January 16, 2015
Fr. Leo John Dehon, founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
During his trip around the world, occasioned by the 1910 International Eucharistic Congress in Montreal and his desire to explore mission possibilities for his Congregation, Fr. Leo John Dehon visited Canada and the United States. He sailed to New York; traveled south to Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C.; southwest to Atlanta, Tuskegee, and New Orleans; north to St. Louis, Dubuque, and Chicago; east to Detroit; northeast to Niagara, Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec; west to Ottawa, Winnipeg, Wainwright, Edmonton, St. Albert, Calgary, and Vancouver; south to Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Tijuana; and back north to Los Angeles, Santa Catalina, Ventura, Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco, where he departed on ship to Asia.
“San Francisco is a Tower of Babel,” he wrote in his diary. “Half the residents are foreigners: Germans, Irish, French, in addition to Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Filipino, Hawaiian, and others.” Everywhere he saw a mix of peoples. “Since 1822, the United States has welcomed 28 million immigrants. One of the biggest problems facing the United States is how to preserve a national identity when such an extraordinary variety of peoples from every corner of the globe are flooding its boarders each year.
“In general, North Americans are very hospitable. They include in their ranks the Anglo-Saxons, French, Germans, Italians, and Slavs. Their customs and ways influence each other, and they form one people among themselves. But there are races they don’t want to assimilate with because they consider them inferior and deserving of contempt because of their moral or physical stature; these are the races of color: the Black, the Yellow, and the Red. The Yankees allowed the Indians to grow weak and die out, they held the Negroes in a kind of servitude, and they blocked the Yellow race from entering their borders.”
Writing about the Chinese and the Japanese, “two prolific races that would gladly sweep like a tidal wave across the Pacific and flood the United States,” his comments need only a change in nationality to remain contemporary. “Their salaries are so low in Asia! It’s so much more prosperous in America! With regard to the Chinese the solution is quite easy, they are no longer allowed to immigrate except in very controlled numbers; however they have a way of infiltrating by way of Mexico and Canada. As for the Japanese, they are looked down upon and humiliated in the big cities of California, but they come anyway, because they find their fortune here.”
As he departed from San Francisco, his diary entry highlights the plight of immigrants who are unwanted except for their menial labor. “I am aboard the Chiyo Maru, a superb ship. It belongs to a joint American-Japanese company. The officers are American, the service staff is a mixture of Japanese and Chinese. Most of the passengers in First Class are Americans, while the Asians are in Third.”
Leo John Dehon, SCJ, from his diary while traveling in Canada and the United States
Lived and Shared, contemporary expressions of Dehonian spirituality
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 pra
yer 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 (pictured above, right)
Reflection Questions, seeds for personal understanding and growth
How might you stretch your heart open in continuous conversion regarding the plight of immigrants and refugees?
What is your experience of a two-way cultural enrichment and sharing?
In what one, specific way can you meet the basic needs of those around you, and by doing so, best respond to God’s love?
Prayer, hands lifted in prayer, hands prepared to serve
January 18, 2015, is the 101st
World Day of Migrants and Refugees. In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayer all people whose circumstances force them to move from their homeland and all those who welcome them to a new land. Becoming Neighbours
created a Prayer Service for World Day of Migrants and Refugees; click here
to download a PDF of the service.
The following prayer is based on the Rule of Life
[#11, 12, 35, 38, 51, and 51] of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.
you prayed for the coming of God’s reign
and your continuing presence among us
challenges us to collaborate in making your prayer a reality.
You enable us to believe
that despite sin, failures, and injustice,
redemption is possible, has been offered, and is already present.
We want to be one with your loving oblation,
totally giving ourselves to the Father
and totally giving ourselves to people.
We pledge our special love
to those who have the greatest need
of being accepted and loved.
We shall do our utmost to avoid every form of social injustice
and to awaken consciences
to the tragedies of misery and the demands of justice.
Following Fr. Dehon’s legacy,
we want to participate in constructing the earthly city
and to be an effective sign
that it is the reign of God and God’s justice
which we should seek above all in all.
Each week reflections and prayers based in the Dehonian charism are published on the Dehonian Spirituality page of the U.S. Province website of the Priests of the Sacred Heart. This is an email version of that update.
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