The International Dehonian Family Conference: One Dehon, Many Dehonians

Participants of the Dehonian Family ConferenceFrom May 15-20, 2014, at the Generalate of the Priests of the Sacred Heart in Rome, was held an International Dehonian Family Conference. Over 37 lay men and women from around the world along with SCJ priests from different continents and members of General Curia participated in this gathering. The Philippines was represented by two Lay Dehonians: Atty. Grace Escobia and Ms. Marian Cadorna. As Fr. Claudio Weber, SCJ the General Councilor in his homily said: “As a Dehonian Family we want to contribute to the contemporary Church so that it may become a wide-reaching family of brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, ready to proclaim Christ as St. Thomas and St. Paul did, a family where the poor can make their voices heard.” The motto of the gathering was “One Dehon, Many Dehonians”
Fr. Claudio pointed out two main objectives of the gathering: “They are to deepen our personal formation so that we can better share the Dehonian charism with lay people in our communities, and to find ways to coordinate our efforts.” There, Fr. Marcello Matte, SCJ gave the opening presentation on the charism of Fr. Dehon and its relevance for the Church and the world. It simply asks the participants “Does it continue to speak to us today?” Some of the participants were given the chance to speak on how they lived the charism of Fr. Dehon in their lives; how they were introduced to the Dehonian charism and continue to live it in a conscious effort. One participant from Brazil mentioned that it took someone to point it out to her that she is already living the Dehonian charism. Here she stressed the importance of lay formation as it answers the “Why’s” on living the Dehonian charism.
A formation tool called the “Spiritual Path” was established by the working group assigned by General Curia, to help the people know and learn more on Fr. Dehon and his charism. It is proposed as a four-year program based in monthly sessions of sharing, instruction and prayer, with each set of sessions developed by SCJ groups from different geographical areas. There is a theme for each year of the program: “Becoming Acquainted with the Dehonian Life,” “To Encounter Jesus Christ with Fr. Dehon,” “The Faith Journey of Fr. Dehon,” and “For the Life of the World.” It is noted that the formation plan is structured as a curriculum, coming up with themes as a result of questionnaires and other resources. It should be noted however, that the “Spiritual Path” is a work in progress, as what Fr. Adérito Barbosa, SCJ said. Fr. Adérito is a member of the working group tasked to develop this formation tool. Therefore there is as need for constant training and coordination among the groups who will be implementing the program. It is up to the groups to be flexible and adaptable to their individual groups’ needs and changing demands.
As the conference was coming to a conclusion, an organizing committee was chosen among the participants to continue the action and help the lay people who have the desire to create Dehonian groups but are unable to make the initial steps. This organizing committee is composed of consecrated women, lay Dehonians and SCJ priests, with which one of the members is our very own lay Dehonian, Atty. Grace Escobia. This committee will have a three-year term tasked to put a formal coordinating committee with an elected leadership and structure, and basically, to continue what has been started in the conference. “Together we can take small steps to grow organically, gradually deepening the awareness and understanding of the gift Fr. Dehon gave to us,” said Fr. John van den Hengel,SCJ vicar general, during the concluding sessions.

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