The Laity of the Chevalier Family in Australia

The Laity of the Chevalier Family

There has been a long history of lay involvement in the charism and mission of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and the Missionary Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Jules Chevalier’s vision was always that the laity were integral to the movement he founded: “To be on earth the Heart of God” and there is now large group of women and men, living in many countries and cultures and coming from every walk of life, who are committed to live a life of love wherever we find ourselves, inspired by Jules Chevalier’s vision. The Second Vatican Council inspired the Chevalier congregations to revisit Jules’s vision and the first formal involvement of laity emerged in the 1970s.  Jim Littleton’s history of lay MSC in Australia is available here.

We believe, and have experienced for ourselves, that Jesus’ compassionate heart reveals God’s unconditional love for every human being, especially those who are poor, excluded or treated unjustly. This love extends to all creation, and the Holy Spirit has poured out this love in our hearts, empowering us to follow the way of Jesus.  We believe that the healing of the world and hope for a better future depends on the commitment of people to do their best to follow the way of Jesus and “To be on earth the Heart of God” and we look to Mary, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, to show us how to be a source of kindness, understanding, compassion, mutual forgiveness, gentleness, humility and simplicity to those we encounter – to try to live our whole life in a spirit of family.  This is the vision of the Chevalier Family comprising the professed members of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart and many thousands of lay people.  Together we form one family and are interdependent in undertaking our shared mission of offering the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to others.

The Laity of the Chevalier Family in Australia

In Australia, up until 2019, there was separate lay involvement with each of these three religious congregations.  At the 2017 international meeting in Brazil of laity associated with the three congregations, it was decided that their common connection should recognised as Laity of the Chevalier Family  and an International Council was set up. 

Australian National Council of the Laity of the Chevalier Family

Following the formation of the International Council, a proposal was developed for a National Council.  The process for this was that a steering committee of lay people associated with the three congregations met several times over a period of 18 months and developed a proposal for a National Council based on the “General Guiding Principles and Statues of the Laity of the Chevalier Family,” the document developed at the Brazil meeting.  This was ratified by the leaders of the three congregations, as was the nomination and voting process.  The National Council was inaugurated at a gathering of lay and professed at St. Mary’s Towers in September 2019.  The members of the Council are lay people associated with the three congregations and are Fred Stubenrauch (chair), Therese Poulton (vice chair), Paul Compton, Margaret Donohoe, Tom Hodgson, Aidan Johnson, Ellenmary Lomman, Anne Marmion, Jenny Missen, and Narita Perotta. Peter Carroll msc is our spiritual companion.

 

Congregational representatives lower res 2Fr. Steve Dives, MSC deputy provincial, Sr. Ros Cairns representing Sr. Mary Drum, the MSC Sisters, provincial and Sr. Tess Ward, OLSH Sisters provincial at the National Council inauguration, Douglas Park September 2019

 

The National Council inauguration lower resThe inaugural National Council at the commitment Mass, Douglas Park September 2019

 

Restrictions during 2020 meant Council meetings were via Zoom, but there has been communication with the wider Lay Chevalier Family through (reasonably) regular emails, including communications from the International Council and other relevant bodies.  The first in-person meeting of the Council was at St. Mary’s Towers in May 2021 and focussed on the vision and goals for the Council.

Membership of the Lay Chevalier Family

As outlined in the proposal for the National Council:

Laity of the Chevalier Family include:

  • Formal Lay MSC/OLSH/ MSC Sisters (i.e. those individuals who have been approved by provincial administrations)
  • MSC/OLSH School students, teachers and alumni
  • MSC/OLSH/MSC Sisters Parish members
  • MSC/OLSH/MSC Sisters Missions
  • Heartworks and MSC/OLSH youth outreach
  • Individuals and other groups who identify with the Lay Chevalier Family and who are recognised by others as such

The inclusion of the last group is particularly important as it recognises that the this is not an organisation with a formal membership structure. Rather it is a worldwide family who try to live their lives through a spirituality of the heart.

They are people who:

  • Are not pessimists nor naïve optimists
  • Understand the times and don’t just condemn them
  • Believe in compassion not fear
  • Believe in salvation for all not condemnation
  • See the hand of God in the times in which they live
  • Believe that love is the only way
  • Are not soft and sentimental
  • Are willing to challenge yet comfort
  • Are courageous yet humble
  • Are hopeful yet not blind
  • Are strong and determined

They believe in a love that is:

      Faithful

      Generous

      Compassionate

      Tender

      Merciful

The gift of a religious charism is never for the members of a religious institute alone. It has always been the Spirit’s gift to the wider church. Religious are not simply welcoming lay “associates” in order to maintain their ministries in the face of decline in their membership, but because they want to share the gift of the Spirit which they possess, the gift of their founding charism, with others.

Going Forward

The main focus of the May 2021 Council meeting was: now that the National Council has been set up, where should it be focussing its energies?  The key focus that emerged was the generation who have been brought up exposed to Heart Spirituality, and whose lives have been strongly influenced by this, but who little involvement with the Institutional Church.  Can the National Council and the wider Chevalier Family find ways to assist these younger people (where “younger” has a wide range) to express and realise a vision of what it means for them “To be on earth the Heart of God”.  That is the National Council sees a role for the Chevalier Family not in drawing these young people back to the Church, but in helping them find their own vision of being on earth the Heart of God.  There will be a meeting at St. Mary’s Towers in September 2021.

Contact for the National Council

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The International Council’s website contains a number of contacts and links to documents.