Our founder, Father Leo John Dehon, believed that we best respond to God’s love by trying to meet the needs of those around us. His humble spirit led to this philosophy: priests are not just restricted to the churches.
Father Leo John Dehon was born in LaChapelle, in the Diocese of Soissons, France, on March 14, 1843. After completing his classical studies, he studied law at the Sorbonne University in Paris and graduated with high honors at the age of twenty.
Although his family wanted him to practice law, he wanted to pursue a vocation to the priesthood, a call he had felt since his youth. On a trip through the Near East, when he was visiting Palestine, he experienced the call of God very strongly and made plans to enter the seminary.
Leo John Dehon went to Rome where he studied at the Gregorian University and at the Apollinare. He completed studies in philosophy, theology and church law, earning a doctorate in each of these fields.
“I would like to see no one come to us who does not leave a better person. Is not the special grace of the Priests of the Sacred Heart to touch the hearts of all?”
On December 19, 1868, he was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Soissons. His first assignment was to serve as a clerk at the First Vatican Council. When he returned to the Diocese, he was appointed to serve in the parish in Saint Quentin.
He was shocked at the conditions of the working people and reached out to help them in many ways. He believed that we best respond to God’s love by trying to meet the needs of those around us.
Father Dehon jumped into his work with enthusiasm. During his six years in St. Quentin he brought about significant changes. Bringing workers and factory owners together, he initiated dialogue that eventually led to better economic and social conditions for employees. He developed a newspaper, opened an orphanage and school — all the while continuing his duties as a parish priest.
Throughout these busy years, Fr. Dehon’s desire to become a member of a religious community grew. With the permission of his bishop, Fr. Dehon founded the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart on June 28, 1878. Among his most cherished apostolates, he listed:
- Promoting devotion to the Sacred Heart through love and reparation
- Educating seminarians
- Offering assistance to local clergy
- Working in the foreign missions
As with every work of God, this new religious community had to surmount innumerable trials which Father Dehon accepted as God’s will. Strengthened by his confidence in the love of the Sacred Heart, Father Dehon continued his work. His Congregation grew throughout Europe, then to North and South America, as well as to mission fields in Africa.
A tireless worker on behalf of the missions, working people and the young, he preached without ceasing the message of God’s love and called upon us to return that love through lives of love and reparation. After a life of holiness, Father Dehon died in Brussels, Belgium, on August 12, 1925. Moments before he died, Father Dehon pointed to a statue of the Sacred Heart and said: “For Him I lived, and for Him I die.”
On April 8, 1997, Pope John Paul II declared that he had lived a life of heroic virtue.
Prayer for the Beatification of the Venerable Leo John Dehon
We give You thanks, Heavenly Father, that through Your Servant, Leo John Dehon, You desired to enrich Your Church with a new grace, calling Your children to be prophets of love and ministers of reconciliation in the Heart of Your Son.
If it be Your will, grant that the Church might beatify Leo John Dehon for the glory of Your Name and for the example which he gives to Your people.
Grant that his path be followed by many holy followers who will carry, from one end of the world to the other, the love of the Heart of Christ, the inexhaustible fountain of salvation.
To You be praise and glory, forever and ever.
Prayer Seeking the Intercession of the Venerable Leo John Dehon
Heavenly Father, after the example of Leo John Dehon, grant us the grace to live lives of love and reparation.
Help us to live in such a way that Your reign of love will be firmly established in our hearts. Father, we ask You to hear our special prayer today (here mention your requests) through the intercession of Your servant, Leo John Dehon.
Grant that we might be Your faithful servants and that we might enjoy everlasting life with You forever and ever.
If you receive a special favor through the intercession of the Venerable Leo John Dehon, please notify:
Father Dominic, SCJ
PO Box 900
Hales Corners, WI 53130-0900