The objective of the event was to bring the institutions closer together and discuss common actions and projects.
From September 14 to 16, Brusque hosted the first Meeting of Dehonian Schools in South America. The event, which took place at Casa Padre Dehon, involved eight institutions from Brazil, Chile and Venezuela, which are part of the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (SCJ).
The principal of St. Louis School, which hosted the event, Father Silvano João da Costa, says that the purpose of the meeting was to bring the schools closer together and to discuss common actions and projects based on each school’s reality. “The goal was to get to know and to see each other, as well as to enhance and qualify the work of the other schools from the experiences that each one of them is involved,” says Fr. Silvano.
During the event, the educators immersed themselves in an in-depth study on the experiences of Father John Leo Dehon’s charism, founder of the SCJ Congregation. “Our founder considered the person an integral human being, and values like these were discussed and renewed during the meeting. We want to be a Dehonian school in present times.”
According to the principal, the meeting also made it possible to create bonds and share experiences, as well as strengthening the communion between the institutions.
After three days of intensive discussions and studies, the meeting’s participants outlined resolutions that should keep the institutions close to each other.
One of the main points listed was the creation of a commission capable of meeting periodically to promote projects that express communion and strengthen the Dehonian charism through events, meetings and recordings. “There is the possibility of a Dehonian Educational Guide, which is a pedagogical project to be shared with the other educational institutions.”
Father Silvano also highlights the availability for exchanges between the institutions of the SCJ Congregation in South America, as well as sharing teachers’ experiences virtually.
St. Louis’ principal stated that the wish of all the participants is for the institutions to have a common calendar for the Dehonian schools in South America, thus continuing the process that began during the meeting in Brusque.
“Given the bonds we’ve forged during these days, the suggestions we’ve made and the common ideal we have, it’s possible to embark on a beautiful journey from now on, relying on the contributions that each staff member and student brings to their schools. These contributions can be shared through projects of unity, communion and respect, ensuring to continue one of Dehon’s greatest wishes: to build a civilization of love.”
The institutions that participated in the 1st Meeting of Dehonian Schools in South America are: St. Louis School, from Brusque; Sagrado Corazón Institute, from Chile; Colegio San Juan Evangelista, from Chile; Escuela Técnica Padre Dehon, from Venezuela; Our Lady of Fátima’s Parish School, from Paulista (PE); ESIC School, from Curitiba (PR); Meninos de São Judas Tadeu Institute, from São Paulo (SP) and the Dehonian College of Taubaté (SP).
The superior general of the Congregation attends the meeting
The first Meeting of the Dehonian Schools of South America was attended by the superior general of the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (SCJ), Father Carlos Luis Suarez Codorniú.
Born in the Canary Islands, Spain, Father Carlos worked for 30 years in Venezuela and, in 2018, was elected superior general of the Congregation. He first came to Brusque, in 1990, when he was preparing for his perpetual vows, a stage of religious life. “It was here, at Casa Dehon. It’s a great joy to be back so many years later,” says Fr. Carlos.
He came straight from Rome, where the Congregation is based, to accompany the efforts to bring the SCJ educational institutions in South America closer together. “This is the first time we are working together to build a network capable of sharing ideas, teachers and other professionals in the field of education. This is an important priority in the life of the Church and of society as a whole,” said the Superior General.
According to Fr. Carlos, it is necessary to discuss and strengthen the discussion on how to prepare the children and the youth that South America will need in the future. “We are now educating the men and women of the future. We need to prepare people with heart, sensitivity and Christian inspiration to respond to the challenges of a society that face all sorts of problems. It’s very important that we come closer together because, even in different contexts, we share common goals and challenges.”
The superior general says that, for the SCJ Congregation, it is extremely important to keep the educational centers strong in the same ideal, transmitting the values idealized by Father Dehon. “Working with the new generations means holding the future in our hands. We are aware of the reality, the limitations and the problems, but we must always seek solutions. Youth is always a journey. That’s why, for us in the Congregation, maintaining educational centers around the world is a great gift and a great responsibility, because we commit ourselves to giving the best so that children can give the best of themselves for the good of all,” reflected Fr. Carlos.
Valorization of the educational institutions
Father Silvano says that the presence of the Superior General shows how much the schools are valued by the Congregation. “He is the successor of Father Dehon, and his presence during these days shows to us that we are valued, that the institutions are valued.”
St. Louis’ principal points out that Father Carlos’ presence also increases the responsibility of the work initiated at the meeting. “We are valued and, at the same time, we are held accountable so that we can continue these valuable projects. His presence enriched the event and gave us the certainty that our schools are a priority for our Congregation.”
The meeting explored the “See, Judge and Act” methodology
Father João Carlos Almeida, from Brusque, was also present at the meeting. He is the president of the Dehonian Association of Southern Brazil (ADBM), which manages the educational and social assistance activities of the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He was one of the advisors, along with Father Luís Chocarro Martín.
According to Father João, the meeting adopted the “See, Judge and Act” methodology. On the first day, the participants engaged in the “Seeing” phase, in which they shared the work that is being done in each SCJ school in South America. The second day was dedicated to “Judging”, with the presentation of the Dehonian pedagogy of cordiality in the life of Father Dehon and in recent meetings of Dehonian educators. Finally, the third day was the “Acting” stage, in which the discussions were followed by deliberations for the future.
“We have proposed the creation of a commission or forum, consisting of a group of people who will coordinate the actions of Dehonian education in South America. If approved by the Central Commission in Rome, the project will be launched by the end of the year,” explains Father João.
Another proposal was to promote exchanges between schools and create a digital platform for permanent meetings between teachers, students, staff and parents, so that the Dehonian vision of education remains alive in each school.
Father João also highlights the memorial for the 100th anniversary of Father Dehon’s death, as well as other actions that have already begun to be discussed at the meeting to remember that day.
“We concluded that the year 2025 will be very important for us, as it will be the 100th anniversary of Father Dehon’s death, on August 12, 2025. Until then, this commission will gather suggestions on how to create a week of Dehonian studies, a Dehonian day, a play about the founder’s life, or a Dehonian Educator’s Guide. We will have the time to hold a second Meeting of SCJ Educators in South America, perhaps in 2025”.
A common goal
Father Sildo César da Costa, superior of the Southern Brazil Province (BRM), praises the importance of uniting the institutions for a common goal. “We were able to see the reality of so many educational activities that we have in Latin America and the commitment to evangelization and the formation of people. The event was a chance to share, to appreciate the many beautiful things we do but often don’t realize as we go about our daily lives.”
According to Father Sildo, the meeting in Brusque was an opportunity for educational alignment. “One of the most important things about the meeting is its future outcome: better alignment within a proper Dehonian education. We took the first step towards overcoming barriers, especially in these times where proximity is greater than distance.”
Luís Chocarro Martín, the meeting’s advisor together with Father João Carlos Almeida, also clarifies the purpose of the event, always following the principles of the charism of the SCJ Congregation’s founder. “I see the possibility of working together with a charism as a great opportunity. When we unite our activities, we unite the Dehonian charism, which is the fundamental basis for understanding God’s love in order to transform children and the youth.”