Dehon, Léon Gustave, ven.

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Founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus;b. March 14, 1843, La Capelle (Aisne), France; d. Aug. 12, 1925, Brussels, Belgium. After gaining a doctorate in civil law at the Sorbonne (1864), he entered the French seminary in Rome, where he was ordained (1868) and was granted doctorates in philosophy, theology, and canon law after attending the Gregorian University and the Apollinaris. At Vatican Council I he was one of four French priests who acted as stenographers. His record of the proceedings has been published as Diario del Concilio Vaticano I, edited by V. Carbone (Vatican City 1962). When he returned to his native Diocese of Soissons (1871), he became a curate in Saint-Quentin. Between 1871 and 1877 Dehon was active in the social apostolate in Saint-Quentin, where he associated himself with the Oeuvre des cercles recently started by Albert de mun, opened centers for social studies, organized a society for young workers, and sought to instill in employers a sense of their Christian responsibilities. In 1877 Canon (since 1876) Dehon founded the Oblates of the Sacred Heart as a diocesan congregation, and in 1878 he pronounced his first vows, taking as his name in religion John of the Heart of Jesus. The purpose of the institute was to spread the reign of the Sacred Heart by means of the sacred ministry, by education, and especially by social works. In 1878 Dehon allied with his congregation a pious association dedicated to reparation and open to priests and laymen. The early years of the Oblates proved very difficult, especially because of certain errors concerning spirituality within the group. This led to a Roman decision pronouncing the congregation's dissolution (December of 1883). As a result of the intervention of the bishop of Soissons, this decision was quickly withdrawn and the organization was permitted in March of 1884 to continue under the new name of Priests of the sacred heart of jesus. In 1884 Leo XIII gave papal recognition to the congregation, which then had 78 members in eight houses. Definitive approval of the Holy See came in 1923. In 1886 Dehon was elected superior general for life, meanwhile continuing his social apostolate. In 1897 he was named a consultor of the Congregation of the Index. Dehon wrote numerous articles for newspapers and periodicals, and published several books on social problems, on various current questions, and on devotional topics, designed especially to spread devotion to the Sacred Heart. When France outlawed religious institutes in 1901, Dehon was forced into exile. The mother-house of the congregation was transferred in 1906 to Brussels, where Dehon lived until his death. His cause for beatification was introduced in Rome in 1960. On March 8, 1997, Pope John Paul II declared him venerable.

Bibliography: e. b. caporale, Leone Dehon scrittore (Bologna 1979). j. christen, Le Père Dehon (Clermont-Ferrand 1944). h. dorresteijn, Leven en persoonlijkeid van Pater Dehon (Maastricht 1949); Dictionnaire de spiritualité ascétique et mystique. Doctrine et histoire, ed. m. viller et al. (Paris 1932) 3:105115. a. ducamp, Le Père Dehon et son oeuvre (Bruges 1936). c. kanters, Le T. R. P. Léon Dehon (2d ed. Bruges 1932). g. manzoni, Leone Dehon e il suo (Bologna 1989). Nuove mete dell'azione sociale: la "Rerum novarum" tra passato e futuro, ed. a. cavagna (Bologna 1992). j. f. de oliveira, Por causa de um certo reino: história de Leão João Dehon e sua incrível paz inquieta (São Paulo 1978). r. prelot, L'Oeuvre sociale du chanoine Dehon (Paris 1936). Rerum Novarum en France: le père Dehon et l'engagement social de l'Église, ed. y. ledure (Paris 1991). r. aubert, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart et al. (Paris 1912) 14:162165. g. frediani, Un apostolo dei tempi nuovi: P. Leone G. Dehon (Rome 1960).

[j. t. o'connor]