Celebration of Founder’s Birth Anniversary in Cagayan de Oro

The celebration of the 174th Birth Anniversary of Fr. Leo John Dehon on March 14, 2017, in Cagayan de Oro Formation House was composed of two main parts: short recollection in the morning and Holy Eucharist in the afternoon.

The recollection was prepared and guided by Fr. Rico Lapinig, SCJ, the Master of Aspirants. In his reflection, Fr. Rico focused on the three temptations of Christ in the life  of priests and religious today. The participants were asked to identify the different temptations in life, which on one hand can lead to a sin, but if rejected to a personal growth.  They were also asked to share what are their inner strengths in rejecting the temptations and how do they try to preserve their priesthood and religious life and grow in holiness.In the afternoon, members of the Dehonian Family, which also include the Dehonian Youth Missionaries and Lay Dehonians, employees and friends of the Priests of the Sacred Heart joined the concelebrated Thanksgiving Mass, presided by Fr. Francis Pupkowski, SCJ. Before the end of the Mass, members of the Dehonian Youth Missionaries made their renewal of commitment. As usual, the celebration was followed by a common meal.

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Celebrations of the Founder in Manila and Cagayan de Oro

On August 12, 2016, two formation communities in Manila and Cagayan de Oro joined the congregation-wide celebration of 91st Death Anniversary of the Founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Venerable Fr. Leo John Dehon (1843 – 1925).

In Manila, the celebration of the Founder was at the same time a Thanksgiving Mass of Fr. Sergio Matumoto, SCJ, who was ordained a priest last June 3, 2016, in Brazil and just returned to the Philippines. The community was joined by the members of the three nearby pastoral communities.

In Cagayan de Oro, Fr. Rico Lapinig, SCJ, who just returned from the World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, was the main celebrant. In his homily, Fr. Rico combined the life message of the Founder and of the Holy Father, Pope Francis. The celebration was attended by SCJs from Aluba Parish and Dansolihon, Lay Dehonians, Dehonian Youth and friends.

From Poland with Love – World Youth Day 2016

WYD_KRAKOW_2016_logo-255x276World Youth Day is a youth-oriented International event that takes place every two to three years. The event itself is a celebration of Catholic Faith among the world’s youth, but the invitation is extended to youth of all the world regardless of religious convictions. World Youth Day was initiated by St. Pope John Paul II in 1985 with the first encounter being held in Rome in 1986.

Each international World Youth Day attracts thousands of young people from around the world to gather in a festival of unity and color. World Youth Day is not just a day, but a week of festival, celebrating the faith of young people. World Youth Day presents an opportunity for young people of different cultures and backgrounds to come together and share in the faith and culture of others. It has become tradition that the groups of young people carry various colors, flags and symbols to distinguish who they are and where they come from. This is also done through songs, chants and music. Throughout the course of the event, young people trade these symbols, flags and colors to keep as souvenirs of their time at World Youth Day and as memories of the people they met.

History of World Youth Day

Although World Youth Day has become a week of celebration, the pinnacle of the festival is the open air mass held by the Pope on the last day. This is officially ‘The World Youth Day’. All the other activities are a build up to this event. The smiles and joy, singing and dancing, culture upon culture and nation upon nation, proudly holding flags high, greeting one another, trading tokens, humbly realizing how small we are in a world of people, and strengthened to witness so many who share our faith with all its difficulties and challenges, is all part of the build up to this massive International Mass, celebrating youth with their enthusiasm and joy.

There have been a total of 12 International World Youth Days since 1986.  The most recent World Youth Day was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 2013.

  • Buenos Aires (1987)
  • Santiago de Compostela (1989)
  • Częstochowa (1991)
  • Denver (1993)
  • Manila (1995)
  • Paris (1997)
  • Rome (2000)
  • Toronto (2002)
  • Cologne (2005)
  • Sydney (2008)
  • Madrid (2011)
  • Rio de Janeiro (2013)

Dehonian Youth Encounter

Since the WYD in Cologne in 2005, the Dehonian Youth from around the world meets together to share the richness of the spirituality of Venerable Fr. Leo Dehon and simply to celebrate. As this year, the World Youth Day is held in Krakow, Poland, the representatives from different countries are gathered around the centers of SCJ presence in different parts of the country. The youth connected with the SCJ Philippine Region is composed of 17 young people plus 3 priests and 1 SCJ seminarian. After arrival in Warsaw on July 20, 2016 and visiting some interesting places there, the group moved to Pliszczyn, Diocese of Lublin, where the SCJs have their parish and Postulancy house. After some common activities and visiting countryside they will move to Stadniki and then to Krakow to participate in the Vigil and the Mass with Pope Francis on July 30-31, 2016. The participants from the Philippines will also have an opportunity to visit some important places before their departure for the Philippines on August 9, 2016.

Celebration of the Founder in Cagayan de Oro

March 14, 2016, marks the 173rd birth anniversary of Fr Leo Dehon, the Founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart and also 4th anniversary of Canonical Erection of the Philippine Region. In commemoration of the SCJ  Founder, the Cagayan de Oro area composed of three communities (Sacred Heart Formation House, Aluba Parish and Dansolihon Chaplaincy), started the celebration  with a moment of reflection and an hour of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The points for reflection on the life of Fr. Dehon and his legacy, were facilitated by Fr. Patrick Gutib, SCJ, Master of the Aspirants.

In the afternoon, members of the Dehonian Family, which also include the Dehonian Youth Missionaries and Lay Dehonians, employees and friends of the Priests of the Sacred Heart joined the concelebrated Thanksgiving Mass, presided by Fr. Francis Pupkowski, SCJ. Before the end of the Mass, the new members of the Dehonian Youth Missionaries made their act of dedication while the elders  renewed their commitment. As usual, the celebration was followed by a simple dinner.

Celebration of Fr. Dehon’s Birth Anniversary in Cagayan de Oro

Each year, the Birth Anniversary of Fr. Leo Dehon is remembered and celebrated by the entire Dehonian Family around the world. March 14 is also a special day of prayers for new vocations to the priesthood and religious life, especially to the congregation. On this day, all the SCJs and all lay associates, inspired by the life and works of Fr. Dehon, gather together to reflect on the charism of their founder, which they consider as a special gift from God to the Church.

As usual, the Sacred Heart Formation House in Cagayan de Oro  City, together with members of the Lay Dehonians and Dehonian Youth, joined this worldwide celebration. During the Holy Eucharist, Fr. Aloiso Back, the main celebrant and homilist, presented the life and vocation of Fr. Dehon, from his birth until his ordination to the priesthood, giving some very interesting  facts and details. After the Communion, new members of the Dehonian Youth made their  pledge to live by the values lived and preached by Fr. Dehon, while the older members renewed their act of commitment to these values.

Besides the members of the Dehonian Family, the celebration was attended by all the SCJs from the neighbor communities, friends and benefactors. The celebration was culminated with the common super prepared by the formation community.

172nd Birth Anniversary of Fr. Leo Dehon

Fr Leo DehonToday, on March 14, the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart celebrates 172nd Birth Anniversary of its Founder Venerable Fr. Leo Dehon. As usual, on this occasion the General Superior of the Congregation, Most Rev. Fr. José Ornelas Carvalho, scj, addresses all the members of the Congregation and of Dehonian Family with special message. This year, the General Superior reflects on the theme of “Mercy”, in the writings of Fr. Dehon in connection with the theme of the incoming XXIII General Chapter which is “Merciful in Community with the Poor.”

Rome, March 1, 2015

Letter of March 14: the Birthday of Fr. Dehon

A Generative Force for Life

To the members of the Congregation

To the Dehonian Family

Dearest Brothers and Sisters:

Once again, and for the last time, we write you a letter on the occasion of Fr. Dehon’s birthday, March 14. Truthfully, it’s not to recall a date but to remember a man whose approach to God and whose understanding of the  Kingdom of God generated a movement that still is alive today and that draws together many persons into the Dehonian family: women, men, children, young, old, parents, unmarried singles, lay and consecrated people. We wish to cast a glance at Fr. Dehon, a glimpse that always seems to turn up something new for us to consider. It is not possible for it to be otherwise because in each era timely inspiration is given us for obtaining new insights and aspects, hidden from us until this moment, by asking questions that go beyond what we presently know for the sake of joyously making progress, even in our day, in comprehending the gift God has given us in the person of Fr. Dehon.

With this letter we want to share something that seems particularly important to us and on which our reflection is far from finished. This is true as much for us in General Administration as it is for all the members of the Dehonian Family.

“Merciful” – this is the first word in the motto for our upcoming general chapter which will take place from May 17 to June 6, 2015: “Merciful in Community with the Poor”. The General Administration did not come up with this motto; the general chapter preparatory commission came up with it, making use of suggestions which came from the Major Superiors at their meeting in November 2013. Initially, as a general administration, we were greatly astonished by this proposal, particularly by the presence of the term “merciful”. The shock was felt by numerous confreres, not just us. In actual fact, the word “merciful” does not have a particularly significant meaning in Dehonian writings. It does not appear in our Constitutions and our journal, Dehoniana, has never treated this topic. Mercy, therefore, seems not to be an essential element in Dehonian spirituality.

To all of us it seems obvious that the theme of mercy has become ours with greater force thanks to the magisterial teaching of Pope Francis. In fact, from the first day of his pontificate, both by word and action, Pope Francis has proclaimed that the church must be a “Church of Mercy”. By so doing, he has touched many people and has thus responded to the wish of many, both inside and outside the church.

Now, what about us Dehonians?

Fr. Dehon and Mercy

We have set out to ask Fr. Dehon about this topic as if he were present: did mercy represent for him something significant?. If so, what does this word say about God and the Christian vocation in this world? What concretely does he have to say today about the Dehonian vocation in the world?

A first surprise was ours when we researched the site www.dehondocs.it, an extremely useful tool for getting to know our founder because it provides digitalized access to all Fr. Dehon’s writings, which we are in process of publishing. Online research reveals that Fr. Dehon speaks frequently about mercy in his writings.[1] Fr. Dehon expands his understanding of mercy in a far more developed way in his spiritual writing[2] as well his periodical writing. Particularly in his meditations, many chapters have mercy in their titles.[3] Fr. Dehon habitually received his inspiration from bible stories. And we note how frequently Fr. Dehon lived, meditated on and prayed with the bible. And this is one specific quality of Fr. Dehon’s experience for which we are grateful today.

Through biblical narratives Fr. Dehon transmits his spiritual vision to us. His meditations do not contain theological treatises or dogmatic declarations; instead they express the dynamic of his spiritual experience discovered essentially in encounter and relationship. We find ourselves before a God who passionately seeks encounter with man.  In the settings for these stories the following appear: the lost sheep, the coin first lost and then found, the prodigal son, Zacchaeus, Matthew, the Samaritan woman, Peter, Thomas. For Fr. Dehon each one of these figures, in turn, gave witness to the mercy of God and the possibility of new life. God takes the initiative, goes in search of the lost, leaving locales and people well known to him to go out after those who no longer recognize him: “Do you not see how the shepherd goes after the lost sheep? He does not stop at looking, but leaves the others behind, searches wood, swamp, and cliffside. When he finally finds it, he takes it and carries I on his shoulders. In this way, I want to act with you” (RSC 292).

According to the spiritual vision of Fr. Dehon, God not only goes after but welcomes without setting conditions, embraces, forgets the past, all of which makes possible a new beginning beyond any wayward person’s personal expectations and limits. In these stories, we should imagine in our minds all this activity, these encounters, and the joy that results if we truly wish to understand the experience of the kind of merciful God that Dehon proposes.

“Infinite” (infini) is the word that frequently accompanies the word mercy of God in the writings of Fr. Dehon. Infinite and without limits is this mercy, this inconceivable and gratuitous care and concern for the other that surpasses even justice, since “Jesus has the heart of a healer and friend rather than a heart of a stern judge” (CAM 1/242).

This boundless and infinite mercy takes us to the very source of mercy in God that Fr. Dehon frequently describes as an “excess of love” (excès d’amour). For him, this excess of love that appears in mercy has the cross, the passion, and the incarnation as its supreme manifestations. The mercy of love consists in the ineffable act of Christ to empty himself, to become slave while God, as Fr. Dehon says when speaking of the Letter to the Philippians. His vocabulary is somewhat limited theologically in keeping with his times: the words annihilation, humiliation, sacrifice at times speak of a skeptical theological/spiritual way of looking at man rather than of a deeper understanding of the limitless love of God. Nonetheless, what he has to say remains valid when as spiritual master he reminds us of a reality that theology had still to recapture: “There is no other divine attribute of God that Sacred Scripture exalts more greatly than his mercy” (RSC 72).

With the passage of time, theology has come some distance: the mercy of God can be understood only if rooted in Trinitarian theology.[4] The Trinitarian God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, in itself is communication and relationship. Its essence is immeasurable self-giving (oblation) to the other. In consequence, mercy becomes a mirror of the Trinity.

From this Trinitarian perspective, mercy is from the very beginning of the world the root and reality toward which all else is ordered.[5] Hence, mercy in creation, incarnation, passion, and resurrection is not just a response by God to the sin of the world. It is above all else the regenerating realization and sharing of his being as self-giving toward other.

That mercy was not just a response to the sin of the world but also the essential expression of the Godhead, Fr. Dehon occasionally recognized. In a number of meditations he describes the merciful love of God aimed at men and women, particularly in their sufferings, in their illnesses and states that this excess of love is a regenerative and renewing force, capable of working miracles, healings, and pardon: “Such was the source of his mercy, his miracles, his assistance; a tender compassion which nourished us. Compassion moved him, obligated him to work miracles; he saw those who were ill and his heart was moved with compassion and he healed them. If like the Heart of Jesus we have great compassion for the unfortunate, if we respond promptly according to the merciful desire of the Savior, why could we not be instruments of his Heart in a few graces for healing?” (CAM 1/234).

But how precisely can we succeed in participating in this divine dynamis, in this excess of love that generates new life? The initial response that Fr. Dehon provides is surprisingly simple and transcending his era: trust. In this regard he writes: “This meditation [on trust], the last one in this retreat, is very important and sums up all the others. If a person embraces the practice suggested, he gains all. If he/she does not, the fruit of the retreat will be nullified” (CAM1 256). In this way, Fr. Dehon introduces the last mediation on mercy. Trust in a merciful love: this is the one single condition for entrance into this dynamis.

The second response issuing from Fr. Dehon is this one: “We need to correspond to graces and act on our initiative…practicing mercy toward our neighbor” (RSC 318). Fr. Dehon and the tradition of the spirituality of the Heart of Christ called it “redamatio,” a loving in exchange, even a loving on behalf of those who refuse to love. Mercy asks one to live in an economy/practice of giving.

Surely, there is far more that we must study and apprehend with regard to mercy. We need to deepen and enlarge the matter of the value of mercy with respect to the Dehonian charism.

Merciful in Community with the Poor

At the center of the motto for the next general chapter in May/June 2015, we find community not mercy. It is in the community that we discover our vocation; in it our vocation expresses itself for the first time; from our community we are sent toward the various forms of apostolate.

The centrality of the community in the motto is accompanied by a preferential quality which is that of mercy and by a preferential place of service which is that of the poor.

Is mercy a quality that renders our communities distinctive? The question refers to Dehonian communities as well as to the numerous groups that are inspired by the Dehonian charism. The question refers, first of all, to the reality and witness of our living together insofar as we are Dehonians? Is there really an excess of love that is realized in our giving ourselves to each other? Does our service, our oblation (self-giving), our availability, our reconciliation begin only after leaving our religious house or apartment? If we take seriously what we understand about mercy according to our tradition, our very living together becomes a proclamation of a merciful love which makes a new quality of life possible beyond barriers of culture, nationality, character, sin.

And then, after an experience of the mercy of God, we are necessarily led toward the poor.

Mercy is not sugary or unseasoned and naive. Someone who experiences the merciful love of God cannot not be an instrument of this love, particularly in areas where life is threatened, repressed, limited, or wounded. The fact that 100 years ago, Fr. Dehon involved himself – despite the cautions from some brethren – on behalf of a social dimension to our congregation was not the result of a political calculus or sense of moral obligation. It was a response. This response was to that love that was revealed on the cross as the source of life and victory over every death.

With profound joy and most respectfully we see how men and women within the Dehonian Family continually draw their inspiration and are moved by mercy, ready to reach out to the edges of society, as Pope Francis recommends. In an era like our own, burdened with unimaginable violence, who could doubt that the world needs mercy, or, using Dehonian language, the Reign of the Heart of Jesus?

At the beginning of this letter we simply wrote that we wished to share with you what is slowly coming to the fore: a new aspect in the spiritual experience that characterized Fr. Dehon’s words and actions; a matter of enrichment for our Dehonian vocation while we gratefully keep in mind Fr. Dehon’s birthday.

One Last Time

This is the last letter that this general administration, elected in 2009 to lead the congregation, will address to you. In these past six years, we were called to be custodians of the heritage that Fr. Dehon left us. It has been a privilege for us during this period to open up the treasure of Fr. Dehon’s writings to a world-wide public by online publication. The 22nd chapter asked us to pay attention to the centrality of the person of Christ in the life of the congregation. Christ is the gift we have received, the likeness of God that emptied himself (Phil 2:8), and who shared our life and revealed his immense capacity for love through his opened side.

We ask you to pray for the congregation, particularly during the general chapter itself. Chapters are special times in the congregation. It is a sign of what we know happens at our better moments, moments during which we believe that the Spirit of Jesus is more active within us. It is a time to look at our past as well as to look at the future, toward a time during which our words will pave the road that we shall have to walk over the next six years. Rally your communities and pray for us from May 17 to June 6.

March 14 is also the day of prayer for vocations. Let us pray for those people who will shortly be part of the Dehonian Family. We ask the Lord that their lives be enriched by faith in the love God has for them. We ask that the Dehonian charism will always be a call for others to follow. Let us believe that what Fr. Dehon contemplated in the pierced side and at the center of the Bible, the gift of mercy, be what gives life not only to our “souls” but also to the societies in which we live.

To the entire Dehonian Family we extend a joyous remembrance of Fr. Dehon’s birthday.

In Corde Jesu

Fr. José Ornelas Carvalho, scj

Superior General

and his Council

[1] The lemma “mercy” appears in dehondocs 808 times. From a frequency aspect it appears far less than “love” (3980x), “sin” (1951x); yet it is more frequent than the words “immolation” (405x) and “oblation” (185x). Accessed Feb. 03, 2015.

[2] Les Couronnes d’Amour (CAM), La Retraite du Sacré-Coeur (RSC), L’année avec le Sacré-Coeur (ASC).

[3] “The Heart of Jesus is All Love and Mercy” (CAM 1). “Mercy of the Heart of Jesus for Sinners” (CAM 1). “The Mercy of Our Lord Invites us to Return to His Love” (RSC). “On the Mercy of God” (RSC). “Conversion of St. Peter through the Profound Mercy of the Heart of Jesus” (RSC). “Heart of Jesus, Patient and Very Merciful” (MSC).

[4] Walter Kasper, Mercy-The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life. NY: Paulist Press. 2014. Especially V, 2: Mercy as Mirror of the Trinity.

[5] Walter Kasper, Mercy, pp 150ff.

Letter for the Birth Anniversary of Fr. Dehon

dehon3

Letter of March 14: the Birthday of Fr. Dehon

Dear Confreres,

March 14 is a day on which we remember not only the birth of our founder, Léon Dehon, but also the birth of our vocation. In doing so, we pray that this vocation will live on in others, and are reminded to help others –– from all walks of life, in the many places we serve –– to find the vocation that is alive within them.

For us, March 14 is our vocation day.

For many visitors to Rome, part of their pilgrimage includes a stop at the church of San Luigi dei Francesi. It is known for the three paintings of Caravaggio. In his interview with Antonio Spadaro, Pope Francis made a reference to the most famous of the three paintings: The Calling of Saint Matthew. For those who do not know the painting, Matthew and his helpers are sitting at the publican’s table counting money. In the doorway stands Peter and Jesus. Behind them is a light that falls upon Matthew and upon what he is doing. Matthew’s gaze, as well as of two youngsters sitting at the table with him, is fixed in the direction of Jesus. Jesus points with his finger in the direction of Matthew and Matthew in unbelief points his own finger to his breast with the obvious question: “Who? Me?” Matthew is drawn into the light. It was his future.

It is sometimes said that callings are intrusive, even violent. None of this is evident in the painting. Jesus points at Matthew, but looking at the pointing hand one sees the index finger not straight and imperious but curved downwards, much like the finger of the Creator in Michelangelo’s creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel. The finger questions Matthew. Matthew is presented with an enigma, which is clearly shown on his face. “Yes, even you Matthew, with a table of grubby tax money before you. Yes, you! Come, follow me.” The Gospel text tells of no hesitation: “And he got up and followed him.” (Mt. 9.9)

We, who have experienced it, know the feeling of the calling. The notion of vocation or call has not only generated interest among religious but also among philosophers. There is a rather wide body of literature that has studied the phenomenology of the call: what happens when someone is “called.” These reflections go to the core of what in human existence occurs when confronted with the call. There is no clear voice – nothing that that indicates a caller. The caller remains anonymous, indefinable. I do not control it. It does not come from me. It comes from elsewhere – perhaps, in something beautiful – and I know it to be important because it feels life-determining. The Jewish philosopher Levinas called it “a provocation from God[1].” It provokes me to give a certain direction to my life.

As with the call of Jesus to his disciples, a call impels one to leave one’s “home”, to get off the couch. The French philosopher Jean-Louis Chrétien says that to be called is to be “required.” There is a certain urgency attached to a call, a feeling “required” to take a certain direction in life. In following the early life of Léon Dehon, one reads frequently about the disturbance caused by his vocation: “I am forever preoccupied with my religious vocation…” he wrote in 1875 (NHV XI,152); he spoke of what he perceived of “the way God guides me in life » (NQ XLIV 30), of his “suffering”  (NHV XI,177).  Most of us have followed this internal urge, listened to its impulse and sought to follow where it led us. Our vocation became our mission. The call also made us go in search of the One who called us, to befriend the origin from which the call came. That has been our life.

On March 14th we recall this search and its resolution. We need to bring ourselves back from time to time to our own experience of the vocational call. What happened to me? What did it require of me? Where has it taken me? For Dehon his call was clear from age twelve onward. He never doubted it. We may not have experienced it in a straight way – perhaps only a constantly-returning appeal to be true. On March 14th let us celebrate it. Fr. Dehon described it as a faith journey with God’s love.

The day also invites us to speak to others about their call; how has it been experienced in the lives of others? A call is very individual, but also a shared experience. We might understand and appreciate our own call better by sharing it with others, and hearing their stories.

In 1914 at table Fr. Dehon asked a young person why he wanted to become a priest. He told the founder “St. John was the apostle who loved, then love the Lord – that is the basis of a vocation.” (Position II, 408) Love is a good place to start. For Dehon, without it we could do nothing.  And so let us take it up in our prayers when we talk with the one who first impelled us. It is probably the most important appeal or invitation made in my life.

In Corde Jesu

Fr. José Ornelas Carvalho, scj

Superior General


[1] Isabelle Thomas-Fogiel, The call in the thought of Lévinas, Marion and ChrétienAisthesis – Rivista Online di Estetica, 2/2011