There is one Dehonian charism, but many, MANY different models of how that charism is lived. Under the “Dehonian Family” umbrella are lay Dehonians, consecrated women and professed members of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.
In 2014 members of the Dehonian Family from around the world came together in Rome to share their experiences. From that meeting developed a coordinating group. Given a three-year term, it was tasked with the implementation of the “Spiritual Path” (a formative guide to the Dehonian charism), establishing communication networks among the Dehonian Family, and looking at ways of creating structure and growth.
Three years later the Dehonian Family again gathered in Rome. Meeting from May 13-16, continental representatives took a closer look at the many expressions of the Dehonian Family and sought a path toward creating a more cohesive structure. It would be a structure that respects the autonomy and unique vocation of each component of the Dehonian Family while identifying that which allows such diversity to also be in communion.
“Sint Unum, a spirituality of community: life and mission” was the theme of the 2017 conference. In preparation for it, representatives of the Dehonian Family were asked to complete a questionnaire to help the coordinating group get a better sense of the Dehonian Family throughout the world, including its needs and concerns.
In analyzing the results it was no surprise to see a wide diversity among the groups. They range in size from just a handful of members to some that are in the hundreds, and even thousands. Many entities have structures at the national, and in some instances (such as Latin America), continental level. Funding comes from a variety of sources, but very few have an organized program for ongoing financial development. Formation varies as well, though many are now utilizing the Spiritual Path in some form.
The challenge of good ideas
Often the challenge of good ideas is to find people who have the time and then the resources to implement them.
Meeting participants discussed the areas of focus identified in the questionnaires. Some involved communication, especially via the internet. Communication is vital in helping members of the Dehonian Family feel connected to each other, to build the “Sint Unum” that was the theme of the 2017 gathering.
Formation at all levels is essential in spreading the charism of Fr. Dehon. It can be an invitation to others, or ongoing spiritual nourishment for those who have been with the Dehonian Family for many years.
Many smiles are found in the “family photo” taken at the Dehonian Family gathering. Just as with any family, it is good for members to come together in assembly, to have a family reunion.
Communication, formation and assemblies – good ideas were suggested regarding all three.
But as with most good ideas, there is the question of “who and how?” Who will be responsible to bring these ideas to fruition?
Overwhelmingly the delegates to the Dehonian Family Conference agreed that there needs to be an International Coordinating Group to continue the work of the ad hoc committee.
Ideally, that group will work in collaboration with a secretary or coordinator at the general level. This person would not necessarily need to be an SCJ. Among the secretary’s responsibilities would be communication, including social media for the Dehonian Family.
One of the last acts of the Dehonian Family Conference was to endorse the members of the coordinating group, the ICG. Several names are familiar because they also served on the initial ad hoc committee established in 2014: Fr. Bruno Pilati, SCJ, Rosalie Grace Escobia and Silvia Bertozzi. New is Vincent Bruono Cavalcanti de Oliveria. Their term is for three years. Ida Coelhjo of Brazil was thanked for her service on the initial committee.
The conference ended with Eucharist celebrated with the Rome communities. Fr. Heiner Wilmer, SCJ, superior general, was the main celebrant. Among the concelebrants was Archbishop Claudio Dalla Zuanna, SCJ, former vicar general and now archbishop of Beira, Mozambique. He was visiting briefly with the community.
Fr. Heiner ended the Mass by thanking the Dehonian Family for its presence. “We need each other, we must pray for each other,” he said.
David Schimmel, director of Dehonian Associates for the US Province, and Fr. John van den Hengel, SCJ, regional superior of Canada, represented North America at the meeting.