Catholic education their top priority. My calling to education came from this realization of how much of a gift this was. Consequently, I have chosen to work at under-resourced schools to ensure that students who couldn’t necessarily afford the most expensive schools received an education that they deserved, rather than the one that they could afford.
On a daily basis, our faculty is tasked with forming students of academic strength, of faith and of character. The faculty members feed off the dedication that we see in each other. This is a commitment that is deeply rooted in a faith in God and in a realization that ministering to His youngest disciples is not only worthwhile, but essential. The faculty meets each morning to begin the day in prayer. It would be impossible to separate the spirituality and service of the work we do at Our Lady of Guadalupe School. Our service to the community helps to form our spirituality while our faith, in turn, gives us the strength to serve through what can be tireless work.
I have come to see the work that I do as a service to God. I see many students and families struggle on a daily basis, yet this reminds me that the work we do is valuable. Despite the cost of sending students to Our Lady of Guadalupe School, families selflessly sacrifice for their children’s education. The value of our work is manifested as these students graduate, move on to high school and subsequently to college. We serve to set a foundation for students who can move on from our school to do great things.
Each year on December 12th, Our Lady’s feast day, the spirit, enthusiasm and devotion of the community becomes more evident. The days surrounding the feast day is one which I can only describe as celebratory humility. Catholics from all over the Houston area flock to Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in order to pray and celebrate. The feeling is simply infectious. The devout bring roses which drape the altar and the grotto. These roses are an outward symbol of an inner devotion. My spirit is reinvigorated and my commitment to serve is renewed on this day. God’s love is real, and my service to the students and families at Our Lady of Guadalupe school is my own version of the rose that I leave at the altar. It is the way that I know best to demonstrate my gratitude for the blessings that God has bestowed upon me.
Matt Garcia-Prats, Principal at Our Lady of Guadalupe School, Houston, TX
December 5, 2014
The Second Vatican Council and Pope Paul VI charged every religious community with the work of renewal, including updating their Constitutions or Rule of Life. Over many years and three General Chapters, the Priests of the Sacred Heart struggled with this challenge. Fr. André Perroux, SCJ, one of the principal authors of the current Rule of Life, spoke in an interview about his experience.
“There was fear of a document that would be too normative and that would snuff out the dynamism of life. To start with, the word “rule” in the title horrified many delegates. It was a fear that we would be under too much uniformity, that we would be backing an orientation that was too institutionalized, too reactionary: we would be limiting ourselves if we developed a new text.
“[The General Chapter of 1973] was a long Chapter, almost seven weeks. At the beginning we did not know much where we were going to end up, we needed to get to know each other, to listen to each other. From the beginning we were in agreement not to maintain a division between spirituality, seen in a doctrinal or abstract way, and the apostolate. Once we were taken up with this idea of integrating spirituality and apostolate we could present our religious life in this unity.
“Well, we had to have an inspiring text. What scriptural text were we going to take that most nourished the experience of Fr. Dehon? We took time to re-read several works by Fr. Dehon and finally we opted for Galatians 2:20: I still live my human life, but it is a life of faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
“We sought above all to re-express the spiritual aim of the Congregation as Fr. Dehon wanted by recovering certain key words like oblation, union with Christ in Eucharistic celebration and adoration, fraternal life, mission, and all of that fed by a spirit of love and of reparation or immolation.
“At the end of June 1973 it was hot, very hot. We had worked a lot, everyone was tired, and some wanted to return to their Provinces. After dinner one evening, Fr. Dijkman said to me, ‘André, from your [contributions to the discussions] we can see that you are ready to draft the Rule of Life, at least a rough draft to submit to a vote.’ Seeing my surprise, he humorously added, ‘Do you want a bottle of Bols [Dutch liquor], or better yet a case of beer? One or the other; it’s your choice. Then I will accompany you to your room and you will not come out until you have written a text that brings together and completes all that we have approved up till now.’
“We laughed. But I sensed the impatience, and also the confidence in me. I got down to writing, taking up the paragraphs we had already approved in the general assemblies, leaving some empty spaces for what was not yet clear for me—the whole night. Around four in the morning I had filled forty-seven long pages with writing. Unable to sleep, I left my room to seek a little rest in the silence and fresh air of the garden. I saw a light on the third floor, and it was Piet Adam. I said, ‘Piet, I am going to ask for your help. I just wrote a draft of our Rule of Life, and I do not have a typewriter, but you cannot read this because there is so much that is indecipherable, covered with erasures and abbreviations. If I dictate it to you, can you type it?’ He did and around seven-thirty we finished.
“Fr. General had the text photocopied and distributed to each Chapter member. After weeks of work, a good part of the text was not new to them, and besides, this was only a provisional text. During the coming years it would be very important to study, to experiment with, to critique, and to modify it. On July 4, 1973, the text was voted on, 76 of 78 in favor.
“The Chapter of 1979 approved an important modification in the plan of the Rule of Life: to start with the faith experience of Fr. Dehon and with our initiation in the Gospel in the Church. So, we tried to express the faith experience of Fr. Dehon, and how we can express and live this “spiritual aim” in and for the world. On the whole, the Vatican gave a positive judgment and the approbation was not delayed. We were one of the first Congregations of some importance [at that time we had more than 3,000 members] to present our new Constitutions. Consequently, the Congregation for Religious recommended that several Congregations, mainly women’s, come and get advice from us.”
Testimony of Fr. André Perroux, SCJ
November 28, 2014
The Rule of Life, #68, of the Priests of the Sacred Heart states, At the heart of the local, district, regional, and provincial community, we surround with special charity our sick and aged brothers. Particularly through them the Lord inspires us to authentic abandonment, and reminds us of the fragile nature of our condition. He wants to be acknowledged and served in them in a very special way [Cf. Matthew 25:40].
It has been my privilege to serve our senior brothers for three years at Villa Maria, in Franklin, Wisconsin, and going into my sixth year at Sacred Heart Residence, in Pinellas Park, Florida. These senior brothers were, when I was younger, very active and vital members of our Community, and now they are serving the Church and the Community in a different way than they did when they were younger and more active. This is a very privileged and humbling ministry for me.
Fr. Dehon grew closer to God by his fidelity and prayer life. When I think about these senior brothers, I see them doing what Fr. Dehon practiced. When they were younger they were often involved in an active ministry and spent time at prayer, both communal and private. Now, when they are no longer assigned a regular ministry, they continue to be faithful to community life and prayer. Time is spent, not only in communal prayer but also in daily private prayer.
Many of our senior members are active not only in prayer but also in some forms of ministry as their abilities allow them. Fr. Ray Vega goes each week to the Abortion Clinic to pray for those individuals who are having an abortion and the ones performing the abortion. Fr. Frank Burshnick dedicates time to both Community ministry as well as helping out in the parishes with Confession and celebrating the Eucharist.
Fr. Dehon taught us to be patient and “to let the Lord swing the whip.” This is not always easy to do, but I have seen it exemplified through members of my Community. Br. Frank Miller suffered from cancer, and Fr. Jim Alexander was for the most part blind because of macular degeneration. Fr. Frank Hudson was bed-confined in the nursing home for a good period of time up until his death. They accepted their physical condition and offered it to the Lord patiently.
As I begin to come closer to my own senior life, their example gives me the strength to continue to pray when maybe I am least feeling like I need to pray. Their lives also help me to be patient with my limitations and to accept my physical incapability. Their example encourages me to live my religious life in the spirit of Fr. Leo John Dehon, who lived his life in the tone of Ecce Venio [“Behold, I come to do your will”], such as the Lord Jesus did. This example and ministry gives me the grace to live like Mary, the Mother of Jesus who said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word”.
Br. Ben Humpfer, SCJ
November 7, 2014
Praying and hoping! I find myself praying and hoping today as the provincial treasurer. The spirituality of the Priests of the Sacred Heart is one of oblation, or offering, of oneself with Christ to the Father. In the morning prayer of oblation I offer myself with Jesus to the Father and along with this offering I give to Christ the worries of my ministry as treasurer.
Any day can present problems so prayer helps. When you stop and look at the cost of operating our various ministries you have to stand in wonder at what the Sacred Heart makes possible through the generosity of our donors. The average donation from a caring donor is $12. I like to stop and think how many donations of $12 it will take to operate a seminary at $2.8 million. The number of donations is 233,333 to make the total of $2.8 million. So you get the idea that it takes a lot of generous donors giving frequent gifts to operate the various ministries of the Province.
The seminary is one of our many ministries so you need another 233,333 gifts for the overseas missions and another 116,666 donations for the priests and brothers who are retired. Each of those gifts is given by donors who care about the ministries of the Priests of the Sacred Heart. In thanksgiving for the generosity of our donors we remember them at Mass and in our prayers. You will find on the altar in the retirement residence a notebook with the intentions that our donors have asked us to remember for them. Yes, praying for our donors is part of our daily routine.
Whenever I have a discussion about money and how much is needed for various projects I think of the many donors who support the work we do. I also like to ask the person requesting funding to think about how many donations of $12 will be needed to make their request a reality.
Thanksgiving is at the center of our prayer and that is why Fr. Dehon, our Founder, said that our lives should be a never ending Mass. We offer ourselves with Jesus to the Father and in this offering we include our donors and their special needs. The ministries of the Province rely on the generosity of the donors and we pray for them daily. We are called to offer our lives with Jesus to the Father so that the love of the Sacred Heart might be known everywhere.
Deacon David Nagel, SCJ, Provincial Treasurer and Mission Procurator, Priests of the Sacred Heart in the United States
October 31, 2014
It was eight years ago that my older brother entered the Society of Jesus of the Oregon Province as a novice. I remembered it clearly because that was the day I declared the bedroom that we shared solely mine. I didn’t know much about religious life at the time, but I appreciated that it got rid of my brother. Two years later in 2008, he professed his first vows. I was the lector for the Mass and remember reading Paul’s letter to the Romans, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God.”
That year was a big year for me because it was also the year I was confirmed and was spiritually transformed in a little town in Arembepe, Brazil. It was in this small town, in a little chapel of St. Francis of Assisi, that I saw a woman kiss the tabernacle. It may not sound like an extraordinary act, but I felt overwhelmed by the great mystery and was unable to take it all in. It was sort of a liberating moment that helped me grasp how God can be infinitely above me and yet undeniably beside me. For the majority of my life, our family has always lived within a few blocks of our parish. Although I was close in proximity to the house of God, I never really felt spiritually home until I traveled thousands of miles away from where I live.
The image still stays with me vividly even today. I realized that God is not some great, unreachable deity that sits on top of a cloud, but one who is close and intimate with me. I brought God “down” and finally was able to have a relationship with God. For the longest time in my life, God was a God who is “out there” only for the perfect and holy, which was not me. I always pictured myself as the one behind the pews unworthy even to look at the tabernacle. The thought of kissing it would never have reached my mind. That experience changed the way I perceived God, altered my spirituality, and eventually led to my decision of entering religious life.
The reason why that experience was so profound for me was because I went through some “dark days” of my spiritual life, questioning God’s existence. The earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004 not only laid destruction to everything upon its path, but it also swept away my faith. For the first time in my life, I was angry at God because I couldn’t understand why a good God would allow so much suffering to happen in the world. On top of that, the sex abuse scandal took away my trust and hope in the Catholic Church. The spiritual tsunami sent crashing waves to the coastlines of my faith. And there I was, facing the onslaught of water, holding on for dear life.
I stopped praying and went to Mass only for the sake of making my parents happy. Not many people know about my spiritual struggles because I was afraid to tell anyone since it would be culturally shameful to the family, especially with my older brother being a Jesuit. It wasn’t until that experience of the tabernacle kiss, that my faith was once again renewed. Nothing was able to separate me from the love of God. Not even a spiritual tsunami.The problem of evil and suffering is one that can never be answered in a satisfying way. However, I found a quote by an anonymous person to be helpful: “Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it. But I’m afraid He would ask me the same question.”
When I was little, I would frequent a food bank run by the Sisters of St. Francis to get free sandwiches. Because of that, I always wanted to be a missionary like St. Francis; to be an instrument of God’s peace. When I entered the Priests of the Sacred Heart, that meant to be dedicated to the love of God and be living witnesses to the love Jesus had. Our founder, Fr. Dehon, found comfort in the knowledge that God loved him tremendously. The response to that love for me means to go to the poor and the marginalized of society. Sometimes those places are dangerous and risky. “Aren’t you afraid?” people would ask me. No, I’m not afraid; I’m rather TERRIFIED. But I would be much more terrified of remaining comfortable.
James Nguyen, SCJ
October 17, 2014
My devotion to the Sacred Heart began before I even knew what it was. In grade school, I went with my Mom and Dad to our country parish. On the First Fridays of each month, the pastor celebrated Mass at 5:30 AM which allowed the farmers to be home in time to milk the cows and do other regular chores. The main purpose of participating in this Mass, as I understood it then, was to honor the Sacred Heart and to fulfill all the conditions to enjoy the fulfillment of the promises the Sacred Heart made to St. Margaret Mary.
During my high school seminary years, the promises of the Sacred Heart as known through St. Margaret Mary were emphasized in a new way. I began to see myself as one with our Lord in striving to repair the damage of sin in our troubled world, to fill up what St. Paul referred to was lacking in the sufferings of Our Lord. It did not occur to me that there was really nothing I could add to the infinite merits of Christ’s gift of self on the cross, yet I experienced a deeper oneness with the sufferings of Jesus on my behalf. During these years praying the way of the cross was a concrete way of expressing this oneness with the sufferings of Christ, which led to the glory of the Resurrection.
The thirty-day retreat during my preparation for final vows concretized this oneness with the Lord and His love for me and for all people. Meditating on his public life I realized how deeply His Heart reached out to all people, how He invited me to be filled anew with His Loving Spirit. Making my final vows as a son of Fr. Dehon furthered my lived experience of being committed to share His Love with each person I meet and/or minister to. At about this time, an Adrian Dominican sister reminded me how precious my SCJ religious vocation was: to be one with the Sacred Heart who ever makes reparation for the sins of the world. As St. Pius X said: to restore all things in Christ.
Serving the Lakota showed me new dimensions of “devotion to the Sacred Heart.” From Lakota traditions I learned a person was highly favored if s/he gave and shared, even if that person had very little. Our Lord shared His all for me and for each person who ever lived. He invited me to reach out in compassion and understanding to each person. Even when I did not want to extend such kindness, the example of Christ challenged me on every side. Each of my efforts to share, to be present, to welcome, to support, to listen—each of these efforts was rewarded far beyond any of my expectations. More and more people responded to know Jesus’ kindness and personal love because somehow they experienced a glimpse of His powerful goodness present in our relationship. Jesus’ love multiplies when we share it. He continues to challenge me to share His gentle Love, to live in the spirit of Fr. Dehon.
Tom Westhoven, SCJ
October 10, 2014
A short time ago was the birthday of Fr. Leo Dehon, the founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart. This led to some discussions on campus about what it meant to be Dehonian. I remember quizzing our St. Joseph’s kids about Fr. Dehon. What did they know? Born in France! Died in Belgium! Had three doctorates! Wore glasses!
While interesting, these bits of information weren’t terribly enlightening. I had some time between picking up my runner from track practice and dropping off my baseball players at the field, so I thought I would do some research.
One really obvious fact: Fr. Dehon did not have 10 teenage boys to contend with when he wanted a few minutes of quiet time. I bet he never had to throw a wet sock off his desk as some giggling kid hit the floor behind the office door and whispered, “Don’t tell him I’m in here!” All the while some other kid is screaming down the hall, “Where’s Annnnndrew??” and swinging the other wet sock with a vengeance.
My Dehonian moment was going to have to wait until after the kids had gone to bed. In the meantime, there was dinner to eat and dishes to do. This one had to go to the tutor and that one had to find his Geography book. The guys with privileges tried to run off all their excess energy at the Rec center and the ones who stayed back to do homework got hopped up on snacks and algebraic aggravation. Home meeting became a debate over sharing time on the X Box and whether or not people should leave the room when they fart.
Prayer time was calmer, with intentions offered for family, friends, baseball, track, Sandy Hook and the new Pope. And a special intention for the guy who was going to end up on the bottom of the…3…2…1…Dogpile!
I admit I was not feeling very Dehonian at the end of the day. I was tired, cranky, and I had a pile of unfinished tasks. I was not in a more saintly state of mind the next morning either. When I finally plowed into Maija [Davlouros, High School Services Support] late in the afternoon, the only thing I had on my mind was making it to my day off and taking a long nap. In her infinite wisdom, she said to me, “Get out of your office and don’t come back until you have your heart in your work again.”
We are called to be heart-centered. To paraphrase the Tin Woodsman, “Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable.” There is something reckless and un-practical about being heart-centered. This is different from being careless or thoughtless—Fr. Dehon was a learned man and he was neither impulsive nor fickle. Rather, he was doggedly persistent, even in the face of heartbreak. Kind of like Jesus, whose steps we are following this Holy Week.
A Sacred Heart space is expansive and inclusive and yes, somewhat foolish—letting in the lost, the weak, the so-called outsiders. There is room for a kid who lost his mom and a kid who feels like he has to be the man of the house. There’s room for honor-rollers and homework procrastinators. There’s room for wall punchers and cookie bakers, emo-kids and hip-hoppers.
As a matter of fact, there’s room in there for everyone, including a somewhat exasperated houseparent and her laundry list of seemingly “important” things to do. If we all squish together, there’s space for you too.
Claire Nehring, houseparent at St. Joseph’s Indian School, Chamberlain, South Dakota, From Dehonian Moments, Mission Education Conference, April 8-9, 2013
SEPTEMBER 26, 2014
I have worked in the Food Pantry of Sacred Heart Southern Missions for the last year. It becomes obvious after a while that “why” the people who come for food is not important. The more I search for the image and likeness of God, the more I realize that I see that image every day in the expressions of both need and gratitude in faces of the people to whom we provide food.
My personal search for meaning in the Eucharistic celebration has lead me to contemplate the “breaking” of the Bread, in addition to the grace received. It is not the bread we give in the food pantry that nourishes, but the giving. People who hunger for food remember the meal for a few days, but they remember the giving for years. I believe that Jesus wanted not only to nourish us, but also wanted us to realize that the action of giving yourself to others was the completion of His meal.
The spirituality of the SCJs to act on their care for all who are in need, rather than just ask others to do that task, truly has set the example for me. Actively caring for others in whatever way presents itself has broadened my perspective of the many needs of my fellow humans. Seeing the need for shelter, furnishings, education, medical care, employment, as well as food has opened my eyes to why Jesus gave me the gift of life, to become His continued action in all His children’s lives that cross paths with mine. I break bread, literally and figuratively, to give others what Jesus promised to all—His love and promise that He will always be there for them.
Paul Shahan, Sacred Heart Southern Missions Community Liaison
SEPTEMBER 19, 2014
The first time I came across the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement was when I was in the refugee camp. My mom took me to the church and signed me up with a group of strangers who were glad that I was part of their clan. It was the very first time that I knew what it meant to kneel for a half-hour in front of Jesus. It was the longest kneeling of a seven-year-old boy who had no concept of adoring Jesus or worshipping the Lord. Yet, from that moment on, the idea of service, dedication and priesthood began with that kneeling.
After high school I joined the Priests of the Sacred Heart and began my formation study in San Antonio, Texas. During my novitiate year, I read about and contemplated Father Dehon’s dream of forming a religious congregation. I always remember the man with much dedication to the Heart of Jesus and the willingness to go the extra mile to educate and guide young men to live a holy life, acceptable to the Lord. Dehon’s concern for youth was evident in the forming of the St. Joseph’s Youth Center. I always admire his dedication to youth. His dedication to young people has inspired me during my four years away for graduate school in Rome
In May 2014, Father Binh Nguyen, SVD, general chaplain for the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement, invited me to join the team of chaplains as assistant general chaplain of academic affairs. I hesitated at first because it meant that if I accepted the invitation, it would mean that I must put aside a chunk of my time for the youth group. As I contemplated the invitation, I recalled the time and effort that Father Dehon put into the youth group because he believed in youth. He wanted them to know Jesus and have a personal relationship with him. From that moment on, I knew what I had to do in order to be called a son of Father Dehon.
In August of this year, I had a chance to be the chaplain to more than 80 young people who were about to enter the life of a servant leader—the model of service for young people. As I shared with them about the life of a servant leader, one of the persons whom I highlighted during my talk was Father Dehon. I told them about his life, his love for the Eucharist, and his dedication to the service of the Kingdom of God. I shared with them that the life of a servant leader is a life of love and service. Father Dehon would have said to them today that one cannot be a servant leader if one does not know Jesus. One cannot be a servant leader unless one cannot live without the love of the Eucharist and of service for God’s Kingdom in the life of the kids at their parish.
As I begin with my new role as assistant general chaplain of academic affairs with the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement, Father Dehon’s ideals and dream are still part of my dream. I want young people to know Jesus, to love him, and to serve him. I want young people to come to Jesus when life turns upside-down. I want young people to live a life of the Eucharist, as an offering acceptable to the Lord.
Francis Vu Tran, SCJ
SEPTEMBER 5, 2014
My work with the SCJ community has spanned almost two decades. I always felt that teaching is a ministry. It is an outreach to the mind, heart, and spirit of our children. The call to ministry in my case was very literal. My journey to Sacred Heart Southern Missions and then St. Joseph’s Indian School was set in motion by a single phone call to which I answered yes. This answer has been supported with a great deal of prayer and reflection through the years.
What drew me in was witnessing the “faith in action” that is nurtured by the SCJ community. The educational outreach encompasses the whole community. The inclusive spirit of Fr. Dehon invites everyone to be prophets of love and servants of reconciliation. This active ministry network allows youth opportunities of generosity as daily practice. Just recently, our students made special treats in class. They served them to men working on the construction of a playground on campus. Generosity and gratitude flourish in even the smallest of interactions from daily greetings to helping with homework.
Through the years, the SCJ schools in the US have formed a collaboration sharing resources, cultural practice, and faith encounters. Our students have had the opportunity to travel to other schools and build connections rooted in Dehonian charism, a Heart of Love, a People of Hope, and a Mission of Service. Watching our children as they learn about one another and share experiences, whether it is making dream catchers, dancing on a Mississippi River Boat, splashing at the lakeshore, visiting NASA, or heads bowed in prayer gives one hope. Hope that our work will nurture these children and help them grow into warm, caring, faith-filled individuals.
At the Educare Conference in Valencia, Spain [an international meeting of representatives from SCJ sponsored schools], another opportunity to strengthen the network of Dehonian Schools was discussed using technology. Taking advantage of these global connections will both enrich and expand the horizons of our students. I am grateful to be a part of the SCJ mission and encourage our children to share their blessings worldwide.
Kathleen Whitebird, Principal
AUGUST 22, 2014
The 65 participants of the Third International Meeting of Dehonian Educators held in Valencia, Spain, July 21-25, 2014, representing 34 schools, universities, and education centers, found great richness and diversity in our educational works. What unites us is educare [to educate] from the heart, as well as the charism of our founder, Fr. Dehon.
Our great challenge is to embody this charism and create a common framework for our schools while also respecting their uniqueness. It will take the commitment of all of us. As a congregation we will continue to take steps to address the challenge that was first raised in Salamanca, Spain, in 2001 and 2008, and at the General Conference of Neustadt, Germany, in 2012, culminating in a desire to create a Dehonian network of schools. During these days in Valencia we have worked enthusiastically with the realization that we have much to share and learn. We promote what unites us. The meetings held so far have enriched us greatly. Let us continue them, but also on the local, national, and continental levels.
Taking advantage of the opportunity that we have, we decided to create an SCJ educational network that we hope and trust will strengthen our sense of belonging and being one family.
We have set three objectives for this network: 1. getting to know each other, 2. formation for a Dehonian identity, and 3. sharing our resources. It is true Sint unum [“May they be one”]. We strengthen this dimension of our Dehonian charism by bringing back the spirit and conclusions of this meeting to those who were not here: our schools, our confreres, our lay colleagues, and religious. In doing this we act as leaven in the dough.
We also request a commitment from the general, provincial, and regional administrations to encourage and provide the means to realize this Sint unum in our schools, being generous and opening our centers, welcoming all, people and works, in our network. May this network help us look beyond ourselves to share who we are and what we do, embodying the charism of Fr. Dehon in our lives and in our work. We continue the dream of Fr. Dehon to “build the civilization of the mind and the heart.”
The participants of the Third International Meeting of Dehonian Educators
AUGUST 15, 2014
As a formation director, it can be tempting to succumb to the temptation that I am God. After all, it is my job to form, educate, shape, and judge the suitability of men who want to become religious brothers or priests. However easy it may be for me, I think the temptation is an easy one for any of us to feel. It is easy to believe that our convictions and values are the best: be they religious, cultural, political, professional, or even as inconsequential as our preferred genre of film or sports team. Take personal conviction, add responsibility for others, toss in power and authority, and how could one not be tempted to play God? I would imagine that teachers, administrators, leaders, and parents also know something of this temptation.
As a Dehonian, my call is to reflect the love contained within the Heart of Christ. That love begins with Christ becoming human. It could be easy at this point to get very heady and loft in the stratosphere of theology. But consider it: God’s first act of love was to experience and understand life from another perspective: ours. And let’s face it: any differences I might have with another person pale in comparison to that of the Creator becoming one of the created!
The person who taught me the most about this sort of love was my Grandmother. She had eight children who could not have been more different from each other. They were workers, housewives, soldiers, professionals, athletes, nerds, masters graduates and later-in-life GED earners. And, she was equally proud and interested in the life of each one and loved them for who they were and not who she wanted them to be. What better example could there be of the love of a God who was willing to become human?
As I said, it is my job to form and judge the suitability of men who want to be religious and ministers. In the 21st century, I’ve been responsible for the formation of a diverse group of men. I’ve had responsibility for students from three continents, and an easy half-dozen countries and cultures. There have been men interested in developing pastoral skills, and men interested in the world of academe. There have been many from many backgrounds: traditional, progressive, charismatic, mystic, scholastic, immigrant, white, Latino, Mestizo, Pole, Democrat, Republican, unenfranchized, and even a Cubs fan.
It could be tempting for my standard to be how closely they come to resemble my values and convictions. I could challenge those who differ from my perspective, and give those who are similar an easy pass. Some directors sadly choose that route. I could narrowly ask if they are able to live my understanding of what it means to be a Priest of the Sacred Heart, or I could take my cue from an incarnate God, attempt to understand who they are, ask them how they will live and love as a Priest of the Sacred Heart, and challenge and celebrate with them as they do it.
Duane Lemke, SCJ, Formation Director
JULY 25, 2014
For the past 15 years I have been a part of the ministry of the Priests of the Sacred Heart through my role as Planned Giving Director. Sharing the devotion to the Sacred Heart and the charism of Fr. Dehon has evolved over the years and has recently included travel to some of our missions.
My experiences interacting with the SCJs, the people they serve, and their devoted benefactors, help me to see and share our common goal. My recent travels to India opened my eyes to the love our SCJ priests and brothers share with those in need. On the day of the dedication of the new Sacred Heart Shrine Church we served 10,000 people from all walks of life and many faiths. Meeting and seeing so many people and hearing how the church has changed their lives has moved me to raise additional funds for the education of children in India.
Through work in our Development Office and at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology, including the English as a Second Language program, I can bring the call to action to those who are so very generous. It is the good work of the Priests of the Sacred Heart following Fr. Dehon’s lead that inspires people to support these worthy causes. Interacting with these devoted people, listening to their stories and hearing of their deep love of God energizes my desire to share the mission and ministry of the Priests of the Sacred Heart in a variety of ways.
Pam Milczarski, Planned Giving Director, Priests of the Sacred Heart
JULY 18, 2014
In terms of spiritual growth, which is the goal of every human being and of those who are being reshaped by the Holy Spirit, I am often inspired by farmers, especially here in South Dakota. If the crop doesn’t grow, the farmer is concerned about what’s wrong. Experts study the crops in the fields and run tests. When a Christian stops growing, spiritual help is needed. One of the missionary activities is to grow spiritually in order to meet the spiritual needs of the people I serve.
Having been in religious life for 26 years, I still have to learn constantly about spiritual and pastoral aspects that in turn will broaden my perspective of thinking and develop my pastoral ministry in the future. Instead of letting my energy be absorbed by any activity around me, I let myself be enlightened by the Holy Spirit so that I will be able to see clearly what I have been doing in the mission field.
Reflecting on mission activities on the prairie, I come to realize that I am called to serve people with an open heart and mind. At the same time, I need to strengthen my inner spirit and keep my life on track. When trials come, there is no better way to endure them but by praying patiently and attentively in the presence of God. A simple prayer helps us, not only to deepen our spiritual life, but also to stay connected with God, other people, and other creatures around us.
To be aware of God’s presence is one of the few valuable efforts that cannot be neglected regarding spiritual growth. In my opinion, no one can stray from God and remain healthy. Through the celebration of the Eucharist and adoration of the Eucharist, our life is nourished and transformed into a better quality of life. In turn, community life becomes stronger and healthier. As a result, community life bears abundantly fruit that is revealed through our life and ministry.
Vincent Suparman, SCJ, ministers among Native Americans on the plains of South Dakota
JULY 11, 2014
I don’t do well in cold weather no matter how warmly I dress. In fact, I get cold if the temperature drops below 75 degrees. My brother frequently asks me in jest, “What will you do when the winter comes?” Let me tell you what this has to do with Fr. Dehon’s spirituality.
For years I have worked tirelessly to end the threat of nuclear annihilation, which was most evident during the nuclear standoff between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. In so doing, I participated in frequent nonviolent protests which often led me to spend short periods of time in jail.
One very cold, dark, and early winter morning, while taking a shower in preparation for one such action, a persistent question I often asked myself echoed in my mind: what benefits of the U.S. nuclear arsenal am I most addicted to? The warm water flowing over my easily chilled body provided a quick answer: oil—oil to heat the water. U.S. nuclear weapons helped protect my access to oil to heat the water to take a warm shower to protest nuclear weapons.
While somewhat amusing at the time, this reflection helped me to realize what Fr. Dehon meant when he instructed us to work for the “reign of the Sacred Heart in souls and societies.” Whatever your or my concern, be it immigration or care for the most vulnerable and the earth itself, we have a personal stake in the status quo to which we cling tenaciously, even if we refuse to acknowledge we do so. Thus, we are confronted by our very own personal call to conversion, to work for the reign of the Sacred Heart in souls and societies. Fr. Dehon knew very well that the work for social justice is essentially a spiritual activity.
Fr. Bob Bossie, SCJ, served on staff at the Eighth Day Center for Justice, a coalition of Roman Catholic religious congregations, for 32 years.
JUNE 20, 2014
When I reflect about what the Eucharist means in my life, three moments come to my mind and heart immediately. First, as I gather with my community or any community for Eucharist, I unite myself (and I ask that we unite ourselves) with Jesus and offer ourselves with Him to our loving Abba who first loves us. When the author of the letter to the Hebrews tried to capture Jesus’ disposition on coming into the world, he quotes the words of Psalm 40: “Behold I come to do your will” (words so precious to Fr. Dehon, our founder). Jesus came into the world to show us how much we are loved and He died being faithful to that mission, which He received from the Father. His whole life was dedicated to helping us become aware of God’s great love for us, but the supreme moment of that mission of Jesus was his death on the cross for us. His death was the result of his fidelity to that mission and He asks us to continue that mission. He said, “As the Father sent me so I send you.” So as we begin the Eucharistic celebration, I unite myself with Jesus to be open to what continuing the mission of Jesus will require of me that day.
Second, when the presider concludes the words of consecration, “This is my body…This is my blood” with the mandate, “Do this in memory of me,” that is another significant moment for me. I unite with Jesus and say in my heart, “Jesus when you say: do this in memory of me, you are not just asking me to repeat a ritual in memory of you. You are saying that as your body was broken and your blood was shared in carrying out the mission of letting people know how much we are loved by God, so I must be ready to let my body be broken and my blood be shed in continuing your mission. Since I/we cannot do this on our own, you give us yourself in communion so that nourished by Eucharist we are strengthened to do what we cannot do on our own.”
Third, Eucharist is so broad a mystery. It is not limited to the sacramental presence of Jesus at Mass and adoration. We, all of us, are the Body of Christ. When the priest, deacon, or Eucharistic minister offers us the consecrated bread, that person says, “The Body of Christ” and we say “Amen,” we welcome Christ into our hearts. That “Amen” we say at the Eucharistic celebration is a mockery if we do not say “Amen” to and welcome our brothers and sisters, whom we encounter outside the space of where we gathered for Mass. As someone once said, “We are no closer to Christ than we are to the person we love the least.”
That is what Eucharist means for me as a Priest of the Sacred Heart.
John Czyzynski, SCJ, Director of Novices
JUNE 13, 2014
The Father sent his Son in accord with his plan of love formed before the creation of the world. Jesus submitted himself in love to the will of the Father: an availability particularly evident in his attentiveness and openness to the needs and expectations of people. In solidarity with him, and with all of humanity and creation, we want to offer ourselves to the Father, as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to him. We strive to be attentive to what the Spirit suggests to us through the Word of God received in the Church and through the events of life. By welcoming the Spirit who prays in us and comes to help us in our weakness, we want to praise and adore, in his Son, the Father who each day accomplishes his work of salvation among us, and entrusts to us the ministry of reconciliation.
Statements from the Rule of Life #19, 22, 53, 57, 78, Priests of the Sacred Heart
JUNE 6, 2014
In the book of Genesis [11:1-9], all people speak the same language. Confident in their ability to circumvent God’s wish that they spread abroad and fill the earth, they embark on their own work of making a name for themselves. Settling on a plain, they decide to build a city and “a tower with its top in the heavens.” Such arrogance only serves to emphasize the distinction between God’s intent and human desire, and between heavenly and earthly spheres.
The Dehonian Family of lay and religious men and women, in contrast, speak many languages. When their representatives gathered for a meeting in Rome recently, they relied on the help of translators. Intending to do God’s work, they came together in order to listen to and learn from each other how best to share the charism of Fr. Leo John Dehon. In proclaiming God’s infinitely compassionate love for all and showing by example that God is as near as one’s neighbor, their spirit of service unites what need not be divided. Human beings are at their best when their will is one with God’s and when they cannot distinguish between heaven and earth.
MAY 30, 2014
I was invited to be the principal celebrant at an anniversary Mass on May 10, 2013, the 14th anniversary of the establishment of a refuge for abused girls called the Kasanag Daughters Foundation. The work was begun by Fr. Eduardo Agüero, SCJ, and has been carried on by SCJs ever since.
The refuge building has a small terrace-like yard outdoors and it was here that we found chairs neatly set and a table for an altar before the Virgin’s shrine. We observed the usual opening rites, and I was seated as the first reading took place and the responsorial psalm was sung.
During that period, I noticed a very young girl sitting in the first row. I am guessing she was six inches shorter than her 20 or so “sisters” and could not have been more than 10-11 years old, definitely younger than the rest.
All of the girls wore a tee shirt of uniform color as did she. However, they seemed so eager and joyful whereas she seemed so weary and burdened, almost old. She had no smile on her face. Because she seemed so unlike the others this struck me forcibly. She had arrived only recently and had only recently been delivered from some horror whose effects still dwelt with her.
I thought about this somber young girl for the rest of the evening.
The entire Kasanag Daughters Foundation board and staff were introduced with a slideshow to the clergy and guests present. We learned that at the refuge there are college level students, high school students, and elementary school students among the girls. The refuge has a computer classroom that is very well equipped. One way up and out of poverty is by being computer savvy and thus employable. The slideshow was a PowerPoint presentation the girls themselves put together.
The slideshow concluded with an exhibition of photos depicting the life of the girls at the refuge, the events they held, and the places they visited. There was a lot of giggling as they recognized themselves in the photos. It was during this time that the youngest girl seemed happiest. She would hold up her hand and point her finger to various slides where she recognized her new friends from the refuge. I watched her new friends, too. They seemed exceptionally kind and solicitous toward her.
I was honored to be part of the anniversary Mass for the Kasanag Daughters Foundation. Yet my visit was unlike anything I had expected. I am still mourning what seems like a child’s lost youth and innocence.
Fr. Bernie Rosinski, SCJ, was in the Philippines in 2013 to teach English to seminarians
MAY 23, 2014C
We are called to be prophets of love and servants of reconciliation. SCJ Rule of Life
Trying to reflect the love and mercy of Christ’s Heart these past 44 years, I have found that the ministry of spiritual direction has been a unique opportunity to help others (and myself) to experience God’s graciousness in the midst of struggles, decisions, triumphs, and tragedies. The inner journey isn’t an easy one. Having a trusted companion is a great gift and mutual blessing.
Spiritual direction is both a grace and an art! It touches both director and directee. The unfolding of one’s life in the light of the love and mercy of God is a grace. As an art, it demands of the director a deep knowledge of self and of God’s ways, a listening heart, and a desire to help set another free. The director must become aware of his/her own journey to inner freedom.
A favorite hymn of mine states: “Just as I am without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me, and that thou bidd’st me come to thee, O Lamb of God I come, I come.” The love and mercy of the Heart of Jesus calls us to come—“Just as I am.”
Fr. Paul Kelly, SCJ, Vice President for Spiritual Formation, Sacred Heart School of Theology
MAY 16, 2014
I really feel honored to be an Army chaplain. Every time I look at the photo I have of Fr. Dehon helping soldiers during the war of his era, I cannot but think how he and I are connected. We share the same desire to help soldiers regardless of the reason for war. We both have felt saddened by what war does to the soul and spirit of people.
I have mixed emotions about our upcoming deployment [to Afghanistan]. There is excitement and fear. I look at this deployment with the Dehonian mindset of oblation. I have come to appreciate and redefine this attitude. Scripture says that there is no greater love for another person than to lay down one’s life for a friend or another person. I do not have a martyr’s complex. I do enjoy living.
To me, oblation means availability and sacrifice. As a religious, life should not always be comfortable or convenient. It means being present with people in their sufferings—compassionate if you will. It’s being a bridge of hope to people, especially young people, who cannot make sense or find meaning in life. As instruments of God’s mission, simple words of encouragement go a long way without ever having to mention anything spiritual or religious. Saying that someone is doing a good job has the same effect.
I will be in harm’s way. But oblation, availability, and presence can make a big difference to our solders, particularly in how they cope and manage their resiliency and emotions. And so, I need to make the effort to meet them wherever they may be. However, I too need others to comfort me. And so I ask all of my brothers and sisters to pray for me and our soldiers while I am gone.
Mark Mastin, SCJ, US Army Chaplain, recently returned from a tour in Afghanistan
MAY 9, 2014o
From the very beginning of the Congregation, Fr. Dehon saw the need to promote the Congregation and to seek out those who might connect with his values of spirituality and how that was to be expressed in ministry. We continue the work today, particularly by promoting throughout the United States our spirituality lived through community and expressed in mission. We must rely on advertising, visiting schools and parishes, the contacts of our priests and brothers in mission and their welcome of discerners as they visit these sites. Because our ministries reach out to areas most in need, the response from our mission areas most often does not provide us with candidates. Recruitment tasks are difficult also since we are aware that fewer young people are disposed to seeking religious life as a viable career, in a world not as evangelized, or centered in self-promotion.
Often we meet men who are seeking a life of wearing a religious habit and a life of prayer. When these men find that we work with those most in need and respond to where we are called, the challenge is overwhelming.
This experience speaks clearly to why Dehonian Spirituality is necessary in our world, where two generations of Christian youth are not evangelized in values of traditional Church or commitment. We, as Directors, spend significant time in helping younger people to recognize God’s presence in their lives, the possibilities of returning that love, and the possible personal call to salvation.
We continue to pray daily in our expressions of daily Eucharist and Adoration to know better God’s love for us. We seek constantly ways of returning that love. We pray that more young people will hear that call—and respond.
Br. Ray Kozuch, SCJ, Province Vocation Director
APRIL 4, 2014
“As I think about aging, I recognize it intellectually, after having reached my 75th birthday last October. But often, my spirit, my heart block this reality. At the same time, my body will tell me something very different: diminishment of energy, resilience, and resourcefulness. Also I am quite content, not having many ministerial responsibilities and that now, I can say yes or no to requests.
“I am pleased to live in an SCJ retirement community where there is a good schedule, which affords other retired SCJs like myself, opportunities for communal and personal prayer, shared meals, and time to socialize as well. Having spent over 20 years in Franklin, WI, I have a good local support group as well.
“Most of my life I have felt in control of the outcomes in my life. But now as I am aging, I am not in control of my agenda as much as I am learning it’s the Lord’s agenda that is more important. As a recovering addict, it’s best for me to turn my will and life over to God’s care and to live my life one day at a time.
“Aging is giving me the opportunity to reflect on my life and give thanks to the Lord. There is a saying about someone having a “silver spoon” when it comes to the kind of life they have had. I tell folks the “silver spoon” went to gold, then to platinum, and now the spoon has some diamonds on it. Sure, as I age there are still failures, mistakes, sins, but I can now own them, make amends when necessary, and learn from them.
“I am a son of Fr. Dehon and as I age, his two mottos, Ecce Venio (I Come To Do Your Will) and Adveniat Regnum Tuum (Thy Kingdom Come) are what keep my journey going.”
Tony Russo, SCJ, Sacred Heart Retirement Community, Franklin, WI
MARCH 28, 2014
I first heard of Fr. Dehon almost 30 years ago, early in my career as a professional lay minister. I’d been in seminary briefly and had a fire for social justice lit in me by great professors, a trip to Appalachia, and membership in Bread for the World, the venerable Christian anti-hunger lobby that was then brand new. After discerning a lay vocation, I hoped to get into politics, but instead found myself hired by a social justice-minded priest named Fran Eschweiler to coordinate justice and charity ministries at a suburban Milwaukee parish. I attended a talk on Fr. Dehon at Sacred Heart School of Theology, and I was impressed but honestly didn’t give him much more thought until I was hired as Director of Justice, Peace, and Reconciliation with the Priests of the Sacred Heart last year. In between, my career had moved into adult education, parish consulting, and nonprofit management, but I never lost that passion for justice and saw this position as the chance to end my career doing what I love most.
In the last two months, I’ve been reading Fr. Dehon’s biography and some of his writings, and although I feel I’ve barely “dipped my toe” into the depths of his legacy, I’m already convinced that he should have been my patron saint all along. Leo Dehon was born into a society still not healed from a civil war, in political turmoil, and in which the Church was now seen as irrelevant by many. Sound familiar? While our contemporary situation may not be quite as volatile as his (yet, at least), the parallels are certainly there.
To Church leaders of his day, he offered the advice: Go to the people! He took his own advice, especially focusing on young adults and workers. He listened to them, and after opening his eyes and (of course!) his heart to their struggles, he both spoke out on their behalf and encouraged them to speak and act for themselves. Because of this, he was reviled by some and met strong resistance from those who preferred either the status quo or “the good old days” to a more just society. Perhaps the strongest reaction came from his (and Pope Leo XIII’s) strong critiques of capitalism, not in its basic principles (which they saw as the best alternative to the threat of socialism), but in its excesses.
As the excesses of capitalism in our day exceed anything seen by Fr. Dehon, and churchgoing continues its long decline, Fr. Dehon offers us the same solution to both problems. If we go to the people, hearts open with compassion, and join their struggles, they will come back to the Church, and the “reign of God in souls and society” will increase.
Mark Peters, Director of Justice, Peace, and Reconciliation for the U.S. Province of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.
Contemporary expressions of Dehonian spirituality
MARCH 21, 2014
“Twice in the last year I have been involved in a volunteer project in Tunica, MS. The task involved renovating a home. To call this structure a “shack” was probably being generous. It was four rooms covering barely 400 square feet with holes in the roof and floors, and rotting wood throughout. I remember thinking, “no one should have to live like this.” As volunteers we murmured to each other that the project would probably be better served if we simply tore it down and started from scratch. Yet, for the family, they had lived here for decades. Their children were raised here. This was home.
“So we reinforced the roof so it would hold a new set of shingles and we put up sheet rock and siding on uneven walls that were never square. Slowly, a comfortable and safe living space emerged.
“But I knew this was only half of the miracle. The staff that led us, the tools we used and most of the materials had been made possible because of gifts from our donors. Kind hearted people throughout the country had made gifts, large and small, to help people they would never meet, to renovate a house they would never see, and to help a family they would never talk to.
“It is Sacred Heart Southern Missions, inspired by Fr. Dehon, which brings these generous people and these humble recipients together. On the drive home I remember thinking, ‘This is what it means to be Catholic. This is what it means to be Dehonian. This is the Sacred Heart alive and working in our world today’.”
Steve Koepke, Director of Development at Sacred Heart Southern Missions