November 11, 2016
Fr. Leo John Dehon: founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
Only four years after the founding of the Oblates of the Heart of Jesus, Leo John Dehon recalls in his memoirs, “A pious novice, Br. Zachary [Valmire Bouré], was the first of ours who left us to go to heaven. He was 20 years old. He made his vows on September 20  at the last minute and died on the 23rd. He edified us throughout his illness by his resignation and the offering of his life for the Work [of the Congregation].”
A year later, he remembers, “One of our young novices from Sittard, Br. Sanctus Accary, died as a young saint on August 10, 1883. I went to be with him in his last moments. His spirit of abandonment was wonderful. He was suffering with a smile and kept repeating, ‘As Jesus wishes.’ He gave his life for the Work [of the Congregation] and the Reign of the Sacred Heart.”
In his diary entry for May 2, 1888, Dehon notes, “The death of our dear Br. Quentin. Death came unexpectedly but found him ready. Blessed is he whom the Lord finds vigilant [cf. Luke 12:37]. He did not know that death was coming, but it found him pure, in a spirit of abandonment, pious, and obedient. His was a very edifying death and a blessing for the Congregation.”
Having already lost several missionaries, Dehon sadly records in his diary, “We learned of the death of one of our good missionaries in the Congo, Fr. Johannes Keyser. It was on March 14 , the anniversary of my birth, that he reverently went to heaven. I am confident these missionaries, who are going down there with the moral certitude of giving their life in a short time, will receive the martyr’s crown in heaven. They are martyrs through their apostolic zeal.”
“A new bereavement. A telegram informed me of the death of Fr. Hoffmann in Guyana. This is the fourth man we have given to God in 1905. These deaths follow upon one another in an alarming manner. All these young priests who have departed are still in the springtime of their priesthood. They are victim lambs for the Congregation.”
Seven months before his own death, Dehon records that “The good Lord called our good Fr. Jeanroy back to himself on February 1 . He was one of my good co-workers whom our Lord had chosen to help me establish his little family of the Sacred Heart. A model student and priest at Verdun, he came to us in 1884. He had a passion for the Sacred Heart, and he brought with him an entire library of the Sacred Heart. We made him a missionary [that is, a preacher of parish retreats] to the Diocese of Soissons, then a teacher at Fayet. He founded the house in Brussels, and he knew how to find resources.
“His greatest work was the establishment of the Mission Office for the Congo. Together with Bishop Grison he founded and developed this pearl of our ministries. He wrote the history of this work. He also brought us many vocations from Meuse. He founded and directed the apostolate of The Friends of the Poor in Brussels. He had a saintly passion for preparing the sick for death. He also published several good little devotional pamphlets. He loved St. Gertrude and her devotions. He died with a reputation of sanctity. His funeral service is proof of that.”
Notes on the History of My Life, September 1882 and August 1883
Daily Notes, May 2, 1888; May 3, 1902; April 9, 1905; and February 1925
Lived and Shared: contemporary expressions of Dehonian spirituality
My memory of Joe Connelly (pictured right) goes back over 50 years when we were together at Great Barrington, Massachusetts [a seminary for men who had already completed high school]. We were both beginning our journeys with the SCJs and I happened to be the Senior of the group. Joe was always one to do what was asked of him—weren’t we all that way once. Joe was from Cleveland, Ohio, was very intelligent, and was on the quiet side. I think of him as Nathaniel in the Gospel, he was without guile. I spent only one year with him and never lived with him after Barrington, but he impressed me as a dedicated young man searching to do God’s will.
When we come to November and remember those who have passed over to eternal life and were a part of our lives, there are so many students, novices, priests, and brothers that were a part of our journey. I am a great believer in the Providence of God. “He protects and governs all things, reaching end to end mightily and ordering all things sweetly” [Wisdom 8:1].
God places us in real life situations to live our lives and to do his will. We are all in the place that God wants us to be. The memory of all these people is a form of presence. So this November my prayers will be for Joe Connelly [who died on August 13, 1985] and all the others who were a part of my journey with the Priests of the Sacred Heart. Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their memory and the presence of these people in our lives help us along in our journey to the Father.
Frank Burshnick, SCJ (pictured left)
Prayer: hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve
In your kindness throughout the coming week and during the month of November, please lift up the memory of your deceased loved ones in prayer. You may find helpful the following prayer, which is adapted from the service, “Upon Learning of the Death of a Confrere,” from the Prayer Book of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.
receive our brother and show him your face.
and vows of love and oblation,
he joined us in offering his life
for the work of the Gospel in our Congregation.
By sharing in the Eucharist,
he knew and proclaimed
the reconciling presence of Christ in the world.
We entrust him to your mercy.
Hear our prayers and grant him your kindness
so that the successes and failures of his life
may be transformed into a sign of your presence
for the life of the world.
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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