This year, CIEM summer activities culminated in the retreat of the General Administration community. It was given by Father Frank SANTUCCI.
It was with a great joy that the Oblates of Aix-en-Provence welcomed the community of the General Administration who took a time of prayer before resuming the activities scheduled for the autumn. This retreat gave us, the community of Aix, an opportunity to meet the new administration, to share together a time of fraternity in prayer and recreation.
The retreat master, Fr. SANTUCCI, was a former member of the community of Aix-en-Provence who currently teaches at the Oblate School of Oblate Studies at the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas. This chair was founded to study and promote the charism of the Oblates.
Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI
“Give us a part of your mind!” It is the theme of the retreat that the 20 Italian laity of the AMMI (Missionary Association of Maria Immaculate), accompanied by two Oblate fathers from the Mediterranean Province, did in Aix-en-Provence on August 23-27.
With a strong desire to confirm, once again, their adherence to the Oblate charism, the participants of the retreat made an encounter in places that were dear to Saint Eugene de Mazenod. The house of the foundation where St. Eugene lived and his writings re-read during the retreat made him alive and renewed in the participants the awareness of what has always fascinated them in this saint.
The beauty of the city, the warm welcome of the Oblates of the Aix community, fathers and brothers, the competence of the Father BONGA, his ability to transmit knowledge and testimony of life, those all that made this unforgettable retreat that left in the heart of all the strong desire to receive again “a part of the spirit” of Saint Eugene. Many religious and lay people together with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the first guardians of the charism of Saint Eugene, have the desire to communicate this spirit to all the people of this world.
Marina Falcone – AMMI
GECO is the Italian name given to European youth with a desire to share the Oblate charism. Every two years they reunite in Aix-en-Provence to follow in the steps of Saint Eugene de Mazenod and discover in more depth the spirituality of the Oblates.
This year they have come from Ukraine, Poland, Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Spain and France. These young people, despite their linguistic and cultural differences have a common desire to live out their Christian faith alongside the Oblates.
The programme of this year’s GECO included visits of Aix and Marseille with conferences on the life of the Oblate founder with the daily rhythm marked by prayers and fraternal encounters. The celebration of the Feast Day of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary was a beautiful occasion for the youth to meet friends of the Oblates of the town of Aix.
Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI
The summer session for the scholastics (Oblate seminarians) is an important stage in their missionary formation. This year the scholastics who have come to Aix-en-Provence make up a community of 12 Oblates originating from 6 different countries: Haiti, Lesotho, Ukraine, Poland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The stay in Aix enables the young Oblates to become more familiar with the life of Saint Eugene de Mazenod and the history of the founding of their Congregation. It is also an occasion to discover and experience, through group work, the international dimension of Oblate communities.
During the session, the scholastics receive numerous teachings and visit places such as Aix-en-Provence, Marseille, Saint-Laurent du Verdon, Barjols and others, where the Founder had lived and propagated his mission.
Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI
Members of the Mazenodian family, together with the Oblate community, gathered to commemorate their attachment to the Founder and his charism. This charism is what ignites to this day the mission the Oblates consecrate their daily lives to fulfilling.
This date marks the return of Saint Eugene de Mazenod to the Father – May 21, 1861 – and was chosen as his feast day in the liturgical calendar upon his canonisation by Pope John Paul II on December 3, 1995.
This day has also revealed the strength of the ties between the lay people and their association to the Oblates.
The 11 o’clock mass, celebrated by Father Krzysztof Zielenda in the Chapel of the Mission and animated by the young Mazenodiens was followed by friendly exchanges amongst parishioners and later a shared meal in the courtyard with members of the Mazenodian family.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
The placement of the new cross in the Chapel of First Vows was part of the celebration of the bicentennial of the foundation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. This cross, blessed on February 17, 2017, is a gift from the Oblats of the Assumption Province in Canada. Father Marian GIL, Provincial of the Assumption Province, recounts the story of this cross in the following words:
“The Assumption Province was privileged to respond to the request presented by the Superior of the Aix-en-Provence community Fr. Krzysztof Zielenda to sponsor an Oblate cross for the chapel of First Vows. During our retreat in May of 2016, Fr. Krzysztof complimented our province on the renovation of the statue of the Oblate Madonna at the General House in Rome and asked if we would be able to sponsor an Oblate cross for the International Centre. After a few months of searching for an artist who would be able to make this cross according to their requirements we found an artist of Polish origin living in Mississauga, Canada.
Ted Swiatek, upon receiving all the measurements and the details concerning this project, began an inspiring journey with the Oblate cross. He looked at many Oblate crosses that we received during our perpetual vows, took pictures, measurements and the project was on its way. For the cross he used cherry wood and black walnut but to carve the corpus of Jesus he used basswood to make sure that all the details of Jesus’s corpus are done properly. He made the first corpus out of clay and then transposed all the details of this almost human size figure to the wooden corpus. The next phase was finding a stain and paint that would match the colours of our Oblate cross. Upon completion he said that the project took him almost three months.
In September 2016, with the help of volunteers, we started to organize the shipment of the cross to Aix-en-Provence, which had to be properly secured in a large container. A few days before February 17, 2017, the large wooden box arrived at our Eugene de Mazenod International Centre in Aix-en- Provence. The size of the cross made quite an impression on the Oblates once the container was opened. The cross was then moved to the chapel of First Vows and a picture and message were sent back to us, saying that the Assumption Province can be proud of this cross, which looks beautiful in this chapel. This is a small contribution of our province to the place marked by extra ordinary events and life of not only our founder St. Eugene de Mazenod but many other Oblates. It continues to be a place of renewal and inspiration for the Oblates”.
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.
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.
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
Sunday, April 2, had without a doubt been a day of significance and fraternity for the young Mazenodiens. This day, both culturally and spiritually enriching, was spent in Mouries and the Vallee des Beaux. There, joined by local parishioners, the youth participated in the celebration commemorating the bicentennial of the March Mission of 1817, preached by Saint Eugene de Mazenod and his first companions, at a time when the region of Provence was still suffering the repercussions of the French Revolution.
In the church at Mouriès
During the Mass celebrated by Father CICCULLO and Father Krzysztof ZIELENDA, the youth from Aix, accompanied by brother Benoit DOSQUET, heard about the role of the parish missions. Moving testimonies of faith, fruits of the mission, were shared with the faithful gathered for the celebration.
The Mass was followed by a visit of the Abbey of Monmajour proceeded by a picnic in the company of our gracious host Mr. De SAMBUCY. The day continued with a visit of the Castle of Estoublon and the charming Beaux de Provence.
Before the Mission Cross of 1817
The mission cross erected at the entrance to the village, bearing the monogram, “M.P.” symbolizing the Missionaries of Provence, so dear to Saint Eugene, will have already served, two centuries ago, as a sign of renewal of the vows of the young Mazenodiens, ablaze with the same love of God and “mazenodian” charisma.