Weekly News: February 21, 2022

“Dehonians in Social Commitments”

Postponed for several years by the pandemic, the Dehonians’ IX General Conference took place February 13-18 in Rome. In-person participation was limited primarily to entity superiors (again, due to the pandemic), but many others took part via Zoom and livestream events.

The theme of the conference: “Dehonians in Social Commitments.”

“When our founder, Venerable Fr. Dehon, faced the society of his time, in communion with the Church he loved, in the face of what he saw as a departure from God’s will, he did not let himself be carried away by a discouraging catastrophism,” said Fr. Carlos Luis Suarez Codorniú, SCJ superior general, in his opening remarks to the conference. “By the gift of his faith, by his careful intimacy with the Lord and his passion for his Kingdom, by his nonconformity and his perennial restlessness, he remained certain that the world before him was not outside the Heart of God.”

These opening lines kicked off a week-long exploration into the roots of the Dehonian idea of social commitment, and how the congregation can continue to live that commitment today.

Fr. Vien Nguyen, SCJ, US provincial superior, summarized the week:

“The IX General Conference, Dehonians in Social Commitments, brought together in Rome more than 40 participants from various parts of the Congregation. The six days together allowed us to: 1) Reflect on the rich legacy of Fr. Dehon; 2) Appreciate how different entities live and share our Dehonian charism; 3) Reaffirm our social commitment to the people at the margins; and 4) Stress the importance of handing Fr. Dehon’s charism to the future generation of SCJs and laity.”

Conference participants created a final message that will soon be shared with fellow SCJs for reflection and discussion.

The entity superiors remain in Rome this week for the Major Superiors meeting.

Jacob Smith, a novice from the US Province, asks a question during the formation gathering with Fr. General.

The congregation’s future

On Thursday during the General Conference, Fr. Carlos Luis Suarez Codorniú hosted a Zoom gathering of Dehonians in formation. Approximately 130 students, representing Africa, Asia, Europe and North and South America (including the US novitiate), came together to discuss the conference theme. A screen shot of part of the group appears at the top of the page.

“Social commitment is a gift,” said Fr. Carlos, adding that Fr. Dehon knew that “our life is to be with others, to try to do our best for the dignity of all human beings.”

Fr. Carlos emphasized the need to be in dialogue with society in order to serve it. “The first step in social commitment is proximity,” he said. “You have to be close to others to learn about them… Others help me to understand my vocation, my spirituality.”

“You need to be creative and have courage and go to the people,” he continued. “We need to collaborate with others. Our way is to build bridges, to collaborate with sisters, other priests, civil organizations and other people who work for the same purpose: human dignity.”

Fr. Carlos ended by giving thanks. “It is wonderful to see you all, you are a gift from heaven, from your families and cultures,” he said. “Thank you for being SCJs, for being Dehonians.”

The studio from which a daily YouTube show was broadcast.

Videos, photos and reports

A wide variety of material from the conference is available on the general website, and social media channels.

Click here to access videos, written reports and other information on the general website. The general Facebook site, DehoniansWorldwide, also has a variety of posts from the conference.

Please remember

Ermin Humpal, long-time manager of the Province Development Office, died on February 4 at the age of 100. He and his wife, Pauline (also deceased), were named honorary SCJs in 1973.

“The SCJs are a wonderful group of people to work with,” said Mr. Humpal in an interview shortly before he retired. “There’s a real satisfaction in my job, seeing the end results of what donors contribute. The SCJs have helped me in many ways; I realize much more now that the material things aren’t most important.”

A gathering will be held at St. Mary’s Parish, 9520 West Forest Home Avenue, Hales Corners, Wisconsin, on Saturday, March 19, 2022, from 10:00 – 10:45 a.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will immediately follow at 11:00 a.m. Private placement of remains will be at Southern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Union Grove (Mr. Humpal was a US Navy veteran who was at Pearl Harbor during the 1941 attack and continued to serve in the Pacific during WWII on Guadalcanal; he was again called up to serve during the Korean War).

Click here to read the obituary.

New SCJ Constitutions were “optimistic, prophetic and forward-looking”

As the Priests of the Sacred Heart prepare to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the recognition of their current Constitutions, the general website is publishing reflections from those who took part in the General Chapter where work on the Rule of Life took place. Today’s reflection is from Fr. John van den Hengel, SCJ. A member of the Canadian Region, he was one of the younger chapter delegates at the 1973 chapter.

“I for one was relieved that the mainly reparative view of our way of life as followers of Dehon of the 1956 Constitutions had been pushed aside,” wrote Fr. John. “It acknowledged that the world view of St. Margaret Mary’s devotion to the Sacred Heart with the reiteration of the nine promises had lost its spiritual force. The new text was not primarily juridical or moral but optimistic, prophetic and forward-looking. The tone was so different that later on my way back to Canada, I wondered whether the chapter would be allowed to assume the consent of the Congregation. Would everyone consent to accept this document as their Rule of Life and agree to accept them as the new Constitutions?”

Click here to read Fr. John’s full reflection on the general website.

St. Joseph’s Native Hope funds missing person specialist

Native Hope – an outreach program of the SCJs’ St. Joseph’s Indian School –  announced last week that it will fund the missing person specialist position created in the South Dakota state Attorney General’s Office.

“The decision to fund the grant was a logical next step in our commitment to the issue that has been a pillar of our work for seven years now,” said Executive Director of Native Hope Jennifer Long. “When we learned in the news about difficulties in funding the office, we wanted to break down any barrier that existed. In the work we do with tribal communities, we want to have a positive impact. No more missing sisters. No more missing Indigenous people.”

The Office of Liaison for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) will coordinate with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Department of Justice and state and tribal law enforcement agencies to bridge gaps in coordination and training. “Not only is this so important for improving outcomes for missing and murdered indigenous persons, but also we hope this can become a model for other situations where jurisdictional gaps create problems,” said South Dakota Attorney General Jason R. Ravnsborg.

“The Lower Brule Sioux Tribe is very grateful to Native Hope for the work they do to help improve life on the reservations they serve. This great funding opportunity will finally bring light to the darkness that surrounds the missing and murdered indigenous people whose families are left behind to seek answers for their loved ones. May this help bring justice and closure to those who seek the truth for the victims,” said Chairman Clyde J. R. Estes. “Wopila Tanka, Native Hope, for the financial support to make this a reality for MMIP. Hau Mitakuye Oyasin.”

“Native Hope is doing the right thing for our students and families,” said St. Joseph’s Indian School President Mike Tyrell. “Students at St. Joseph’s have lost loved ones and family members through this human tragedy.”

Some 40% of sex trafficking victims in South Dakota are Native women and children, disproportionate to the 8.57% of Native residents. Domestic violence is another contributing factor to MMIP.

Pictured above at the SD State Capitol: (Front left to right) Iris Huezo, Native Hope; Rep. Rebecca Reimer; Rep. Tamara St. John; Clare Willrodt, St. Joseph’s Indian School; (Back left to right) Paul Omodt, St. Joseph’s Indian School; Jen Long, Native Hope; Gov. Kristi Noem; Lt. Gov, Larry Rhoden; Mike Tyrell, St. Joseph’s Indian School; Rep. Peri Pourier; Steve Smith, Attorney.

Fr. Herman Falke’s autobiography

A Celebration of Life in Art

Fr. Herman Falke’s latest book, A Celebration of Life in Art, is now available for purchase. The cost is $29.95 USD ($34.95 CDN). It is published by Mosaic Press; if you go to its website, the book is listed as not being available until March. However, we’ve received a copy at the Provincial Offices, so we know that the book is indeed in print.

According to the book’s editor, early copies can be purchased at a discount. Contact Howard at info@mosaic-press.com for more information. Phone: 905.825.2130

The book is a 150-page, fully illustrated autobiography of Fr. Herman Falke, SCJ. A member of the Dehonian community in Ottawa, Canada, Fr. Herman is originally from the Netherlands, but has been a part of the Canadian Region since 1950, where he completed his studies and was ordained in 1954. From 1966-1974 he was a missionary in Uganda. He said that it was a time that transformed him as an artist. “African life is so much at the surface and so open,” said Fr. Herman in the article. “You see life which you never see in western Europe and North America. It’s right there on the street level. You see how they take care of their children, the kind of discipline and their contentment with very simple things. It was a life that was really beautiful. Their customs, their dances, life was right in front of you.”

Reminder: Lent and Easter reflections

As noted last week, the Dehonian Associates Committee will be sending – via email – reflections from SCJs, lay Dehonians and co-workers throughout the Lent and Easter seasons, beginning with Ash Wednesday, and then on the Sundays of each season.

Everyone on the mailing list for the Fridge Notes will be included on the mailing list for the Lent and Easter reflections. We welcome you to invite others to the list. Click here to do so.

Happy Presidents’ Day!

Today, February 21, is Presidents’ Day in the United States. We pray…

God of power and might, wisdom and justice,
through you authority is rightly administered,
laws are enacted, and judgment is decreed.
Assist with your spirit of counsel and fortitude
the President and other government leaders of these United

May they always seek
the ways of righteousness, justice and mercy.
Grant that they may be enabled by your powerful protection
to lead our country with honesty and integrity.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

(Prayer from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops)

And from Fr. Leo John Dehon, a reflection on society:

“One of the purposes of society is precisely to assist members of the human family, through good social organization, to escape from the grip of misery.  The earth is rich enough to sustain us all and even to allow us to live in modest comfort.  No sensible person can believe that the poverty of the majority is a law of nature.”

Leo John Dehon, SCJ, Christian Social Manual, Chapter 2

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