Category Archives: 200 years

Second conference of the Bicentenary

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On Saturday, February 27, 2016, in the series of conferences scheduled throughout this year of the bicentenary, Fr. Michel COURVOISIER OMI, gave a conference on Fr. François de Paule Henry Tempier. A number of people flocked in at 56 Cours Mirabeau to discover or deepen the character, personality and works of the one who was the friend and the very faithful companion of the Founder of the Oblates.

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This is Eugene de Mazenod, who in the fall of 1815, proposed to the young native priest of Saint-Cannat (a village near Aix), to join him and accompany him in the Foundation of the missionaries of Provence. Tempier soon became the man he could trust as his confidant, his advisor and really the “right arm” of the Founder. He faced with courage and dedication the difficulties encountered in the responsibilities that were entrusted to him: a new community from 1818 at our Lady of Laus, the burden of being Vicar General in Marseille, the direction of the seminary, training and accompaniment of the Oblates and even conflicts of Eugene de Mazenod with political and religious authorities of the time… In the shadow of the Founder, Tempier leaves the image of a missionary with a big heart, “effacé mais ô combien efficace!” forgotten but, oh how effective! This aspect was strongly emphasised by Fr. COURVOISIER. The Congregation owes a lot to Tempier!

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The cycle of bicentenary conferences will continue on Saturday, April 2 and will present the First Companions of Saint Eugene and Tempier: Mie, Deblieu, Icard, Maunier.

Chantal BERNARD-BRET

Category: 200 years, News

Bicentenary – Exposition

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The Exposition organized at 60 Cours Mirabeau, in the same places where on 25 January 1816 the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate was founded, is currently taking place as from January 26 to February 7.

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Two hundred years of missionary life among the poorest of the poor, the service of the Church and the proclamation of the Good News, cannot be summed up on a few very well done posters and very interesting videos and multiple souvenir objects brought from distant countries by fierce missionaries. It is the spirit of the audacious Founder, St. Eugene de Mazenod, which blows and is strongly felt as the visitor navigates the various rooms of the Exposition: The dynamism of his early companions, who first went to announce the Word of God in the villages of Provence, the ardent faith which animated these young priests, dedicated to the most abandoned, to the domestics, to prisoners and to the unemployed youth, the confidence that inhabited these adventurers sent in 1841 to Canada and then to Sri Lanka and South Africa. It is this evangelizing impulse that shines through room after room in the cradle of the Congregation.

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A gathering in the Foundation room where it all began, a moment of prayer in the inner Chapel, a browse through the rooms, dense with memories, discovering the places where currently the International Community lives in the same missionary spirit that animated Eugene de Mazenod and his first companions, offers visitors an intense moment of discovery and emotion.

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Many school groups have already come to visit the Exposition and will continue to come and share in the riches of this Exposition that is opened every day.

The Expo is opened for visits daily until February 7 (except February 2) at 11 h to 12 h and from 15 h to 17 h.

Chantal BERNARD-BRET

Category: 200 years, News

Bicentenary Mass, celebrated in Aix-en-Provence

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During his homily at the Bicentenary Mass, celebrated at Saint-Sauveur, Cathedral of Aix, on January 24, 2016, addressing the Missionary Oblates, Bishop Christophe DUFOUR told them that, “a poor Church for the poor, is the road-map for New Evangelization”.

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At this celebration there were about 30 priests, many religious sisters and brothers, and a big number of the faithful, among them were those who came from very far, they all gathered around the Bishop and the Superior General of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate to celebrate this event.

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The flute and the drum, specific features of Provençal music, accompanied some moments of this celebration of Thanksgiving for the 200 years of Oblate life. During the prayers of the faithful, one prayer was said in Provençal, the language of the local people at the time of Saint Eugene. During communion a poem, inspired by St. Eugene’s sermon during Lent of 1813 in the Church of the Madeleine in Aix-en-Provence, was beautifully sung. The celebration ended with a play, on the call of the first Missionaries of Provence. The play was prepared by the Frat Oser, a group of university students who live in the Oblates’ house in Aix.

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The Bicentenary celebrations begun three years ago by a program of spiritual renewal lived by the Oblates. This program was a call to return to the Oblate charism whose roots lie in the Foundation, by Saint Eugene de Mazenod, of the Missionaries of Provence.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

Category: 200 years, News

Bicentenary – Pilgrimage in Aix

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“My wife and I were privileged this month to be pilgrims following the footsteps of St. Eugene de Mazenod on this bicentenary of the founding of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. We visited places, important to the Oblates, in Paris, Aix-en-Provence and Marseille, places significant in the life of St. Eugene”.

In the Chapel of First Vows

In the Chapel of First Vows

David and Ana were married in 1977 at St. Brigid’s Catholic Church in San Antonio, Texas. Both Ana and David are members of San Antonio chapter of Oblate Associates, they recently participated, with 37 other members, in a pilgrimage in Aix “on the footsteps of St. Eugene”. They were accompanied by Fr. Frank SANTUCCI, David KALERT and Art FLORES. In this article they share with us their amazing experience of the pilgrimage.

Ana has always been interested in serving the poor in both her professional and private life. She is a full-time professor of Law at St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio, Texas. For many years she managed the clinical education program for law students, a program that provides free legal services. Additionally, she is chairperson of the board for Mexican American Catholic College in San Antonio which provides undergraduate education particularly to seminarians and others who seek to minister to Spanish speaking population. On the other hand, David worked many years for the State of Texas. Since retirement he has been attending the Oblate School of Theology, first, in the Master of Theology program (he received his MA in May 2013) and now he attends OST taking one class each semester for fun.

Marseille, Old Port

Marseille, Old Port

According to David, “the highpoint of the pilgrimage was our visit to the OMI foundation house in Aix. We were warmly received by the Oblates residing in the house and truly made to feel welcome and at home. We were blessed to be able to spend a few days residing in the house where St. Eugene founded the Congregation. The rooms are lovely, kept warm this winter and the communal dining with the Oblates and comradery we developed with them was truly a blessing. We were honored and privileged to share in the life of the community, eating with the Oblates and participating in their prayer life at Vespers and Oraison in the evening”.

Ana shares in David’s sentiments, “I join in everything that David said about the pilgrimage, about our Oblate hosts, and the warmth we shared with our group. I add that in those few days St. Eugene has become a dear friend. My introduction to him began on arrival in Aix: our lives were very different and yet similar enough for me to seek him out and to feel comfortable with him”.

Ana finds herself in St. Eugene who grew up in an aristocratic family, being a spoiled young man and later as priest chose to be the priest for the poor, she tells us, “my youth was not as privileged, but close enough, and clearly spoiled. As a priest St. Eugene dedicated his life to serving the poor, I have been committed to social justice and practiced the option for the poor my whole life; of course my work is not as intense, personal, or committed as his”.

As for Ana, “Aix itself looked familiar, maybe a little bit like Mexico City. We entered the foundation house at the back, a large metal door hid the interior, and opened to a parking area. From there we entered the house, it was familiar, expected, especially the floors, the walls, the halls between the rooms and the garden. I felt at home, physically and spiritually. The Oblate priests were kind, welcoming and generous. The chapel was new, different, but prayerful and holy”.

the cemetery Saint -Pierre in front of the Oblate's vault

the cemetery Saint -Pierre in front of the Oblate’s vault

Ana was particularly struck by the stories about the Founder’s life, how strong and determined St. Eugene was: “he was formidable, as well as large. And yet, when the Holy Spirit led him to a path he had not intended or planned (mission, founder, bishop . . .) he followed with characteristic strength and love for the poor and marginalized. I heard these stories a little bit, but felt them a lot. I was not surprised, and I had expected to make friends”.

On the other hand, for David the apex of the experience, “was a directed meditation in the room where St. Eugene lived with the priests who were to establish the order with him. We felt his spirit and the zeal he felt for evangelizing the poor and those at the margins of society. The Charism of the OMI which is so carefully carried out by the many brothers who call themselves Oblates was palpable in the room. We were privileged to pray and feel that spirit while touching the relic of the saint’s heart. Many in our group left the room weeping”.

“On this pilgrimage we learned a lot about St. Eugene, and the history of the Oblates. We will always be connected to St. Eugene, to the upper rooms of the Foundation House, to Aix, from which the work and spirit of the Oblates flow. The Oblates of Mary Immaculate shared their home with us, and now it is in a way our home as well. We pray that this bicentenary year will yield great fruit for the Oblates and all they minister to”.

David BERRY and Ana NOVOA

Category: 200 years, News

Portrait of Father Deblieu

Portrait of Father Deblieu

The research done on the occasion of the Bicentenary of the Foundation of the Missionaries of Provence allowed us to discover the portrait of Father Jean-François Sébastien Deblieu, one of the first companions of Saint Eugene de Mazenod. It is really a great gift of the Jubilee, because until now the Oblates had no portrait of Father Deblieu.

Priestly ordination of Fr. Deblieu

Priestly ordination of Fr. Deblieu

Fr. Deblieu lithographic portrait was offered to the Oblates by Mr. Georges Eyssautier with the following inscription: “Great grandson of Leonie Eyssautier, born Deblieu, I offer this lithographic portrait of his uncle, Messire Jean-François Sébastien Deblieu, Canon Emeritus of the Cathedral of Fréjus, Pastor and Dean of La Seyne in the same diocese, one of the first and valiant companions of Saint Eugene de Mazenod, to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate of Aix, to perpetuate his memory. December 6, 2015.”

Fr. Jean-François Sébastien Deblieu, was ordained a priest in Aix in February 1813, he was one of the first five companions of the Founder. He participated in at least 17 of 40 missions preached by the Missionaries of Provence. In 1823 he left the Congregation, but he remained a very good priest and occupied many important posts in the diocese of Fréjus, his diocese of origin.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

Category: 200 years, House, News

Inaugural Conference

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The historical context in which the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate was founded will be the inaugural theme of the series of conferences on the birth of the Oblates on the occasion of the Bicentenary of their Foundation. The inaugural conference will be given on Friday, December 18, 2015, at 18h30, in Aix-en-Provence at the Diocesan house, room “Chêne de Mambré.”

Eugene de Mazenod

While he could have chosen an ecclesiastical career, like a number of his classmates in the seminary, Eugene de Mazenod, as a young priest, he chose to return to Provence. Indeed, who could have better evangelized the little people of Provence, other than the one who knew the Provençal language? Contracting a disease in 1814 made him realize that alone, he will never achieve the ministry he was feeling called to undertake and his work will have no future. Hence, the search for capable companions. His letter to Father Tempier, 27 years old assistant in a parish in Arles, gives us the essentials: “…read this letter at the foot of your crucifix with a mind to heed only God and what is demanded in the interests of his glory and of the salvation of souls from a priest like yourself… dwell deeply on the plight of our country people, their religious situation, ask your heart what it fain would do to counter these disasters…what I say to you, is that you are necessary for the work which the Lord inspires us to undertake! We wish to choose men who have the will and the courage to walk in the footsteps of the apostles.” The fragile construction of the society of the Missionaries of Provence launched in 1815-1816, will develop in a historical context that had influenced his missionary choices.

Category: 200 years, News

Bicentenary Anniversary of the Oblates

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On January 25, 2016, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) will celebrate the 200th anniversary of their Congregation. It was founded in Aix-en-Provence by Eugene de Mazenod (1782-1861), a priest of the diocese of Aix, proclaimed a Saint by Pope John Paul II in 1995.

Foundation Room

Foundation Room

History of the Congregation
After the French Revolution, Eugene de Mazenod was deeply moved by the state of abandonment of Christians in Provence. He wanted to be “the servant and priest for the poor” and to sacrifice his entire life for them. Confronted with the immensity of the task, Eugene de Mazenod appealed to some priests to form a small team with an aim to awaken the Christians’ faith, especially among the most abandoned: rural areas, youth, prisoners and the simple people of the city. On January 25, 1816, with four companions, Eugene founded the society of the Missionaries of Provence, which, ten years later, became the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, recognized by Pope Leo XII. Eugene became the Bishop of Marseille in 1837. As a Bishop he gave himself totally to the service of his diocese, which was in full development, while continuing to lead the Congregation he founded. He laid the foundation stone of Notre Dame de la Garde and the Cathedral of the Major in Marseille; another Oblate, Cardinal Guibert, will later restore religion at Saint Martin of Tours and became the original thought behind the construction of the Basilica of Sacred Heart of Montmartre.

The Oblate Mission among the Inuits started at 1912.

The Oblate Mission among the Inuits started at 1912.

In 1841, despite the small numbers, the Congregation did not hesitate to send missionaries to Canada, United States, Asia (Sri Lanka), and in Africa (South Africa and Lesotho).
Today, the Missionary Oblates are approximately 3800 men, present in more than 65 countries. . “The small stem, planted by Eugene de Mazenod in 1816 became a vigorous tree, extending its branches on both hemispheres, it knows how to adapt to the icy climate of the North Pole as well as to the burning heats of the Equator.” (Saint-John XXIII, on May 21, 1961).

Spirituality of the Congregation
The spirituality of the Congregation is centred on Christ the Saviour whom it should make known and loved. At the example of Eugene de Mazenod, who spoke in Provençal so as to be understood by the simple people, the Oblates have always had the desire to learn the local languages of the people to whom they are sent and to live always closer to them

Major events for the Bicentenary in Aix-en-Provence
In Aix a number of events have been programmed to celebrate the Bicentenary, beginning towards the end of 2015 and a part of 2016.

Firstly, there will be a Solemn Mass for the Jubilee; it will be celebrated on Sunday, January 24, 2016 at 10:30 at the Cathedral of Aix-en-Provence by Bishop Christophe Dufour, in the presence of the Superior General of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

Secondly, there will be an Exposition recounting the highlights of the life of the Missionary Oblates since 1816. The exposition will take place at 60 cours Mirabeau, from January 25 to February 7, 2016 (special animation for schools will be part of the Exposition).

Thirdly, there will be a series of conferences throughout the year 2016 focusing on the first companions of St. Eugene de Mazenod and different Oblate figures.

The Service for the Communication of the Jubilee

Category: 200 years, News