From February 4 to 20, Father Nilson Helmann, Priest of the Sacred Heart, originally from the BRM Province and a student at the Dehonian Study Center in Rome, did an internship in Cameroon, during which he spoke about Father Dehon to young people and confreres in formation.
As a participant in the second edition of the Dehonian Studies Fellowship project, which is already coming to an end, I undertook an internship at the beginning of this calendar year, in accordance with the program and objectives of the project, with the Province of Cameroon (CMR). In order to put into practice the teaching received, I arrived in the Republic of Cameroon on February 4, 2023.
Besides the joy of meeting the confreres and getting to know their mission, I had the grace, during my stay in Cameroon, to meet the postulants, novices and scholastics in formation in the houses of Bamenda and Ngoya. With them, in line with the last general conference (February 2022) and the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Patronage of St. Joseph (1872-2022), we worked together on elements of Dehon’s social thought.
Indeed, to elaborate and summarize in short, the richness of the social thought of our founder, recounting his zeal, his enthusiasm and his desire to establish the Kingdom of the Sacred Heart in souls and societies, was not an easy task. However, this did not prevent us from emphasizing that the spirituality of the Sacred Heart, as it was lived by Dehon, was manifested as incarnate in his ecclesial and social commitment (cf. Scj General Conference, Final Message, 2022), that the struggle for social justice is part of the Dehonian charism, and that following Dehon’s example, in our commitment to witness Christ and proclaim his Kingdom in souls and societies, we must “think globally and act locally” (cf. Stefan Tertünte, Historical Report: 150 years of the foundation of the patronage of St. Joseph in St. Quentin, 2022).
During the meetings, through the presentation and the sharing that took place, I noted with joy how much our founder is loved and respected by our candidates and confreres. Indeed, Dehon’s whole life, his admirable balance of human virtues, his simplicity, his apostolic zeal, his social commitment and his mystical asceticism are their points of reference, sources of inspiration and example.
I was particularly impressed by their ability to situate and update Dehon’s social thought. In a dynamic fidelity, they could read and reinterpret the social idea of our founder. Indeed, just as Dehon knew how to read and interpret the signs of the times, giving his society an appropriate “remedy”. So we, too, must, in light of the problems and challenges of the present time, with renewed methods, be able to face the ills that afflict our society. Their awareness that Dehon’s initiatives and sensitivity in the area of social commitment are part of the Dehonian charismatic identity gave me great joy.
In addition to this formative experience, which brought me many good things, the opportunity to visit the different communities of the CMR province, to know the confreres and their reality, to participate in their life and activities, to experience concretely what the people live and celebrate the Eucharist with the people of God, it was also an unforgettable experience, a world of information that no book could ever offer.
I am delighted to have had this internship experience. I am immensely grateful for the welcome, care, and hospitality of every colleague I found in Cameroon. I am incredibly grateful to the provincial government of the CMR province, who made this internship possible. I can say that what I brought to Cameroon is minimal to what I learnt and brought to Rome.