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Migration continues to be top priority in North America

by on Oct.18, 2017, under Feature Stories

Representatives of the North American councils

North American leadership meets in Montréal

Twice a year the administrations of the US Province and Canadian Region meet together to discuss common concerns, areas of collaboration, and update each other on the people and ministries of each entity. The fall meeting took place October 16-17 in Montréal, beginning with a catered evening meal with the local community.

A Dehonian Spiritual Culture

One of the first presentations of the meeting was on last summer’s Dehonian Theological Seminar, “Charism and Devotions: Towards and Inculturated Dehonian Identity.” All four members of the North American Theological Commission (Fr. Charles Brown, Fr. Gustave Lulendo, Fr. Zbigniew Morawiec and Fr. John van den Hengel) took part in the gathering.

In preparation for the seminar each entity asked its membership to complete a survey designed to help seminar organizers better understand how SCJs link their Dehonian identity with devotions both on a personal and communal level. Sr. Nikla Spezzati, who has served with the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, reviewed and summarized the survey responses. Fr. John shared her findings with the councils.

Receiving the report from the theological conference

She said that there is a spiritual vitality present among Dehonians; they are spiritual men and spiritual teachers, mystics of charity, of “pure love” based in Fr. Dehon’s experience. To live the Dehonian charism, the voice of “pure love,” SCJs must be truly touched by the situation of the poor, seek dialogue with a variety of cultures, give testimony to living together in community, and live a vocation that is an example of joy, of a fruitful life based in love.

Sr. Nikla reinforced the concept that “Love is at the core of our charism,” said Fr. John.

Discussion of how the Dehonian charism is inculturated around the world led to reflection on how inculturation works in community. Increasingly, internationality is becoming the norm in local SCJ communities. Dehonians from Asia, Africa, South America and Europe are now vital members of the congregation’s presence in North America.

“As we become more international we need to be mindful that inculturation is a two-way street,” said Fr. Quang Nguyen. “We need to welcome and be welcomed.”

And most importantly, as the cultural face of the congregation changes, “we need to continue the discussion of who we are and what our charism is,” said Fr. John. Regardless of who is a Dehonian and in what countries the congregation is based, there needs to be a sense of what a Dehonian is. What is the charism of the founder and how is it expressed regardless of cultural identity?

Migration and Immigration

Fr. Richard and Fr. Quang

A continuing priority for SCJs in North America is migration. The councils affirmed the work of the North American Migration Commission, noting the presentations that the commission facilitated at both the US and Canadian Assemblies. Sr. Norma Pimentel, MJ, executive director of Catholic Charities in the Rio Grande Valley spoke of her work with refugees at the Mexican-American border, and Barbara Graham, director of Legal Services for Immigrants for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, presented the many challenges that immigrants face in pursuing legal residence in the United States. A video of Sr. Norma’s talk at the US assembly was shared at the Canadian gathering. Also in Canada, SCJs heard about Canadian immigration and refugee policies from Joe Gunn, executive director of Citizens for Public Justice.  

Members of the Ottawa community spoke about their past year with a Syrian family sponsored by the community. In the Canadian Region SCJs have made a commitment to sponsor refugees.

“It is important that this work [addressing migration and immigration] isn’t just a task that we give to a committee,” said a councilor. “Migration is a priority issue for Dehonians in North America. It should be a part of our ministry, the focus of our pastoral work. How do we, as entities in North America and in local communities concretely address this issue?”

Seeking ways to have a Dehonian response to migration and immigration concerns will continue to be a priority for SCJs in North America.

Other topics addressed at the North American meeting included vocations, the North American retreats, the Dehonian Family, communications and the 2018 General Conference.

The councils will next meet in Hales Corners, Wis., on April 9.



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