IX General Conference in Rome – Dehonians in Social Commitment

From February 13-18, 2022, the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred held its IX General Conference. The theme of the conference was “Dehonians in Social Commitment.” Taking part in-person were the entity superiors of the congregation from around the world, including Fr. Lukas Siswo Sasmito, SCJ, the superior of the Philippine Region, and Fr. John Karl Cabaluna, SCJ, member of the preparatory commission.

Initially, the conference was planned to be held in Manila, the Philippines in 2018, but due to unexpected events such as the appointment of General Superior Fr. Heiner Wilmer as bishop of Hildesheim, Germany, and the pandemic COVID-19, forced the Congregation to postpone this event. So, instead of holding it in 2018 in the Philippines, it was held in 2022 in Rome.

Although the in-person participation in the conference, due to the pandemic COVID-19, was quite limited, those interested could participate through social media, such as Facebook, YouTube, or Zoom.

During five days of inputs, reports, workshops, and reflections, the participants were able to come out with some guidelines regarding the social commitment of the Dehonians. To know more about the topics discussed during the conference you can visit the website of the Congregation: https://www.dehoniani.org.

On February 17, 2022, Fr. Lukas Siswo Sasmito, SCJ, the superior of the Philippine Region, delivered a scripture reflection based on Mk 8:27-33, entitled: “The Lord hears the cry of the poor,” which we post below.


The Lord hears the cry of the poor

Scripture reflection February 17th (Mk 8:27-33)

by  Lukas Siswo Sasmito, scj

The reading of the Gospel according to Mark today shows the gradual process of knowing about Jesus and understanding Him.

With the question who do people say that I am, Jesus is gathering for information regarding people’s opinion about Him. It seems the people do not know about Jesus. They mistake Him as John the Baptist, Elijah and some other prophets.

Later He turns to His disciples in order to find out their knowledge and understanding about Him by asking; “But who do say that I am?” Peter replied: “You are the Christ, You are the Messiah!”

Peter gives the correct answer however Jesus immediately warns the disciples not to tell anyone about it. Why? Because while Peter has the right words, the meaning and the interpretation of the answer is different from Jesus “real mission”, even opposite. It can jeopardize His mission.

The difference becomes more visible when Jesus speaks about His passion, suffering and death to save the fallen humanity.

Peter rebukes Jesus for speaking about that; about His passion, suffering and death because he and other disciples regard Jesus the Messiah as the powerful world ruler.

Jesus in return strongly reprimands Peter for being a stumbling block in the fulfilment of God’s plan for the redemption of all humanity. Even Jesus calls Peter ‘Satan”, because in preventing Jesus from His passion, suffering and death he becomes a big obstacle to God’s plan’.

Peter is told to get behind Jesus, not in front of Him so that he can follow Jesus and learn from Him. This is telling us about the proper place for a disciple. That the place of a disciple is behind the Master, not in front of Him. The disciple must follow not to lead. Anyone who leads God’s people, as many of us have been doing here must keep in mind that even in the very act of leading (the people), he is only following the roads that the Master takes and walks. We can read this inspiration in our Constitution no 13: “With all our fellow Christians we are led to follow closely in the footsteps of Christ to arrive at holiness (1 Thess. 4:7)… ‘’It was for this you were called since Christ suffered for you in just this way and left you an example, to have you follow in His footsteps” (1 Pet. 2:21).

We are also reminded here about our own knowledge and understanding about Jesus, the Messiah. What kind of Messiah do we have in our mind, our heart and experience? We do hope and believe not to have a Messiah according to what we like, a Messiah that can fulfill all our dreams. We need to be aware about the  “hidden” agenda that unconsciously entering our mind and affecting our community, our mission.

Though we have better knowledge than many other people, we still and always have space to improve in understanding Him. Like Peter and the disciples, we are given a lot of time for on-going renewal in this very aspect. We should realize that the lengthy of duration in knowing Him/studying about Him seemingly is not guaranty. The number of years in religious life, the number of years in ordination, the number of years of our journey as entities very often can not assure our better understanding about Jesus.

One great challenge for Jesus’s disciples is to live consistently; to act according to our words and principle, for us to live the values as Dehonian. Unfortunately, realities or circumstances make consistent living difficult………………………(personal experience).

Learning from the experience of Peter who knows about Jesus yet sometimes does not understand deeply His way, let us come to Him with both our insight and blindness. As we keep improving our knowledge about Jesus, let us also keep improving our understanding on the way how He lives; meaning following closely Jesus through our journey by touching more people especially the marginalized/the wounded with the charism of our founder Father Dehon, though sometimes we have to face uneasy realities, challenges in-out of our communities, circumstances or even threat…

Let us continue the mission of Jesus in rebuilding the dignity of humanity.