Venerable Leo Gustav Dehon

detail of the Vatican portrait of Venerable Leo Gustav Dehon, date and artist unknownAlso known as

  • Father John of the Sacred Heart
  • Leon Dehon


Raised in a pious family; his mother was especially devoted to the Sacred Heart, and passed this on to Leo. As a young man he felt a call to the priesthood, but his father had other plans for him, and sent him to study at the Sorbonne in Paris, France. He earned a degree in civil law at 21, but had spent much of his free time in a local church. His father tried again to interest his son in the world by sending him on a long tour of the East, but on his way home Leo entered the French seminary of Saint Claire in Rome, Italy in October 1865. Ordained on 19 December 1868 in the basilica of Saint John Lateran. His father not only came to terms with his son’s vocation, he returned to the Church himself.

Stenographer for the first Vatican Council. Parish priest at Saint Quentin. Part of the first congress of workers. Founded a Catholic newspaper. Founded the College of Saint John from the young people he brought into the Institute of Saint John. Spiritual director and confessor to a house of Sister Servants of the Sacred Heart. Father Leo began feeling drawn to religious life, and on 28 June 1878, following a pilgrimage to Loreto, Italy, he founded the Oblates of the Sacred Heart, taking the name Father John of the Sacred Heart. The Oblates grew quickly, but due to misunderstandings about their mission, they met great opposition, and on 3 December 1883 were ordered disbanded. After a period of depression, prayer and reflection, Leo re-formed his Institute as the Priests of the Sacred Heart (Dehonians) on 25 February 1888 with a goal of parish and foreign missionary work, with special devotion of its members to Eucharistic Adoration. They received the approval of Pope Leo XIII who asked “Father John” to preach from the pope‘s encyclicals. Father John started Reign of the Sacred Heart magazine in 1889. Though they had the support of Pope Leo XIII, Pope Saint Pius X, Pope Benedict XV, and Pope Pius XI, he and his Priests continued to be the target of slander and accusations for years. He participated in congresses and conferences, founded new houses of the Priests, and loved to hear Confessions for hours at a time. Managed the construction of the basilica of Christo Re beginning on 18 May 1920.





Additional Information


For him I lived, for him I die. He is my everything, my life, my death and my eternity. Venerable Leo’s dying words, pointing at a portrait of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

MLA Citation

  • “Venerable Leo Gustav Dehon“. CatholicSaints.Info. 6 April 2017. Web. 27 October 2021. <>