February 13, 2015
Fr. Leo John Dehon, founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
The unfolding story of the Dehonian family continues from last week’s posting.
The Reparatory Association of the Sacred Heart, founded by Fr. Leo John Dehon, invited clergy and laity to collaborate with the Priests of the Sacred Heart in promoting devotion to the Heart of Jesus through the prayer and service of its members. Over the years, this Association, characterized by adaptation, welcomed diverse expressions and even inspired other affiliations.
Former students of the seminary run by the Priests of the Sacred Heart, in Albino, Italy, first gathered in 1950 to form the Dehonians Association. The Friends of Jesus movement began in 1962 so that children could also participate in the spirituality of Fr. Dehon. In 1965, former SCJ religious and students, as well as their friends, organized the Dehonian Union within the South Italian Province of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.
The Portuguese Province adapted the Reparatory Association of the Sacred Heart to establish, in 1975, a group for 9-16 year olds, one for 16-25 year olds, and one for adults. Those who at one time lived as seminarians in House of the Sacred Heart, in Trent, Italy, formed the Dehonian Association Fr. Franceschetti in 1981.
In San Antonio, Texas, the parish-based SCJ Family Associates began meeting in 1983. The North Italian Province established Sint Unum in 1986 to support the recruitment of vocations—priests, religious, and lay—in the Church. The Young Lay Dehonians of Portugal began meeting in 1988.
For several years in the early 1990s the United States Province experimented with a Dehonian Lay Missioners Program. Then in 1995, the Province gathered its lay employees for the first Mission Awareness Conference. Four years later, the Province established SCJ Schools in Collaboration, a cooperative effort to promote the values of Fr. Dehon among students and staff.
Multiple adaptations of the lived spirituality of the Priests of the Sacred Heart are the mark of God’s creative Spirit even when these expressions develop as autonomous Institutes. SCJ missionary Bishop Demont founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart in South Africa in 1929 and shared with them the spiritual heritage of the Priests of the Sacred Heart. Similarly in 1936, SCJ missionary Bishop Verfaillie founded the Congolese Congregation of the Holy Family. In writing two formation books, “Total Gifts” and “Ecce Ancilla Domini,” SCJ missionary Bishop Wittebols transmitted to these Sisters the spirit of Fr. Dehon. Blessed Anuarite Nengapeta, virgin and martyr, was a member of this Congolese Congregation.
In Spain, in 1950, Fr. Moya, SCJ, founded the Reparatory Institute of consecrated women living a secular life. Seven years later in Italy, Fr. Elegante, SCJ, founded the Missionary Company of the Sacred Heart, an international Secular Institute for women now present in eight countries. This Institute gave birth to Family Members, its own association of men and women, married and single.
In 1974, Brazilian SCJ Fr. Böing established the religious Congregation of the Marian Fraternity of the Heart of Jesus. In Portugal, Fr. Gritti, SCJ, founded the Secular Institute of the Missionaries of the Merciful Love of the Heart of Jesus in 1992. This Institute, with separate branches for consecrated men, women, and priests, also has an association of lay people who share their spirituality.
Two religious communities of women influenced Fr. Dehon and collaborated with him as he discerned the foundation of his Congregation. In his writings, Dehon refers to these two communities as “co-foundresses.” For this reason, even though they existed before the Priests of the Sacred Heart, the contemplative Sister Victims of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the apostolic Sister Servants of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of St. Quentin share not only the same spirit of reparation but also a familial association.
As evidence of God’s continually creative Spirit, Silvia Bertozzi discerned her vocation while collaborating in ministry with the SCJs in Mozambique. On the Feast of the Sacred Heart 2008, she committed her life as a consecrated virgin in accord with the spirituality of Fr. Dehon.
Presently, the Dehonian Family is a “communion of vocations.” The Priests of the Sacred Heart, Lay Dehonians, Consecrated Individuals, and Institutes of Consecrated Life are linked together by Leo John Dehon’s spiritual vision and mission. In the words of the Spiritual Directory, they are to make their prayers continual and keep themselves in habitual union with the Heart of Jesus, to make their works perfect by performing them carefully, and to accept their sufferings willingly and bear the cross joyfully for the advancement of the reign of the Sacred Heart
Lived and Shared, Contemporary expressions of Dehonian Spirituality
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.
Prayer, hands lifted in prayer, hands prepared to serve
In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayer the Dehonian Family, particularly as it embraces the Spirit’s creative diversity within the spiritual vision and mission of Leo John Dehon. You may find the following prayer helpful.
you are for us
the human touch of God’s love.
May we allow this gift of divine love
to affirm and challenge our lives.
As members of the Dehonian Family,
we wish to model what we experience,
and trust that the spiritual heritage of Leo John Dehon
will give us words to stir up in others
a desire to share in this transforming love
and be united to your Heart.
Beginning with Ash Wednesday, the Dehonian Associates office will be sending one-minute meditations on the significance of the cross. The reflections come from the writings of Fr. Leo John Dehon. There will be 14 total, sent each Wednesday and Sunday during Lent, with a final meditation on Easter. Those who are subscribed to Dehonian Spirituality will also receive the Lenten meditations.
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.
Anyone is welcome to receive the Dehonian Spirituality email. Click here to add a subscriber.
The Dehonian Spirituality updates are edited by David Schimmel, U.S. Province director of Dehonian Associates. Questions or comments for David? Click here.
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