Driving Force of Chevalier School: The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

170 YEARS AGO today, MSC Servant of God Fr. Jules Chevalier was ordained priest on June 14, 1851. He is the founder of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (MSC). The MSC-Pampanga runs the 61-year old Chevalier School and prefers to be on the morally right and lawful side of the story. Judging from what I’ve seen, they did the right human thing to do—to uphold the rule of law and fight for the rights and welfare of their students, teachers and personnel— despite the overwhelming pressure of Pampanga Archbishop Florentino Lavarias to switch off its operations amid the pandemic. It depends whose side are you, some interpreted it a disobedience to the hierarchy while the majority perceived it an adherence to public interest. For instance, a certain Among Kiko posted on Facebook a month ago and he had a way of alluding to the MSC without mentioning them: “What Do You Call a Catholic Congregation and Institution Which Do Not Obey the Vatican?” But he himself took down the post after a firestorm arose from netizens.

In a time when fewer and fewer young people are attending church, marrying in the church, or baptizing their children, why shuttering a Catholic school makes sense? Closing a Catholic school in urban communities only worsens economic conditions for marginalized populations. Again, many parents see Catholic schools as a safe alternative to overcrowded institutions that disregard the social, emotional and spiritual development of children.

Parents and students dauntlessly flocked in the Chevalier campus for enrollment, encouraging primary and incoming freshmen to sign up as well because of their strong conviction that “school preference matters most and Chevalier is the best choice for their child’s quality basic education”. With God’s Divine Grace, Chevalier School has produced many of the country’s talents in medicine, law, archaeology, information technology, engineering, education, public service, military, media, sports, business, foreign service, culinary, architecture, agriculture, tourism, fashion, entertainment and other fields of excellence.

Chevalier School (formerly Sacred Heart Mission Seminary of Pampanga Inc.-SHS) is a private Catholic academic institution in Angeles City established in 1960. It has been continuously run by the MSC founded by Fr. Chevalier in France which is committed to developing God-loving and well-rounded graduates that have a heart for others.

COMMERCIALISM OVER EDUCATION

In 2016, Sun.Star Pampanga reported that “a group of parents and alumni at the Chevalier School has expressed strong opposition to the plan of the Roman Catholic’s Archdiocese of San Fernando to lease out some 4,961 square meters of the three-hectare school campus. The parents and alumni yesterday carried placards and held a lightning rally in front of the bust of the Blessed Jules Chevalier – a French Catholic priest who founded the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC). The Chevalier School–Sacred Heart Seminary Alumni Core Group told Sun.Star Pampanga that the landowner (Archdiocese of San Fernando) is planning to lease out the school’s frontage, which covers the soccer and activity field to a big fast-food chain company. The alumni group conveners include Fernan Panlilio, Salvador Lorenzo, Bong Arceo, Robert Ocampo, Ner Galura, Noel Castro, Andrew Salas, Bodjie Ocampo, Bot Henson, Glen Zamora, Edgar Bolocon, and Veejay Tanglao. The said frontage property (4,961 square meters) is located within the three hectare Chevalier School Campus. It has been reported that a giant Filipino fast food chain is already in final talks with the Archdiocese of San Fernando for a multi-million long term lease contract,” the alumni said.

Based on the latest data of the Angeles City Business Permit and License Division graciously provided to me by the hardworking Chief Gie Angeles-Malonzo, the total number of registered fast foods (including canteen, carinderia, snack center and refreshment) are 580, there are 665 restaurants (including grill house, coffee shop, pizza house), 118 groceries and 9 hospitals.

Any of these may take the place of Chevalier School in the future. Can we afford to lose our one and only alma mater? We shall maintain the peace in the campus through our strength and defend it ’til the end. Caballeros let’s hold the line, and we’ll hold onto that, “MORE FEARLESS AND BRAVER.”

THE MSC: THEN & NOW
The arrival of eight Dutch MSCs in Surigao on December 12, 1908 signaled the start of the MSC Philippine mission. They were Frs. Matthias Nijsters, Henry Peeters, Bernard van Riel, Antonius van den Boogaard, Joseph Intven, Joseph Menken, Antonius Jong, and Bernard Willemsen. Seeing the overwhelming amount of missionary work in the area, they urgently asked and prayed for more missionaries to be sent to the Philippines. More than forty years after the arrival of the first MSCs, the first MSC minor seminary was initially opened in 1951 in the rectory of then Virgen de Regla Parish (now a national shrine), Lapu-Lapu City, to formally start a full MSC formation program in the Philippines. Nevertheless, even without a formal formation program, the MSCs accepted local vocations as early as 1923 with Victor Viola and Vicente Celeste being the first young Filipinos to join the Congregation. On March 15, 1980, the MSC Philippine Province was officially erected. Today, there are more than a hundred MSCs at work in the Philippines and in other countries like the USA, the Netherlands, Marshall Islands, and Japan where the Philippine Province sends missionaries.

FOUNDER FR. JULES CHEVALIER
He was not born great. His life was not a mystery. He was like any of us ordinary individuals. What made his life remarkable however was his vision of proclaiming God’s love to the world. He became a man with a mission. Jules Chevalier was born on March 15, 1824. He lived a normal childhood. He was involved in parish life as an altar-boy. He wanted to enter the seminary after his first communion at the age of twelve. His parents, however, could not afford to pay for his seminary studies. So he decided to save money for this purpose by taking up a trade as an apprentice shoemaker. While doing that kind of work, he also spent his time at the presbytery helping the poor. At the age of thirty he was sent to Issoudun, France which was regarded as the most de christianized town in the whole region. He had envisioned forming a group of “Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.” He made a novena to the Blessed Virgin Mary that would conclude on the day of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. On December 8, 1854 his prayer was answered. Fr. Jules received the message that an anonymous benefactor would give 20,000 francs for the construction of a house of missionaries to be established in the area. Since then, December 8, 1854 has been regarded as the foundation day of the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Today, more than 160 years after, more than 2,000 MSCs work all over the world, keeping the charism of Jules Chevalier alive, his vision of God’s love, as symbolized in the Heart of his Son.

THE ICONIC FR. HENRY GROENWEGEN
“In the early evening of July 2, 2019, Father Henry Groenewegen passed away and the Philippine Province of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart lost an icon of stability, faithfulness and integrity. On September 14, 1934, he was born in Naaldwijk, the Netherlands and given the names: Hendricus Leonardus Adrianus Groenewegen. On August 24, 1959 he received the Sacerdotal Ordination. After one more year of pastoral training, he was ready to see his dream become true, to be a missionary of God’s love in the Philippines, where he arrived in November 1961. Father Henry was assigned in May 1962 to the still very new Sacred Heart Minor Seminary in Angeles City. For the rest of his life, the Sacred Heart Seminary and Chevalier School, which it would later become, were his ministry and his home: 57 years of dedication to the formation of young people, always – even before we began to use this expression – in the spirituality of the heart. He served the school in many capacities: as teacher of Latin and Greek, science, history and astronomy. As bursar, he supervised many of the constructions that enabled Chevalier School to grow in number and quality of service. Quite probably, his careful management of its finances was an important factor in making these expansions possible. In January 2018, the most difficult chapter in Father Henry’s life began. While being confined at Lourdes Hospital for treatment of pneumonia, his doctors found that his illness was more serious than that. His body was being ravaged by cancer, and because of his age and general weakness, no chemo treatments were still possible. For about four months, Father Henry stayed in the Chevalier Home in Quezon City. After many consultations with his doctors, family members and MSC community leader, Father Henry asked if he could be brought back to Chevalier School in Angeles City. Initially, good care helped somewhat improve his health, and he still had many happy days, but it remained a battle that could not be won. July 2 brought the end of Father Henry’s life. July 8, after a burial mass at Chevalier School, internment took place at La Pieta Memorial Park in Angeles City.” – Fr. Ad van Hest, Provincial Secretary and Archivist, MSC.

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