Society based on Ignatian spirituality meets monthly at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Coquitlam
By Nathan Rumohr
The B.C. Catholic
A new lay movement centred on Ignatian spirituality has caught on in the Lower Mainland.
The Society of the Evangelic Life of the Heart of Jesus (SELHJ), approved by the Holy See in 2002, had its first meeting in the Lower Mainland at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Coquitlam Sept. 11. The group functions under the Rule of the Famille Cor Unum established by the Secular Institute of Priests of the Heart of Jesus.
Georges Gracieuse, a parishioner at Our Lady of Fatima, leads the meetings. He initially became a member of the society in Mauritius, his home country, and wants to attract Catholics interested in developing a strong life with Jesus and showing that joy to the world.
"The society is not an action group; it is a sharing group where we meet to pray and share our life together with Christ and support each other through our prayers."
The group follows the Ignatian spirituality of "contemplation in action," which means developing a life of familiarity with Jesus and radiating His love, compassion, and joy in the world.
"Each individual, according to his gifts, will be a witness to Christ in the different areas of his life," Gracieuse said.
Gracieuse first joined the society in 2005 with seven others under Father Jean Claude Vedier, a priest from the Priests of the Heart of Jesus.
It takes seven years to become a full member of the SELHJ. The first year, spent as an observer, is followed by two to four years of formation. This is followed by first vows, which are temporary and for the number of years the candidate chooses, and then finally perpetual vows.
"We take the vows to show our dedication to Jesus," Gracieuse said. He took his final vows during a Mass in August in Our Lady of Fatima Church celebrated by assistant pastor Father Claude Mutongo Makulu, O Praem; Father Robert Wong, SJ; and Father Elton Fernandes, SJ. SELHJ Assistant-General Pierre-Jean Stygelbout oversaw Gracieuse's first vows.
Father Fernandes called his first vows and full acceptance into the society his "yes" to living a life of prayer, being available to God, and helping people in need as a member of the SELHJ.
"Georges's public promises were the fruit of interior conversion and the discovery of God's profound love for him," Father Fernandes said. "This commitment was made because Georges personally felt Christ's care and unconditional love for him."
Those promises covered prayer, contemplation, chastity and openness, poverty and availability, and fraternity.
The society will meet once a month. Sessions start with sharing, then focus on spiritual reading, and end with time for socializing. Group members are encouraged to keep a regular prayer life and each have a spiritual director. Gracieuse says any baptized Catholic from any state in life is welcome to join the group.
The society traces its roots to the late 1700s, when Father Pierre de Cloriviere, SJ, a priest in the Diocese of Saint-Malo, France, founded the Society of the Heart of Jesus with nine fellow priests and a layman. The group wanted to establish "evangelical perfection" in the world.
The movement went dormant in the middle of the 1800s during the French Revolution. Revival came in the early 20th century under Father Daniel Fontaine of the Diocese of Paris. The society grew to other European countries and then the world.
Pope Pius XII gave canonical form in 1942, and the society became a secular institute in 1952.
Since then the society has expanded to include the laity under the Rule of Life of the Cor Unum Family, of which SELHJ is a part.