Fr. Zénon Sendeke, SCJ, died April 28; he suffered a severe stroke several days earlier. The first Congolese Dehonian to serve as provincial superior of the Congolese Province, he was 64. Many in both Canada and the United States knew Fr. Zénon. In the US Province, he traveled with members of the Province Development Office, sharing with benefactors stories of the SCJs’ ministry in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Fr. Zénon practically grew up with the Priests of the Sacred Heart. When he was seven, his family moved to Kinshasa (then known as “Leopoldville”), the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. There, his family attended St. Clement parish, which was staffed by the SCJs. Always active in the parish, Fr. Zénon said that even as a young boy he thought about a vocation to the priesthood. “Then I did not know the difference between a religious priest and a diocesan, I just wanted to be a priest,” he said.
“But slowly I discovered the spirituality of the Priests of the Sacred Heart,” he continued. In particular, it was the example of one of the SCJ priests at his parish, Fr. Franciszek Sleczka, that motivated him. “I was struck by his attention to youth, the sick and the poor. He lived what Fr. Dehon asked of his priests: to get out of the sacristies and go to the people. The area of the city where St. Clement is located was in very bad shape, but the challenges did not stop him. I saw how much he loved people and how good he was.
“I thought, ‘Why not be like him? Why not become a Priest of the Sacred Heart and live this spirituality?’”
Click here to read more from an interview with Fr. Zénon which was done in 2012.
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