Letter for March 14, 2023, on the anniversary of the birth of Fr. Leo Dehon.
Irpin’ – Kiev, March 10, 2023
To the members of the Congregation
To all the members of the Dehonian Family
In the last few months, three of the religious participating in the program of the Center for Dehonian Studies in Rome have had the opportunity to share what they’ve learned in different places of the Congregation, in particular: Madagascar, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Soon another one will travel to India for the same purpose. Those who have already returned highlighted the interest they found among religious and members of the Dehonian Family in finding out more about Fr. Leo Dehon and his work.
We have also verified this during our visits to the communities of the Congregation. In fact, the general government is often invited to promote periods of study in addition to local initiatives that help to deepen our shared charismatic heritage. Without a doubt such a request requires the best attention and implementation. However, we cannot be satisfied with just a basic training. It is time to go further. In this sense, the desirable horizon to reach is that the most intimate and reflective encounter with Fr. Dehon is part of daily life. How can we motivate ourselves to set times and spaces in our personal and community agenda that allow us to spend more time with him, with his spirituality and his work? How can we foster a more open, friendly, and regular dialogue with him? For this to happen, the road passes through familiarity with his texts and through the fruitful mediation offered by the abundant studies made about his personality and his writings.
In this regard, the current panorama has changed a lot from the one met by our third Superior General, Fr. Teodoro Govaart scj, when in 1942 he invited the Congregation to read the first collections of texts of the Founder in view of the approaching centenary of his birth:
These Extracts are useful, not only for the young people, but also for all our religious… They indeed offer us the opportunity to penetrate into the soul of Father Dehon. It will be a revelation to many. We have attached ourselves to the external side of this great man, to his external behavior and to his work… Who among us has penetrated into his intimate side and thereby tried to make our founder known? Certainly, many of those who would have liked to do so, could not succeed because the sources were not open to them, more exactly, remained impossible to reach.
Currently, quite differently, the sources are open. Today, thanks to the commitment of religious and collaborators dedicated to the study of Fr. Founder, we have so much access that facilitates knowledge of him from different perspectives. Among these, to cite just a few, the testimony of Bishop Laurent Philippe, second Superior General; studies such as those by Fr. André Perroux, Fr. Yves Ledure or the most recent one by Dr. David Neuhold, translated into various languages; didactic elaborations still to be disseminated such as those by Fr. Quinto Ragazzoni or Fr. Paweł Krok. Finally, there is no lack of material. Now that we are approaching the centenary of his death, are we not facing a particularly opportune moment to take advantage of such good resources with more dedication? Where to start?
Fr. Dehon was prolific in his intellectual production and in his apostolate. We know that this is the way he expressed his genuine love for God and his passionate zeal for His Reign in souls and in society. However, his passion also led him to excesses in some of his pages with specific opinions and value judgments that he could well have omitted, pondered better, or expressed in a different way. But even so, the truth is that from his Christian experience, our Founder dared to contemplate, study, think and enter into permanent dialogue with his faith and with his time, marked by the vicissitudes of men and women of all kinds, places and conditions that were in no way alien to him.
His legacy is not of someone self-referential and lost in himself, but that of a sincere seeker who generously invested his talents in the demanding service of the Gospel, in fidelity to the Church and in concrete contributions to society. Indeed, we can say that he learned to listen to and live the Gospel, accepted being a disciple in the Church and a committed citizen in a world that was increasingly in need of love and reparation. On this occasion, the challenge that we want to share with you is not only to read and learn about the Founder’s writings, but to make his way our way of discerning and responding to God’s call; his way of understanding the Church and the world; his way of relating to politics, with workers and businessmen; with children and youth; with ecclesiastics and religious life. What motivated him? What did he intend to do? How does his behavior enlighten us today so that we do not remain indifferent, superficial, or abstracted from what is happening around us? The work and ways of Fr. Dehon still have much to say to us. His word did not pretend to be the last word or final point. Entering into it, on the contrary, means participating in a dynamism that questions life and repeatedly invites a reorientation towards the source that has always sated our thirst, the Heart of Christ:
I review the meditations I wrote about the Triple Crown, I complete them. It is a grace for me. I return to the disposition of an ardent love for the Sacred Heart. It is for me the only way where I can walk a little firmly. The other directions may convince my mind, but they don’t grab me strongly enough. This is my path, this is my vocation. Jesus wants tender love from me or nothing. Love suffices everything for me; it helps me to humble myself, to repent, to follow the counsels of perfection, to keep myself united to Our Lord. This is my salvation, and this is my sanctification.
The celebration of the birth of our Founder motivates us to have a greater interest in his life, his work, and his way of living his Christian commitment. There we will find a good guide to get closer by his hand, with his handwriting and testimony, to the Heart that he loved so much.
In Him, Fraternally
Fr. Carlos Luis Suárez Codorniú, scj
General Superior and his Council
 T.G. Govaart, Lettere circolari III, Bologna 1958, 266.
 La personnalité du très bon père, Dehoniana (2014) 99-106.
 Le témoigne d’une vie, Studia Dehoniana 59, Roma 2014.
 Le Père Léon Dehon 1823-1925. Entre mystique et catholicisme social, Paris 2005.
 Mission und Kirche. Geld und Nation. Vier Perspektiven auf Léon G. Dehon, Gründer del Herz-Jesu-Priester, Bologna 2020.
 “Está todo por hacer”. Infancia y juventud de León Gustavo Dehon.
 La main de Dieu sur l’épaule. Père León Dehon Fondateur de la Congregation des Prêtres du Sacré Coeur.
 NQT 19/67.