Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, an Australian community, in a worldwide religious congregation.
Jesus loved with a human heart: with him we proclaim his love to the world.
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- Published: Tuesday, 23 April 2013 16:39
Jules Chevalier founds the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart
As a priest, Jules first served as curate in three different parishes in quick succession. Then at the age of thirty he was sent to Issoudun, which was regarded as the most dechristianised town in the whole region. The other curate in the parish was Fr Emile Maugenest, one of a small group of his companions in the seminary who had shared Chevalier's vision.
At Issoudun the two priests became determined to found a religious congregation of Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. However, aware that they could be deluding themselves they wanted a clear sign that this was what God wanted. Over a period of nine days, they prayed asking Our Lady to intercede for them in having God provide this sign. The following morning one of the parishioners called at the presbytery with a letter announcing a gift of 20,000 francs from an anonymous donor. The donor's preference was for a house of missionaries to be established in the area with the approval of the Archbishop. The Archbishop agreed as long as they had some means of financial independence and support. Another period of prayer resulted in another anonymous benefactor promising to give an annual gift of 1,000 francs which was enough for both of them to live on. They now had the sign and the means to begin the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.
"they prayed asking Our Lady to intercede for them in having God provide this sign. The following morning one of the parishioners called at the presbytery with a letter announcing a gift of 20,000 francs from an anonymous donor."
With the original 20,000 francs the two priests purchased a rundown vineyard with a sound house and tumbled-down barn in Issoudun. The house became their first community house and the barn was renovated as the first chapel, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This was in 1855. From these simple beginnings has come a whole family of Missionaries of the Sacred Heart - priests, brothers, sisters and lay associates. With the support of Marie Louise Hartzer, Jules Chevalier also founded the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart as the sister congregation of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.
Later, because of national tensions in colonial areas where missionaries worked, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart were founded by Fr Hubert Linckens MSC with the approval of Jules Chevalier, whom they regard as their spiritual founder.
After some difficult years of persecution in France and being forced to move to other parts of Europe, the new congregations began to grow and, at a very early stage, accepted responsibility for the Missions of Oceania. It was as a direct result of this decision that the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart came to Australia at the end of the 19th century. Within twenty-five years of their small beginnings, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart had spread in Europe and to North America. Before his death, Fr Jules Chevalier was to see his 'family' working in Central and South America, the Philippines, Australia and the Pacific Islands.