Category Archives: Mission

A Retreat in Aix

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There were 14 people, 8 lay persons from Aix and Strasbourg and 6 Oblates from Marseille and Pontmain, who participated in the retreat led by Joseph Bois, with the theme: « In the name of God let’s be saints! » (Eugene de Mazenod, February 18, 1826) Inspired by the life and works of Saint Eugene de Mazenod, with the Word of God as the basis, the participants attempted to uncover what kind of sainthood they are called to today.

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There were two daily lectures, one in the morning and one in the early afternoon, both quite short, to present certain aspects of the life of Saint Eugene along with biblical texts for meditation. Sessions on prayer and discernment were also offered to voluntary participants. The retreat began and ended with a moment of shared contemplation among all partaking members.

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The entire retreat, meals included, was lived through in silence, respected by all participants. They appreciated the leadership team, the silence, prayerful atmosphere and tranquil rhythm allotting time for each session and activity.

Joseph BOIS, OMI

Category: Mission, News

Visit of the Oblates of the France-Benelux Delegation

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It was with a great joy the community of Aix welcomed a group of Polish Oblates of the France-Benelux Delegation who came on pilgrimage to the sources of the Congregation.

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During the visit of Aix, our pilgrims followed lectures on the life of Saint Eugene de Mazenod and visited the places in Aix en Provence and Marseilles where he had lived. The Mass at the tomb of the Founder of the Oblates was the most touching moment of their pilgrimage.

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The Delegation of France-Benelux belongs legally to the Province of Poland. It was created after the Second World War to serve many Polish-speaking Christian communities in France and Belgium. At present, they are about thirty Oblates who are extending to Luxembourg as well.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

Category: Mission, News

Spiritual retreat of COMI

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The COMI have just left their Father’s house in Aix, after ten days. Silence falls in the cloister and in the common spaces of the House, where they shared the joy of living in the same places of St. Eugene and filled these places by their prayers, their sharings among themselves and their liveliness. For the first time, three continents of the COMI world found themselves together in Aix for a retreat and interchapter meetings: approximately 30 participants, mostly Italians, but also an Uruguayan and three Congolese.

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Elderly COMI members and those with health problems have not renounced the possibility of this experience: to come and find their Father, St. Eugene de Mazenod, in the bicentenary of the Foundation of the OMI. This House had never been inhabited by so many women at a time, only during the days of the Carmelite nuns in the 17th century! Hospitality, assistance and the availability of the Aix Oblate community contributed decisively to the success of this experience, while also strengthening the fraternal bonds with the COMI.

So many precious moments of grace were experienced! The Eucharist on the Tomb of St. Eugene, the Missionary mandate of two COMI members which will soon open a new mission in Argentina, the renewal of temporary vows of three COMI and a 50th anniversary of oblation: the COMI welcomed their vocation and their sharing in the Oblate charism, as women consecrated, called to live in the world.

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The retreat preached by their assistant, Fr. Fabio CIARDI, OMI, was rather an experience of fraternity, during which they felt received and welcomed by St. Eugene, as women, encouraging them to live charity among themselves and confirming them in their mission of evangelisation in communion with the Oblates, their brothers.

BONGA MAJOLA, OMI

Category: Mission, News

Aix welcomes a group of Flemish lay associates

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My uncle, Piet WEIJS, was an Oblate missionary in Congo. He died at the age of 38, at Ipamu, on 11 October 1977 – said Marjam HOEIJMAKERS. It was a great joy for the Aix community to welcome a group of lay Flemish people from Belgium and Netherlands.

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This group, accompanied by Fr. Georges Vervust, was made up of people who live the Oblate charism in their daily lives and others who have blood relations with Oblates. However, listening to their testimonies it is clear that it is difficult to be an Oblate relative and not live the Oblate charism. Christiane testifies, The family of my husband is proud of Gerard DEFEVER, an Oblate who was killed in 1964 during the civil war in Congo. My brother Hugo VANDEMBRANDE arrived from Bolivia this week. He spent 47 years there. He returned because he is now paralyzed. We’ll take care of him – says Andrew with a deep sense of pride.

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The Oblates of the Province of Belgium and Netherlands are not very numerous and their average age announces inevitable decline. However, missionary work accomplished by the Oblates from these countries is great and deserves to be known and appreciated.

The house in Aix is open to all Oblate pilgrims and all people who want to better their knowledge of our spirituality and missionary work.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

Category: Mission, News

The members of the General Committee of Oblate Brothers deepened the source of their vocation

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On February 11-20th, 2016, the Centre International de Mazenod hosted the meeting of the General Committee of Oblate Brothers. The committee was able to have a great experience of the bicentenary in Aix, Marseille and Notre-Dame-du-Laus (the second Oblate house and the place of the vocation of the first brother Oblate). That was the experience of fraternity among themselves as well as with the Aix community as a spiritual experience especially on February 17th when we renewed our vows.

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In line with the letter of Pope Francis to the religious, thanks to the contribution of the community in Aix that the committee was able to read the beginning of the Oblate community life in the Congregation. Regional delegates shared the life of the Oblate Brother in the Region, which helped to give thanks to all the advances and open some questions for the future.

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Following the release of the document “Identity and Mission of the Religious Brother in the Church”, the committee was able to work on the aspect of religious life as the source of the charisma of the Missionary Oblate. “Our first ministry in the Church as religious is to keep alive in the baptized the conscience of the fundamental values of the Gospel and the demand to respond through their sanctity of life the love God poured into their hearts by the Holy Spirit “(cf. doc. No. 7). Being the witnesses of Jesus Christ! This work allowed us, the committee to develop a basis for a 5 days retreat in the Region.

The last two days were devoted to the preparation of the 36th General Chapter which to be held in Rome in September 2016.

Benoît DOSQUET, OMI

Category: Mission, News

Living Lenten Season together

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Last Tuesday the first meeting of the youth group took place at the Oblate community house in Aix. As from now, we will be meeting every Tuesday evening.

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To fully live the Lenten Season, we have decided to live it together as a group of young people with the Oblates. These Tuesday prayer meetings will prepare us to visit the elderly, the sick and the disabled people bringing them Holy Communion during Holy week.

Why bring communion to these people? Because this can be for us a great missionary adventure! Inspired by the example of St. Eugene de Mazenod, we have a desire to live the Oblate charism, we want, during this time of Lent, to go towards the poor and the sick and bring them our help and our support in Christ! We do this being sent as missionaries together with the Oblate community.

How to prepare for this mission? The preparation is done through prayer and sharing the word of God. It is for this reason that we invite all the youth in Aix to come and join us every Tuesday as from February 16, from 19h15 to 19h45, at 56 cours Mirabeau.

Sophie VLAISLOIR

Category: Mission, News

PilgrimAix – youth pilgrimage

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On November 21st, 1815, St. Eugene de Mazenod blessed the Choir of the Carmelites desecrated during the Revolution and made it a place of prayer for the Youth Association he founded. These recent days, the same choir served as a place of prayer for the Youth, organized here in Aix by the Commission of the Youth and Vocation Pastoral in Europe (CPJVE).

In front of the Church of the Mission

In front of the Church of the Mission

There were 35 young people from Italy, Spain, Ireland, Ukraine, Germany, France and Poland joined in the “PilgrimAix” to discover places where St. Eugene de Mazenod had lived in. They are animated by Brother Benoit DOSQUET and Father Henricus ASODO of the Aix community. The Youth, accompanied by their own Oblate chaplains, Lisa RENNER, OMI and Ileana CHINNICI, COMI, visited Aix and Marseille. The prayers, liturgical celebrations or reflection on the spiritual experience of St. Eugene in the veneration of the Cross on Good Friday as well as the pilgrimage of the parish mission preached in 1820 at Aix by the Oblates, have indeed enriched their visits.

In the chapel of first vows

In the chapel of first vows

Besides, in a solemn celebration, the Oblate Youth Chaplains: Antonio D’AMORE, David MEDINA, Jens WATTEROH, David OMIECINSKI, Andrzej ALBINIAK, Przemek KOSCIANEK and Jacques LANGLET, signed the copy of the request for the authorization to form a community of missionaries submitted in 1816 to the authorities of the diocese of Aix by St. Eugene and his first companions. This symbolic gesture is offered to all the Oblates who visit the Foundation’s room since last year as a preparatory triennium to the bicentenary of the Congregation.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

Category: Mission, News

Fuveau and Saint Eugene de Mazenod

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« A saint crosses our path » was the title of a text written by a parishioner of Fuveau on the eve of the canonisation of Saitn Eugene De Mazenod on the 3rd of December 1995. This text was again published in the monthly newsletter of the pastoral Unity, Etoile Saint-Michel, on the 1 st of March 2015. A plaque commemorating the bicentenary of the vocation of Fr. Marius SUZANNE who hails from Fuveau will be placed in the church of this town in 2016.

The parish church of Saint-Michel in Fuveau

The parish church of Saint-Michel in Fuveau

This is the text of the above mentioned article: “ It will be 184 years, four months and two days since Bishop de Mazenod, Superior of the Missionaries of Provence, who will be canonised in Rome by Pope John Paul II, came to Fuveau for the first time. He was accompanied by three of his disciples: Fr. TEMPIER, Fr. MIE, and Fr. DEBLIEU. He came right to us thanks to an invitation by the then parish priest, Pierre Mitre Bernard CHABERT, for Mission evangelisation in our parish. It was the second time the Missionaries of Provence came to preach.

On that day, the 1st of September 1816, these missionaries arrived in Aix at 6 pm. They were personally welcomed by the people of the parish and immediately taken to the church. The reception, without any doubt, was held at the entrance of what is today known as the Street of the North situated after the bridge which was the unique road to access Fuveau from the North. On that same day, the Superior gave the opening speech and spelled out the programme for daily exercises. On the very same evening, the Missionaries started visiting the inhabitants of the town: all the families in Fuveau were visit each in the month-long mission (Fuveau had a population of 1200).

Four processions were held in the town: the first was the opening of the mission which took place on the 1st Sunday of September; the second which was tagged penitence, on the 2nd Sunday; the third was tagged the Holy Sacrament, on the 3rd Sunday; and the fourth processions was that of the Cross and the rounding up of the Mission on the 4th Sunday.

The municipal administration helped in the plantation of the Cross with great help coming from the people; Mr. CASSAGNE, health officer of Aix and owner of a property in Fuveau being the mayor and Mr. Hilaire DEPOUSIER was his assistant.

These are facts! But two hundred years after, we are having difficulty to imagine what the Fuveau of the 18th century was like: the present church was not yet built. Ceremonies then used to be held in the medieval church which had to be enlarged several times.

The remains of the medieval wall

The remains of the medieval wall

In order not to disturb the work of the “charbonniers” (coalers) et the peasants, ceremonies were held very early in the mornings, and very late in the evenings.

All the ceremonies were held with the help of candle lights and oil lamps.

The church was always opened at 3:30 am. People would come around singing canticles and praises at the end of which they listened to the Word of God before going each to his working place. History did tell us that the missionaries, preoccupied with visits to families, processions and Divine Offices, could only sleep for three hours in a day. Homilies etc were said in Provencale which was the popular language.

Of this mission, we can retain the following: Blasphemy was extirpated; curses were banished in coal mines. During the visit to the cemetery, after a service was conducted for the souls in purgatory, the Superior gave a very moving speech standing in front of an opened ground (hole) on the shared end of man; this made so many a face teary, and led to the conversion of many. Everything came to an end with a plea for forgiveness before the Blessed Sacrament.

On the final day of the Mission, the church couldn’t accommodate the immense crowd that turned out; for this reason, an altar was erected in the garden.

After the Vespers, the people marched in procession towards the place where the Cross in metal was going to be planted.

The cross of the mission

The cross of the mission

A deliberative session of the Municipal Council in 1816 and on the first day of September says: « The last days of these pious work, the 29th of September, we processionally exalt the metal cross which was kept at the Pont du Fosse square, also called La Leque; immediately, we begin to walk on the path that leads to the industry of water for life of M. ARNAUD. On everything that was said here above, we found it important to mention for the sake of history in the communal archive”.

Time passed by; in 1822, Bishop de MAZENOD was yet again in our vicinity certainly invited by the successor of M. CHABERT, the parish priest of EMERIC, an ex-priest of the refractarians whose austerity, exaggerated rigours did not yield positive results on his people who protested. Feeling misunderstood, he abandoned parish ministry and dedicated himself to preaching.

The documents consulted however did not speak of a mission, but rather spoke of a retreat. Bishop de MAZENOD was accompanied by Frs. Jean Baptist, Andre Pascal HONORAT, originally from Aix, and Jacques Antoine SUZANNE, a son of Fuveau. When the missionaries arrived, the parish priest had already left definitively: the parish was left without a priest and Fr. de MAZENOD transitionally took charge of it, but really exercising the function of a parish priest for the months of September and October.

All the catholic (official) acts: baptism, funerals, celebration of marriages (their validations), were all written and signes by one or many missionaries. Those acts were from the 1st of September to the 21st of October 1822.

After having written briefly these facts of our local history, we wish that our new saint may be honored in recognition of his work in the commune of Fuveau.

Bishop de MAZENOD was beatified on the 19th of october 1975 ».

Auguste HONORAT, november 1995

Category: Mission, News

Oblates and Sainte-Victoire pilgrimage

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The association of “The Friends of Sainte-Victoire” gave a significant value to the traditionally known pilgrimage of Sainte-Victoire, Le Roumavagi De Santo Venturi in Provencal, which takes place every year on the last Sunday of April on Mount Sainte-Victoire. After a beautiful celebration of the Eucharist, there was a blessing of the mountain which followed by a picnic and entertainment of different sorts, including dance, songs in Provencal, an act of rescue in mountain accidents, put up by the brigades, and many other activities.

Sainte-Victoire Priory

Sainte-Victoire Priory

This year, due to the unavailability of the Diocesan priests, Holy Mass was presided by Fr. Joseph BOIS OMI, who took upon himself, like every good son of St. Eugene de Mazenod, to chip in some words of introduction to the Eucharistic celebration in the local language, Provençal. Fr. Joseph BOIS wasn’t the only Oblate present at the event, with him were Bro. Benoît DOSQUET and eight other Oblates, who are currently in Aix for the De Mazenod Experience, from three different continent, America, Asia and Africa. By the way, these men discovered that Sainte-Victoire is not just a valley!

Mass in the St. Victoire Priory

Mass in the St. Victoire Priory

One wonders, why do some Oblates have a particular attachment to this mountain? Besides the good feeling that comes with climbing and the experience of awe at the beauty of the site of the mountain and the amazing scenery; no doubt, there could be other reasons, more profound and in fact less visible to the eye.

Provencal dance

Provencal dance

In 1995 a new marble Altar was erected on Mount Sainte-Victoire. The Altar stone contains the relic of St. Eugene de Mazenod. It is Fr. BILLÉ, who later became the Archbishop of Aix and Arles, who climbed the Mountain and blessed the Altar. From then onwards, Oblates who visit Aix always make it a point to climb Mount Sainte-Victoire and they are joyfully accompanied by the members of Oblate international community in Aix.

Category: Mission, News

Way to Santiago and Rome

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The house of the Oblates in Aix-en-Provence is located along the ancient Via Aurelia which the way today for the pilgrims from either Saint-James de Compostela or Rome. Oblates are faithful to the principle: whoever welcomes a stranger, it is God that welcomes, offer accommodation to pilgrims.

In front of the church square of the Mission

In front of the church square of the Mission

On April 13th, 2015, the Oblates received a group of pilgrims who go from Aix to Arles. Brother Benoît DOSQUET, wanting the footsteps of Father TEMPIER who joined the Missionaries of Provence in Aix which is away from Arles where he was ministering as a pastor.

From Salon-de-Provence to Maussane Alpilles, a stage of 34 kms

From Salon-de-Provence to Maussane Alpilles, a stage of 34 kms

Here are some excerpts from the diary of Isa, one of the pilgrims, telling the start of the pilgrimage: “Here we are in front of the Chapel of the Oblates in Aix-en-Provence … The Mass gathers every mind on this particular day … Some already have the experience of this pilgrimage, for others it will be their first time. A start is always thrilling, exciting, disturbing. The pilgrimage, we speak before, during, and after … We are gathered in the small reception room of the Oblates pilgrims to inaugurate the icon of Our Lady of the Guardia, representing a Virgin appearing to a shepherd offered by our Italian friends … We are thirteen pilgrims. The Cours Mirabeau welcomes our first steps on the Aurelian Road. ”

In front of the Church of St. Trophime, Arles

In front of the Church of St. Trophime, Arles

The pilgrimage ended in Arles with the opening of the sign of the Way of Saint James to Compostela and Rome. The sign states: Rome by via Aurelia is 1154 km, Saint James de Compostela is 1560 km.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

Category: Mission, News