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Who Are We?

The Priests of the Sacred Heart (SCJs) is a Catholic religious community of brothers and priests. In some parts of the world we are known as “Dehonians” in reference to our founder, Fr. Leo John Dehon.

Priests of the Sacred Heart > Our History

Our History

Fr. Dehon with early members of the congregation.

Fr. Dehon with early members of the congregation.

The Priests of the Sacred Heart (SCJ) are known in many areas of the world as “Dehonians,” after our founder, Fr. Leo John Dehon.

Our roots are in France, within the crowded factory town of St. Quentin. It is there that our founder was struck by the injustice of poverty and social neglect. His dream was to establish a community committed to continuing Christ’s work of building God’s kingdom of justice and love.

Dehonian priests and brothers have carried the founder’s dream around the world. We are now found in over 40 countries on five continents with our most recent initiatives in places such as Angola, Chad, the Philippines, India, Vietnam, Albania and Ukraine.

What follows are just a few steps along the timeline of the congregation:

July 13, 1877 –– Bishop Thibaudier issues in writing his authorization for Fr. Leo John Dehon to found a religious congregation. The original name of the community was the “Oblates of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”

June 28, 1878 –– On the feast of the Sacred Heart Fr. Dehon makes his first profession of vows; the congregation begins.

Maison du Sacré-Coeur, St. Quentin, France

Maison du Sacré-Coeur, St. Quentin, France

September 14, 1878 –– The first house of the congregation, Maison du Sacré-Coeur, is established in St. Quentin, France. It was the seat of the General Curia until 1903.

June 29, 1880 –– The first priest, Fr. Ernest Jacques Herr, is ordained for the congregation.

February 2, 1883 –– The first house outside of France is established at Sittard (Netherlands). It was an international novitiate and apostolic school.

December 3, 1883 –– The congregation is suppressed; three months later, on March 29, 1884, the Holy See grants authorization to reestablish the congregation but under a new name: “Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus” (Prêtres du Sacré-Coeur).

September 15-16, 1886 –– The first general chapter is held in St. Quentin at St. John’s College.

November 10, 1888 –– Frs. Grison and Blanc are sent to Ecuador as the congregation’s first missionaries. The ministry did not initially take hold; however the congregation returned to Ecuador in 1997.

June 12, 1893 –– Ministry begins in northern Brazil; the first house is established in Camaragibe (Pemambuco).

Fr. Dehon with the congregation's first missionaries

Fr. Dehon with the congregation’s first missionaries

July 6, 1897 –– Frs. Grison and Lux sail to the Congo, arriving in Stanley Falls on October 17, 1897.

April 1, 1903 –– By decree of the French government the congregation is dissolved in the country and religious are expelled from their houses. On April 4 the Holy See granted permission for the congregation to transfer its General Curia from France to Brussels.

July 4, 1906 –– The Holy See approves the congregation definitively, and its Constitutions for ten years.

August 17, 1907 –– The General Council accepts the mission of Finland. In 1911 SCJs are expelled, but return in 1921.

September 8, 1907 –– The congregation begins ministry in Italy with the opening of a school in Albino.

October 6, 1908 –– The congregation divides into two provinces: the Western and Eastern Provinces.

April, 1910 –– Four SCJs go to Canada to begin the congregation’s presence in North America. The first house is established in Wainwright, Alberta. This initial effort stalled after a few years but the congregation returned to Canada in 1948, focusing on ministry in Quebec and Ontario.

April 25, 1910 –– The congregation requests permission from the Holy See to start a mission in Cameroon. German SCJs began ministry there in 1912.

April 8, 1911 –– The Western Province is divided into two: the Dutch and the French-Belgian Provinces. The Eastern Province becomes known as the German Province.

1916 –– German SCJ missionaries go to Spain. The first house of the congregation is established in 1919 in Puente la Reina, Navarra.

Fr. Mathias Fohrman, first SCJ to minister in the US

Fr. Mathias Fohrman, first SCJ to minister in the US

1919 –– Fr. Fohrman of the German Province goes to the United States to raise funds for the German Province. In 1923 he accepts a mission in Lower Brule, SD, and establishes the first SCJ presence in the United States.

May 18, 1920 –– In the presence of Fr. Dehon, the foundation stone of the Church of the Sacred Heart of Christ the King is laid in Rome.

December 2, 1920 –– The Italian Province is created; previously Italian SCJs had been a part of the French-Belgian Province.

December 5, 1923 –– The Holy See gives final approval to the SCJ Constitutions.

December 27, 1923 –– The apostolic prefecture of Benkoelen on the island of Sumatra is established and entrusted to the Dutch Province. This is the congregation’s first entry into Asia.

August 12, 1925 –– Fr. Leo John Dehon dies in Brussels. The size of the congregation at his death is 696 members plus 76 novices.

October 31, 1926 –– The General Curia is transferred to Rome.

1927 –– The former Columbus College in Chamberlain, SD, is purchased by the congregation. It is renovated and becomes St. Joseph’s Indian School.

September 1, 1928 –– With the opening of a house in Cracow the congregation enters Poland.

Early seminarians on Monastery Lake

Early seminarians on Monastery Lake

July 1, 1929 –– Sacred Heart Monastery is dedicated in Hales Corners (Milwaukee) by Msgr. Traudt.

October 1, 1930 –– The French-Belgian Province is divided into the French and the Belgian-Luxembourg Provinces.

April 1, 1932 –– The Finnish Region is erected and placed under the jurisdiction of the Dutch Province. In 1997, jurisdiction moves to the Polish Province.

April 25, 1934 –– North American Province and the South Brazilian Provinces are established; they were previously under the jurisdiction of the German Province.

1936 –– The congregation establishes a presence in England.

1938 –– Dehonians take root in Argentina. Although two Spanish SCJ priests had been in the country since 1936 it was in 1938 that the congregation officially sent two groups, one Dutch and one Italian.

March 12, 1938 –– The North Brazilian Province is established, separated from the jurisdiction of the Dutch Province.

November 9, 1940 –– The congregation accepts a parish in Montevideo, the first SCJ presence in Uruguay.

1943 –– St. Joseph’s parish in Holly Springs is entrusted to the Priests of the Sacred Heart; ministry begins in Mississippi.

January 10, 1947 –– Three new provinces are established: the English Province, the Spanish Province and the Polish Province.

March 27, 1947 –– Italian SCJs begin ministry in Mozambique.

October 17, 1947 –– The congregation establishes a school on the island of Madeira in Portugal. Later that year the first SCJ house is established in Lisbon.

Bishop Joseph Potocnak celebrates a home Mass in South Africa. Originally from the US Province, the retired bishop spent most of his religious life in Africa.

Bishop Joseph Potocnak celebrates a home Mass in South Africa. Originally from the US Province, the retired bishop spent most of his religious life in Africa.

1948 –– The US Province sends its first foreign missionaries to Africa.

1950 –– The congregation officially begins ministry in Chile; SCJs had been in the country since 1948.

1953 –– The first SCJ house is established in Venezuela (Caracas), by two Spanish priests.

1959 –– Fr. Joseph DePalma of the US Province is elected the fifth superior general during the 14th General Chapter. He was the first and only member of the US Province to serve as superior general.

May 1, 1960 –– The Italian Province is divided into two (North and South).

February 1, 1962 –– Two vice-provinces are created as offshoots from the North American Province: the Anglo Canadian and French Canadian Vice Provinces. The Indonesian Vice Province is created as an offshoot from the Dutch Province.

July 1, 1964 –– The Province of Congo is erected.

November, 1964 –– 27 Dehonian missionaries are killed during uprisings in Congo.

December 27, 1966 –– The Portuguese Province is erected, separated from the jurisdiction of the North Italian Province.

1968 –– The new Sacred Heart Monastery/Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology campus is dedicated in Hales Corners (Milwaukee), WI.

1970 –– The congregation begins ministry in Scotland (Kilwinning).

October 6-13, 1971 –– The congregation holds a conference of major superiors in Hales Corners, WI.

 

Holy Saturday at Our Lady of Guadalupe, Houston

Holy Saturday at Our Lady of Guadalupe, Houston

 

1973 –– Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in Houston is entrusted to the Priests of the Sacred Heart.

May 2, 1974 –– The three vice provinces of Anglo Canada, French Canada and Indonesia are raised to the status of provinces.

1974 –– Dehonians go to Lesotho to run a technical school in the southern African country.

1982 –– A new mission statement for the US Province is approved by the 9th Provincial Chapter.

March 14, 1982 –– The Holy See approves the text of the new Constitutions, drafted in accordance with the norms of the Second Vatican Council.

May 8, 1983 –– The Argentine-Uruguay Province is established, separated from the jurisdiction of the North Italian Province.

1986 –– The English as a Second Language program (ESL) is established at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology.

August 1, 1986 –– Polish SCJs begin ministry in Croatia.

1988 –– Maison Dehon, the first AIDS hospice in Quebec, opens.

May 17, 1989 –– The first SCJs arrive in the Philippines.

Sacred Heart Shrine

Sacred Heart Shrine

1989 –– The first feast-day Mass is held at the Sacred Heart Shrine on the grounds of Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology.

July 1, 1990 –– Polish SCJs begin ministry in Belorus.

December 8, 1990 –– Polish SCJs begin ministry in Moldova.

November 2, 1991 –– Dehonians from the South Italian Province begin ministry in Albania.

December 19, 1991 –– The Province of Chile is established, separated from the jurisdiction of the Dutch Province.

March 14, 1992 –– The Region of Maranhão is erected, falling under the jurisdiction of the South Brazilian Province.

May 10-20, 1994 –– The 5th General Conference is held in Hales Corners, WI.

October 6, 1994 –– The SCJ presence begins in India.

November 28, 1994 –– The regions of Aliwal and De Aar merge to form the South African Province. The SCJ presence in these two regions had been under the jurisdiction of the German Province (Aliwal) and the US Province (De Aar).

November 30, 1995 –– The Cameroon Province is erected, separated from the jurisdiction of the French Province.

January 1, 1996 –– The Austria-Croatia Region is erected, falling under the jurisdiction of the German Province.

August 1, 1996 –– Polish SCJs begin ministry in Slovakia.

August 1, 1997 –– Polish SCJs begin ministry in Ukraine.

March 14, 1998 –– The Mozambique Province is established, separated from the jurisdiction of the North Italian Province.

Fr. Michael, an SCJ priest in India, talks with parishioners after Mass.

Fr. Michael, an SCJ priest in India, talks with parishioners after Mass.

May 1, 1999 –– The District of India is established, and the French and Luxembourg-Walloon Provinces merge to become the Franco-European Province.

May 31, 1999 –– The Philippine District is erected.

March 11, 2001 –– Blessed Mariano Juan de la Cruz García Méndez becomes the first Dehonian beatified.

June 7, 2002 –– The two provinces of Canada merge to become the Canadian Region.

March 15, 2003 – Dehonians begin ministry in Angola.

August 17, 2003 –– The Venezuelan Region is erected as an entity separate from the Spanish Province.

February 17, 2004 –– Dehonians establish a presence in Vietnam.

August 14, 2010 –– The congregation begins ministry in Paraguay.

October 10, 2010 –– The congregation begins ministry in Chad; the presence falls under the jurisdiction of the Cameroon Province.

2011 –– The SCJ wing of Sacred Heart at Monastery Lake opens.

2012 –– The public apartments at Sacred Heart at Monastery Lake are opened for rental to those 55 and above.

May, 2015 –– Fr. Heiner Wilmer, SCJ, is elected the 10th superior general of the Priests of the Sacred Heart

August, 2015 –– Fr. Edward Kilianski, SCJ,is elected as the 15th provincial superior of the US Province of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.

US Province administration: Fr. Christianus Hendrik, Fr. Quang Nguyen, Fr. Ed Kilianski (provincial superior), Fr. Jack Kurps, Br. Frank Snider and Fr. Duy Nguyen

US Province administration: Fr. Christianus Hendrik, Fr. Quang Nguyen, Fr. Ed Kilianski (provincial superior), Fr. Jack Kurps, Br. Frank Snider and Fr. Duy Nguyen

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