17 February 2023
17 Feb 2023

Deepening the foundations of the Dehonian Charism in the SCJ formation houses of Madagascar

"I would like to briefly share my internship experience in the formation houses of Madagascar, which took place from January 2 - 13 of the present year".

by  José Gregorio Gonzalez Benítez, scj

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One of the programs of the “Dehonian Studies Center” is the Scholarship for Dehonian Studies (BSD) which promotes the formation of researchers on our spirituality, on the life and work of our Founder, on the history of our institute and its charismatic development. Currently in the final stage of this program we are four confreres: two from Brazil, one from Cameroon, and me from Venezuela. Completing the Scholarship consists of three parts: a formative internship experience in an entity of the Congregation; the delivery of a research project; and a final memoir about the Dehonian studies.

I would like to briefly share my internship experience in the formation houses of Madagascar, which took place from January 2 – 13 of the present year.

First of all, I have to say that for me this experience of charismatic formation and sharing has been a beautiful gift, since from the moment I began preparing the content of the formation a biblical quotation resonated that Father Dehon uses a lot, one from the Gospel of Luke: “I have come to bring a fire to the earth” (Lk 12:49). For Dehon, this fire is the love of God, the most evocative expression of which is the open Side and pierced Heart of the Savior (Cf. Cst. 2). The preparation was a time for me to try to tune in to Dehon’s experience: contemplating (entering of the mystery of God, into the Heart of Christ), discovering (the centrality of love), and going out (mission and life).

This movement or logic of entering, discovering, and going out accompanied us throughout all the formative moments, because the charismatic experience is not only a matter of content, but is a spiritual dynamic that wants to configure us to Christ. In Dehonian language, it wants to lead us to be men with open hearts. Openness of heart is a solidarity with so many wounded men and women. Contemplation of the Savior’s open Side makes us attentive and sensitive to the wounds of so many people in need of reparation today and also reminds us that we Dehonians are called to “be repaired in order to repair”[1].

The formation experience took place at the scholasticate in Antananarivo, the capital, and at the novitiate in Antsirabe, a beautiful country place: a week in each formation house. Currently the Scj Region of Madagascar is experiencing a beautiful moment of vocational awakening: there are 21 scholastics, 23 novices and 11 postulants. I saw a Region with a lot of hope, and I am not just referring to numbers, but to the human quality and passion for our charism. In the formation houses of Madagascar, I experienced a spirit of prayer, work, study, brotherhood and above all joy. From the beginning of my stay, I felt at home and I am very grateful to all the confreres I found in Madagascar, for their kindness and welcome.

Madagascar is a beautiful country. Beautiful landscapes remain in my memory, many rice plantations, and lots of people walking, because there are so many materially poor people. Despite the difficulties of the majority of the population, I have seen in Madagascar a people who are very committed to work, a people who laugh and have a lot of hope for a better future. Our Dehonian presence has significant works: universities, colleges, and parishes. In the educational field we have a very important presence, but all our works are really a beautiful service to the people, especially the poorest. I am very grateful to the Dehonian Studies Center for giving me the opportunity to live this experience of a formation internship in the Region of Madagascar, and I am also very grateful to the confreres who welcomed me.

This internship time allowed the words of Jesus that inspired Father Dehon to resonate in the hearts of the youth of Madagascar, especially what we shared at the beginning, “I have come to bring a fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” (Lk 12:49). May the fire of Christ’s love continue to move us to be collaborators for a more humane world, cooperators so that the Kingdom of the Heart of Christ may come in souls and societies.

[1] Cf. Final Message of the IX General Conference, Rome 2022, 3.

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