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Dehonian Spirituality includes prayers and reflections based in spirituality of Fr. Leo John Dehon; it is published weekly by the US Province of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.
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September 2, 2016
 
 
 
Fr. Leo John Dehon: founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart 
 
The retreat that Fr. Leo John Dehon preached for the teachers of his newly formed St. John’s Institute focused on the theme of education as a divine mission.  As the foundation for his reflections, he focused on two scripture passages.  “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” [John 20:21] and “Teaching them everything that I have commanded you” [Matthew 28:20].
 
“We must teach in the name of our Lord,” he explained to his faculty, “indeed, our mission is divine.  So let us assume that we are present at the apostles’ first mission, which is the source of our mission.”  Fr. Dehon then invited his collaborators to imagine the scene when Jesus came and stood among his disciples on the evening of his resurrection.  With the gift of peace, Jesus sends them forth.
 
“O my Savior, you also came today in our modest sanctuary and you are here in our midst.  Thank you, Lord; we bow for your blessing.  May this peace always reign in our souls and in our relationships!”  But how, Fr. Dehon asked, shall we go forth and teach?
 
Speaking in the name of Jesus, he answers, “Teach in my name, as I would myself.”  Then, the founder of St. John’s Institute explains, “Teach with dignity and seriousness; with zeal, care, and effort.  Teach with the designs of faith, thinking about the consequences of our work: the Christian life of these children, the salvation of their souls, and the good of the Church.”
 
Insisting that teachers “must lead, elevate, and sanctify,” Dehon reflects on a number of scripture passages, including, “The crooked shall be made straight and the rough ways smooth” [Luke 3:5], and “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly” [Titus 2:11].
 
To this end, Fr. Dehon lists several “diseases to cure.”  Pride, he explains, “breeds disobedience, envy, ingratitude, insult, vanity, sensitivity, and lies.  It also breeds an evil, independent, and critical spirit.  We must suppress its deviations and direct its energy.”  He identifies sensuality as “laziness and loss of morals.  Suppress, and above all, prevent it.”  Among adults, he notes, “concupiscence of the eyes is greed; among children, it is curiosity, thoughtlessness, and distraction.”  After insisting on this no-nonsense approach, he concludes, “Lord, bless our mission as you have blessed the mission of your disciples.”
 
Like people’s first impression Fr. Dehon, his words come across as severe and strict.  It didn’t take long, however, especially for young people to realize that there was much more to the man.  A fellow priest recalled, “Above all, young people felt drawn to him.  They felt that he loved them.” 
 
And one of his former students explained, “What we loved was to see him mixing among us and finding out about our lives in a familiar way.  We loved to talk with him.  He put himself on our level and was interested in all of us.”  It seems the teacher in Fr. Dehon knew this approach as the best way to fulfill the divine mission of education.
 
Notes on the History of My Life, “First Retreat for Teachers at St. John’s Institute 1877”
Testimonies by former pupils of St. John and St. Clement Institutes
 

 
  
 
 

Lived and Shared: contemporary expressions of Dehonian spirituality

When I began my calling to teach, I knew I wanted to help young people achieve their greatest potential inside and outside of the classroom.  The opportunities I was given as a student, raised in a parish and school served by the SCJ community, empowered me with the knowledge I needed to change lives.  I have been blessed to return to lead the school I grew up attending.  This has given me a unique perspective of both a child and an adult into the ministry of education provide by the priests.
 
A large part of our curriculum has always been spreading the Dehonian charism.  I was taught as a child to share what we had with those in need and we would all be a stronger community.  As a child we gave our time to the elderly in retirement homes so we each received joy.  As an adult, there is a strengthened sense of optimism in passing these practices onto a new generation.
 
Our Dehonian charism is strengthened when our students not only perform service-learning projects to assist the needy and lonely, but also when they begin to understand the true meaning of the projects.  As a principal, I see the effects of our education ministry on a daily basis.  I am privileged to guide and watch students grow in their understanding of serving others. 
 
One Thanksgiving, I asked a pre-kindergarten student the reason we give to the needy.  He stated we share our things with those that do not have things to be kind like Jesus.  I asked an 8th grade student the same question.  His response was God taught us to love one another and it is our Christian responsibility to help those that cannot help themselves.
 
I experience and witness the far-reaching power of our education ministry many times during a school year.  The immediate reach is when our students treat each other and strangers with compassion and dignity.  The long-term effects of childhood lessons learned are noticed when we continue to enroll second, third, fourth and fifth generation families in our schools.  Parents want their children to have the same experiences they had growing up.
 
The power is felt again when an alumni applies for a job with our school or other programs to continue to minister to those in need.  The education ministry has the power to unite people in their desire not only for a solid academic education but also to learn to serve one another better.
 
Bridget Martin, Principal of Sacred Heart School, Southaven, Mississippi
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Reflection Questions: seeds for personal understanding and growth

In the circumstances of your life, how can you help young people achieve their greatest potential?
 
How can you pass on what you have learned with effort, zeal, and care?
 
What do you consider the connection is between a solid academic education and learning to serve one another?

 
 
 
 
 

Prayer: hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve

In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayers the students, faculty, and staff of the SCJ Schools in Collaboration: Sacred Heart School, Southaven, MS; Holy Family School, Holly Springs, MS; Our Lady of Guadalupe School, Houston, TX; St. Joseph’s Indian School, Chamberlain, SD; St. Martin of Tours School, Franklin, WI; Gymnasium Leoninum, Handrup, Germany; and San Jerónimo, Salamanca, Spain.
 
You may find helpful the following prayer used at the Eighth General Conference of Dehonian Educators.

 

 
We bless you, Father,
in union with Jesus, your Son,
who with the Word educates us
and shapes our heart to love.
 
Teach us to share the values
that you gave us through Fr. Dehon
to continue in the world
your work of salvation.
 
Send your Spirit
that we may educate
the young generations
according to your will.
May Christ, our only teacher,
inspire our actions.
 
Amen.
 
 
 

 
The backstory
 
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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The Dehonian Spirituality updates are edited by David Schimmel, U.S. Province director of Dehonian Associates. Questions or comments for David? 
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Dehonian Associates Office
US Province, Priests of the Sacred Heart 
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