Weekly News: March 12, 2012

Fr. Jerry Sheehy talking about the SCJs' ministry in Asia during the October 2011 European Conference. Fr. Jerry was the first superior of the SCJ community in the Philippines. He died on March 9, just days before the district is to be elevated to regional status.

Celebrating and remembering

On Wednesday, March 14, SCJs from around the world will gather in the Philippines to celebrate the district’s transition to regional status. It is a sign that the SCJ entity, begun in 1989 with just eight SCJs, is growing. Taking part in the ceremony will be Fr. Tom Cassidy, provincial superior of the U.S. Province. The United States hosted that initial group of eight as they prepared for the new mission, and continues to give financial, and short-term personnel support, to the developing region.

The SCJs who began the congregation’s mission in the Philippines included men from Argentina, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Indonesia and Great Britain.

Among them was Fr. Jerry Sheehy of the British Irish Province. He was the mission’s first superior. Sadly, he died just days before the March 14 ceremony. Diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer three weeks ago, Fr. Jerry died March 9 in Irvine, Scotland. He was born in 1957, professed in 1976 and ordained in 1982.

Fr. Jerry had a great love of Asia. After many years in the Philippines, he spent time in Vietnam, and recently, went to China to explore possibilities for SCJ ministry there.

“Personally, I have found the Filipinos to be a delightful people, very friendly and welcoming with a tremendous sense of fun and a touching sense of humility,” said Fr. Jerry after ten years in the country. “But they do face many difficulties, including the scourge of poverty, which only seems to get worse, corruption and political instability. In the south there is an uncertain and volatile situation threatening peace and good order. The problems are so immense that there is always the temptation to become discouraged.

“Yet, it is my conviction that it is our presence that is more important to the people than anything we might ever do for them or give them. It is through this kind of presence that they experience something of the presence and compassion of God.

“But no matter what we share with the poor, they give us so much more. Through the sharing of our lives with them we get a new understanding of the gospel, of who Jesus is and of His mission. In their simplicity and hospitality, in their friendship and warmth, we begin to see the things that really matter, things more beautiful than merely possessing beautiful things.”

Fr. Jerry will be well-remembered during the March 14 commemoration. We will have more from the ceremony later this week. Check the website and/or our Facebook page for updates.

Click here to read more about our SCJ presence in the Philippines.

Fr. Wayne Jenkins (right) with students in the Philippines. Fr. Wayne will return to the country on March 28.

The year of the Philippines?

This seems to be the Year of the Philippines. During the past year we have featured stories about SCJs teaching in the Philippines, international students studying in the Philippines, and –– of course –– the elevation of the district to regional status.

Fr. Wayne Jenkins, province archivist, is one of several members of the U.S. Province who have assisted the developing region. He spent much of February in Asia, first in Indonesia, and then the Philippines. Fr. Wayne’s return to the States is a brief one. On March 28 he goes back to the Philippines to continue his work in archival, library and records management. He writes:

“First, I had a wonderful four days in Indonesia, during which I was able to visit with Fr. Tom Fix in his hospital room.  I then flew to Manila where two students met and drove me to our theology house.  I stayed for two days before flying to Cagayan de Oro, the location of the district office and the formation programs for the pre-college, college and postulancy students.

“In Cagayan de Oro most of my time was spent helping to establish secretary’s office for the region, as well as its archives. We had to organize documents from the region’s inception in 1989.”

Fr. Wayne also gave a seminar on library, records management and archives for parish secretaries and SCJs. He visited with students from the Kasanag Daughters Foundation (a program for abused girls and women), the SCJs’ high school program for indigenous young people, and the SCJ novitiate.

Remembering a friend

Bishop Joseph Potocnak shares the homily that he gave for fellow South African bishop Evert Baaij’s funeral.

“It’s funny how sometimes it is only after someone is gone that you know what an impact a person has had on your life,” said Bishop Potocnak. “Thinking about Bishop Baaij a month after his funeral I am still struck by what a good and holy man he was and how lucky I was to have known and worked with him.”

Bishop Joe Potocnak was the homilist at Bishop Baaij's funeral last month.

In his homily, Bishop Joe said that “Bishop Baaij embodied the founder’s words to ‘Go to the People.’ I was with Bishop Baaij in Colesberg the early part of 1974 before he became the Bishop of Aliwal North. He was a great priest, a real pastor. Once a month on a Friday night we would go to the farms in the Colesberg district, stay overnight and have the Eucharist on one of the farms. The next day we would celebrate Mass at three or four other farms. We would return to Colesburg about 6:00 p.m., then Bishop Baaij would make a Holy Hour before going off to visit the sick. I never heard him say that he was tired or needed a break. He was a big and confident man. He knew everyone in Colesberg, the elite and rich, but he enjoyed going to the shacks of the poor, and being with them. He treated all people the same.”

Click here to read the full homily.

Please remember

Besides Fr. Jerry Sheehy, the congregation also lost Fr. Bernhard Brinks of the German Province last week. He died on March 6. Fr. Bernhard was born in 1946, professed in 1969 and ordained in 1973.


Fr. Stephen Huffstetter: After spending over a week in the hospital, Fr. Steve is home, feeling much better and recovering well.

Celebrating Fr. Leo John Dehon

March 14 is the 169th anniversary of the birth of Fr. Leo John Dehon, founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart. Each year the superior general writes a letter to commemorate the date. This year, Fr. José Ornelas Carvalho focuses on “internationality;” it is the focus of the general administration in 2012.

“It is a new world that is being born and, as the theme of ‘internationality’ indicates, we want to be part of it,” writes Fr. Ornelas.  “It means becoming part of a change of mentality of how ‘new’ religious work and live together. The world is looking for a vanguard – an eschatological glimpse – of what a new humanity in this new configuration of peoples looks like. The congregation is challenging us this year to open this window more widely.”

Click here to read the rest of the letter.

A prayer vigil for the day, particularly geared toward the laity and youth, has been prepared. Click here to download a PDF of it. The original was in Italian; our thanks to Fr. Bernie Rosinski who translated it into English.

Fr. Terry Langley and Fr. Byron Haaland share a laugh during last week's local leadership meeting

Wellness, administrative concerns, and province assembly focus leadership gathering

Local superiors/coordinators had their annual gathering with province leadership last Monday and Tuesday at the Provincialate Conference Center.

Much of Monday was spent with a facilitator from Guest House who spoke about wellness concerns in the context of religious life. Impressed with the material shared, local leadership suggested that a similar presentation be given at the July province assembly.

Br. Ray Kozuch updates leadership on vocations

Local leadership also had a presentation on employee issues. Many SCJs, either in their local community or in their ministry, employee lay personnel. Linda Church, province human resources director, and Kathleen Dahlgren, province attorney, addressed topics such as job descriptions, the interview process, employee record keeping, paid time off (“PTO”), on-the-job injuries, and other employment concerns. Both reminded SCJs to use them as a resource in regards to employee issues.

The two-day gathering was also a time for local leadership to dialogue with province administration on a variety of issues. Province departments, such as vocations, formation, communication, finance, archives and the provincial secretary’s office, gave brief reports that were opened to Q&A.

Provincial’s Time

Fr. Tom Cassidy will be in the Philippines through March 17. The following week he will be in St. Louis for CMSM meetings. March 27-28 he has Provincial Council meetings in Hales Corners.

Upcoming meetings and events:

March 27-28: Provincial Council Meeting
April 15: Easter Concert at Sacred Heart Monastery/School of Theology
May 2-3: North American Councils meeting, Hales Corners
May 15: Mass for the Anointing of the Sick, SHM/SHST
May 30-31: Provincial Council Meeting (budgets)
June 15: Feast of the Sacred Heart
June 28: Provincial Council Meeting (conference call re: formation)
July 9-12: Province Assembly, Hales Corners
July 16-21: General Conference, Neustadt, Germany
July 23-25: SCJ Major Superiors Meeting, Neustadt, Germany

April 8-9: Mission Education Conference, St. Joseph’s Indian School
Week of June 3: Province Election Assembly