11 May 2016
11 May 2016

Dehon had a passion for education

by  Rinaldo Paganelli, scj

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An initiative of the General Council

The General Council has introduced, among its other commitments and responsibilities, an hour of weekly formation. Taking turns, members of the curia, sometimes with the presence of an expert, will address a topic related to the four areas of priority in accompanying the Congregation in these six years: formation, mission, spirituality and evangelization.

Fr. General led by example, giving a reflection on “Leo Dehon as an educator.” Focus was on the political significance of higher education, the social and ecclesial implications, because of the involvement of youth.

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The significance of St John’s College

Interestingly, the birth and growth of the Congregation takes place in the shadow of a school. Already illuminated are what will become the lines of spirituality of the Dehonians. Fr. Dehon was immediately convinced that to attain salvation a society must prepare “apostles,” people who can lead with the imprint of Christianity. He also hoped to provide a counterweight to opinions hostile to the social projects of the Church. This was no mean feat since the relationship between the Church and State was deeply impaired.

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Speeches as political apology

The speeches at the end of the year at St. John’s College express the passion Fr. Dehon had for the construction of a new social reality. All of the speeches were collected in Volume IV of “Oeuvres Sociales” and take up 130 pages. He wrote: “These pages are an exposition of principles. At the same time, they are an apology.” He wanted to produce this publication because he believed that issues related to teaching were more than ever on the agenda. He wanted to reach young people because they bring the values of the Gospel, and so he emphatically adds: “Without this action the Church runs the risk of being unable to carry out its plan.”

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Two important elements are derived from this: Fr. Dehon deeply appreciates the freedom of Catholic teaching guaranteed by the State; and when it comes to improving the social situation he believes that education is the best means to strengthen youth. It gives them the strength to rise out of poverty. This attention is present and important in the many countries where we are present.

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