Category Archives: De Mazenod Experience

Pilgrimage to Fuveau

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On Pentecost Monday, participants of the De Mazenod Experience made a pilgrimage to Fuveau where, in September 1816, the missionaries of Provence preached a parish mission. This mission gave birth to the vocation of Marius Suzanne, a young native of this city. Suzanne entered the novitiate at the age of 17.

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The pilgrimage began in the Chapel of the First Vows where the rite of the commissioning of missionaries was celebrated as prescribed by the Constitutions and rules of 1818. The rite begins with the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, followed by a community prayer, and the blessing by the Superior. Prostration during the blessing is part of this rite.

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On arrival at Fuveau, the pilgrims stopped for prayer before the mission cross, erected on the roadside by Saint Eugene de Mazenod and his companions at the end of the 1816 mission. Later, a Mass for Oblate vocation was celebrated in the Parish Church of Fuveau.

The pilgrimage ended with a picnic at the square in front of the Chapel of St. Michael, patron of the town of Fuveau.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

Supported in Friendship and Fraternal Life

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The 2017 De Mazenod Experience in English began on April 19 with 15 participants coming from 9 Units. We began, welcomed by members of the Aix Community, literally “coming into” this our first Oblate community house, proceeding into the Church of the Mission, the Chapel of the Vows, and going upstairs to The Foundation Room, where we spent time in community prayer.

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The first several weeks saw us learning about St. Eugene’s story and our stories, reflecting on the beginnings as a Missionary and Religious community with Eugene and his first companions, and together reflecting on the missionary expansion during the time of the Founder and beyond, and the contemporary situations in our own missionary units today. The facilitators for this session are Fr. Asodo ISTOYO, of the Aix Community and Bro. Patrick McGEE of the US Province.

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Our retreat will be under the direction of Fr. Paweł RATAJCZAK, assisted by Fr. Asanga VIRAJ, Fr. Asodo and Bro. Pat as spiritual directors. Following the two weeks of retreat, we will have some further input on local Oblate history and mission in Aix and Marseilles, a visit to St. Eugene’s tomb, some input from the General Administration, a visit by the Superior General, and some final wrap up and evaluation. It has been a rich experience thus far, and our group has become an Oblate community, blessed by our being here. We remember you in our prayer!

Patrick McGee, OMI

De Mazenod Experience in Polish

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The De Mazenod Experience in Polish is currently taking place in Aix at the cradle of our Congregation since the 1st of September till October 7th 2015. The Experience is animated by Krzysztof ZIELENDA (Superior of Aix), Roman TYCZYNSKI (France-Benelux), and Paweł RATAJCZAK (Assumption, Canada).

During prayer in the Foundation Room

During prayer in the Foundation Room

The recently formulated De Mazenod Experience program is meant to be two months long, however, in order to allow the Polish Oblate participants to find “a time window” the program had to be shortened to six weeks. The first sign of “Polish atmosphere” manifested itself in Aix already in January of this year during the retreat for the Superiors of Polish Oblate communities.

Preparing for the Experience the participants list kept changing but in the end a very fine group, openhearted, with an ability to create a joyful and sincere community, made it to Aix. Even though all the participants are only Oblates of Polish background and the spoken language remains Polish, as a group they truly represent the whole of the Congregation. The group is made up of Oblates working in Canada, US, Luxembourg, Sweden, Madagascar, Cameroun, Ukraine, Belarus and of course Poland itself; and among the participants are two Oblate brothers.

During conference in Room Temp

During conference in Room Temp

For some of us this is our very first visit to Aix – for others they have been here before. For some it is part of a sabbatical program – others, just a stop in the middle of their mission to take some spiritual power – and yet for others, it is a moment to prepare for a major change in their mission.

For us here our “Daily bread” is prayer and the Eucharist in the chapel of First Vows of our Founder. Sharing, visiting places associated with the life of St. Eugene and his first companions, as well as the upcoming retreat, all these are common for a De Mazenod Experience program, but the uniqueness of the group gives to it all a very special coloring.

Andrzej JASTRZEBSKI, OMI

De Mazenod Experience – Dates of the next sessions

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On 1 September 2015 we began in Aix-en-Provence the De Mazenod Experience (DMX) in Polish with 13 Oblates participating in the program. The participants are from Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Madagascar, USA and Sweden.

De Mazenod Experience in English 2015

De Mazenod Experience in English 2015

The DMX is a spiritual renewal program lived in Aix-en-Provence which aims at enabling the participants to look back over their missionary experience in the light of the life of the Founder and the first Oblate community.

Here are the dates of the next De Mazenod Experiences in different languages:

De Mazenod Experience in English:
19 April – 15 June 2017
12 September – 08 November 2018
24 April – 20 June 2019

De Mazenod Experience in French:
07 September – 03 November 2016
11 April – 07 June 2018

De Mazenod Experience in Spanish
06 September – 02 November 2017
11 September – 07 November 2019

For more information please visit: A new program of the De Mazenod Experience

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

International masses in the Church of the Missions

Father Samuel Sello

Every Sunday in July and in August, at 11 am, mass in two languages (French and English) is celebrated in the Church of the Missions in Aix. This mass was started by the Oblates with the assistance of the Pastoral Committee for Tourism and Leisure of Aix. Besides that, it happens that there is also an international celebration in this Church.

Participants of the De Mazenod Experience

Participants of the De Mazenod Experience

The 5th Sunday of Easter, two international masses were celebrated by the participants of the De Mazenod Experience. During the first mass, a missionary testimony was given by Father Savery COONGHE from Jaffna and during the second one, by Father Samuel SELLO from Lesotho. Set out below are the extracts of their testimonies:

Father Saveri Coonghe

Father Saveri Coonghe

«I am Coonghe from Sri Lanka. I joined the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1988 when I was 14 years old. It is a wonderful experience for me to be in the same place where my beloved Father and Founder St. Eugene de Mazenod lived and started our mother congregation. But you are very much blessed to visit this sacred place every day. The French Missionaries of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate came to our country and to other countries to preach the Good News from this house. The French Missionaries came to Sri Lanka in 1847 and they faced with so many difficulties. Our country was a very poor country. They did not have any facilities. The people were dying due to many kinds of sicknesses and the people underwent so many sufferings. But the beauty was that the Oblates were always with the people in their sufferings. To serve the poor people they were ready to die in an alien land for the glory of God. That is the missionary spirit. They dedicated their life totally for the service of the poor. I am a Catholic Priest today because of these missionaries».

Father Samuel Sello

Father Samuel Sello

«I am Fr. Samuel Sello Maliehe, Missionary Oblate. I am originally from Southern Africa, from a small country, namely Lesotho. I am glad and proud to be a member of the Oblates family, the Congregation which was founded by the son of this soil nearly 200 years ago. so with this words I can truly and prodly say I have come home where my Oblate family was born. Truly, I am at home here in Aix-en-Provence».

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

De Mazenod Experience 2015, as it happens

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The First Phase of the De Mazenod Experience aims at Progressive integration and community building. This is achieved in an atmosphere of communal prayer, sharing, and pilgrimage in Aix – in the footsteps of Saint Eugene. The fundamental question that each participant asks himself during this phase is, “how does the Founder’s life inspire my own?” Two participants, David RAJ originally from the Province of India currently in Australia as a missionary and George ROY from the US Province who spent 20 years as a missionary in Haiti, share their experience of the First Phase.

Prayer in the Foundation room

Prayer in the Foundation room

“Looking back on the week, our time in Aix has been very inspiring and touching as we walk in the footsteps of Saint Eugene particularly the places that were significant to him and to us as Oblates today. We began our session on the 8th April with a day of recollection. Fr. Bonga from South Africa preached and led this day, at the end of which 13 of us solemnly entered that sacred place where Oblate life began, the Foundation Room.
During this week our animators Frs. Bonga, Georges and Asodo helped us to reflect on our lives using different stages of the Founder’s life, i.e. Childhood, Exile and Return, His vocation, Eugene as a Young priest, His first companions and Community life; as our inspiration and point departure. Soon after each presentation they accompanied us on a pilgrimage in Aix – in the footsteps of St. Eugene de Mazenod, we visited and prayed on the Oblate significant and symbolic sites. What an amazing place to have our De Mazenod Experience!

Father David RAJ, OMI

Father David RAJ, OMI

In the afternoons we were invited to a profound sharing on our lives and experience, starting from our family background to our vocation to the Missionary Oblates. We listened and heard from each other how we met the Oblates and how our Oblate vocation unfolded. We shared with each other on the ministry we have been engaged in over the years. In our sharing, it was wonderful to hear different names of Oblate men who have inspired us, who are today appreciated as our mentors and heroes. We look forward to the next week to reflect and hear more about our Oblate Charism. Kindly keep us in your prayers and we too assure you of our prayers”. David RAJ Francis, OMI (India/Australia)

Father George ROY, OMI

Father George ROY, OMI

“The first week of the De Mazenod Experience was devoted to a study of the life of our Founder, St. Eugene de Mazenod. Our Animators gave us conferences on St. Eugene’s childhood, his time of exile as a consequence of the French Revolution and on the events that led to his discovery of a priestly vocation. We were inspired in hearing about St. Eugene’s enthusiasm as a young priest working with the youth and prisoners and with his preaching in Provençal to the servants and labourers of the city. Finally we learned about the beginning of our Congregation when St. Eugene brought together the five priests, including himself, who would form a new Missionary society. What made the conferences come alive is that, every day, we would visit in Aix the specific places relevant to St. Eugene’s life mission.
For myself, this week was very important since it helped me to situate my own vocation in relationship to that of St. Eugene. Although I can’t claim to be as passionate as the Founder, I believe I have gained some understanding of how God has worked in my life to make me the priest and religious that I am today. I was specially moved during this past week to walk in the footsteps of St. Eugene, to gather with fellow Oblates in the room where it all began, to celebrate Mass with the chalice from which St. Eugene himself drank and to share fellowship with men from around the world who call themselves the sons of De Mazenod. And all this after only one week!” George ROY, OMI (US Province)

De Mazenod Experience:
“From human doing to human being”

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“Formation as a Lifelong Process” is the theme of the second year of the Oblate Triennium, calling us to commit ourselves to the process of ongoing formation. The “De Mazenod Experience” is one of the recommended programs regarding ongoing formation. Fr. Andri ATMAKA from Indonesia Province and Fr. John MALAZDREWICH from Lacombe Province, recently participated in the De Mazenod Experience programme which concluded with a three weeks retreat in Lourdes, the following are their powerful testimonies from a lived Experience.

Father Andri Atmaka

Father Andri Atmaka

I am blessed that I participated in the de Mazenod Experience from September 5th to November 6th, 2014. It was really a graceful moment in my life as a Missionary Oblate and priest. After being a priest for 19 years, I felt that my energy was slowly decreasing. I did everything well in all my ministry, but there was a dryness and some feelings of boredom and emptiness in my life. I just did what I had to do. I tried to lift up my spirit and zeal, but somehow I lost my enthusiasm. I knew that I needed a break. I needed a new inspiration in my heart, I longed for my earlier motivations when I was a younger Oblate and Priest.
I thank God that I was given the opportunity, just in time, to participate in the De Mazenod Experience. With other 14 Oblates from many different countries, I began my two months journey. The motivation I had in my heart was openness. I opened myself and made myself ready to receive all my Oblate brothers as well as all the sessions that would be given; I opened myself to whatever experience I would get.

Fathers Andri Atmaka, John Malazdrewich and Eko Saktio

Fathers Andri Atmaka, John Malazdrewich and Eko Saktio

During the retreat in Lourdes, I had a lot of time to deepen my reflection. I became more aware that I was in a transition period from “human doing” to “human being.” I realized that since my first assignment as a priest, I lived my life according to my achievement. I relied on my own strength. I wanted to be applauded by the people of God, as “the good one.” Somehow I forgot my identity as a Missionary Oblate and Religious. Then I found that on my journey there was not always a success story. There were many fragilities, failures and weaknesses in my life and in my commitment as an Oblate and priest. I am now more aware that it is only through God’s amazing grace that I could do all that I was able to do in my ministry, it is through the same grace that I can stand even today.
Thanks to the De Mazenod Experience, today, I’ve come to realize and embrace the fact that I am only a human being, with many limitations and weaknesses. And yet God loves me so much. He is a Father who has been waiting for the return of his beloved son. He is ready to greet and hug him with his fatherly love. So, I come back home. Not bringing him all my achievements but my being. He asks me not to worry about anything, but to just trust him. Once again, He asks me to witness to His love through my daily life. I am very grateful to have participated in the De Mazenod Experience that I could be reminded that I am still loved by God! Andri ATMAKA, OMI

Fathers John Malazdrewich and Marius Nimal

Fathers John Malazdrewich and Marius Nimal

Following our three weeks retreat in Lourdes, France, we returned to our Foundation House in Aix. The last number of days have been an opportunity to begin to integrate all that we have lived during these past two months. As we reflected and shared our experience, it was evident that the “Call to Conversion” has been heard in many different ways by the participants of the program. The title of this program “Mazenod Experience” was wisely chosen, as this is precisely what this time has been, a lived experience of our Oblate life, in the spirit and charism of St. Eugene.
We ended the “Mazenod Experience” with the celebration of the Eucharist in the Foundation Room. This was a very moving experience. Each of us renewed our vows in the presence of one another. Vowing once again to life, our life as religious in the spirit and charism of St. Eugene. We celebrated the Eucharist together and were touched to be able to use St. Eugene’s ordination chalice. A very moving experience indeed ! We go back to our local communities and ministries renewed in our Oblate life. John MALAZDREWICH, OMI

A new program of the De Mazenod Experience

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A long work-session, which aimed at assessing the two recently conducted De Mazenod Experiences and at drawing up a new program for this privileged Experience, came to conclusion on the 5th of March. Three members of the General Administration, the Oblate community of Aix, and two specially-invited Oblates participated in the session.

Spanish -Language De Mazenod Experience – 2014

Spanish -Language De Mazenod Experience – 2014

The De Mazenod Experience is meant to be a time of spiritual renewal, lived in Aix, the ‘Holy Land’ of the Oblates. This program has its origins in the decision of the General Chapter of 1953 which introduced to the Congregation the Second Novitiate, which, a year later, was to be renamed the De Mazenod Retreat. The first De Mazenod Retreat, given in French, was held in Rome. Subsequently, more retreats followed fairly regularly, in French or English, and were held in Rome, France, Canada, and the United States. The General Chapter of 1972 ended the organization of the Retreat at the Congregational level and recommended that Regions should establish their own sessions for spiritual and pastoral renewal. Finally, the 1986 Chapter launched the program called the De Mazenod Experience and chose Aix as a favourable home for such an Experience. The eligible participants for the program are Oblates of the entire Congregation with at least 10 years in perpetual vows. Today, forty De Mazenod Experiences have been held at Aix, and about 550 Oblates have participated in the program. The last two Experiences were held in 2014, in Spanish and in English respectively.

English-Language De Mazenod Experience – 2014

English-Language De Mazenod Experience – 2014

Recently, the De Mazenod Experience has been rethought in the light of the call to conversion of the last General Chapter.

The following are some of the essential elements of this new program:

Progressive Integration, sharing, community prayer, pilgrimage in Aix – in the footsteps of Saint Eugene. Fundamental question: How does the Founder’s life inspire my own?

History of the Congregation and the first Oblate community. Fundamental question: How does the life and experience of the first Oblates inspire my own mission?

Oblate charism. Fundamental question: What is my personal experience of the charism?

A 15 days retreat based on Ignatian Spiritual Exercises.

Concerning the present missionary outlook of the Congregation, with the presence of a member of the General Administration. Fundamental question: What are the challenges of the Congregation’s mission and how do they align with the challenges of my own mission?

Renewal of vows and commissioning.

The dates of the next De Mazenod Experiences will be communicated soon.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

De Mazenod Experience- testimonies

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“We have been in Aix-en-Provence at our Foundation House, where the life of our community took root and we made our first tentative steps as a religious community within the Church. The local tours to Oblate points of interest, the prayer, the educational sessions and the free time with our brother Oblates, is stirring new things within my heart. As a result of our time together I have had the opportunity to explore and talk about the charism, the spirituality and the zeal that animate my own commitment to ministry and community life.
While we have the opportunity to physically walk in the footsteps of St. Eugene, walking in the footsteps of our Founder is really a metaphor for finding new ways to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with one another and for ourselves to be converted by it. We are constantly reminded that we are contemplative missionaries, apostolic men with the mind and heart of Christ.
I am grateful for these days with my brothers who have gathered from around the world. Grateful too for the reminder that carrying the cross is our work, that sharing the Good News is our work, that living in communion with each other is our work, that respecting the uniqueness of the other is our work and that giving thanks and praise to God is our work. My one wish is that every Oblate have the chance to live the De Mazenod Experience and once again burn with fire, to give light and life to all; sending sparks of new life in every direction”. Douglas JEFFREY, OMI (Canada, Lacombe Province).

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“The time that I have spent here in Aix-en-Provence, 60 Cours Mirabeau, has been for me a time of profound life-giving sharing, personal reflection, and a serious evaluation of my life as a Person, a Christian and more over as an Oblate. During this time I have become aware of my giftedness as an Oblate and also the talents and value of other Oblates. This has been for me a time to celebrate who I am as a person and as an Oblate, time of self-affirmation, self- appreciation and self-acceptance. But also this time has been a moment of a deep call to conversion and renewal. In times of prolonged silence prayer and reflection I have been able to look back and realized how our Good Lord has been present in my life and how He has faithfully journeyed with me until now. I have come to accept that there is no reason for me to run away from the silence but quietly listen to it, love it and meet God who is present in the silence.
Among the special moments for me was when Fr. Louis LOUGEN, Superior General, visited us for a week and one evening he invited all the Oblates present here to hold in our hands and venerate the Oblate Cross of the Founder. Praying next to the relic of the heart of the Founder and visiting the tomb where the Founder is buried; all these symbols and gestures have reawaken my heart and soul to the truth of the divine love of God for me personally. I can feel that I am having something of Christ in me. I feel renewed and called to holiness and the holiness of other people. I feel grounded in virtue, in touch with the Founder and ready to share with the world the Mercy and Tenderness of God.
Through this experience, I am now feeling that I have a heart of a Christian, a heart of an Oblate, a heart of Eugene de Mazenod and a heart of a Missionary. I have, slowly but surely, started to understand this Holy man, St. Eugene de Mazenod, I am journeying with him and I have once again fallen in Love with him. And through his charism and his spirit, I am really on fire, burning with love for God!” Tshidiso MOLEKO, OMI (Central Province of South Africa).

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“What a Gift! As I reflect on my experience here in Aix, I can only say: “What a Gift”! Each day as I rise I am grateful for this gift…..this time spent where it all began.
Living in the Foundation House, walking in the streets and seeing the places where St. Eugene lived, walked and preached has certainly made my awareness of my Oblate life so much more real. The animators and presenters, as well as the Oblate Community here, the Tours of Marseilles have certainly renewed my commitment to that “Yes” that I made a number of years ago. I would certainly encourage everyone to say yes to this gift, if it becomes available to you”. Tony RIGOLI, OMI (USA Province).

On Monday the 13th of October the participants began their 15 days directed retreat in Lourdes. We entrust them to the Immaculate Heart of Mary our Blessed Mother.

BONGA MAJOLA, OMI

De Mazenod Experience 2014

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Richard SUDLIK from US Province, Joseph LABELLE from Aix community and John O’DOHERTY from Australia Province are the animators of this session. Participants come from 8 Oblate units: Wolfgang BOEMER from Central European Province, Tshidiso MOLEKO from SA Central Province, Adam FILAS from Assumption Canada Province, John MALAZDREWICH, Douglas JEFFREY and Daniel SZWARC from Lacombe Canada Province, Tony RIGOLI and Paul NOURIE from US Province, Marius NIMAL and Ruwan PRASANNA from Colombo Sri Lanka Province, Dango SOMOR from the Delegation of Bangladesh, Eko SAKTIO and Andri ATMAKA from Indonesia Province, and Bonga MAJOLA from Aix community.

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During the second week of the session we had the joy of welcoming Fr. Louis LOUGEN, Superior General, who came to share some news of the Congregation and to have a moment of fraternity with the “De Mazenod Experience” participants. The third week of the session focused on the Oblate charism and was animated by Sandy PRATHER, an Honorary Oblate from Canada.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI