We publish here the letter of invitation that the Bishop of Trondheim Msgr. Erik Varden wrote to the Dehonians. The letter is followed by a report of the bishop's visit to the Dehonians in the Generalate community
It was thanks to my acquaintance with Mgr Heiner Wilmer, bishop of Hildesheim and former superior general of the Dehonians, that I came to discover the congregation personally. Previously, I had chiefly associated it with the Edizioni Dehoniane. When I began my ministry as bishop of Trondheim October 2020, I was faced with a pressing need for priests. The Priests of the Sacred Heart came to mind. The first post-Reformation Catholic clergy to minister in Trondheim had been, as it happens, members of a congregation founded under the same patronage of the Sacred Heart; and the first modern Catholic church in Trondheim, consecrated in 1881, was a Church of the Sacred Heart.
I wrote to the Superior General, Fr Carlos Luís Suárez Codorniú, after Christmas in 2020, thinking I might receive an answer within a month or two — I could imagine the mass of mail he receives. Within a few days, however, a cordial response arrived in an email that carried the to me extraordinary title, ‘Return to Norway?’ Fr Carlos included passages from the memoirs of Fr Dehon recounting his visit to Trondheim in 1863. ‘Trondheim’, he noted there, ‘was once a holy city. Countless miracles were wrought at the tomb of St Olav in the cathedral. […] I will pray wholeheartedly to St Olav for the conversion of these good Norwegian people.’ Could it be that, 160 years later, his desire to send missionary priests to Norway might be realised?
A conversation began, first with Fr Carlos, then with his council and the brethren of the Generalate in Rome. From the outset, I have appreciated the thoroughness of the congregation’s discernment and our good, frank exchanges. In the summer of 2021 Fr Eduardo Pugliesi SCJ spent some weeks in Norway to get an impression of people and places. He has written an account of this time. I rejoice that the congregation has now decided to form a community in our midst. Many, here, rejoice with me. The brethren will be warmly welcome.
The Catholic Church in our prelature is still young if we count back to its refoundation. Its roots, however, run deep. In the Middle Ages, Trondheim was the country’s capital city and home to the Metropolitan See, the centre of a vast territory embracing Iceland, Greenland, and the Scottish Isles. Countless pilgrims made their way to the tomb of St Olav, as readers of Kristin Lavransdatter, the novel by Sigrid Undset, a Nobel laureate, will remember. Today, our Catholic community is fairly small; but it is marked by its vitality, youth — and internationalism. Some 130 nationalities are present among us. It is our task and mission to prove that out of such diversity, real unity can ensue in Christ. I joyfully welcome the Priests of the Sacred Heart and look forward to our joint venture. May the Lord be pleased to bless it and make it bear fruit for his kingdom.
+fr Erik Varden, Bishop of Trondheim
Bishop Erik Varden visits the International College community.
by Emmanuel Nanduri SCJ and Yudistro SCJ
As I look back to mid-june 2022, I recall the memory of the proposal when I was asked to prepare a brief presentation on behalf of the Dehonian Study Centre on 15 October 2022, the day of the visit of his eminence of Trondheim: Mgr. Erik Varden O.C.S.O, along with six of his diocesan priests.
As usual, summer in Rome is always packed with various linguistic, cultural and pastoral activities besides sometime to rest and relax. As the new academic year began to bloom towards the end of September, the CSD team started to prepare the event to collect the materials and the information on the visit of Fr. Dehon to Norway and his memoirs regarding Trondheim; to search for the pics related with the presentation; and, to have some of the perspectives of the Congregation towards mission based on the previous General Chapter and the General Conference.
At the end of the day, the team came up with the theme “SCJ: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow”. The first was about the biography of the founder Fr. Leo John Dehon and the foundation of the Congregation. The second was about the Dehonian Presence in the world, its spirituality and apostolate. While, the third part emphasised the perspectives about (new) mission, moreover, the vision (of Dehon) and mission (of Dehonians) in Norway.
At last, the day began with the arrival of his eminence along with his priests at 11 a.m. in the second floor at Sala Raduni. There were also present Rev. Fr. Carlos Luis Suarez SCJ (General Superior) and his council besides the CSD team, where we had an ice-breaking with coffee. We moved from there to Sala Conferenza for a brief presentation prepared by CSD team, which was followed by a mutual interaction and comments based on the presentation. Records of the writings of the founder regarding Trondheim moreover the spirituality of the Sacred Heart present since decades in the diocese of Trondheim and its bond with us, Dehonians, are much appreciated. His eminence and his team expressed their interest to collaborate with Dehonians in their land to promote the Sacred Heart spirituality and the Eucharistic Adoration.
After the meeting, everyone of us was led towards Dehonian Museum to have a short visit to the relics of our Founder and our Blessed Juan Maria de la Cruz. Then, we moved to the main Chapel, where we knelt and prayed for our mission in Norway with an episcopal blessing by his graces Erik Varden. After the prayer, His eminence gifted a picture of St. Olaf to Rev. Fr. Carlos. And, we, in exchange, gifted a bundle of the books of our Founder and our spirituality to his eminence; a copy of the short biography of our founder to each priest of the diocese. It was followed by a fellowship meal with the community and a photo session at the entrance.
A token of gratitude and a word of appreciation, especially, to Fr. Stephen Huffstetter Scj, who organized the event with the collaboration of CSD team.