My dear Brother Oblates, As Superior General of the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate I declare the First Congress on the Oblate Ministry of Vocations to be officially open!
This Congress, mandated by the Superior General in Council as one of the very significant ways to mark the 200th Jubilee of our foundation on January 25th 1816, is meant to be a life-giving expression of our trust in the Holy Trinity who is guiding the Congregation to a new future. We are filled with hope and we recall the special grace Saint Eugene received on August 15, 1822 through the intercession of Mary that “this little family” would have a great future and be a blessing for the Church.
I am very happy to be here in our house of foundation in Aix en Provence! I am very happy to be with you, my brother Oblates who are ministering in vocational animation! I am blessed that often I have occasion to come to Aix. It is always special for me to come here and never a just routine visit. There is always a sense of the Founder, Saint Eugene, of Tempier and the first companions in this house. Not only to I feel a connection to the past in the very setting of our house, but we experience our Oblate charism in a very tangible way through the life of the Oblates who have formed a community here and who welcome us into it. This is the Holy Land for us as Oblates of Mary Immaculate. I think that even more so at this time of our 200th anniversary we are blessed with a special presence and grace of Saint Eugene among us.
This vocations Congress is an important highlight of our 200th anniversary. Let us cherish this time together. Let us give the best of ourselves these days with a spirit of hope and joy. Let us work hard for the good success of the Congress: first of all by our prayer here these days, personal and communal; by listening very attentively to one another and seeking to understand deeply the movement of the Spirit in our different contexts; by listening to our Oblate sources; and by listening to the appeal of the poor today who cry out for life, for salvation.
We remember that this third year of the Oblate Triennium is dedicated to Mission and to the vow of Obedience. I hope that this Oblate Triennium has been a source of grace for your Units and that the resources provided on the Oblate website for faith sharing and the search for signs of conversion have been spiritually enriching and a motivation for conversion. This year of the Oblate Triennium has seen the celebration of our 200th on the 25th of January 2016. Other highlights of this Jubilee year are the Congress on Oblate Mission with Youth which was held in March 2016 and the present Congress on Oblate Ministry of Vocations.
Both of these ministries are helping us intensify the significance of our 200th Jubilee as an opportunity we cannot miss to look to the future welcoming new life and fresh energy in the Congregation. Both these ministries are related to one another in their aims and goals and there are rich possibilities of mutual interaction and support while respecting the specific goals of each ministry. We are indeed so blessed by the Spirit through these two congresses in our Jubilee Year!
In this present congress, we are not only deepening a very significant theme and vital dimension of our life and mission as Oblates, but we are also strengthening our Oblate spirit and our sense of belonging to the Congregation. Together let us claim the heritage we have received from the Founder who called us to be the “most united” family on earth and make it become more of a reality for our lives today. I hope this congress will be a deep spiritual experience for all of us as well as a real impulse for vocation ministry throughout the Congregation.
Many Oblates all around the world are united with us during these days and are joining us in prayer. They are expecting something from this congress to help them in their ministry of vocations. They are looking for inspiration, support and direction. Let us ask the Spirit for the grace to do something wonderful for the Congregation!
It is important that all of us are conscious of our responsibility to make known what we will experience at this congress to our home Units. We must share its conclusions and its spirit with our brother Oblates and our lay collaborators around the world. Because of this, I ask you already to creatively imagine how we can best share this experience, the work, the insights and the wisdom we will gain here. Please keep this in mind constantly throughout these days. We are not here just for ourselves, but we are here representing our Oblate Units around the world. We have present all the other Oblate ministers of vocation who are not here, as well as every Oblate, the Oblate associates and the young people whose vocational consciousness we are called to raise.
We are grateful to Father Cornelius Ngoka, Assistant General for Formation and the Internal Formation Committee who proposed this congress on vocations. They have worked hard with the local Aix community to organize this First Congress on Oblate Vocations with the complete support of the members of the Central Government. It is especially in light of our jubilee that we designated two congresses to be held during this jubilee year: the Second Congress on Oblate Mission with Youth, held in March; and now the First Congress on Oblate Vocations. These were organized to celebrate in a deeper way our jubilee, but also to highlight the importance of each of these ministries. So we live in the joy of the jubilee.
Thank you for coming and for your participative presence!