Letter for March 14: The anniversary of the birth of Fr. Leo John Dehon

Consecration, ministry and community: our journey

To the members of the Congregation and Members of the Dehonian Family

On December 19, 2018, we celebrated the 150th anniversary of the priestly

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ordination of Fr. Leo Dehon. In the Christmas letter that we sent you, we referred to this anniversary in these terms: “his ministry in the Church was a continuous learning to walk with others and for others.” As we approach the day of his birth, we wish to seize another opportunity to renew our thanks to God for the gift of Fr. Dehon’s life, vocation and ministry.

In his continuous desire to learn, we recognize his constant willingness to understand and live God’s will, his great passion. On this new anniversary, we deem it appropriate to highlight that the priestly ministry that he received did not mean, for Fr. Dehon, the fulfilment of his desire to seek God’s will. In fact, our Founder did not limit himself to living that conformist clericalism that even today, as then, lurks behind every corner. On the contrary, he felt called to go deeper into the dynamics of the baptismal grace that had bound him forever to the Trinitarian life.

After he became aware of his intimacy with the Lord, of the merits and limitations of the Church in which he lived, as well as the political, social and economic challenges of those times, he realised that the Lord, whom he so loved to please, called him to religious life. How beneficial it is for us to contemplate the vocational dynamic that has taken place in the life of our Founder! An inner journey enabled him to integrate vocation, ministry and community. Only after much prayer and discernment, and encouraged by the many illustrious men and women of his time to whom he humbly turned for advice and guidance, did he understand that God was calling him to share a journey of faith with the others, inspired by the profound contemplation of the pierced Heart of the Saviour. This is the origin of the Oblates, Priests of the Heart of Jesus.

We must recognize that our personal itinerary and religious consecration acquire greater identity and meaning insofar as we discover Fr. Dehon’s vocational itinerary. Along his journey, he developed his heart of a father and brother within him. Today, we live our consecration to God through religious life, as priests or brothers, and must continue to embrace the indispensable lymph that is the charismatic patrimony that was given to us.

There is no doubt that we are aware that on many occasions the good development of our vocational journey is affected by the way in which we respond to the needs, tasks and compromises that we come across in the ecclesial reality, and the society or even by our strictly personal interests. In the face of such emergences, we must be vigilant so that our identity is not reduced to a mere ministerial or professional function. If this were the case, we would risk depriving the Church of the genuine vocation that we have received in order to live our religious life.

In this sense, we must remember that twenty-five years ago the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life published “Fraternal life in Community”. Over the years, this document has helped many religious communities to renew themselves and to focus on what is asked of them for the life of the Church:

Experts in communion, religious are, therefore, called to be an ecclesial community in the Church and in the world, witnesses and architects of the plan for unity which is the crowning point of human history in God’s design. Above all, by profession of the evangelical counsels, which frees one from what might be an obstacle to the fervour of charity, religious are communally a prophetic sign of intimate union with God, who is loved above all things. Furthermore, through the daily experience of communion of life, prayer and apostolate – the essential and distinctive elements of their form of consecrated life – they are “a sign of fraternal fellowship” (VFC 10).

If we read this text anew, we can notice how the Spirit incessantly urges us to incarnate what it has given us in our Dehonian charism here and now. May our daily oblation, expressed in words and deeds, be a sincere declaration and distinctive trait of our shared availability in proclaiming the Gospel:

The religious are often identified by the colour of their garments; the garment of our soul before God must be love and if there were two, the second would be compassion. There is no Oblate without this; this is absolutely necessary (Cahiers Falleur 1/48).

We hope that you shall celebrate this new anniversary joyfully and profoundly. May this encourage us to journey together and may the Lord grant us the grace of vocations that are eager to continue to walk along the path traced by Fr. Dehon.

In the Heart of Christ,

Fr. Carlos Luis Súarez Codorniú, scj

Superior General

and Council

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Appointment of Regional Bursar

Immediately after the first council meeting of the Region on January 16, Richard Woodbury conducted a consultation of the members of the Canadian Region to determine their choice for the Regional Bursar. In a telephone conference on Tuesday January 29, the Regional Council put forward the name of Paul Tennyson to the General Administration so that they might appoint him as Regional Bursar for the next three years.DSC_0665

On February 13, 2019, the Superior General, with the consent of his Council, confirmed the appointment of Fr. Paul Tennyson as Treasurer of the Region of Canada.

Immédiatement après la première réunion du Conseil Régional, le 16 janvier, Richard Woodbury a consulté les membres de la Région sur leur choix de l’Économe Régional. Au cours d’une conférence téléphonique, le mardi 29 janvier, le Conseil Régional a proposé à l’Administration Générale la nomination de Paul Tennyson (photo ci-dessus) comme Économe Régional pour les trois prochaines années.

Le 13 février 2019, le Supérieur Général, avec le consentement de son Conseil, a confirmé la nomination de Paul Tennyson comme Économe de la Région du Canada.

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Regional Council January 16, 2019

Right after the installation of a new Regional Administration on January 16, the new council met to take the first steps in setting an agenda for the next three years. Most of the meeting consisted in appointments and in the structuring of the committees of the Region.

  1. Council of the Region: Fr. Richard Woodbury was appointed as Vice Regional Superior and John van den Hengel as the secretary of the council. The Bursar of the Region will be appointed after a consultation of the Region.
  2.  Communications: A communications strategy will be developed before the next meeting of council to determine the method of communication of the Region. John van den Hengel was asked to continue to write the blog of the Region.
  3. Other committees: The membership of the other committees and the two foundations (Prêtres du Sacré-Coeur, Inc. and SCJ Canada Foundation) will be made known after the Regional Superior has contacted the members.

Local Superiors: The appointment of  the local superiors of the three communities needs to be take place during this year. The most urgent will be the Montréal community whose superior has just been installed as the Regional Superior. Gustave Lulendo will begin a discussion in the Montréal community as soon as possible.

NORAM meeting: The next meeting of the council of North America, it was suggested, will be held on April 24. Gustave will contact the US Province whether this date is suitable.

Council meetings: Gustave proposed to have council meetings every two months. The next meeting will be in Montréal on February 26.

 

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150th anniversary of Fr. Dehon’s ordination

On December 19 it was the 150th anniversary of the ordination of Fr. Dehon. Here is a brief reflection that came from the community of Rome who remembered this day by celebrating a Eucharist at St. John Lateran, where Fr. Dehon was ordained 150 years ago. Our Founder left us some memories of this day.

phoca_thumb_m_dehongiovanesacerdote[1]“The feelings on the occasion of the ordination are hard to put into words. I stood upright as a priest, possessed by Jesus, truly filled with him, with his love for the Father, with his care for souls, with his spirit of prayer and oblation.” (NHV 6/85)

On December 20 when he celebrated his first mass in the Santa Chiara seminary, he recalled: “The emotion was general. When my father and my mother knelt for communion no one could resist their tears. As to me, I was entranced with love for our Lord and full of contempt for my poor self. It was the best day of my life.” (NHV 6/86) These words expressed so many of my feelings: love, emotions, lively thanksgiving for God for so many gifts. Days of thanksgiving and happiness.

During the retreat before the ordination, he wrote: “The Lord wanted to prepare me himself by giving me an abundance of gifts. He must have had in mind my current mission. Today I can see it clearly. He gave me so generously the spirit of love and reparation which are at the heart of my vocation.” (NHV 6/82)

The celebration of the 150th anniversary took place at the Pontificio Seminario Francese di Santa Chiara, where Fr. Dehon studied prior to his ordination to the priesthood.

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Reflections on a change of administration

At the installation of Fr. Gustave Lulendo as Regional Superior, Fr. John van den Hengel reflected on the event in his homily.  You can access the homily at mass of installation 2018.

At the end of the service, Fr. Gustave Lulendo addressed the community expressing his hopes and his view of his mission. Here are his remarks:

PETIT MOT A L’OCCASION DE PASSATION DES SERVICES
DANS LA REGION DU CANADA, Ottawa, mercredi 16 janvier 2019

Chers confrères,
Dans la vie il y a certaines coïncidences qu’on ne sait pas toujours expliquer tout simplement parce qu’elles relèvent du pur hasard. C’est ce qui arrive en cette date du 16 janvier proposée par le Père John pour la passation des services. En effet le 16 janvier 2005, un certain dimanche dans le petit coin de Saint Gabriel à Kisangani, je recevais des mains de son Excellence Monseigneur Monsengwo, l’ordination diaconale. Dans son homélie, il avait plus insisté sur le diaconat comme ministère au service de Dieu et de son Eglise. Aujourd’hui 16 janvier, je commence un autre ministère qui rentre dans la même ligne que celle commencée il y a 11 ans. Je dois avouer que le jour de mon diaconat je n’avais pas vraiment compris le sens du service auquel j’étais appelé et c’est pendant l’exercice de ce ministère que j’ai compris que servir c’est tout simplement mettre son temps, ses dons et capacités, bref toute sa vie à la disposition des autres, c’est être utile pour les autres en travaillant pour une même cause.
C’est le sens que j’aimerais donner à cette célébration qui ouvre une nouvelle porte dans ma vie personnelle mais surtout dans la vie de toute la Congrégation dont la région du Canada est une des entités. Servir la Congrégation à travers le ministère du leadership est certes une tâche difficile et parfois source de plusieurs soucis, mais je pense que le oui que j’ai dit le jour de l’acceptation de cette fonction a été inspire par la confiance que les Confrères de la Région ont manifestée a mon égard, m’assurant de leur collaboration et de leur soutien voilà pourquoi, bien que n’ayant pas la maitrise de tout ce que ce ministère implique, je reste optimiste et confiant en la providence qui permettra que nous travaillions tous comme équipe acquise à la même cause, celle de témoigner d’une vie authentiquement dehonienne ici au Canada.
Il y a aura des défis majeurs ou bénins à relever, et c’est spécifiquement à ce niveau que notre sint unum devra se manifester, notre volonté de travailler ensemble pour trouver les solutions à nos problèmes sera une caractéristique de notre famille religieuse au Canada. C’est ensemble que nous chercherons des solutions aux différents défis de notre région.
En ce début du mandat de la nouvelle administration qui reflète l’internationalité de notre région, je tiens a remercier toute les confrères de la Région pour votre confiance en me choisissant comme supérieur et je pense que c’est guidés par l’Esprit de Dieu que vous avez fait ce choix qui fait qu’une page spéciale de l’histoire de la région soit écrite aujourd’hui. C’est pour cette raison que je rends grâce a Dieu pour toutes les grâces et bénédictions dont il nous comble pour continuer à être des signes visibles de sa présence dans notre monde.
Je rends grâce et je remercie tous les confrères qui ont accepte de faire partie du conseil provincial pour qu’ensemble nous puissions réfléchir et proposer des pistes susceptibles de nous conduire vers un avenir radieux. Merci au Père John Van Den Hengel avec l’administration régionale qui a fait un travail important surtout a travers le plan décennal que nous allons suivre en y apportant des ajustements si nécessités il y a.
Un merci spécial a la communauté d’Ottawa qui nous as accueillis pour célébrer ce jour, et il sied de signaler que ce choix, bien que relevant du fait que ce lieu plus accessible a toutes les communautés, tient au fait aussi que c’est dans cette communauté que mon aventure au Canada a commencé, un certain 08 janvier 2008.
Merci particulier a ma communauté de Montréal qui m’a toujours soutenu et sur laquelle peut toujours compter lors des moments difficiles qui peuvent donner des maux de tête ou des insomnies. Merci de m’avoir libéré pour le service de la région et j’espère que votre soutien indéfectible m’aidera dans l’accomplissement de ce ministère.
Chers confrères, pour terminer ce petit mot, et marquer d’une empreinte indélébile notre cérémonie de ce jour, j’aimerais confier toute la région mais en particulier ce ministère sous la protection de la providence et solliciter vos prières pour qu’avec l’aide de Dieu nous soyons capables de répondre efficacement à nos attentes. Une prière spéciale pour le néophyte que je suis dans cette tache afin que le Seigneur me donne assez d’humilité pour comprendre qu’il ne s’agit que d’un service pour Dieu, son Eglise et notre Congrégation. C’est ainsi que je demanderai à tous les confrères, de venir et m’imposer les mains en silence, signe que vous me bénissez pour aller de l’avant. Je vous remercie.

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A new administration for Canada

“What binds us is our common heritage as Dehonian religious, which has no particular face or color except to the extent that we are worthy spiritual sons of Fr. Leo John Dehon.”

– Fr. Gustave Lulendo

Fr. Gustave receives a blessing from Fr. Paul

On January 16, Fr. Gustave Lulendo, SCJ, was installed as regional superior of Canada. He succeeds Fr. John van den Hengel, SCJ, who continues to serves on the Regional Council.

A generation apart, both are immigrants to Canada; both are naturalized citizens. Fr. John, 79, represents the face of immigration in the mid-20th century: his family came to Canada from the Netherlands.

Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Fr. Gustave, 45, symbolizes today’s increasingly multicolored tapestry of immigrants. He also represents the growing impact of the southern hemisphere in not only the worldwide congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart, but in the Church itself.

A few days before assuming his new role, Fr. Gustave did a Q&A in which he reflected on his vocational call, his path to studies in North America (including ESL at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology), his growing role in the Canadian Region as well as international experiences through theological conferences and commissions, as well as at the 2018 General Chapter.

The following answers are paraphrased from the original French.

QUESTION: How did you first learn about the Priests of the Sacred Heart (Dehonians)? When did you begin to feel your vocational call?

FR. GUSTAVE: I knew the Priests of the Sacred Heart from a young age in Kinshasa; they ministered at my home parish of St. Camille. In 1988, I went to study in Kisangani and unknowingly found myself again at an SCJ parish (St. Joseph Artisan of Tshopo). But I must admit that, as a child, I did not know the difference between diocesan and religious priests. For me, there were simply priests, and all had the same mission: to evangelize and take care of the parishes. It was not until I began my vocational discernment at the age of 16 that I learned the difference.

The testimony of the SCJ priests that I have known and their pastoral commitment to the poor have always fascinated and inspired me. I wanted to be and serve like these valiant missionaries. It was with a Canadian Dehonian that I began my vocational journey in Congo. There have been the ups and downs, and the joys and sorrows that are found in any journey. But I continue to feel the same initial call to put myself at the service of others, to the congregation and the Church, through the spirituality and charism of our founder.

Fr. Gustave with the new council: Fr. John van den Hengel, Fr. Yuliwan Maslim and Fr. Richard Woodbury

QUESTION: As a young seminarian, how did you envision yourself serving as a Dehonian priest?

FR. GUSTAVE: Already as a novice I expressed my desire to our provincial superior, Fr. Matthias Hansen, to serve in a parish or as a formation director. I was told that there was a need not only for formation directors, but philosophy and theology instructors, teachers who were prepared to address the challenges of today’s world. This was interesting to me, but I knew that I had a long road ahead of me, preparing for my vows and ordination. I was open to serving the needs of the Congolese Province, whatever they might be.

QUESTION: Your first visit to North America was as a student in the ESL program at SHSST. How did that come about?

GUSTAVE: I have been fascinated by languages since I was a young child. French is the official language of DR Congo, but there are also four national languages. [Fr. Gustave speaks three of the four] As a student in Kisangani, I enrolled in an English language course at a local church, but without any objective other than to expand my language abilities. I did my theological studies in Cameroon, a bilingual country [French and English] and was able to spend three-months in an English program. In 2004, at the end of my theology studies, I asked to go to the ESL program at Sacred Heart in Hales Corners. I was granted permission and initially did a three-month summer session. I would later return to SHSST for continued ESL during my breaks from studies in Ottawa, Canada.

I do not consider myself fully fluent in either English or French, since neither is my first language, but I am improving. In today’s world, knowing English is especially important.

QUESTION: What led to your studies in Canada?

FR. GUSTAVE: In 2004, Fr. John van den Hengel spoke to the provincial superior of Congo, Fr. Wilson, during a major superiors meeting in Poland. Fr. John told Fr. Wilson that the Canadian Region would welcome a Congolese confrere for advanced studies in Canada. Fr. Wilson suggested that I go. After both the Canadian and Congolese councils agreed, I began a year-long process to obtain my student visa. My first request was rejected. I finally arrived on January 8, 2008, three days after the first class began at the University of St. Paul in Ottawa. Our confreres – who warmly welcomed me – were very active with the university.

QUESTION: What was the focus of your studies?

FR. GUSTAVE: I earned two degrees from St. Paul University. Initially, I was working toward a degree in Moral Theology, which I obtained in 2010. My research project was on “responsible fatherhood.” Much of my work centered on the street children of Kisangani; the Priests of the Sacred Heart minister to these children through the St. Laurent and Bakhtia Centers.

After earning my master’s degree, I began doctoral studies, eventually doing my coursework and comprehensive exam through Dominican University College in Ottawa. I received permission to begin writing my thesis, which would focus on the limits and challenges of bioethics in the African context. For a variety of reasons, I did not see myself completing the work in a timely manner, so I returned to St. Paul to earn my ecclesiastical license, which would allow me to teach at the university level. In 2016, I completed that degree with a thesis titled: “Environmental Ecology and Human Ecology in interaction. A holistic reading of ‘Laudato Si’ by Pope Francis.” In this work I tried to put into dialogue the encyclical of Pope Francis and the German philosopher Hans Jonas with his principle of responsibility.

QUESTION: You have participated in several international theological gatherings and now serve on the North American Theological Commission. Can you reflect on that a bit?

FR. GUSTAVE: It was through the initiative of Fr. John van den Hengel, who was then on the General Council in Rome, that I took part in the theological seminar in Taubaté, Brazil. The theme was “Anthopologia Cordis,” which offered me a framework for research and a deepening of my knowledge in this area. As a member of the North American Theological Commission I am working with others to coordinate theological reflection and deepen the experience of our charism and our spirituality in a North American context. The question of the enculturation of the Gospel message and its impact in everyday life is something that is close to my heart. How does one be authentically Christian and Dehonian while also maintaining his cultural heritage?

QUESTION: When did you decide to become a member of the Canadian Region?

FR. GUSTAVE: Typically, after at least a year of being in the Canadian Region, an SCJ is welcome to become a member so that he may fully participate in the life of the region. I became a member in 2013, though it felt like a formality since as of my first day in Ottawa I felt at home, fully Dehonian, in Canada. In no way did I consider myself a visitor or stranger.

QUESTION: You are now superior of the Montréal community and represented the region as a delegate to the 2018 General Chapter. Could you speak about those appointments; what they have meant to you?

FR. GUSTAVE: My appointment to the Montréal community was a surprise for the simple reason that I had never lived in this community. At the same time, it was a great mark of confidence on the part of the confreres in Montréal because without knowing me thoroughly, I was accepted as a member of the community in a leadership position. There has been a good sense of collaboration and community among us that is based in fraternity.

Fr. Gustave with Fr. Carlos Luis Suarez Cordorniú during the 2018 General Chapter.

My election as a delegate to the General Chapter was another sign of the confreres’ confidence in me, to be their representative at a meeting of this magnitude. The most moving moment for me was the very unfolding of the chapter, which was a time of grace for the entire Congregation. I experienced internationality and Sint Unum, and became more aware of the major challenges of the Congregation. The emergence of the Dehonian presence in the southern hemisphere is both a challenge and a blessing.

The Thanksgiving Mass celebrated at the Basilica of St. John Lateran was an important moment for the whole Congregation. One felt pride in being a disciple of Fr. Dehon. The election of the new general administration was another way in which we felt the hand of God acting through us, fragile beings.

QUESTION: And now, just over ten years after you first set foot in Canada, you have been named the region’s superior. Please share a bit about this.

FR. GUSTAVE: My appointment as Canada’s Regional Superior is a concrete sign of our Sint Unum. It is a special event at an individual level but also at the congregational level. For me, this clearly shows that internationality and fraternity are not mere slogans but realities that we are experiencing.

Fr. John and Fr. Gustave

I hesitated to accept, but through my confreres I understood that it is by walking together that we can follow the model of service given to us by Christ. I think that this role of superior will help me to better know the confreres as well as their needs, their projects and their expectations for the future of our entity. Because of that, I remain confident in the future and I am very optimistic about where Providence will lead us.

This new role that I am called to exercise in the Canadian Region remains under the mark of service and not of power. I consider myself simply a confrere, first as a member of my community in Montréal and then a guide for the needs of the Canadian Region. My African origins do not have an impact in the acceptance or the exercise of this function, because, as I said before, I have always considered myself first as a Dehonian among the Dehonians before thinking of my African origins.

Most of my priestly ministry has been in North America. In Canada I am called to be a witness of our charism in the same way as all the other members of the Region.

I do not consider myself a missionary in Canada but instead, as a member of a large religious family, as I said, as a Dehonian among Dehonians. I do not represent Congolese culture in Canada, but live Dehonian values, as a Congolese and a Canadian, in a North American context.

QUESTION: You recently became a Canadian citizen; was this because of your growing commitment to the Canadian Region?

FR. GUSTAVE: I first thought about becoming a Canadian citizen because since my first moments in this country I began to adopt it as mine. Having Canadian citizenship and a passport is the culmination or materialization of an experience that has already been begun and lived.

There is a sacrifice – I gave up my nationality of origin – but also opportunity. Travel will be much easier for me; there will be less paperwork in the constant efforts for visa renewals. But the decision to become Canadian is so much more than this. Becoming Canadian is a way for me to more fully participate in the life, hopes, concerns and challenges of all Canadian citizens in general, but especially, of my fellow Canadian Dehonians. Daily sharing in their reality not as a temporary spectator but as a fellow Canadian is a sign of integration and of mutual acceptance.

Canadian citizenship has nothing to do with my function as regional superior. The confreres placed their trust in me because of who I am. I cannot say it enough: what binds us is our common heritage as Dehonian religious, which has no particular face or color except to the extent that we are worthy spiritual sons of Fr. Leo John Dehon.

QUESTION: Do you have anything else that you would like to share?

FR. GUSTAVE: I thank the confreres who have agreed to work in the new regional administration and all the confreres in the Region of Canada for their support and their concern to collaborate in this mission. I count on our ability to work together and I am confident that Providence will help us to meet the challenges of our times as Dehonian religious in Canada.

Members of the Canadian Region with Fr. Gustave and the council

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The new Regional Council

After the consultation of the members of the Canadian Region and the appointment by the Superior General and his council on Tuesday, December 18, 2018 the new council of the Region of Canada will consist of Frs. Richard Woodbury, John van den Hengel and Yuliwan Maslim.

 

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Fr. Richard

 

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John van den Hengel

 

Yuliwan

Fr. Yuliwan

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