Editorial “The Secular Branch of the religious Institute of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and of Perpetual Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar is an Association of Christ's Faithful, whose members share in the charism and in the mission of the Institute, according to their own vocation.” So begins the decree of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life approving the Statutes of the ss.cc. Secular Branch, issued June 29, 1993. The decree closes with the statement, “May the members of the Secular Branch, animated by the same spirit of the Brothers and Sisters of the religious Institute of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and of Perpetual Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, direct their lives and their particular mission in the world, according to their Statutes, and so strive for the perfection of their state.”
Thus began the institutional Church’s recognition of laity who have been associated with our ss.cc. Congregation since its inception, offering those who feel called to a deeper commitment to our vocation and mission a canonical structure of “belonging”. More than twelve years have now passed since this “third branch” of the congregational tree was officially begun. In this, the last issue of Com-Union for this sexenium, we have been able to collect the lived experiences of some of our lay brothers and sisters committed to the Secular Branch around the world.
“The fact of being a lay member of the ss.cc., of knowing the charism, makes us think about life, and the mission to one’s neighbor and the responsibility of building a more fraternal world,” writes Leonardo Rios of Brazil. As witnesses to the ss.cc. charism several Secular Branch members share with us their personal calls to a vocation in the Secular Branch. They recount the many ways in which they live out the charism in their daily lives of work, prayer, family and participating in the various ss.cc. apostolates. And, they relate their hopes and dreams for the future of the Secular Branch in their sectors and in the world. We hope that their testimonies can revive, in us, the strength and vitality of our Vocation and Mission.
Following a host of personal testimonies, a couple of our Secular Branch coordinators and local leaders were invited to chronicle the history of the Secular Branch development in their sector or community. And, Aileen Kupihea, coordinator of the Hawaii sector shares her experience of Picpus 2005. Together with our brothers and sisters of the Secular Branch, we can give thanks for this gift of God, our ss.cc. Charism that was confided to us and for which we are together responsible. May we better understand and complement one another in order to live and proclaim the impenetrable richness of God’s love in our world today.
While the issue is dedicated to our Secular Branch we give some voice to members of the other two branches of the Congregation. In their opening letters, Jeanne Cadiou, ss.cc. and Enrique Losada, ss.cc. give some broad perspectives on the development of the Secular Branch whose beginnings coincide with their two mandates as Superiors General. Fernando Geraldo da Silva, ss.cc. and Lolín Traver, ss.cc. share their enriching experience as members of the ss.cc. Lay Team in Brazil, and Vicente Hernández, ss.cc.writes as a brother who “accompanies” the Secular Branch there. In closing, Alphonse Fraboulet, ss.cc. shares the thoughts of the joint Secular Branch Commission of the two General Governments, and we offer a short resume of the life of St. John Francis Regis, patron of the Secular Branch.
Not forgetting that in this year of 2006 we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the statue of Our Lady of Peace at Picpus, we add a short section dedicated to her image. The first, is a personal reflection on the image of Our Lady of Peace written by Bishop Larry Silva, Bishop of Honolulu. He was recently appointed bishop of the diocese in July 2005. The territory of the diocese was the first mission of our Congregation and placed under the patronage of Our Lady of Peace. In a second short article, Sr. Marie Chantal Chesnel, ss.cc. informs us of the renewal of the image and her place in the Chapel at Picpus.
Finally, the Communications Center team wishes to express its deepest gratitude to the lay associates and friends, sisters and brothers who have generously responded to our requests over the past four years - eight issues of Com-Union. Without their availability to write, edit and translate as a part of our extended team, these issues would not have been published. We hope that we have fulfilled the goal of our two General Governments in publishing a joint review, in the three official languages of the Congregation, promoting reflection and exchange of experiences within the Congregation and also being useful outside of the Congregation.
Communications Center of the Brothers and Sisters
Rome, May 2006
LETTERS FROM THE SUPERIORS GENERAL Letter from Jeanne Cadiou Dear ss.cc. laity, brothers and sisters,
The general secretaries sent me a letter at the end of January and asked me, to share my experience of what I have seen, known and understood about the Secular Branch during my twelve years of “roman” service, in this, the last issue of ComUnion to appear before the General Chapter I have allowed myself to broaden the horizons a bit, I think that they won’t mind...
The first thing that has come to mind are the phrases contained in the message which John Paul II addressed to the International Congress on Consecrated Life in November 2004. He says to us: “Continue to give yourselves for the world, always conscious that the only way of measuring love is to love without measure. Communicate this special love for the least among us to all those that you meet, and in particular to the lay people who ask to share in your charism and mission”. If I have tried to do this throughout the years, it is because I have seen during my visits that there are lots of lay people who are friends of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts throughout the world. These “citizens of the world” have various types of contact with our religious family. There are those who have relationships that are friendly or neighborly; there are those who collaborate in works as teachers or employees in “our” schools or pastoral workers; there are also those who share in our charism, who pray with us, who deepen our ss.cc. spirituality and those who are involved in the mission with their own particular vocation.
I have met plenty of lay groups and I have been struck by what I have discovered: an extreme variety of economic or social situations, a great diversity of culture and mentality, of preoccupations or quite simply of life styles. Among these groups I have met former pupils, university teachers, agricultural workers, nurses, office workers, mothers and fathers of families, white people, black people, young and not so young, retired people and students..
I have always been convinced that the relationship between brothers-sisters-laity, like the charism of the “Sacred Hearts”, is not for the sole use of the family but is a “gift for the Church”. That is why, here and there, I like to remind the members of the Secular Branch that, whether they recognize, or whether others recognize the ss.cc. charism in them, their commitment is not for themselves alone but for God and for His plan of love for humanity. In the meetings between the brothers, sisters and laity, I have noticed that we are feeling our way forward together, towards unity in ideas and pastoral activity. Gradually the sharing of the charism and prayer, based on a mutual respect and the overcoming of prejudices towards each other, is coming to light. I am convinced that several of our religious communities, thanks to the laity, are more open to the problems of the world instead of wasting their time and energy on internal questions.
And then of course, the great contribution of the ss.cc. laity to the ss.cc. religious life has been the translation of the charism into a new language, a different format which enriches it and opens it to new horizons. Everywhere I have witnessed that the brothers, sisters and laity are happy to meet up with each other to socialize, to pray, to get to know each other better and come to be able to share life, its joys and failures, and to support each other out of the same vocation-mission. The desire to meet as laity, religious brothers and sisters and the search to share the same responsibility in the face of the mission and the challenges of the world, is a rich experience which helps us to strengthen our charismatic identity and helps the renewal of religious life. In this “sharing of gifts” the ss.cc. family is creating a new face for itself, as beautiful and without doubt more expressive because it is more complete.
I would like, here, to invite all those who would like to build on their relations with the Congregation, with respect for the different states of life and family life, to think of new ways of action and service, to intensify their prayer life and to make the tenderness of the hearts of Jesus and Mary known.
Jeanne Cadiou, ss.cc.
Letter from Enrique Losada
Dear brothers and sisters,
In their request for me to write the letter, this time the editors of Com-Union asked me to try to respond a series of questions, therefore I will stick to those questions.
In the first, I was asked to evaluate the Secular Branch. They have not given any criteria for making the evaluation; so I will do it in a very free format. Perhaps, the aspect that most gets my attention in evaluating the Secular Branch is the capacity that our Congregation’s Charism has for illuminating and inspiring lay commitments or, more properly speaking, secular commitments, in so many and such different parts of the World. The history of the Congregation shows that “since its origin the Congregation has had a secular branch…”2, therefore we should be accustomed to recognizing the capacity that the ss.cc. Charism has for awakening its own vocations within the Church; vocations to religious profession, vocations within the secular life, women’s vocations, and men’s vocations … The Secular Branch of our time inherits a tradition. But, at the same time it embodies a way of living out the consequences of Baptism, in this epoch, from a particular reading of the Gospel. That reading is the fruit of the gift that God gave the Church through Pierre Coudrin and Henriette Aymer de la Chevalerie. This is made concrete, in a particular way, in contemplating, living and announcing to the world the Love of God that was made flesh in Jesus, and to which Mary has been associated in a singular way.
They asked me about my view of the development of the Secular Branch over the past twelve years, that is, in the time during which I was called to exercise the service of general authority. Certainly my election took place barely a year after the Statutes of the Secular Branch were approved by the Holy See. In their letter of presentation for those Statutes, the Superiors General at the time recognized that one of the reasons guiding their development was to offer “a structure of belonging” to all of the lay people, who, being in contact with our Congregation in so many different places, “wish to share the richness and the support of our charism in a real communion.”3
I am convinced that, during this time in which I have had to exercise this leadership in the congregational community, one of the most marked characteristics has been, without a doubt, some growth and development in the Secular Branch; and at the same time the interest that it has awakened in some of the brothers and sisters of the Congregation. Certainly, I have to recognize that one aspect as much as the other is evaluated differently among the brothers; and that not all of them coincide in the kind of approach they have to this phenomenon. However, no one will be able to deny that both are there. In this sense, if I have to respond to the question about the successes of the Secular Branch, I would say that its development is, in and of itself, its greatest success. That is to say, the fact that the “structure of belonging”, mentioned in the presentation, has aroused a significant secular movement around the Congregation is surely its greatest success.
In responding to the question on the difficulties, I would say that these are in that same structure, too. The fact that the Secular Branch has a juridical framework, regulated by Canon Law in terms of “third orders”, has consequences that are not always sufficiently understood. And, perhaps these could produce certain annoyances among its members, and also between the religious brothers and sisters. On the other hand, to think that the only possible secular link with the Congregation might be the Secular Branch is an extreme that we should always avoid, and in this way, find the true place of this branch within the Congregation and in relation to the Congregation’s Mission.
From here, one of the most important challenges that I see for the future of the Secular Branch is seeking and finding the most suitable paths for living their condition as secular laity from the Congregation’s Charism with all of its consequences; being truly useful to the Church and the world. I am convinced that, in this search, the Secular Branch will always find the fraternal support of the religious members of the Congregation.
With your permission, readers of Com-Union, I direct these few lines specifically to the members of the Secular Branch and all of those women and men who are getting ready to be a part of it. My fifty year relationship to the Congregation, nearly forty of which are as a professed religious member, leads me to say to you that the Congregation’s Charism is truly a gift that God has given to His Church. I don't believe that the only way of living and being inspired by it is through religious profession. I am convinced that this gift has the capacity to mobilize human energies, in a very deep way, for the good of the Church and society. You, secular brothers and sisters, who feel called to live from this inspiration, live your commitment with happiness and enthusiasm and know that you will always find encouragement and help in the Congregation. Mutual understanding and valuation are not always easy between the different vocations; however the difficulty should daunt neither one nor the other. Courage and onward! May the Lord bless us all!
Enrique Losada, ss.cc.
Honolulu, HI, U.S.A.
My name is Brian Apo, and I am with the Secular Branch in Honolulu, Hawaii. For quite some time, my family has witnessed the benevolence of the charism of the Sacred Hearts order in Hawaii. Both the Sacred Hearts and Sisters of the Third Franciscan Order of Syracuse have played decisive roles in our family history. My maternal grandparents were both descendents of leprosy patients who lived at Kalaupapa, Island of Molokai, in the mid to late 1800's.
My involvement with the Secular Branch came about after being a member of the Associates. Growing up on the island of Maui, I was exposed to the charism through the various ss.cc. fathers serving the area. As a volunteer at St. Francis Medical Center in Honolulu, I am able to share the love of Jesus and Mary by listening, encouraging and supporting persons who are suffering or in distress.
In tribute to, and with deep respect for the members of the Sacred Hearts Congregation, I would like to share a quote taken from our family genealogy:
“From 1866, sufferers from Hansen's Disease were isolated by law, there on Kalaupapa. Annie Po'ai's mother, Keohokalole, was isolated here with her kokua (caregiver), David Po'aimoku. Annie Keoho (my mother's grandmother) was one of several children born to this couple, but the children were removed from Kalaupapa, and raised in an orphanage for non-leprous children in Honolulu, run by the Franciscan Nuns. This is where Annie Keoho was also educated. She was trained as a nurse-assistant by the nuns, and eventually went to work at Maluhia (quiet peace) Hospital; she met Ichisaburo Nakata a.k.a. Masaji Enomoto. They subsequently married, and raised their family on Maui. Annie had a deep respect for Father Damien, the priest who provided physical and spiritual care to the lepers of Kalaupapa, primarily her mother. She taught her own children about Damien's love of God, and his service to his fellow human beings. The children all developed a deep affection for Fr. Damien. Her children subsequently contributed funds, along with many others, to have a statue of Fr. Damien erected at the Holy Rosary Church parish grounds in Paia, Maui. That statue still stands today, a beautiful memorial tribute to a man of God.”
MARIA ELVIRA MARCINARI DA SILVA
Campinas, (SP), Brazil
As an adolescent I participated in the Eucharistic Crusade that was stopped after Vatican Council II, a time which left things so uncertain. We no longer had scheduled times for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, visits, and other services.
In and of itself, my call started with a direct invitation from Father Paulo Dekker, ss.cc., (a priest of the Congregation, who was a member of the formation team in Campinas in 1991).
In the beginning, my response to the invitation was out of curiosity. But in the first meeting I realized that I could recover what I had left behind. Thus, in the formation I was learning things about the founders, (Father Damien, Father Eustáquio) and their zeal toward the Eucharist and especially toward humankind.
At each meeting I was enthused by all that was shared and I felt that I was recovering my values and their meaning, but with the specific of the “Charism of the Sacred Hearts.”
Knowing the Congregation was also meeting brothers, united in one heart before the Blessed Sacrament, independent of personal differences, race, and color. It is a union in which we meet together, regardless of distance, because the Blessed Sacrament is the same the whole world over.
Now I am an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist and also I work with two other laity in a people’s healthcare project using medicinal plants at one of the Congregations’ houses in Campinas.
Even in the face of the difficulties of being a lay ss.cc. I can say that the graces I have received are greater than the difficulties I have encountered. When we are aware of God’s mercy in our lives, our way of seeing things is different; both in our personal lives as well as in our community and social lives.
The presence of God has to be part of our lives. And I am certain that, as a lay ss.cc., I need to be the presence of mercy and of zeal, for life.
In this way, my dream is that in all situations of life we would have the strength necessary to overcome the difficulties with the grace of God. That like the founders, Marie-Joseph Coudrin and Henriette Aymer Chevalerie, we might be the presence of God in the space in which we live; and that more people might know and live all this.
Odette Véjar de Gavilanes
Many years have passed since I joined the Sacred Hearts Community. It was when someone told me that a community of the Third Branch was being formed, the Lay Branch.
I was very interested; I attended the meetings called by Mother Antonia Garcia Del Valle, ss.cc., who with great clarity, helped us to know what was being asked of us: experiencing the Charism of the Sacred Hearts was the challenge.
Questions, fears and doubts came into my mind and heart. To commit myself was a serious thing. However, I thought that the Lord had given me a lot and what better thing could I do than give a new meaning to my life. It could be helpful to others and above all to find Him again.
It awakened within me the feelings of love and self-giving that the sisters had sown within my heart since I was a child. So, I was able to say yes to the Lord. So many memories came into my mind of my life in the community as a student, as mother of a family and lastly so many experiences as Inspector in the College of Rumpipamba. It was the moment to give back so much love.
That is how I became a member of the Fr. Damien lay community, a name that was chosen by the group because of the example that this wonderful priest gave us, and which we wished to follow.
The road has not been easy, because it is not easy to follow what the Lord asks of us, but we have had marvelous moments. Sharing before the presence of Jesus in the Tabernacle has been a special delight, recalling that Jesus in the Eucharist, the risen Christ is alive for me and has great love for all of us, awaiting a response.
The guidance of Mother Antonia Garcia del Valle was fundamental. As we became more and more absorbed in the spirituality of the Sacred Hearts, we learned that we had to be instruments of communion, and that we would encounter many problems, but the love of God would lift us, up as was already happening.
In our meetings there was a great community spirit. Our male companions went out to remote cities away from the capital, always supported by the work of the female group, who from afar helped to accomplish our objective to evangelize.
The visits of the Blessed Sacrament to our families filled us with a deep, spiritual joy and we tried to become more united.
Today the group is growing. There was a moment when we thought we would break up, but faith and the support of the religious members have helped us to go forward.
Our dream is to form a strong community to contemplate the Lord in prayer, to experience love and to proclaim this love as mission.
Leonardo Sales Rios AND Silvana Tereza de Moraes
Belo Horizonte,(MG), Brazil
I see the invitation to be a part of the Secular Branch as a great opportunity to help people who most need faith, love and peace. The fact of being a lay member of the ss.cc., of knowing the charism, makes us think about life, the mission to one’s neighbor and the responsibility of building a more fraternal world.
In daily life, being lay people, we can go places where religious cannot go. We can carry the Gospel to homes, to work, that is to say, everywhere we are we can take the Word of God with us.
I hope that more people can feel this call of self-giving and participate with us; that more and more the laity and religious will relate to one another; and that some of the priests come to totally accept the lay members.
I have felt and continue to feel a great need to contemplate, live and proclaim God and his gospel. When they invited me, I responded with all my expectations. To be a member of the Secular Branch means that all your life is modeled by the charism.
I believe that, yes, each day my life unfolds more in this charism to contemplate, live and proclaim Jesus Christ, in the family, in living, in adoring and in loving; in catechesis announcing, living, and contemplating. At work we serve, living, proclaiming and adoring, helping our brothers to be loved and respected by society and by those who fight for a life with more dignity.
My dream is to work with the fathers, brothers, sisters and laity, for a more dignified life and a society for those less favored.
Hi, my name is Yvonne Downey and I come from a parish that is situated about 14 kilometres south of Dublin City. Our Parish is called Sruleen, which when translated from its Irish origins means “Small Stream”. Many years ago the brothers and sisters of the ss.cc. Congregation founded the parish and it was during this time I became actively involved in the formation of the new Parish, which is dedicated to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
While working closely with the brothers and sisters of the Congregation I first became aware of their unique Charism. I always felt very drawn to their Charism of love, compassion and their great capacity for hospitality. Five years ago, approximately, I was asked to consider becoming a member of a new group, now known as the ss.cc. Lay Association. Our first two years were in formation where we learned about the history of the Congregation, the Good Mother and the Good Father.
Guided by the Holy Spirit and supported by the love and prayers of the sisters and brothers of the Congregation, two years ago we took our first steps to being a more self sufficient group by electing a Core Group consisting of a Chairperson, Secretary and Treasurer, of which I am a member. Over the last two years we have continued our ss.cc. Journey and on 19th November 2005 I along, with 10 other members took our first 1-year commitment to the Lay Association.
Being a Lay Associate of the Sacred Hearts plays a very big part in my life. My prayer life has taken on a new and deeper meaning for me. A bond of love, concern and friendship with the other members which has been formed over the last number of years is a great source of support and fellowship. One of the things I love and look forward to is the time we spend together at Adoration once a week. To be united in prayer every day with fellow Lay Associates and the Congregation world wide brings a great sense of being one with each other and the Lord.
My hopes and dreams for the future of the Group in Ireland would be that our Lay Association will continue to grow and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit we hope to invite others to come and see and witness that God’s love is present in the world, and is manifest by the love we share and the concern we show for each other. We ask you to pray for us as we will continue to pray for our lay brothers and sisters throughout the world.
Chino Hills, (CA), U.S.A
For my background, I came to the U.S. in 1975 from the Philippines where I taught at a university. I have a Bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering and a Masters degree in Chemistry. I have never married and of course have no children. I come from a family of 5 children. Although I retired, I am now working part-time as an Adult Community School teacher in Math and part-time Director of Ministries in our parish of St. Paul the Apostle.
How I joined the Secular Branch is an amusing story which I myself did not plan or expect. Nobody recruited me nor asked me to join, unlike the other members. Let me begin my story by sharing with you something about myself.
One day in our chapel, as I was praying before the Blessed Sacrament, the thought came to my mind that I probably need to be in a lay community. I have not given much thought to the idea of being in a community before, but here I was entertaining the thought! So I said to the Lord, “What do you think?” I asked for his opinion if it was good for me or not. A few months earlier, I just retired from my job of 25 years as a research scientist in an oil company and was now a full-time church volunteer coordinating the RENEW program in our parish.
After I sat down, I saw a piece of paper to my right which said that the ss.cc. Congregation was organizing a Secular Branch and if interested, to come to a meeting. I turned to the Blessed Sacrament and said to the Lord, “You answered that quickly?” So it was not just the Lord’s opinion, but what I believed was his definite Yes that brought me to the Secular Branch.
I belong to the parish of St. Paul the Apostle in Chino Hills, California a relatively new parish, founded by and administered by ss.cc. priests. This is the first time I ever encountered the ss.cc. Congregation, I never heard of them in the Philippines where I grew up. Fr. Mike Maher, Fr. Ken McCabe and Fr. Pat O’Hagan and the other ss.cc. priests I came in contact with were, and continue to be, a big influence on me and us parishioners. They embody the love of Christ and our Blessed Mother in the way they lead their lives and in their service to the community. They are good models to follow. So joining the Secular Branch was like formalizing my being part of a family in the parish.
Being a Secular Branch member introduced me to the daily office prayers and to being constantly aware of Christ’s love for us and to how I can be an instrument of showing that love to others in whatever I do. It is in praying and working with other members that I sense a feeling of community with them. The group volunteers in the feeding of the poor and homeless at Mary’s Center, an ss.cc. ministry, and has gathered and sent used clothing, books, food and medicine to the ss.cc. Philippine mission. It has also supported vocations to the priesthood by supporting the ss.cc. Discernment House and giving monetary gifts to young men entering the seminary. It has sponsored several fund raisers (concert, stage play, bake sales) for the purpose of eventually having our own center and be a self-supporting entity.
It is my hope that the Secular Branch will continue to grow not only in numbers, but also in resources, to be of service to the community – ministering to the poor, going on mission like the brothers and sisters, evangelizing and spreading God’s word.
Divino Tavares Gomes
Belo Horzonte, (MG), Brazil
I began to feel the call to the Secular Branch when I saw some of the priests and seminarians, good witness to consecrated life, who at the time were in contact through weekend encounters, celebrations of the sacraments, and participation in the pastoral activities in the parish where the seminary and postulancy were located. The friendship grew and with it a desire to ‘drink from the fountain’ that made those people simple, loving, welcoming, kind, etc. Their ways attracted me!
Thus, in 1991, an invitation to a meeting at the postulancy house came from the priests and seminarians, and then another and another ... It was the beginning of our formation, we were a group of more than 30 people. In the end, 10 of them made their commitment and today we are 9, discovering what it is to be ss.cc. laity.
I can say that the ss.cc. style of Adoration and way of living Eucharist attracted me to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary; and I affirm that it was by God’s grace that people were placed in my life who showed me this “way of freedom”, for example: ss.cc. Fathers Sérgio Stein, Henrique Leijen, Waldir Souza, Osvânio Humberto Mariano, Geraldo Abílio Ribeiro, Paulo Dekker, Vicente Hernández Castelló, Élcio R. Mota Félix, Eribaldo Santos, Fernando G. da Silva, Walterson José Vargas, and ss.cc. Sisters Vera Regina dos Santos, María Dolores Traver, Bernadete María Marafón, Valeria Gomes dos Santos and others. They are very special people and very dear to me because they participated in our formation process. I will always be so grateful to them. Through them I discovered my ss.cc. lay vocation. Their being charming ss.cc. friends “made room” for the link to a fraternity in the Sacred Hearts. My first commitment came in 1998!
The ss.cc. charism manifests itself in my being, giving me courage and strength to continue being a member of a Congregation that carries the ‘imprint of Christ’s passion.’ We are adorers of someone who gave of himself totally, he died because he loved the most forsaken of the society of his time, and did it all for the love of the Father. We are like this! Our founders have taught us this! Blessed Damien and Eustáquio have taught us this through their lives.
The charism manifests itself in our family life! Sueli, who also is a lay ss.cc., and I have two children Douglas 16 and Evandro 12 years old. We try to find ways to live our matrimonial and family relationship according to the ss.cc. charism. I admit that it wouldn’t be easy to educate our children without this spiritual wealth. And we try to be that ss.cc. presence in the lives of other people who are close to us because: ‘you have freely received so you must freely give.’
The charism manifests itself in the work that sustains us. I am a metallurgist. It is impressive to note how materialistic humans become, how they are manipulated, how they are enslaved and most of the time without realizing this. They have no awareness of what it means to be free. It is in the meetings and disagreements at work that I try to find a gap in which, whether by speech or silence, I show or better yet present to the others God’s mercy. In a factory everybody “knows everything”... but when it comes to living by what one says, here one sees the human limitation in perceiving God in one’s life. Anyone who works in industry knows that there is not heart in it! There are many cases of injustice, fraud, arrogance, bosses who like to humiliate people, etc. It is in these circumstances that I feel called to be an ss.cc. presence, be it by listening, speaking, trying to show them that there is always a way out, or interceding... I learned, from the ss.cc. charism, to raise my heart to the Father at these moments and give thanks, with silence in the ss.cc. style, for having placed me in these situations where having money was no solution, contrary to what many may think.
Finally the charism manifests itself in our own experience of assuming, within the Church, activities and pastoral works where we encounter the most different needs and lacks of the people. This is how I live and how I want “to spend my life”: Contemplating, Living and Proclaiming the Merciful Love of God incarnated in the person of Jesus and lived by Blessed Mary.
My hopes and dreams are that one day we will be able to concretely live the ss.cc. mission in a common way. As our statutes clearly state in Chapter I – Nature and Purpose – item 3: “The members of the Secular Branch share in the mission of the Congregation as it is expressed in the First Chapter of the Constitutions, which is common to the two Branches of Brothers and Sisters.” In the Congregation I think this is still just a dream, which should already be a reality. Therefore I continue to hope and dream.
I know that one day our participation in the life of the Congregation will be more clear and intense, within our condition as laity. There is a place in Jesus’ Church for everyone. This is what the documents of Vatican II say to all Roman Catholic Apostolic Christians, and it should not be different in the Congregation.
I always ask myself: What do you want of me, Lord? What do you want of us, Lord? And always the answer comes to me saying that the ss.cc. Congregation has the responsibility to find something that we accomplish together, so that more and more, we begin to feel the strength that we have when we are together. This will help us to be more of God, while being a Congregation heiress of the third branch. Interesting! Since the beginning of the Congregation an association of the laity existed. Why did it fall silent? Why is it reappearing? Could not God be telling us something more, with this “being forgotten” and “reappearing”, besides the creation of lay communities spread about, and even being at times a reason for discord among the brothers when one mentions ss.cc. laity.
I think and dream of the day when we will have places of ss.cc. mission where members of the three branches will be together, each one giving witness as a person consecrated to the Sacred Hearts! I know at times I dream too much ... But that is the way I am and I have to accept it, sometimes as a cross. In talking about hopes and dreams, I also hope that one day we will have our own structure, as it is stated in our statutes. Maybe this is just another dream! But, even so, I want to continue to believe that it is not just a dream. Imagine an International Meeting, where we would dialogue, with brothers and sisters, about our future as Secular Branch in the ss.cc. Congregation, drawing up goals and objectives. This done in common: the three branches!
To the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, all Honor and all Glory now and for ever! Amen.
Rio de Janeiro, (RJ) Brazil
This is how I feel about being a lay member of the ss.cc.
Since my youth, I have sought to understand the reality of the world that surrounds us, trying to be attentive to the signs that the Lord sends me so that I might become an instrument of His will; allowing the Holy Spirit to work within me, so that I might take hope and peace where ever I go. In this journey, I have been learning how to observe what happens around me and, a lot of times, with just a glance or a smile I get answers that seem impossible to understand in the eyes of the world.
The Lord has gifted me with special blessings, both in my family as well as my professional life. I try to be wherever I am needed and live by what the Lord has taught me. Nowadays, I am able to see that my resources have been strengthened, because the ss.cc. Charism and Spirituality help me to mature and to perfect my way of being.
After having tasted the flavor of being an ss.cc., it becomes difficult to live without adoring the Lord, not to see him in a brother's face, not to proclaim the Good News, not to try to repair our mistakes and our injustices, not to “listen”to Mary’s yes and try to imitate her and, still much less, without contemplating the great mercy that He gives us in forgiveness and in the beauty of creation, that He has freely given us.
In my day to day life in the world, this is how I feel... I can never again dissociate myself from the commitment to live like this and to make my commitment as a lay member of the ss.cc.
May God continue to lead us by the hand!
Berit Hildegard Lea
Since I am one of the founders of a group of the Secular Branch in Norway, I have often asked myself: Why this? Why didn’t I choose one of the already existing lay groups? I think the answer is rather simple. I didn’t choose it, it was chosen for me. God called me and three other persons to come together and form a new branch on the ss.cc. tree in Norway.
When I understood that I was called to this vocation, I had for some time spent much of my time praying for people in need, and I was regularly praying the Readings of the Hour. My work at St. Olav Parish in Oslo made me see how some people were struggling with their lives, and how important it was to pray. But I felt God wanted me to walk in a certain direction. The parish priest advised me to contact a ss.cc. priest, Fr. Olav Müller, and talk to him. When I met Fr. Olav, we talked for a long time, and for the first time I heard about our Founders and of our spirituality. Fr. Olav believed in me, and urged me to get in touch with another ss.cc. priest, Fr. Arne Marco Kirsebom, and ask for his guidance. But one thing was certain: I couldn’t start a group of my own! Some weeks later one of the Fathers in Kristiansand told me about three ladies who had come to them and asked if there existed a ss.cc. lay group. I clearly remember the first trip by train (4 ½ hours) I made to Kristiansand to meet some totally unknown people that should become so important to me. I was scared, doubtful, excited and happy at the same time. But when I got there, I was certain, this was home! And guided by Fr. Arne we could start on a new and exciting journey: building up a new lay group in Norway. In October two years ago we made our first commitments, and it was a day of joy!
How can a small and new group like ours live the ss.cc. charism in our daily lives? Especially since I was the only member living in Oslo, this was an important question to me. Even before I made my first commitments, I felt that the time in adoration of The Blessed Sacrament was very important. It was important to our Founders, and it is important to us. As I see it, the repairing adoration is a “job” that we are called to do for the Church. When we live the spirituality like this, we start looking at the world around us with different eyes.
In Norway most people have more than they need in their lives. But when I meet people, I see a different picture: lonely people, sad and depressed people, drug addicts living in the street, and old people with no one to listen to them. So for me, living the ss.cc. charism, means that I give people some of my time; I listen to them, try to comfort and help them if I can, and pray for them. And all the time I come back to spend a time in adoration….
In the future I hope more people will join our little group, and that we can get stronger. My dream is that we can establish a group in Oslo, too. If we have strong and dedicated members both in Oslo and in Kristiansand, we can reach out to many more people who need someone who cares. And that again will have the effect on us members of the Secular Branch that we will get a more deep and intense understanding of what “living the Gospel” really means. I also pray for the padres to get vocations. Our ss.cc. family in Norway is a small family! Because we are so few, I think it’s important that we stay in contact with members of the Secular Branch in other countries, first of all in Europe, but also in other parts of the world. We are all part of the same family, and together with the brothers and sisters part of the same tree.
Fall River, (MA), U.S.A.
I was born in New Bedford, MA in 1941. I grew up in Acushnet, MA and was schooled in both cities. I intended to become an architect but finances were very slim in those days. After attending high school I worked in what they call a “sweatshop”. I knew this was not the life I wanted. Although we are a Catholic family, going to church on a regular basis was not a priority. That would change years later. I was determined to better myself, so I took the opportunity to join the military.
The Air Force would provide me with an education and discipline to be a better person. I learned respect for others and was able to see and live with other cultures and get to know their lifestyles and heritage. This was an added gift that would show fruit in my religious growth.
Some one sent me a small pamphlet that I was reading at work. One night at work I heard the Holy Spirit calling me to renew my Baptism. I was born again that night. I was looking for something more in my life of service to God. I was a Lector and Eucharistic minister at my church, but that was not enough. Lay persons are limited in what they can do in the parish church. I wanted to be a Deacon but the dioceses said I was too old.
At that time, Shirley, my wife, was working for the Sacred Hearts in the Provincial House as cook and house keeper. She was a Eucharistic minister with Brother Bill Keene, ss.cc. at St. Luke’s hospital. Bro. Bill told her about the Secular Branch and a special meeting to introduce people who might be interested in the ss.cc. Secular Branch. She convinced me to attend with her. We were dubious about an involvement of a religious type, thinking it to be just another prayer group. We went and decided to give it a try.
The renewal of the ss.cc. lay participation in the mission of the church was my opportunity to fulfill that need. We attended meetings and committed in 1999. I was elected to the leadership team and later to sector co-coordinator.
My guide, the Holy Spirit, is directing me to lead the Secular Branch. We are not a young group and leadership skills are few. I have been frustrated many times by the problems with interaction of people and cultures that almost derailed the Secular Branch here. Several times I decided to quit, but members told me that, if I left, the Secular Branch would dissolve.
The Religious of all the different communities are in peril and I feel the lay will be asked to do more to propagate the church. The Charism [service] of the ss.cc. is a service that I can perform and be a significant part of Jesus’ mission for the church.
I spent the first 20 years of my life growing up. The second 20 years in service to my country. The next 20 years + I will spend in service to my God.
I am a better person now. I am better able to show the other members in my sphere of influence the love of God. I am an example in what I do, where I go and what I say. As they almost say in the movie “Star Trek”, I go where no religious can go. I am the spokesperson for the ss.cc. in my work place, at the store, on the road. I am visible evidence of the work being done by lay people when I attend ss.cc. functions.
The future for the Secular Branch is unknown, but if we can adapt to the changing times, get to where the young are, be more visible to the people in the parishes, we will survive. We need to educate the parishioners to the history of the ss.cc. so they can find an opportunity for a deeper involvement in their religious lives. I look forward to being able to do missionary work somewhere. I hope to go where the Secular Branch is starting and help in establishing it. I have been down the road they will travel and I can help them to avoid the potholes that will pop up.
Honor and Glory to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary
Tomas Banyamo Mbeka
Kinshasa, D. R. of Congo
I was born of Catholic parents who were married in the Church, and after my studies in Catholic schools, in the rhythm of a working life, I had subconsciously rejected the faith and Christian practices, as though I was waiting to find something better elsewhere.
A particular morning in the month of October 1980, while passing in front of the ss.cc. Sisters’ Convent located right behind my house, and where my daughter Melanie would play with her friends, Sister Inés (superior) jokingly called out to me: “Papa of Melanie, you have, as they say where I come from, one foot inside, and the other out, why?” Such a bombshell, these remarks challenged me and quickly diverted me back to my old road, joining again in prayer and in church, leading to my church wedding in 1988. Another day, the same sister, through my daughter, invited me to read certain books one of which was that of Fr. Mateo.
Our relationship solidified with the passing days, on the last occasion she proposed that I take part in the embryonic stage of the gestation of an association of friends of the ss.cc. and I readily accepted. The group developed slowly, and was strengthened by a series of formation topics. The ss.cc. Congregation’s image as a tree that has three branches, was a wonder. My interest continued to increase and in 1997, I made my first commitment of one year as a member of the Secular Branch of the Congregation of the ss.cc. with six other people. And I have remained a member since that day!
How, since that day, has the ss.cc. charism been concretely lived out in my daily life?
Prayer has become a lifestyle, which cannot be expressed in terms of a number of times or where I am day after day.
With regard to others, I have a whole different way of seeing the sick and marginalized around me, whom I try to help when I can:
a set of garden furniture instead of stools for a couple without resources;
the assumption of the school expenses for a student at my school who doesn't have parents;
visits to the hospitals bringing soaps and sweets to the sick people;
visits to the old age homes and the homes of sick people;
specific and repeated help for the marginalized I meet along my way.
Collaboration, always unconditional, with the ss.cc. brothers and sisters in such actions as:
organization – set-up – voluntary animation of vacation camps for the young people of the area, under the auspices of the ss.cc. sisters.
weekly tutoring of the young in the French language
design, execution and finalization of all the administrative steps related to the opening of a primary school in the Father Damien Center, the request of the ss.cc.
numerous sessions of Christian formation, as well as a course on the Bible given to the parishioners.
I have a dream for the Secular Branch: that it promises to quickly become a large group made up of men, women and young people, all eager to serve the Lord. It must however, have a greater openness to the world, so as not to live in seclusion.
Tahiti, French Polynesia
My name is Delphine Moe, I am the leader of the ss.cc. lay community “Padre Eustáquio” in French Polynesia. The call to make a commitment in the Secular Branch came quite naturally, as I had begun to discern my vocation with the ss.cc. brothers in Pirae. After that I continued my discernment with the Picpus sisters in France for over a year. It was a greatly enriching experience both spiritually and culturally. It allowed me to open myself toward others and to discover something beyond my little island lost in the south Pacific: Tahiti. It also broadened my outlook as I came to see the internationality of the ss.cc. charism.
Being with the Congregation helped me to know more, to experience more of life and to learn about things like listening, humility, tolerance and, most important, the love of neighbor. I learned to always believe in humanity, to hope without giving up, to see my own littleness and to know that I am loved by God.
As for the future, I am at peace and in no rush. I’m not making forgone conclusions nor do I feel impatient. I want to take the time to know each and every person. I am developing a taste for the honey of the resurrection, the only way to be at peace with one’s own story. Life seems to be a great experience of reconciliation with myself, a temple of the Holy Spirit.
Composed of six members, five of whom made their promises on November 6, 2005, we meet twice a month, sometimes at Faa’a and other times at Pirae. Our perseverance has allowed us to be officially established, but that has not been without difficulties as the group formally began in October 2002. Our bimonthly meetings are times of rich sharing as we take time to pray, to share the Gospel and to speak of each one’s life in the context of the ss.cc. vocation, which is our spearhead. By our special place in the world, we can spread and make known the ss.cc. charism by means of our life experience.
Brest, France I am 74 years old. At first view, I would be a “delayed vocation” to the Secular Fraternity of the Sacred Hearts, which I entered in 1999. But in 1943 when I arrived at the apostolic school in Sarzeau to prepare for the religious life and priesthood in the Congregation, I was perhaps a “pre-mature” vocation. The years and even the decades form a chain. I think it is possible to say such a thing. I have to believe that I was deeply affected by the ss.cc. charism to such an extent that, at 68 years of age, I had what could be called an authentic “return to the sources.” The gifts of the Lord are irrevocable… The example of the fathers, the lay brothers, the scholastics, the “donnees” with which I lived for almost ten years have borne fruit. For ten years I only experienced their humility, meekness, simplicity, self-forgetfulness and serenity. And I could add to that fraternal love, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and missionary zeal. There were the outstanding figures: Father Damien, the Martyrs of the Commune and Father Mateo. Only a healthy tree could produce such fruit. I wanted to be grafted on to it. To all that I am thankful for in the years 1943-1954, I now add being accepted as a member of the Secular Fraternity.
I think often of the Congregation’s missionaries alone on some island for months at a time. I am alone as an ss.cc. lay person in my town and in my diocese. Although I regret that, I believe I can still live fully the ss.cc. charism. My parish priest gave me the key to the chapel so I can make adoration daily at daybreak. I experience the contemplative aspect of the charism in a special way. I also hope that despite my weaknesses, in some small way I can spread the love and mercy of the Heart of Jesus to those around me and first of all my family, as husband, father and grand-father. There are also parish activities (liturgical leadership, “guide” for funerals) and some writing, both religious and secular.
A congregation’s charism, without loosing its own meaning, is enriched by new developments: for example, the charism of blessed Charles de Foucauld and that of Madeleine Delbrel. Even though the spirituality of these great and beautiful figures is not directly related to ours, they can enrich our appreciation of the charism.
Do I have hopes and dreams for the future of ss.cc. laity in Brittany? Wild hopes, yes, even wilder dreams, certainly. Almost one hundred years ago, when Father Mateo came here to speak of night adoration in the home at Saint-Pol-de-Leon, a mother of a family signed up for 2:00AM, one of the hardest hours of the night. Father mentioned that to her. The woman responded, “We have no trouble, getting up at night for our children and our animals; we can also very well get up for our God.” May such generosity be common once again where it one time flourished. May there be new ss.cc. vocations all over the place, and especially to the Secular Fraternity, from families which are the first cradle of real Christian vocations.
Augusto César AND Maria Cristina Pereira da Luz
Pindamonhangaba, (SP), Brazil
We have been married for 12 years and have two children: Heron (9) and Heitor (7). We are members of the Society of Saint Vicente de Paul and part of the Baptism ministry at our parish. We are candidates in formation for the ss.cc. Secular Branch. Our first contact with the “ss.cc. Spirituality” was through Eucharistic adoration (once a month), starting in the middle of 1996. In August of 2001, we began our formation journey in preparation for our commitment.
Our community in Pindamonhangaba (St. Joseph the Worker) meets twice a month: on first Fridays, for celebration of the Eucharist; and on first Saturdays, for Eucharistic adoration, usually followed by study.
In our work of helping a family in need, we try to testify to and live out the ss.cc. Spirituality, carrying the message of the Good News of Jesus Christ with us, teaching them how much the Father loves us and wants us to be happy. Also in our daily lives we seek to pass on to our colleagues at work, neighbors, family and friends a bit of our experience, presenting our hope for a better world and our trust in the love that God has for everyone.
Encountering the Lord in adoration encourages us in the journey and strengthens us for the difficulties that arise. Our hope is that all the members of the Pindamonhangaba community will make their commitments and that we succeed in accomplishing our concrete gesture.
Prayer of the Secular Branch in Germany
Lord Jesus Christ
you have a heart for human beings.
You see their misery, you know their cares,
and you know their ardent desire for life, happiness, joy and health.
By your word and action you give them
that which they need to live.
To the poor people, you give bread,
to those grief-stricken, the joy,
to the lonely, a home and shelter,
to the abandoned, help and support,
to those disappointed by life, hope and confidence,
to those that look for, direction and security,
to the desperate, strength and courage,
to the sick, the presence of your healing love
to those that die, the certainty of the eternal communion with God.
Give us the breadth of your Heart,
so that all those we meet feel understood
find a home and feel loved.
Make of us your mouth
saying words of kindness and reconciliation.
Make of us your ear that listens when no one wants to listen more.
Make of us your hands that give without wanting to receive.
Make of us your feet that go where distress and misery reign.
Make of us your Heart vulnerable through love
to heal the injuries of humankind.
As children of your Father
we want to be bound to men through mutual love
and to testify by the unity in our communities
that you are living among us. Amen
Arlete Fonseca Pôssa AND Geraldo Magno Pôssa
Belo Horizonte,(MG), Brazil
I have been married for 32 to years to Geraldo Magno. We have 4 children and two grandchildren. I am happy because I make my husband happy.
The call to the Secular Branch was motivated by some experiences with the Sacred Hearts priests: the fire of the Holy Spirit, the example, the obedience, the kindness of many fathers, through the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. We made our commitment on November 23, 2003 and renewed it on November 14, 2005.
In adoration I feel as if I have communed with the Body of Christ. I make an effort to live the charism of the Congregation each day of my life: contemplating, living and proclaiming the love of God at UNIBIOTICA, with the marriage group, with the group that paints tiles, in the meetings with the laity and taking communion to the sick.
My hope is to live as Jesus lived: carrying the Word of God to the world; that all men might love one another. Our children are grown so we can better fulfill our mission: carrying to all the knowledge and the experience of the kindness of God, I tell our children and all our acquaintances that we cannot do anything without God, with Him and in His name we can do all things.
My name is Geraldo Magno, I have been married to Arlete for 32 years and we have four children and 2 grandchildren.
I began my life in community in 1984, by participating in a marriage group from three churches: Reina de la Paz, Piedad y Nuestra Señora de la Esperanza. My big dream has been to form, with the married couples and their families, communities that live as they did in the Early Church, holding all things in common.
I have lived my life, seeking a personal encounter with God in the person of Jesus Christ, through personal prayer, adoration, and proclaiming the Gospel, principally to married couples, showing how, with Him in our marriages, we can be happy.
I feel called to the Secular Branch in order to concretize my great dream: to live as a member of the ss.cc. Congregation, which has as its basis the formation of religious families. The Congregation is where I learned to love, through the charism of so many ss.cc. priests and religious who have left so many signs of love: Fr. Damien, Fr. Eustáquio, Fr. Cornelio, Fr. Jair, Fr. Félix and so many others who continue to live in our midst.
Since 2001, I have tried to live the charism of the Congregation in my daily life. Today I contemplate the question of chemical dependence at Hacienda Recanto de Cana where I make visits with Fr. Osvaldo; interiorly I live the life of those addicted youngsters in their fight against drugs, and I proclaim God’s love, as the great highway to sobriety. On November 23, 2003, I made the commitment to the Congregation, and I renewed it on November 14, 2005.
My great hope and dream is that the Secular Branch in Brazil can be accepted by all of the members of the Congregation, priests, brothers and sisters, and so we can be a big family where it can be said: “See how they love one another.”
Cristina Olivares AND Carlos Valle
We were asked by the Communications Centre to share with you our experiences as members of the Secular Branch in Madrid.
The beginning of this experience was our need to live a faith commitment, and in community. The awareness of wanting to be individuals playing a part in history and in service to the Kingdom lead us to look for a community that responded to these hopes. When we got to know the Congregation, we liked its charism and spirituality and we began our journey together as groups of young people.
As fiancées, we followed a formation program, first with the sisters, and then with the brothers. We began this only as a couple, and later became part of the group that was the origin of the existing community. From this process and through our personal plan and our plan as a couple, we began to shape our life from following Jesus and from the choices that we believed the charism and spirituality were asking of us, which little by little we made our own.
We wanted to express this at our wedding, which we celebrated with our natural families and with the ss.cc. family that, little by little, we felt was our own. There, beside the liturgical symbols of marriage, we signed and entrusted our plan as a couple to our accompanist, Consuelo del Saz, ss.cc.
We feel that, in addition to being the domestic church within the universal Church, our family is a domestic ss.cc. community in which we want to live the values of familiarity, openness to the needs of the world, austerity, internationality, and the love of God from the simplicity of the home.
We managed to give our time to some kind of social or pastoral commitment, and our money, in particular, to the ss.cc. ministries in Paraguay and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with which we have a very special relationship and affection. We are doing this in community, as a community project.
As far as work is concerned, the charism plays a part in our choices. We are music teachers in public schools in Madrid. In our dealings with our colleagues, with the pupils and their families, in publishing books or composing music, in carrying out responsibilities understood as service, we always try to transmit values that the contemplation of the redemptive love of God gives to us. Our work also permits us to devote part of our holidays to congregational projects.
The challenges and hopes for the future are centered on continuing to deepen relationships within the community, and that our children feel part of it (as children, without obligating them to anything); on continuing to strengthen a common mission within the community in such a way that we are outward looking, and on deepening our relationship with the brothers and sisters as equals while retaining our independence.
Going deeper into reflection and the convergence of the realities of the different communities of the Secular Branch, we feel that we are lay brothers and sisters within the one Congregation. We understand that this dynamic, regarding the reality of the Lay Branch communities, cannot be of a pyramid or vertical nature, but rather like an assembly of members – horizontal. As the first Christian communities declared, each one is adapted to its needs and cultures, but from a clear awareness of belonging and with some minimum life experience together.
With this we wanted to summarize our life and our hopes within the Congregation. From our home, our very best wishes in the ss.cc.