Retreat of the General Administration

This year, CIEM summer activities culminated in the retreat of the General Administration community. It was given by Father Frank SANTUCCI.

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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.

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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

AMMI Retreat

“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.

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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.

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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 2017

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.

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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.

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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

2017 Summer Session for the Scholastics

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.

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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

Reunion of the Mazenodian Family on Sunday, May 21

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.

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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.

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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.

Gérard SOLDAINI

Pilgrimage to Fuveau

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

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

A New Cross in the Chapel of First Vows

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:

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“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.

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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”.

CIEM

A Retreat in Aix

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

The Mazenodiens at Mouriès

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

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

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.

Alexandre MAHUE

News from the community

“No news, means good news”! It is often what we say to excuse our silence and sometimes our laziness!

The participants of De Mazenod Experience in French

The participants of De Mazenod Experience in French

The latest news is from the summer of 2016, a very busy summer as we had announced to you. The last quarter of the year was marked mainly by the two months of a session we call “de Mazenod Experience”. It was destined for French-speaking Oblates. There were 16 participants. The region of Africa was well represented (Madagascar, Cameroon, Congo, Senegal), but also the American Regions (French Guyana, Haiti, USA, Canada), without forgetting Vietnam and Europe. The two-week retreat took place at Notre-Dame du Laus, a magnificent and important place for the Oblates, as it was the implantation of our second community in 1818 and the opportunity to leave Provence and to open ourselves to the world. The Animators of this Experience were Frs. Jo BOIS (principal animator), ASODO and Roman TYCZYNSKI from oblate mission in Luxembourg.

Father BONGA with his parents in their visit to Aix

Father BONGA with his parents in their visit to Aix

In September, our General Chapter also took place in Rome, and one of us, Fr. BONGA, participated, not as capitulant, but in the liturgical animation team. He also left for Lyon in January to take a 5-month spiritual training course in the Jesuit center of Chatelard. To replace him, we welcomed an Italian oblate, Fr. Roberto VILLA, who has just spent 4 years in Lourdes and who is with us until June, on the return of Fr. BONGA.

In February 7th, Fr. ASODO learned of the death of his mother who had not been doing well for a few days. He was able to join his family and celebrated Masses with his family and friends. During the month of December, he was on vacation and was able to stay with her for quite long period.

Right after Easter, another de Mazenod Experience will begin, this one for English-speaking Oblates. The principal animator is Fr. ASODO but two others will come to work with him.

We wish you a good journey towards Easter, with a beautiful spring full of flowers and tastyfruit for your body, soul and spirit.

Joseph BOIS, OMI

An hour of friendship with Jesus

Every Wednesday during the Lenten Season, the Mazenodians meet in the Oblate House of Aix for sharing around the Word of God in groups. Also, they bring communion to the elderly or the sick in their home.

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The Mazenodians want to live the oblate spirituality and participate in their mission by following the example of Saint Eugene de Mazenod.

In 1807, during the Good Friday service, overwhelmed by the cross of Christ, Saint Eugene de Mazenod discovered God as God of Love. By this moment he is always with God in a deep intimacy of every moment. The abstract and distant God has become for him a person, a loving and loved Father. He acknowledged that everything comes from him, free and without merit. After this experience, Saint Eugene see Christ as his friend, a friend who is always in his side, a tender but also demanding friend.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

Visit of the Oblates of the France-Benelux Delegation

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

“Les Mazenodiens” in Rome

In the life of Les Mazenodiens (Oblate Aix youth group), February was marked by the trip to Rome where they were received by the International Scholasticate Oblate community. The encounter with Father Louis Logan, Superior General, was an important moment of this journey.

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Creating fraternal bonds with Oblate communities and young people working with the Oblates in France and abroad. The encounter with the Oblates of the International Scholasticate and the General House was a totally new discovery. The international dimension of these two communities reflect the universal and missionary character of the entire Congregation.

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In his meeting with Les Mazenodien, Fr. General encouraged them to rediscover the call to holiness, saying, “We need to check every day if we are still on the journey of Holiness.”

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The trip to Rome was also a discovery of the four major basilicas and a lot of other sacred places. Les Mazenodiens also took time to simple tour the eternal city.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

A Mass in the Mission Church

“Do not be ashamed to say that we are Christian!” – Said father Paulin BEWA, Oblate originally from Chad, during his homily in the church of the Mission in Aix-en-Provence, on October 2nd.

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Are we witnessing to our faith in our everyday life? Today, out of respect for others, we say, we do not carry the cross, we do not have to show that we are Christians. We are Catholic Christians and we have Christian values to defend and pass on to the next generation. Let us not be ashamed to say “I am a Christian” – it is with these words that father BEWA called the faithful during the international Mass celebrated by a group of Oblates from 16 different nationalities.

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For nearly two months the Oblates of 16 countries participating in the Mazenod Experience, a Renewal session of the Oblate charism which is taking place in the cradle of the Congregation.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

The bicentenary of the parish mission preached by Oblates in Fuveau

In September 1816, the missionaries of Provence, who later became Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, preached a parish mission in Fuveau. They were four: Eugene de Mazenod, François de Paul Henry Tempier, Pierre Mie and Sébastien Deblieu. At the end of this mission Marius Suzanne, born in Fuveau, became a member of this budding community.

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This year, the Christian community of Fuveau took an initiative to commemorate the bicentennial of this mission and that of the foundation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. During Holy Mass on September 25, 2016, a commemorative plaque of the mission was blessed and sealed on one of the pillars in the Church’s nave. Another plaque was mounted on the  mission cross, planted on the edge of the road, “route du Nord”. The mission cross was erected during the 1816 mission preached by the Missionaries of Provence.

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After a shared meal at St. Mary’s school, the participants attended a road show on the life of saint Eugene de Mazenod and the missionary activities of his community.

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The day ended at the Church with a prayer led by the Aix Oblate community and 20 Oblates, from different countries, who are currently participating in the De Mazenod Experience session in Aix.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

The Fifth Bicentennial Conference

Marie-Thérèse OTTAVIOLI gave a talk on Saturday September 10th in which she showed us the life and missionary work of the venerable Father Charles Dominique Albini.

Gérard Soldaini and Marie-Thérèse Ottavioli

Gérard Soldaini and Marie-Thérèse Ottavioli

Father Albini was born in Menton in 1790, into a family of “modest skill”. He was orphaned at the age of 15, he works voluntarily with his parish priest. He entered the seminary in Nice in 1810, studied philosophy and theology and shows “humble and charitable.” He will be ordained a priest in 1814 in the cathedral of Nice.

After a few years of idleness he works for a brief period as a professor at the Major Seminary of Nice.The young priest, Father Albini, met Fathers de Mazenod and Suzanne during a retreat preached in Nice in 1824 by the Missionaries of Provence. Impressed by the enthusiasm of the two missionaries, Father Albini request to join Eugene de Mazenod and his companions. So he did his novitiate at Aix and is committed to the new congregation with which he spends lavishly his time in apostolic activities. Thus, Father Albini will contribute to 16 parish missions. From 1827 to 1835 Father Albini, a professor at the Major Seminary of Marseille is very dedicated in missionary activities particularly among the Italians because he speaks the language. In 1835, he moved to Corsica, in the convent of Vico, where Mgr. de Mazenod agreed to send four missionaries under the direction of Father Guibert.

At the conference

At the conference

At that time, Corsica is a “true spiritual desert”, the clergy lack of training, moralities are relaxed, social life is disrupted … Father Albini preached the 12 missions, often in difficult conditions, together, reconcile feuds between families, calm the population. Some of these missions have been marked by extraordinary episodes or mystical character.

Died of typhus in 1839, Father Albini is recognized as “Apostle of Corsica”. Today he is revered at the convent of St. Francis in Vico where the community of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate lives.

The Confraternity of Father Charles Albini today holds a great devotion to this Oblate and strives for him to be canonized one day as a patron saint.

Chantal BERNARD-BRET

Mazenodiens Weekend

Prayer, liturgical celebrations, spiritual conferences and the time lived together in the joy of gathering at the beginning of this new academic year were part of the weekend program with the Mazedodiens that started on September 2nd with the Oblates in Aix.

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The Mazenodiens are a group of students and young professionals who have begun to share the desire to walk in the footsteps of St. Eugene de Mazenod during the celebrations of the bicentennial of the Oblates foundation. During Lent they met regularly for a time of prayer and sharing about the Word of God. This time was also a preparation for the mission to take communion during Holy Week to sick people at home or in the hospital of Aix.

Les Mazenodiens

During this weekend of the beginning of the new academic year, the Mazenodiens signed a letter addressed to the Superior General in which they request official recognition in the group and to its participation in the mission entrusted to the Oblates of Aix. The weekend is ended with the celebration of the Mass at the Church of the Mission, during which Sophie and Alexandre are committed for one year to live according to the spirituality of the Oblates to deepen their relationship with Christ in prayer and in service to the poor.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

A dream of the 2010 General Chapter

The new international oblate community of Aix-en-Provence is a dream come true of the 2010 General Chapter! This new community is still less known within the congregation, and the International Eugene de Mazenod Centre Association, briefly referred to as CIEM, even less known. However, these two intimately linked realities have been in existence for some years now. It is with joy that I speak to you today of the Oblate community of Aix. My presentation will have two parts. In the first part, I will briefly present the historical context within which the community has been constituted, and in the second part I will present to you its mission.

2010 General Chapter

2010 General Chapter

Canonically established on the 25th of January 1816, the Oblates community of Aix is the oldest community within the congregation. Situated within the old Carmelite convent on 60 Cours Mirabeau, this community had St Eugene de Mazenod as its first Superior. This community is in the historical centre of the congregation, and it is today the headquarters of the International Eugene de Mazenod Centre Association.

Here are the most important steps within the foundation of this community:

The new project of the Aix community which was approved by the Provincial of France and the Superior General in council was proposed to the General Chapter of 2010. In order to have this new project realised, the Oblate house of Aix, which was the property of the Oblate Province of France, and known to the French law as de Mazenod Foundation, had to be at the disposition of the General Administration.

In order for this new project to take place, an association in conformity with the French norms had to be created. It is for this reason that in November 2011 International Eugene de Mazenod Centre was created. Fr. Paulo ARCHIATI omi, Vicar General, is the current president of this association.

Immediately after the house had passed from the jurisdiction of the Province of France to the General Administration, the house renovations that were conducted by Bro Benoit DOSQUET omi began. The renovations were supposed to take a period of two years; however, the official inauguration of the renovated buildings only took place on the 28th of October 2014.

The new community was composed almost at the same period as the beginning of the renovation of the house. The passing through of the Aix community to the jurisdiction of the Superior General dates from the 1st October 2012.

Community of Aix

Community of Aix

Today, the new community of Aix-en-Provence consists 5 Oblates coming from 5 different countries: Krzysztof ZIELENDA (superior), Poland; Benoit DOSQUET (bursar), Belgium; Joseph BOIS, France; ASODO ISTOYO, Indonesia, and Bonga MAJOLA, South Africa.

In his brief speech of the 21st of February 2013 addressed to the new community of Aix on the day of the installation of its superior Saverio ZAMPA , the Superior General said: “I would like that this new community helps each one of you to become a saint… Your communal life must be characterised by a profound communion with Jesus Christ, and consequently a profound communion amongst yourselves. This communion is not something closed or turned within itself. Our communion of life is a means of stability and efficacy for the mission, for the service and the announcing of the Gospel to the poor and the abandoned. I am convinced that if you live the commandment of charity given to us by the Founder, you will be enflamed by the missionary zeal. May all your activities flow from a united community searching always the Will of God today and discerning, reflecting, discussing, drawing its plans and evaluating its practises together. You therefore will be a prophetic call for the Congregation and the society.”

The dream of the 2010 General Chapter is therefore that of an apostolic community in Aix, which lives according to the Oblate Charism, a community rooted solidly within Christ, assiduous to prayer, a community capable of bearing witness to the Gospel in a radiant manner within its environment, and of a community fervent in exercising its mission.

The mission outlines of the Aix community are expressed in the foundation texts. In his speech of the 28th of June 2013, the General Vicar of the Congregation, defined the mission of the Aix community as follows: “the mission of this community is that of animating the Oblate Charism. All will be done to help this community of Aix fulfil its mission.”

However, the Oblate Charism must not only be taught, it must be lived as well by the community itself. For, the Oblate Charism animation finds its favourable environment when it is accompanied by the missionary exercise within the Church. In speaking of the latter, the Superior General said: “I would like that this community (…) serve as the basis for an effective mission for the animation of the charism, the ministry around the Mission Church, and the discernment of other missionary activities to come.”

The new community of Aix is well equipped by an internal regulation within which an important place is given to spiritual and fraternal life. The spiritual life of the community is marked by the rhythm of daily prayers, monthly days of recollection, and the annual retreat. The community follows a rhythm of two weekly meetings, of which one concerns work, and the other is of fraternal sharing on what was lived by each community member throughout the week.

The primary mission of the new community of Aix is the service of the whole Congregation and to those (lay associates, members of consecrated life Institutes linked to the Oblates and others) who desire to deepen their knowledge of the work and spirituality of St Eugene de Mazenod. This is done through initial and on-going formation meetings, retreats, sessions, expositions, conferences and other means.

The Aix house as the cradle of the congregation filled with history is the most suitable place for the animation of Oblate Charism. For Oblates, this house plays the same role that the “Holy Land” plays for all Christians; a place of pilgrimage to the source. Within a place such as this one, each item tells our foundational aspect: foundation room, Church of the Mission, First Vows chapel, Founders’ room, etc.

The priority in the Oblate Charism animation is without doubt the De Mazenod Experience which is a time of spiritual renewal lived in Aix.

2015 De Mazenod Experience

2015 De Mazenod Experience

The recipients of this program are the Oblates of the whole congregation having at least 10 years of perpetual vows. To this day, 40 De Mazenod Experiences were held in Aix. There are nearly 550 Oblates who have participated in this program. Currently taking place in Aix is a De Mazenod Experience in French, 16 Oblates are participating in this session.

In March 2015, the De Mazenod Experience program was redesigned in the light of the call to conversion of the last General Chapter.

Here are some elements of the new programme:

Progressive integration into the group, sharing, community prayer experience, pilgrimage on the footprints of St Eugene de Mazenod.

History of the Congregation and of the first Oblate community.

Oblate Charism.

Three steps allowing each participant to evaluate his life in view of personal and communal conversion.

15 days retreat according to the exercises of St Ignatius de Loyola.

Actual missionary vision of the Congregation, with a member of the General administration. Foundational Question: What are the challenges within my mission which makes of the mission of the Congregation?

The experience is concluded with the renewal of vows and missionary send-off

The dates for the next De Mazenod Experience are the following:

18 April – 16 June 2017 in English

5 September – 3 November 2017 in Spanish

Apart from the De Mazenod Experience, other forms of spiritual renewal programs are proposed by the General Administration or by the Aix community itself.

For example, in the course of 2016, the following Oblate Charism activities took place in Aix: a session for the Oblate students of Rome, for the Oblates of the Mediterranean province, for the Oblates of Byelorussia, etc. We have also welcomed the Permanent Committee of Brothers, the General Committee of the Oblates engaged in Higher Learning, the Congress on the Oblate Youth Ministry, Congress on Oblate Vocation, the council of the Assumption Province, Scandinavian Oblates, scholastics from Europe for a summer session, the novices of France, the inter-chapter of the COMI, etc. In going over this calendar, we can quickly make calculations and note that up to the present, in the course of this year, there has been close to 185 days of animation within the house in Aix in which, directly or indirectly, the whole community participated, and 2016 is not yet over!

To this we can add visits having different durations varying from a single to several days, such as, for example, the Oblate Lay Associates from Canada, from the United States of America, from Belgium, from Japan, from Germany, etc.

In the course of the bicentenary year, we organised the celebrations on the 24th and the 25th of January, the expositions on the history of the Oblates, and a series of conferences on the life and missionary works of some great Oblate figures of our foundation.

During this year some animation activities that were asked outside of Aix also added themselves: participation and animation at the Anglo-Ireland provincial assembly, and a retreat given to the Oblates of the Province of France, and another one to the Oblates of the Mediterranean Province.

In a permanent manner, from a year to another, the community also exercises pastoral work in the Church of the Mission. This pastoral work consists, above all, the Eucharistic celebrations, welcoming for prayer and the celebration of the sacrament of Reconciliation. It is worth noting here that from the time of the Founder, the Oblates gave a great importance to this ministry.

The community of Aix exercises, equally, ministry to the Mazenodian Family which is made up of all those who, in one way or the other, are in contact with the Oblates i.e. friends, associates, volunteers, benefactors, etc. This ministry, set apart the meetings of all the members of the Family, consist of small groups of Christian formation and spiritual accompaniments.

Les Mazenodiens

Les Mazenodiens

The community of Aix, faithful to the Oblate Charism, exercises a youth mission. The most important component of this mission is the accompaniment of the “Frat Oser”, a group of students living in our house, and of Mazenodians, a group made of students and young professionals who are attracted by and wish to live the Oblates’ missionary spirituality and participate in our community mission. On Sunday the 4th of September, two members of the “Les Mazenodians” made their commitment in the Church of the Mission, this commitment consist in living for a year according to the spirituality of Saint Eugene de Mazenod in order to deepen their faith through prayer and service to the poor and their relationship with Jesus Christ. The third component of the mission with the youth consists of the community’s engagement in pastoral work exercised at Saint Mary’s high School.

In addition to these missionary activities of the Aix community, there is chaplaincy at Montperrin, the oldest psychiatric hospital of Aix served, it seems, by the first community Oblates of this town, and the activities led by a group known as Veilleurs de fraternité which are organised in favour of the poor. These two activities have a proper Oblate Charism element in them.

Musical concerts and some art expositions organised in the Mission Church or in the house cloister equally occupy an important and vital place in our mission. A glance towards the ad gentes mission exercised within the modern times areopagus.

The mission scope in Aix within the spirit of the Oblate Charism could still be even more extensive. The expectations from the local Church and the missionary challenges still to be discerned by the community are still many.

Is the new community of Aix-en-Provence a place of resourcing for the Oblate Charism? In the realisation of the project called International Eugene de Mazenod Centre, nothing was neglected by the General Administration, they have given everything towards the success of this project! We owe them all our gratitude! We deeply thank the General administration! For. their administrative tactics, the directives, elaborated during numerous long meetings, whose implementation has taken even longer and has involved a significant number of people because of the magnitude and specificity of this project. For it is all about a community that lives and exercises its mission within the Oblate Charism while doing its best by its life-witness, which is the most important means of transmitting the Oblate Charism. This is lived within the historical framework which is offered by the cradle of the Congregation, the “Holy Land” of the Oblates. Thus, the Oblate house of Aix is not simply a place built for sessions or spiritual retreats, but a place where Oblates who are ready to share their oblate life experience live and work.

The new community of Aix is like a well loaded boat which navigates to the wide. It is probably not going to discover a new world, the latter is already discovered! It will simply accomplish its mission by allowing itself to be led by the Holy Spirit where it would want to bring it.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

Aix community, “current-affairs”

Six months have passed since we celebrated, on 24 and 25 January, the bicentenary of the Foundation of the Missionaries of Provence which will become, 10 years later, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

The Community of Aix

The Community of Aix

We have not seen time elapse, because since the beginning of this year, many Oblates and lay people from around the world have been coming in numbers to make a pilgrimage to the place of our Foundation that we gladly call “our holy land”. Sometimes, we had to seek housing outside, our House being too small to accommodate everyone.

There were two congresses organized by the General Administration: one on Mission with youth and the second, which has just ended, on Oblate vocations.

The Congress on Oblate vocations

The Congress on Oblate vocations

The end of the year will be no less busy with groups from Italy, Germany, a session of three weeks for the Scholastics from Europe and, from September to November, a long session that we call “De Mazenod Experience” with 16 francophone participants.

We can only rejoice at all these activities, the House and the community being made exceptionally for them. Above all, our greatest joy is in meeting our Oblate brothers from all continents, to see lay people, young and old, engaged with us in the same spirituality and the same mission, to share with each other our hopes and the Kingdom of God which comes through, sometimes, many trials and suffering.

Best summer wishes to you all!

Joseph BOIS, OMI

Spiritual retreat of COMI

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

Bicentenary and the Congress on Oblate vocations

In a letter of December 8, 2013 to the Congregation, Father General presented the pastoral care of vocations as vital for the Congregation. This ministry is in a close relationship with the mission that the Oblates exercise together with young people.

Congress participants

Congress participants

In the context of the bicentenary, two congresses have been organized by the General Administration in Aix. The first on Oblate mission with youth and the second on vocations to missionary life. The latter ended on 16 July 2016. Father General reminded all participants that Vocation Ministry is essential and it must be accompanied by prayer of the entire Congregation. In exercising this ministry and making it a priority we affirm our belief in the future of our Oblate family.

The Congress began by the sharing of experiences of participants in vocational ministry. Then, Brother Paul BEDNARCZYK from the Congregation of the Holy Cross gave a series of lectures on religious life and formation, making a connection with canon law and the general norms of oblate formation. After this time, the participants reflected on the pastoral care of vocations in the light of the Congress on the mission with youth. The conference given by Father General on the renewal of the Oblate vocation and the day of recollections lead by Father ASODO, contributed to the integration of the content of the Congress. The Congress ended with discussions on the major guidelines and proposals for vocation ministry.

Commissioning Liturgy

Commissioning Liturgy

The dynamics of the Congress were held together by powerful moments of prayer and liturgical celebration. The participants of the Congress had an opportunity to make a pilgrimage to Fuveau, a village where Father Marius SUZANNE was born, one of the first companions of the Founder. The Eucharistic celebration on the tomb of Saint Eugene de Mazenod in Marseille and the sending out of the participants on mission to young people who discern their vocation to missionary life, marked the conclusion of the Congress.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

Congress on Oblate Vocations – Fr. General’s opening remarks

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!

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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!

Louis LOUGEN

 

Oblates of the Belarus in Aix

“Happiness awaits us in this Holy society, which will only have one heart and one soul.” wrote saint Eugene de Mazenod to Fr. François de Paule Henry Tempier in the letter on October 9, 1815. The Oblates of Belarus recently made a pilgrimage to Aix on the occasion of the bicentenary of the founding of the Oblates, aiming at deepening their communion with Jesus Christ and among themselves.

(from left to right) Szymon FORAJTER, Piotr BIELEWICZ, Jerzy KOTOWSKI, Andrzej JUCHNIEWICZ, Dimitri ZANIEMONSKI

(from left to right) Szymon FORAJTER, Piotr BIELEWICZ, Jerzy KOTOWSKI, Andrzej JUCHNIEWICZ, Dimitri ZANIEMONSKI

Between the two wars, several Polish Oblates worked on the Belarusian land which was a Polish territory. The second World War forced them to leave their mission. Fr. Wojciech Nowaczyk is the only one who was able to remain. Deported to Siberia for several years, he returned to Belarus after the death of Stalin and ministered there until his death in 1984. For nearly 30 years, he was one of the few priests of the Catholic Church present on the territory of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Belarus.

In the cloister of the cathedral of Aix

In the cloister of the cathedral of Aix

Only in 1990 were the Polish Oblates able to return to Belarus. Today there are 7 Oblates working in this country. Among them 4 are originally from Poland and 3 of Belarus origin.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

Aix welcomes a group of Flemish lay associates

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

Fourth conference of the bicentenary

On the feast of Saint Eugene de Mazenod, Bertrand MORARD, gave a lecture in which he made us discover the role of Fathers Courtès, Marcou and Suzanne in the first years of the Missionaries of Provence.

Bertrand Morard and Christine Pajon

Bertrand Morard and Christine Pajon

These three priests were all born in Aix in the last years of the 18th century, after the harsh revolutionary period, when conflicts calmed down and religious quarrels ceased. All three were ordained to the priesthood at a very young age (22 to 24 years) they, therefore, invested much to the initial activities of the Missionaries of Provence at the side of Eugene de Mazenod.

Father Jean Joseph Hippolyte Courtès, born in 1798 in a well-to-do family, studied in Aix. He lived with the Missionaries of Provence and later joined the first group of Missionaries. He was appointed the superior of the community of Aix, where he stayed until his death in 1863. Fr. Courtès, known for his poor health, devoted himself to the day to day ministry among the poor, the sick and prisoners. He was very much appreciated for his preaching and his guidance. This discreet but cultivated, literate and serious man remained a lifelong confidant of Eugene de Mazenod.

At the conference

At the conference

Father Jacques Marcou, born in 1799, was ordained a priest in Marseille by Bishop Fortuné de Mazenod. After sometime at our Lady of Laus, he returned to Aix and participated in mission preaching. This young priest, dedicated and humble, was then sent to Nîmes where he overworked himself. He became seriously ill and had to return to Marseille where Eugene de Mazenod accompanied him until his death at the age of 27. Father Marcou was “like a passing Angel in the Congregation”.

Father Marius Suzanne, born in 1799, the eldest of the nine children. Fr. Tempier, who was one of his teachers at the Seminary of Aix, reflects on his irreproachable conduct. Upon his ordination, the young priest, passionate about literature and philosophical works, took part in the various parish missions preached by Eugene de Mazenod and his first companions. His missionary zeal and talents were greatly appreciated in over twenty missions in which he participated and preached, with little concern for his poor health. Fr. Suzanne was lovable, loved and loving, with a fiery temperament. Later on he was appointed superior at the house of Calvaire in Marseilles. A great tenderness of heart existed between the young priest and Fr. de Mazenod. Sickness overpowered Fr. Suzanne, the image and example of “a perfect Oblate” he died in 1829.

In the cloister after the conference

In the cloister after the conference

These three young priests attached to the Founder by a very deep affection, Eugene de Mazenod had much confidence in them. Fiery missionaries like Marcou and Suzanne or more discreet like Courtès, each of them contributed zealously to the first decisive steps of the nascent Congregation.

Chantal BERNARD-BRET

Aix Bicentenary Pilgrimage, going back to our roots

The Provincial of the Assumption Province, Canada, and his Council were recently in Aix for a pilgrimage. Two days of their stay in Aix were set aside for a retreat. Fr. Bonga preached their retreat and lead them on their pilgrimage in Aix and Marseille. They spent time after the retreat for the Provincial council meeting. In this article, Fr. Marian GIL, the Provincial, beautifully reflects on his “chaotic” arrival in Aix, seeing it, symbolically, as a call to properly begin his personal pilgrimage, back to our root, where it all began.

“On May 1, 2016 we arrived at Marseille: Fr. Chris PULCHNY and myself. Four other members of our provincial administration were to arrive the following day. At the airport Fr. Krzysztof ZIELENDA awaited us and after loading our luggage to his car we began the journey to Aix-en-Provence. For us it is a very symbolic journey because it is a trip to the birthplace of our congregation. When we reached the city of Aix (population of about 150,000) we learned from Fr. Krzysztof that on that day there was an annual event similar to marathons organized in Canadian cities and it would be a bit difficult to get to our house in Aix. Very soon we would experience what we had just heard because so many streets were blocked and access was restricted. It took us about an hour trying to find a way to get to the De Mazenod Centre. At one point we decided to leave the car behind and walk. We took our belongings and continued our journey.

This experience taught me that in order to go back to our roots and experience rebirth we have to dedicate time, energy but sometimes we have to even leave certain things behind or find new tools to continue our journey. In this process of renewal, conscious decision is essential and perseverance to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit. With the entire provincial administration, we had a chance to be at the heart of our congregation for 10 days. We prayed for our province and the entire congregation”.

The grace of being in Aix during this special year

Year 2016 has been indeed a year of grace! Being in Aix during this special year has been so enriching and encouraging! It is striking to see that the Spirit which animated our forefathers, 200 years ago, is still blowing with much force, touching hearts throughout the world.

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The seed which was planted in this very house, where we live, has become a huge tree that has extended it’s branches throughout the world, giving shade to people of different races, cultures, and languages. The Oblate charism is alive and active! One can only be grateful to witness its force and dynamism! Among the many visits we have had this year, it was a blessing to welcome a group of lay people from Indonesia (7-8 May) accompanied by Fr. Ignasius PRIYANTORO. This is the first of five groups, to visit Aix this year, organized by Indonesian lay associates to celebrate 200 years of the Congregation.

Their visit began with a pilgrimage in Marseille, the highlight of this visit was the Solemn celebration of the Eucharist at the tomb of the Founder. They then climbed up to Notre Dame de la Garde, to pay homage to “Our Good Mother”, as she is famously known in Marseille. They concluded their pilgrimage with a joyful visit to our house in Aix-en-Provence, the cradle of the congregation. They had dinner with the Aix community and participated at the Sunday Eucharist in French.

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Fr. Joseph BOIS who presided at the Eucharist Mass remarked: “it is truly a Pentecost experience, we have gathered together from different parts of the world, our visitors understood less French but they have fervently participated at the Eucharist, witnessing to our unity and the desire to be one as Jesus wills.”

Being in Aix and witnessing all these things is indeed a grace to be grateful for!

BONGA MAJOLA, OMI

Bicentenary of the Oblates’ mission in Grans

On the 5th of May, at 11h45, the bicentenary of the first mission preached by the Missionaries of Provence (Oblates) will be celebrated in Grans. The ceremony will be held before the cross of the mission which is located at the intersection of Boulevard Victor Jauffret and Rue Aristide Briand.

Oblates' Scholastics during Mass in Grans in July 2014

Oblates’ Scholastics during Mass in Grans in July 2014

In February 1816, at the request of the mayor, Roze-Joannis, who invited saint Eugene de Mazenod to Grans with his three companions (Fathers Deblieu, Mie and Icard) to preach their first parish mission. They came into a suburb that had lost its care and interest for the poor peasants who did not speak French. Eugene and his companions preached to them in Provençal and adapted to the schedule of those who worked in the fields. One may ask, why did they come to this suburb? It was mainly because they wanted to take care of the poor and the destitute who had turned themselves away and to reconcile them with each other after years of profound upheaval which had divided the French population. This mission will be the first mission of those who will later become the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate who, at present-day, have approximately 3800 members, present in more than 65 countries. Throughout the world the name of Grans is cited when talking about the history of Saint Eugene, the missionary of the poor. Each year the Oblates from around the world come to Grans to discover this village. As from now, at the entrance of the village, visitors will be welcomed by the cross of the Mission of 1816 that has been restored with a plaque on its base commemorating this event.

Jean Louis MONTAGNON

Oblate Students from Rome visiting Aix

The first visitors we received after Easter was a group of Oblate Students from Rome, an international community composed of 15 Oblates, all young and passionate about St. Eugene de Mazenod.

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Their pilgrimage began in Aix, discovering the cradle of the Congregation and the visit of the places in the city where our St. Eugene lived. Then, the pilgrims went to Marseille to greet “Our Good Mother”, Notre Dame de la Garde and to walk on the footsteps of the Founder of the Oblates who later became the Bishop of this great port city visibly marked by his episcopate. During this pilgrimage the group had Fr. Asodo ISTOYO as their guide.

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A moving moment of this visit was praying in the Foundation room and signing the copy of the “Supplique”, a letter written by St. Eugene and his first companions on January, 25, 1816, requesting authorization from the Church authorities of the diocese to form the community of the Missionaries of Provence. Through this symbolic gesture the Oblate students expressed their spiritual communion with the Founder and his first companions.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

Third Conference of the bicentenary

On Saturday, April 2, 2016, the Oblates of Aix gave a four speakers conference with the theme “The missionary life of Father Auguste Icard, Pierre Mie, Sebastien Deblieu and Emmanuel Maunier: the first companions of St. Eugene de Mazenod”.

At the conference

At the conference

Auguste Icard was born in Gardanne in 1790, is really considered the first among the first companions of Eugene de Mazenod. It was he who told Eugene about Tempier, Mie, and Deblieu. After his priestly ordination, he was vicar at Lambesc until joining the Missionaries of Provence in 1815. He preached the first two missions but leaves the congregation in 1816.

Pierre Mie, called by Eugene de Mazenod “our good and holy father Mie”, was born in Alleins in 1768. After studies disrupted by the events of the revolutionary period, Pierre Mie was ordained clandestinely. In the parish of Puyloubier where he was pastor, he lead a very poor life. This tireless missionary who spoke very good Provencal joined the Missionaries of Provence in 1815 and participated in all missions from1816 to 1819. Pierre Mie became superior at Our Lady of Laus, then founded the house of Nimes. He was also director of the Major Seminary of Marseilles while continuing to preach and taking care for the poor. He died in 1841.

Sébastien Deblieu is one of the top 5 Missionaries of Provence. Born in Brignoles in 1789, he prepared for the priesthood at the seminary in Aix, where he met Eugene de Mazenod, Tempier and Icard. He was vicar at Saint Jean du Faubourg in Aix then parish priest of Peynier. He quickly showed as great missionary and preacher; he preached 17 of the 40 missions from the Missionaries of Provence. He was hesitated to take vows but, finally he did. When Eugene de Mazenod and Tempier were appointed vicars general and left Aix for Marseilles, he disagreed and chose to leave the congregation and joined the diocese of Frejus where he remained as a very good priest. He died in La Seyne in 1855.

Fr. Bonga Majola

Fr. Bonga Majola

Emmanuel Maunier, also one of the first five companions of the Founder was born in Fréjus. Ordained a priest in Marseilles. In a tight revolutionary period, he ministered in secret. Called by Eugene de Mazenod, he joined the Missionaries of Provence. He dedicated his life for the missions with courage and enthusiasm. He was responsible for the formation, superior of the house of Calvary in Marseilles and worked with youth of Marseilles with a great devotion to the Sacred Heart. But, he disagreed with the the post of vicars general for Eugene and Tempier, then, as Father Deblieu did, he also left the congregation in 1823 and joined his diocese of Frejus. Father Maunier remained a great priest in the diocese until he died in 1844.

Fr. Joseph Bois

Fr. Joseph Bois

The four speakers of the conference are Fathers Asodo ISTOYO, Bonga MAJOLA Joseph BOIS and Brother Benoit DOSQUET. They attracted the audience with their lively presentation of the first companions of St. Eugene. Father Krzysztof ZIELENDA was the moderator who intervened with his well appreciated anecdotes.

Chantal BERNARD-BRET

Congress on Oblate mission with Youth

There were five representatives from each oblate region, including four lay people, who participated in the Oblate Youth Congress organized by the General Administration in Aix-en-Provence. The Congress was also attended by Fathers Louis LOUGEN, Superior General, Gilberto PIÑON, General Assistant and Chicho ROIS, General Counsellor for Europe.

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Towards its conclusion, the Congress arrived at elaborating a youth missionary strategy inspired by the first ten Constitutions and rules of the Oblates. Among the proposals made by the Congress there is also one that stipulates the creation of a commission which would enrich and develop the proposed missionary strategy with more proposals.

The sharing of experiences at the Congress revealed that many young people in different parts of the world are attracted by the Oblate charism and wish to share with the Oblates in their mission. Community life is recognized by these young people as a great value.

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This Congress, lived in Aix, allowed the participants not only to discover the place of the Foundation of the Missionary Oblates, but also the work of St. Eugene de Mazenod among the youth of this city gathered in the Youth Association created in 1813.

The Congress was animated by Fathers Shanil JAYAWARDENA and Bonga MAJOLA. In the next few days a letter addressed to young people by the participants of the Congress will be issued.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

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

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

Meeting of the Mazenodian Family – February 2016

On Sunday, February 28, 2016, the community of the Oblates of Aix invited friends of the Mazenodian Family to go on a pilgrimage to Saint-Cannat. It is in this village near Aix where Fr. Tempier, friend and confidant of Eugene de Mazenod, was born.

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We gathered in the Church where Fr. Tempier was baptized. A simple and moving liturgical celebration reminded each of the participants the meaning of baptism and the mission of all the baptized. The figure of Fr. Tempier was evoked and accompanied this time of prayer.

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Back at 60 Cours Mirabeau, the members of the Mazenodian Family listened carefully to the memoirs of the event celebrated on 17 February by the Oblates: « on February 17, 1826, Pope Leo XII approved the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates as well as their Constitutions and rules. This decision, which confirmed the way of life of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and their recognition in the Church, was received with great joy. The next day, Fr. De Mazenod wrote to Fr. Tempier and the Oblates to announce the news ».

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Then, Fr. Krzysztof ZIELENDA read the letter of the Superior General which expresses his gratitude and compliments on the occasion of the bicentenary celebrations. Fr. Krzysztof also sincerely thanked those present for the work done, services rendered, their presence and support that allowed the success of the celebrations: « a group of friends able to live a common spirituality and to achieve things together ». He continued mentioning that « the fruits of this anniversary are already tangible, upcoming meetings, conferences and other pilgrimages that mark the jubilee year 2016 will further strengthen the bonds of the Mazenodian Family with the Aix community. Thank you all ».

The evening continued with a time of conviviality around a shared meal.

Chantal BERNARD-BRET

Second conference of the Bicentenary

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

Living Lenten Season together

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

Bicentenary – Exposition

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

Bicentenary Mass, celebrated in Aix-en-Provence

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

Bicentenary – Pilgrimage in Aix

“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

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

Community week

Between Christmas and the new year some go on vacation on the snow (when there is any!), others use this time to be with their family. Our community, works! Beautiful, isn’t!

We’ve taken this period of festivities to ourselves, to review the past year and to prepare the upcoming year.

From December 29 to January 2, we were able to review all the groups that will come to us in Aix in 2016. There will be some very important sessions, in which we are directly engaged: Youth Congress in March, Congress on vocations in July, Scholastics Summer Session in August, the De Mazenod Experience in French in September and October. There are also many groups coming from the four corners of the world that we have to welcome and accommodate this year.

During this period, we also took time to review our community life, our various commitments in the House and in the Diocese.

Exhausted but happy, we took Monday January 4 for a community outing in Nice and Éze, it was a very fraternal day spent with our Oblate brothers in Nice, it was also a touristic, beautiful sunny day despite the weather forecast!

Joseph BOIS, OMI

Christmas Celebration – Frat’ Oser 2015

The night of Thursday, December 17th 2015 was a beautiful moment for the Frat’ Oser and the Oblate community of Aix.

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We were Jean, Samantha, Etienne, Pierre, Luana, Juliette, Emmanuel, Jean-Pascal and Camille from Frat’ Oser and Frs Krzysztof, Jo, Mario, Asodo, Br. Benoit from the oblate community and also Fr Pawel from Poland. We missed Maxime, Priscille who had other activites and Fr. Bonga who is still in holidays with his family in South Africa. It was the Christmas celebration for us before the Frat’ Oser will leave for their family during the Christmas and New Year holidays.

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The celebration which took place in the community dining was started with an aperitif, followed by a short liturgical celebration. Camille read the announcement of the Birth of Jesus according to Luke. Each of us, then, took one figure of the Christmas decoration, saying their wishes, and one by one put it in front of the Christmas grotto. The celebration continued with a dinner together. It was present also among us Sophie, Jean Baptiste, and Timothy, from the group of youth who will perform a brief scene of the call of St. Eugene de Mazenod and his first companions in the 200 year celebration in the Cathedral of Aix on January 24th 2016. The dinner was so warm and fraternal. Finally, we ended with giving a simple gift for each Frat’ Oser and the youth as well. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

Henricus ASODO ISTOYO, OMI

General Committee of finance in Aix

The General Committee of the finances of the missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate chose Aix-en-Provence as a place to hold its last meeting of the year 2015.

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This meeting was attended by Fathers Marc DESSUREAULT (Treasurer), Peter FOLEY, Mauro CONCARDI, Chris PULCHNY, Tomasz SAJDAK and Alberto HUMÁN. The choice of the cradle of the Congregation helped the Committee to also live a spiritual experience marked by liturgical celebrations and the visit to the symbolic places of the Congregation in Aix-en-Provence and Marseille.

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The Eugene de Mazenod International Centre, as well as the International Scholasticate of Rome, the General House and the General Administration, are part of the subjects whose finances are handled by the General Finance Committee.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

Mazenodian Family – December 2015

As usual, the encounter of Mazenodian Family began with a prayer. Then we shared around two key points: Summer School organized by the Oblates of France and the Bicentenary of the Oblate Foundation.

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About sixty people gathered last August at the shrine of Pontmain served by the Oblates to live the Summer School on the theme “Dare to live the Hope.” Chantal, Jacqueline and Nicole, the Mazenodian Family of Aix took part in this activity. Chantal speaks in these terms: “the words that I heard in Pontmain brought me food I expected to start from Pontmain with a nice provision of Hope”. Jacqueline and Nicole are also delighted with this experience that allowed them to know better both the Oblates and their mission.

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The preparation of the Bicentenary of the Oblates is well underwent. While there is still much to do but the commitment of the Mazenodian Family offers hope that all projects will be made in due time. The inaugural conference on the historical context in which the Congregation was founded already generating much interest. It will be given Friday, December 18 at 18.30 in the diocesan house of Aix-en-Provence.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

CIEM Studies

Fr. Andrzej JASTRZEBSKI OMI was born on the 3rd February 1973 in Gliwice, Poland. He joined the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1992. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1999, he has exercised various ministries as a priest in Poland. Fr. Andrzej currently lives in Ottawa, Canada, where he shares his time between teaching at Saint Paul University and students’ chaplaincy.

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For Fr. Andrzej JASTRZEBSKI, the ability to offer oneself in the name of Christian love (oblatio) is the most beautiful sign of Holiness. No one gets this gift at the time of his birth, it is rather an objective towards which we freely journey throughout our life.

To access his article, click on the link “CIEM Studies”.

Oblatio sequitur esse

Oblatio sequitur esse

For many years, we have been familiar with a saying of John Paul II that a man cannot become happy otherwise than through a sincere gift of oneself (according to Gaudium et Spes 24). One form of gift is sacrifice. St. Paul writes about this in the following way: “I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good, what pleasing and perfect “(Rom 12: 1-2).

Referring to the words of the Vaticanum II Fr. Francis Blachnicki, one of the fathers of the pastoral and liturgical reform in Poland, adds that first one has to be an owner of oneself, that is, in a certain way to be an owner of one’s being, to then be able to sacrifice oneself: This way of owning oneself, in order to give oneself, must be consistently pursued to the end. It is an attitude of giving and the attitude of sacrificing one’s time, strength, wealth, etc. This attitude pushed to the ultimate limits of devotion literally means to give one’s lives in sacrifice. One has to be willing to die for others, for one’s brothers, and it is only when we go to the end of this road, we enter into the fullness of life – says Blachnicki.

The first part of this text will be based on a philosophical description of the human being, presented by Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, and expressed most fully in his work: “The Acting Person”. There we find the wording operari sequitur esse, which became the inspiration for me to develop a “theology of sacrifice” and referrers to the Wojtyla’s anthropology, combining both philosophical and theological approaches.

The above described attitude of giving and of sacrifice can be expressed in summary form by the Latin adagium, which is the title of my text: oblatio sequitur esse, and referrs also to Wojtyla’s thought. I will try to illustrate how the ability to sacrifice oneself – especially to God – is a well-defined quality of being human.

1. The concept of oblation

The word oblatio comes from the Latin verb offerre, i.e. to offer. Oblation is close to such expressions as sacrifice, gift of oneself, holocaust, and consecration.

In the tradition of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the concept of oblation for many years has been the subject of deep reflection. Oblation is here synonymous with religious vows, thus we speak about “perpetual oblation”. The ​​Dictionary of Oblate Values says that oblation means an act by which the Christian under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit gives himself to God (p. 671). The gift of oneself is a condition a Christian comes to when they are aided by the grace of God and reflects, on a permanent basis, his surrender to God in all dimensions of the person: thought, will and action. This gift of oneself is a true oblation. Consecration is a form of an oblation, which involves the future that is entrusted into God’s hands either by an internal decision, or by external act, oral or written. Entrusting is the attitude of surrender to everything that happens, every situation authorized by God, which affects one’s existence.

Oblation is an attitude of trust, as proposed by St. Ignatius of Loyola at the end of his Spiritual Exercises, as well as similarly many other masters of the spiritual life. The Oblates make such surrender to the hands of Mary in their daily prayers. This involves a special fervor and intensity of priestly love and zeal in most difficult and demanding works.

The biblical basis of oblation is found in the Synoptic Gospels. Jesus, in his person, reveals a new type of oblation, which involves the whole person, because it gives his life as ransom for many (Mk 10, 45); and teaches that even his disciples are called to this kind of sacrifice (Mt 10, 39). Jesus’ oblation is unique and is perpetuated in the Eucharist. Human oblation is always done through the oblation of Christ, it has therefore Christological foundation.

The desire for a permanent oblation may result in a person entering the religious life, where vows are seen as a form of a definitive oblation. Perpetual vows express the will of a person of total submission to God and an irrevocable offering of oneself.

2. Anthropological foundation

To analyze the conditions to be met by a human person in order to fulfill the act of oblation, I turn now to the philosophical thought of Karol Wojtyla. In carrying out the existential insight into the human condition, he points out that the human being (esse) is determined by two processes:

  • vegetative level, which is characterized by a high degree unawareness (e.g. heartbeat),
  • the experiential level in which a person experiences that he or she is the author of one’s acts.

At the level of experience we encounter consciousness, which emerges as a basis for responsible action. This fact distinguishes the vegetative dynamism from conscious human actions. In classical philosophy there is a division between human act and act of the human. Wojtyla describes this division as imprecise, because every human act (actus humanus) is at the same time an act of the human (actus hominis). What can help to better distinguish the difference of both concepts is the moment of causation, i.e., the human capacity for experiencing the fact that one is the cause of one’s own actions. In this way, every conscious act engages the whole person, not just one’s mind.

The experience of the causality that we see in humans appears to be the basic criterion by which the human person can make differentiations between what only happens, from what is the proper act of a person (action). The human person, and especially one’s moral values, becomes the first material (subject) of one’s own creativity.

3. Offerre (oblatio) sequitur esse

The fundamental truth about the human being, according to Wojtyla, is that one is first an existing being, and only secondarily an acting being. To give oneself, one must first and foremost exist. Wojtyla refers to the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas, who distinguishes the essence from the existence, while pointing out to the contingency of the latter. The existence occupies a privileged place as an act. Any dynamics that occur in the human person as an entity remains secondary to the original dynamism, which is one’s existence that is esse.

Oblatio sequitur esse because the presence of an act of offering oneself depends on the existence of the human being. The basis of all human activity is one’s nature (humanity), which permeates the entire person.

What is the way of human existence? Any dynamics in the human person, being associated with humanity (nature and subject), is also really personal. There is no place for real affirmation of the human person without acknowledging the fact of one’s existence – and even the right to exist.

It can be argued that the understanding of the human being as a subject and as a value (as a gift) assumes a pre-existing ontological structure of the person. Axiological human understanding must be preceded by understanding on the ontological level.

Using the principles of St. Thomas Aquinas, particularly distinguishing between essence and existence, we can conclude that all actions and acts are integrated into the person. The element that connects what just happens in us and our conscious actions, as mentioned above, is our very existence (esse). To be able to sacrifice means first to just be!

One of the most important conditions of being (esse), for someone who has the ability to sacrifice oneself, is freedom. An encounter with another person is the beginning, the birth, of a responsible freedom. Freedom allows boundaries, because each person is limited by the freedom of others. John Paul II said that individual freedom is inseparable from freedom of all other people, so that there is no freedom without solidarity.

As previously mentioned, according to Wojtyla, the human person fulfills him/herself through the moral good of their actions. Moreover, without reference to God one cannot protect liberty against fraud. Human freedom is a condition whereby it is possible to praise God through others, in dialogue with “you” and God, for His part, does not rule out human freedom, but instead God raises it to the peak of perfection.

4. Oblatio as a way fulfilling one’s life

The human person is ontologically marked by the Highest Good in such a way that one cannot be fulfilled as a person other than through boundless love and responsibility. Wojtyla says that to fulfill oneself and to be happy is almost the same reality; to be a fulfilled human being and realizing that being a person means to be good, are very close.

The conditions set for fulfilling oneself and one’s readiness to self-sacrifice are primarily truth and freedom. Following in the footsteps of Wojtyla, we can conclude that the fulfillment of a person in action points to the close relationship between freedom and truth. This is an anthropological basis for self-fulfillment. A mere liberty does not lead to the ability of offering oneself, but is its condition sine qua non. The issue at stake here is not the very possibility of being autonomous, but of liberating oneself within oneself in order to fulfill one’s human existence by truth. The fulfillment of freedom in the truth, or on the basis of the relationship to the truth, is equivalent to self-actualization and brings a true happiness in the dimension of the person.

A person fulfills oneself if they use well one’s freedom – i.e. does so in the light of truth and the true good is reflected through a good conscience. Freedom comes about through the desire and choice of true good. The human person is called to victory over oneself, over what restrains one’s free will and makes it impossible to live in truth and love. Such is the condition for fulfilling oneself, which is accomplished by acts of moral goodness. Truth and freedom are the basis for the possibility of self-offering (oblatio) through the love of God and another human being.

It is essential for human happiness to have relationships with other people, because participation (solidarity in being human) unites people, and this brings about happiness – to the highest extent, in relation to God. The highest form of happiness for a Christian is union with God in love and total sacrifice of oneself (oblatio).

The ability to sacrifice oneself is possible through the structure associated with the experience of action, the transcendence of the person in action. On this basis we come to the conclusion that freedom and responsibility are the conditions of sacrificing oneself in the love of God. Freedom oriented towards truth is acquired with great difficulty. Pope Francis adds in this context that in order for a person to come to maturity, which is to achieve the ability of truly free and responsible decisions, requires enormous time and patience.

We can express this truth differently and perhaps even more profoundly: the human person cannot be truer than in loving – free to be responsible. Freedom without responsibility is the antithesis of love. That is a great call to the affirmation of the human person and one’s neighbor. Towards the fullness of freedom leads a radical act of love, expressed most fully by oblation, which largely depends the meaningfulness of human existence.

5. Theology of oblatio

A general rule is that the more healthy and mature a person is in both mental and moral dimensions, the easier it is to develop within the spiritual life. When a person is healthy in nature, it becomes easier to receive grace.  This grace does not destroy one’s nature, but perfects it as belief in God does not exempt one from their obligation of achieving maturity and develop their talents. Union with God and personal happiness also depends on the degree of integration of the personality and the quality of interpersonal relationships. Grace, in a sense, facilitates maturation of the human psyche. A fully mature Christian will also normally be a mature human being who has defeated his self-centeredness and is opened to transcendence and solidarity. The Gospel proposes to people a new dignity as a child of God, and the ability to offer oneself up in love (oblatio).

Looking at the human person we find the fact of being created, which includes both the existence of the spiritual and corporeal. The human soul is revealed through physicality – for example, through facial expressions and other forms of non-verbal communication. The most important type of affective messages, motivations, intentions or passions are often communicated through nonverbal language.

The body on the other hand covers the spirit and remains impenetrable for recognition. The soul reveals itself through the body in an ambiguous way and its understanding requires a careful reasoning based on knowledge of where the acts come from in order to come to know the existence and nature of the soul. The body also appears as fragile, prone to injury and disease and puts forth many challenges that rely on controlling inclinations and impulses.

Looking at the human person from the point of view of theology, it is necessary to mention also the reality of sin; such is the human condition. Sin is a very personal act, but cannot be reduced solely to the act of an individual, or to their totals. Each sin is an implicitly contained attitude toward another, which determines a person’s life. Sin interferes with one’s relationship with the whole of creation, but also with the spiritual world, and finally with God. The source of sin is pride, revealing a desire to become independent from God and to take his place and is often expressed in the desire for immediate pleasure. The human person is still tempted to make the world his first idol, despite many moments of feeling its inadequacy.

The Word of God gives the human person the ability to accept this basic tear, which is an excessive attachment to one’s own I. Thanks to the adoption in faith of a painful truth about human sinfulness one can in the way of love, by a gift of oneself, become in this world more and more the image of God.

The human person inevitably is confronted with one’s own finitude and suffering. If in this situation one rests solely on the strength of one’s own I, a person will not be able to escape from despair against the threat of one’s demise. However, if one begins to exceed one’s own “self” and take the risk of loving servitude, one finds a new meaning to one’s existence that this world cannot take away, as Jesus says.

The human person is a being who is fulfilled by making out of oneself a gift for others (GS 24). The human person is one’s own property only when one is one’s own master, and further, when one gives oneself to others. Internal fulfillment of a person is made in the space between “me” and “you”.

The human person cannot live without love. One remains an incomprehensible being, meaningless, if one does not encounter love; if one does not experience it; if one does not love; if one does not participate in it.

Spiritual development proceeds through reciprocal influence of supernatural communion, the gift of God’s grace, and the specific human personality.  This becomes a gift of God and a human effort. Each person has unique gifts and abilities, but on the other hand, is shaped by influences from the environment. Maintaining an appropriate direction to grow in this context requires considerable effort on the part of the human person.

As a creature the human person still encounters all sorts of limitations of existence, yet on the other hand, as a spiritual being is able to transcend many of them. The human spirit is open – especially to receive God. The soul is not identical to God, but it has something of the divine limitlessness, is a kind of vast empty space that demands to be filled. The human person never satisfies something less than God, and in the sense of action a total gift of oneself. The nature of love is the desire to entrust one’s life to the person one loves. In this sense, obedience lies in the human nature.

The human person is spiritually mature to the extent to which one is able to cross one’s limits. This is particularly true of psycho-physical limitations. The body, when healthy, does not draw attention to itself, however when the body is sick, it will. Through the body a person can enter into relationship with other things, especially other people. The human person is not created to remain in captivity of his own body, but to transcend it. The very word existence indicates a move towards the outside (ex). In a way only the one who is capable of such a move, is truly free, because being a human is apparent the most when it is being for others.

6. Conclusions

The ability to sacrifice oneself in the name of Christian love (oblatio) is one of the most beautiful characteristics of holiness. This ability is not a natural gift a person receives when coming into the world. It is rather a task to be completed and an ability to be achieved through God’s grace. As illustrated in this text the first is the existence (esse) of the human person, and only from this form of existence flows action. The peak of human action is love, and even more specifically the ability to sacrifice oneself through the love of God (oblatio). Given the complicated human esse, the challenge to be ready to sacrifice oneself is a task that never ends.

The primary step in the implementation of the main task of spiritual life is to achieve the ability of being an owner of oneself, in short, authentic freedom. Freedom shall be responsible and bound by the truth, especially by revealed truth.

Cooperating with grace, the human person becomes first occasionally capable of acting out of love, which also means sacrificing oneself in different situations. In this way, the human person is capable of specific oblative acts. As one grows in freedom and truth, i.e. as one becomes more an owner of oneself, the human person comes gradually to an oblative attitude and constant disposal of giving oneself in love to God and to people.

Being one’s owner in offering oneself makes oblatio an attitude that becomes a source of happiness for the person. The joy of this gift is the result of a long process of maturation in the Christian life, which reaches its fulfillment in personal holiness.

Andrzej JASTRZEBSKI, OMI

Inaugural Conference

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.

Back to the academic year : Frat Oser 2015-2016

It’s the opening of the academic year for the Frat ‘Oser of Aix-en-Provence! Maxime Camille Etienne, Samantha, Jean-Pascal, Pierre, Jean, Priscille, Luana, Emmanuel and Juliette journeyed the Weekend with Br. Benoit and Fr. Asodo on September 12th -13th, to start a good year of fraternity!

Frat Oser 2015-2016: in the Cloister of the Oblates

Frat Oser 2015-2016: in the Cloister of the Oblates

Marked by prayers and meals, our weekend was a time of discovery for all of us.
We, eleven young peoples from different backgrounds, have learned to get to know two by two, and then we made a tour to the mother house of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in the footsteps of St. Eugene de Mazenod.

Frat Oser 2015-2016: in the Father Suzanne Room

Frat Oser 2015-2016: in the Father Suzanne Room

Of course, fraternal life is not without a sharing of labor and organizing of events that punctuate the year, including the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Oblate community. The Weekend was ended by a delicious barbecue in the cloister with all permanent members of Community of Aix as well as several Polish Oblates!

Frat Oser 2015-2016: in the Dining Room

Frat Oser 2015-2016: in the Dining Room

Sunday Mass was the opportunity to present to the congregation of the Church of the Mission, the young peoples newly welcomed in the community of the Oblates and all those events was crowned by a very convivial meal!

Juliette MARY

Bicentenary Anniversary of the Oblates

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

The De Mazenod Experience at the service of the charism

Introduction

Animation of the Oblate charism is the primary ministry of the recently constituted Oblate International community of Aix. The De Mazenod Experience (DMX) is at the heart of this community and its ministry. In this presentation I intend to speak of the DMX program at the service of the Oblate Charism.

1. The De Mazenod Experience (DMX)
The DMX is one of the General Administration’ services entrusted to the Oblate International Community of Aix for its animation. A recent work-session between the community of Aix and the General Administration defined the De Mazenod Experience as “a time of spiritual renewal, lived in Aix, the ‘Holy Land’ of the Oblates.”

The DMX is a renewal program which aims, especially, at enabling the participants to look back over their experience of the Oblate charism in the everyday life of their mission and ministry. They do so in an atmosphere of prayer, reflection and fraternal sharing.

The DMX is above all an “Experience” rather than a course, participants are invited to make an experience of the Oblate charism as opposed to studying it. The Experience takes place in Aix, in the house where it all began; making pilgrimages in the places of historic Oblate interest, walking in the footsteps and breathing the same air as our Founder and his first companions.

The DMX is one of the recommended ongoing formation programs for the Oblates. Its program serves as a response to the call of article no.47 of our Constitutions and Rules which states that “Formation is a process which aims at the integral growth of a person and lasts a lifetime… It involves us in an ever-renewed conversion to the Gospel.”[i]

2. Historical Background
The DMX 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.[ii]

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 home for such an Experience.[iii] The eligible participants for the program are Oblates of the entire Congregation with at least 10 years in perpetual vows.

Today, over forty De Mazenod Experiences have been held at Aix, and almost 580 Oblates have participated in the program. The last three Experiences were held in 2014, in Spanish and in English, respectively, and the last one in 2015, was in English.

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

3. Essential elements of the De Mazenod Experience: The Program
The following are the essential elements of the DMX which were clearly defined at a work-session between the General Administration and the Oblate International community of Aix at the beginning of 2015. The essential elements are grouped into phases which together form a two months DMX program.

Phase I: 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?

Phase II: 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?

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

Phase IV: 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?

Phase V: Reintegration, Renewal of Vows and Re-commissioning.

A 15 days retreat based on Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, as well as pilgrimages in Aix, Marseille and to the First Missions preached by the Missionaries of Provence, form an integral part of the program.

4. DMX Objectives
From the above elements the following is deduced as the main objectives of the Experience:

I. Reflection on personal experience

The DMX aims at helping the participants to reflect on their personal experience. The idea is to help the participants to remember the history of their journey of faith with God, to be more aware how God has always been present on their journey. Integration in an international community through reflection, prayer, sharing and pilgrimages in Aix, in the footsteps of Saint Eugene, is essential to achieve this objective.

Inspired by the teachings of Marcello Zago which states that,

“Each Oblate draws from the Founder the spirit which animates him, he finds in the Founder a life model. We must never be tired or bored of developing a personal relationship, a more intimate bond, with Eugene… Eugene still remains a living person with whom we have a personal relationship, as a saint to imitate, a founder to follow, a teacher to heed, an intercessor to invoke and above all as a father to love…”[iv]

Therefore the Founder’s life and experience becomes the point of departure, hence the pilgrimage in the footsteps of St. Eugene in Aix, Marseille and in The First Missions preached by Missionaries of Provence; allowing the participants to seek inspiration in the Founder’s life and experience.

II. Deeper understanding of the History of the Congregation

To understand and appreciate our identity it is important that we go back to the past and reflect on the origins and history of our Oblate family. Allowing ourselves to be inspired by our forefathers by their life and experience as affirmed by Pope Francis in his letter to the Consecrated,

Recounting our history is essential for preserving our identity, for strengthening our unity as a family and our common sense of belonging. It calls for following in the footsteps of past generations in order to grasp the high ideals, and the vision and values which inspired them. In this way we come to see how the charism has been lived over the years, the creativity it has sparked, the difficulties it encountered and the concrete ways those difficulties were surmounted.”[v]

The DMX aims at helping the participants to appreciate our oblate family by deepening their understanding of its history and origins.

III. Reflection on a lived experience of the Oblate charism

The Oblate charism is something alive and dynamic and every generation expresses it in a new way. The DMX provides the participants with a conducive atmosphere to reflect and share with each other their personal experience of the charism, in that way the charism is deepened in one’s life.

Our charism is not a statement, it is a story to be told. “To tell our story is to praise God and thank him for his gifts.”[vi] Grateful remembrance of the past and retelling their story leads the participants to implement ever more fully and deepen the essential aspects of the charism in their lives and mission.

IV. Personal Conversion

The General Chapter of 2010 called the entire Congregation to, a profound personal and communal conversion to Jesus Christ. The Chapter theme reads: “Centered on the person of Jesus Christ, we commit ourselves to a profound personal and communal conversion for the sake of our Oblate Mission.”[vii] Fr. Louis Lougen, in his Letter of 8th December writes,

What could be more essential, more fundamental, and more life-filled for our consecrated missionary lives than this call? …by affirming the call to conversion, has made the option for the rebirth of the Congregation. We are called to say no to death and stagnation, and, through the Spirit who makes all things new, we are to be revitalized in the Oblate charism.”[viii]

The DMX seeks to provide the participants with an environment to help them hear again this fundamental call to conversion and a change of heart. The entire program is meant to help participants to live together, harmoniously, in an international community, to be more consistent in prayer and reflection, and then cross the cultural boundaries, in this way participants are led to a realization of a need for personal conversion, that their whole life style as missionaries has to change if they are to continue to witness to Jesus Christ to the most abandoned in more creative and effective ways. For “Conversion starts in our hearts and among ourselves, and once it has started, we will clearly see that the whole world is in need of conversion.” [ix]

V. Congregation’s Missionary outlook

It is vital for the participants of the DMX to reflect on the Congregation’s mission, simply, because “we are a missionary congregation”.[x] Mission, in its specific sense, makes up our very identity![xi] The De Mazenod Experience allows the participants to examine their fidelity to the mission entrusted to them with an aim to enkindle in their heart the spirit of missionary availability, daring and zeal.

Since the DMX is one of the General Administration’ services, one of the crucial moments of the DMX is the presence of a member of the General Administration (for a specific period of time) during the DMX program. This presence exposes the participants to a missionary outlook and the current reality of the Congregation. Participants are given an opportunity to reflect together with the whole Congregation on the missionary needs of the Church and on how we as Oblates see these needs and respond to them.

Participants are familiarized with the priorities of the whole Congregation. By becoming aware of the Congregations global mission and reality, participants are called to align their particular mission to that of the whole Congregation.

VI. Renewal and Re-commissioning

Spiritual renewal, achieved through reflection in an atmosphere of prayer and fraternal sharing, is at the heart of the DMX program. The participants are not in Aix to stay; they have come that they might return home with a renewed zeal for mission and community life; that they might yet again leave nothing undared!

Article 9 of our Constitution and rules remind us that as Oblates “We are members of the prophetic Church… We will hear and make heard the clamour of the voiceless, which is a cry to God….”[xii] After two months of prayer, reflection, sharing and pilgrimage in the footsteps of St. Eugene, it is expected that those who participate in the program arrive at a certain level of spiritual and vocation renewal, that they would hear afresh the call of Christ and generously respond so to be sent out as Prophets “to wake up the world.”[xiii]

A special liturgical celebration is prepared at the end of the Experience. During this celebration participants renew their Vows, they receive anew their Oblate Crosses and are sent out to mission.

5. The De Mazenod Experience at the service of the charism

The charism remains a gift to be welcomed and made to bear fruit. It is a grace to be asked. Like the Apostles after Christ’s Ascension, the DMX participants are called to gather in the Upper Room ‘together with Mary the Mother of Jesus’ in order to pray for the Spirit and to gain strength and courage to carry out the missionary mandate. We all, like the Apostles, need to be transformed and guided by the Spirit. In this prayer of invocation to the Spirit are united to us the Oblates in heaven and especially Eugene de Mazenod, whom with the whole Church we venerate as saint and our intercessor.

The DMX program is at the service of the charism in a sense that it provides a framework within which the Oblate charism can be lived and experienced by the participants, at the cradle of the Congregation, where it all began. The DMX program opens to the participants the source and origin of the charism. Consequently, the participants are able to experience the charism in a new way as being alive today; as a result, they are exhorted to find new and creative ways to express and retell the story of our charism in their own particular contexts.

I. Participants Testimonies

From the final evaluations of the program by the participants and from their testimonies, the DMX can be said to be a success in many levels. The following are the extracts from some of the participants’ testimonies of the charism lived in the context of DMX:

“The time that I have spent in Aix, 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. 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 moments of prolonged silence prayer and reflection, I have been able to look back and realized how the Lord has been present in my life and how He has faithfully journeyed with me…I feel renewed and called to holiness. 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 have come to understand St. Eugene de Mazenod, I have once again fallen in Love with him, his charism and his spirit, I am really on fire, burning with love for Christ, thanks to the De Mazenod Experince!”

“I am blessed that I participated in the de Mazenod Experience… 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… there was a dryness and some feelings of boredom and emptiness in my life… 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. Through the Experience 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 have somehow lost my identity as a Missionary Oblate… 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 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!”

“The Experience helped me to situate my own vocation in relationship to that of St. Eugene… 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 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…”

II. My personal experience

I am grateful to have participated twice in the DMX, in 2014 as a preparation and formation for my ministry in Aix and in 2015 as an animator. These have been very important and powerful moments of grace in my life as an Oblate where I have witnessed the Oblate charism being shared, celebrated and learned in a profound way.

St. Eugene was never an important figure in my life. I didn’t know much about him and most of what I knew about him was rather negative. I always thought of myself as not an ideal Oblate according to St. Eugene’s standards, that had he been around he would have kicked me out long time ago. Through the DMX, a totally different side of St. Eugene has been opened to me. I have come to discover him and to identify with him in many aspects of his life. A passion for him grows within me with every session that I get to animate. There is a desire within me to grow in a relationship with him and to make him known.

During the DMX the Founder and his vision becomes alive. Based on my experience, I have, through DMX, encountered St. Eugene, a young man, lively and impetuous, with impassioned desires. The DMX has laid bare the heart of St. Eugene before me, a generous heart with ‘an immense capacity to love’, a heart that knew no limits when comes to loving, and I have personally fallen in love with his heart, my desire is to lead others deep into the heart of our Beloved Founder. In St. Eugene I’ve encountered a broken young man in search of meaning, love and friendship, whose encounter with the Crucified Christ brings healing and meaning and changes his entire life. In short, in St. Eugene I have encountered a human being fully alive.[xiv]

His passionate love for Jesus Christ and the Church inspires me to work hard in deepening my personal relationship with Christ. The way he embraced the Cross, in its different forms, allowing himself to be formed by it, gives me courage to faithfully carry mine. His thirst for holiness and to do all things for the glory of God and the salvation of souls has given me a new purpose in my life.

Through the DMX I have witnessed all aspects of our charism come alive. I have had an opportunity to meet and live with some extraordinary men from different backgrounds who come together to build a life-giving community with one heart and one soul, centred on charity. I have witnessed them being attentive to the person of Jesus Christ at the centre of their mission. I’ve listened to the stories regarding their closeness to the poor and the most abandoned. These are simple men who love the Church and who daily give of themselves, generously, in spreading the Good News. I have witnessed the movement of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the DMX participants. The unity of the congregation and its mission is strengthened by the cross-border friendships created during the DMX.

A number of these men arrive in Aix often tired and worn out after years in ministry, it is a fulfilling experience to send them out, after a successful program, renewed, full of life and hope, joyful, burning with zeal and on fire with love for Jesus and His Church!

The DMX has enkindled my hope as a young Oblate, I have come to value our charism and our beloved Founder. I am convinced that our charism is still valid, alive and needed more than ever before in our world today. I uphold what Fr. Louis tells us in his December 8th letter, “I do not accept the ‘death theory’ that proposes in certain places that we have done our work, that we are no longer needed in the Church and so we can die in peace. The Church needs consecrated men living the Oblate charism, because the poor and most abandoned continue to be with us and need to hear the Gospel.”[xv]

Thanks to the DMX, today I feel challenged to make our charism known by living it more authentically in my own life! I feel passionate and inspired by our charism, I am on fire with love for our beloved Founder and our oblate family and I affirm that there is indeed something unique about us as Oblates, something to be celebrated and appreciated.

Conclusion

I concur with Richard McAlear, who animated the DMX in the past, that “the DMX has made a great contribution to the life of the congregation and has the potential to continue to have an impact.”[xvi] It is my wish that more and more Oblates could have an opportunity in the future to participate in the DMX program for their renewal and the renewal of the entire oblate family.

Bonga Majola OMI

June 22, 2015

Bibliography


[i] OMI CC&RR #47
[ii] Jo Bois, CIEM Archives, Aix
[iii] Jo Bois, CIEM Archives, Aix
[iv] Letter of Superior General, Marcello Zago, to the Oblates in First Formation – Jan 25 1995 Rome
[v] Pope Francis, Letter to all Consecrated people, Chapter I, Para #I
[vi] Pope Francis, Letter to all Consecrated people, Chapter I, Para #I
[vii] Acts of the 35th General Chapter, “Conversion” , 2010
[viii] Letter of Superior General, Louis Lougen, to the Congregation, Dec 8 2014 – Tamatave, Madagascar
[ix] Report of Superior General, Wilhelm Steckling, 35th General chapter, p.7. Sep 8 2010 -Rome
[x] OMI CC&RR #5
[xi] Letter of Superior General, Wilhelm Steckling, Oblate Mission Today, Nov 21 2006 – Rome
[xii] OMI CC&RR #9
[xiii] Pope Francis, Letter to all Consecrated people, Chapter II, Para #2
[xiv] Cf. A. Hubenig, Living in the Spirit’s fire…, p. 42 – 46
[xv] Letter of Superior General, Louis Lougen, to the Congregation, Dec 8 2014 – Tamatave, Madagascar
[xvi] Published in Oblatio, no. IV -2015/1, p.31

CIEM Studies

Fr. Bonga Thamsanqa MAJOLA, was born on the 3rd of March 1981 in South Africa. He entered the Novitiate of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 2005. He studied Philosophy in Cedara, South Africa and completed his theological studies at the Gregorian University in Rome. He was ordained to the priesthood in October 2011 and was immediately sent as an assistant parish priest at St. Charles Borromeo parish, in Victory Park, Johannesburg. As an assistant he was mainly responsible for the youth and did vocation ministry within his Oblate Province. Fr. Bonga is currently a member of the Aix International community, at the service of Animation of the Oblate Charism.

Photo : Left to Right : Fr. Bernard Felczykowski, Fr. Louis Lougen (Superior General), Fr. Bonga Majola

Left to Right : Fr. Bernard Felczykowski, Fr. Louis Lougen (Superior General), Fr. Bonga Majola

Fr. Bonga’s article with the title, “The De Mazenod Experience at the service of the Oblate Charism”, is from a conference he gave in Rome in June 2015 during the Congress on the Oblate Charism in context.

To access his article click on the link « Études du CIEM ».

Life at CIEM

We have just concluded the De Mazenod Experience in Polish. It ran from 1 September to 6 October. It was indeed a powerful experience for the 13 participants and the three animators. They were all of Polish origin but working in several countries of the world i.e. Poland, obviously, but also from the USA, Sweden, Belarus, Madagascar, Ukraine and Canada.

Summer Session for Oblate Scholastics

Summer Session for Oblate Scholastics

The summer months have been quite busy: in July, we had a three weeks session for Scholastics preparing themselves for Final Vows in the Congregation, they were from Europe and outside Europe. The session focused on St. Eugene and his first companions, the Oblate Charism, pilgrimages and visits to different and symbolic places of our foundation.

In August, we welcomed a group of lay people from Palermo, then a group of young people from Oblate parishes in Canada, they were immediately followed by a group of about 40 young people from Europe.

Youth group of St. Casimir parish, Toronto, Canada

Youth group of St. Casimir parish, Toronto, Canada

We finally began a rather calm period, but, which will still be busy, especially with the preparation of the celebrations of the bicentenary of our Foundation, January 24 and 25 2016.

Fathers ASODO and BONGA will take advantage of this relatively calm period, they will take a legitimate and beneficial holiday in their respective countries (Indonesia and South Africa).

Aix community - July 2015

Aix community – July 2015


Our community of five members has just been enriched, but for a few months only, with the arrival of a 6th Member, Father Mario Brandi, Italian Oblate, who spent many years in Cameroon in various ministries and who has just finished his six years as Superior of the International Scholasticate in Rome; he comes among us to relax, to revitalise and to renew himself but also to give us a hand which will certainly be very appreciated.

Joseph BOIS, OMI

De Mazenod Experience in Polish

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

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

Aix Experience through the Scholastics’ eye: Reflection on Scholastics Summer Session 2015

Karel MEC, Casmir ARUL and Anthony THOMAS were among the 15 Oblate Scholastics from 5 different Scholasticates who spent 3 weeks in Aix last summer in a Session prepared for Scholastics. Listening to their personal reflections on their time in Aix it is clear that the experience profoundly touched the hearts of these young Oblates and allowed them to make “a concrete step in their formation to missionary life”.

The Scholastics during their visit to Saint Laurent du Verdon

The Scholastics during their visit to Saint Laurent du Verdon

The first difficult exercise of the Session was community building. To make a fruitful experience in Aix it is essential that the participants build a life-giving community. Karel, reflecting on his experience helps us understand the process involved in building a community, he tells us that “firstly, we overcame the language barriers, we prayed, celebrated and laughed a lot together, and despite the diversity we were able to form a living community”.

Another important aspect of the Session was the teaching on the life of the Founder. Through conferences and pilgrimage in the footsteps of St. Eugene participants were given an opportunity to dive into the heart of the Founder so to know him and to capture “the spirit which must animate us and which we must communicate to others”, in this regard Karel mentions that “we got very good input and necessary time to share and to meditate profoundly on the life of the Founder; on some fundamental topics such as the oblation, the Cross and the Eucharist”. Karel “was deeply touched by the person of St. Eugene, by his zeal for the salvation of men, by his love for Christ and the Church”. This aspect of the Session lead Casmir to a conviction that, “each wall of the Oblate house and each street in Aix strongly spoke to me about the passionate love that our Founder had for Christ and the most abandoned”.

Karel Mec (Right to Left: n°1)

Karel Mec (Right to Left: n°1)

In one of his letters to Oblates in First Formation Fr. Marcello Zago writes, “Each Oblate draws from the Founder the spirit which animates him, he finds in the Founder a life model. We must never be tired or bored of developing a personal relationship, a more intimate bond, with Eugene… as a saint to imitate, a founder to follow, a teacher to heed, an intercessor to invoke and above all as a father to love”. The Session aimed at leading the Scholastics to know the Founder and to develop a relationship with him in line with this teaching of Fr. Zago.

Listening to the Scholastics who participated in this recent Session one is lead to believe that they took seriously these words of Fr. Zago. Anthony is very clear in this regard, he mentions that “during my time in Aix I felt the desire to have been among the first oblates, so to have seen this our loving father Eugene, to kiss him and say to him, ‘Dear father, I love you, and I want to live like you so daringly to do everything possible in this broken and faithless world to bring back people to Christ and his Church”.  Casmir shares the same sentiments, he feels he has “experienced in Aix the heart and spirit of the Founder, the experience has effected in me a deep realization of myself in the light of the Founder. Through this experience I have received great strength and hope from the life of the Founder. This experience has given me the spirit of a daring heart of the Founder to live holy and to love Christ passionately. The task now for me, with God’s grace, is to keep this experience in front of me, to know Christ, to identify with him and to let him live in me every single day”.

(Left to Right): Simeon Kim, Casimir Arul, Anthonysamy Thomas, Dan Zigler, and Benoit Dosquet.

(Left to Right): Simeon Kim, Casimir Arul, Anthonysamy Thomas, Dan Zigler, and Benoît Dosquet

For Karel “The program was quite dynamic, the presence of Father General and celebrating the Eucharist at the tomb of St. Eugene was the highlight of the Experience”. We keep these young men in our prayers and many others in different houses of Oblate formation.

(Karel is from Czech Republic he is currently at the International Scholasticate in Rome, Casmir and Anthony are both from India, they are currently at the Oblate Scholasticate in Melbourne).

BONGA MAJOLA, OMI

From Palermo to Aix in the footsteps of St. Eugene de Mazenod

On August 10-17, 2015, a group of lay people from Palermo who share the Oblate Charism came to visit the places of Saint Eugene in Aix and Marseille. The group was formed of eight people, all from Palermo, including an Oblate and a COMI (a consecrated laywoman from the Secular Institute of the Cooperators of the Missionaries Oblates of May Immaculate).

In the Founder's Room

In the Founder’s Room

All came for a journey of faith, of Christian and missionary formation in the OMI community in Palermo they knew back in the year of 1985-1995. They said: « For us, this experience is like coming back to our family, to know more our roots ».

In the cloister of the Oblates

In the cloister of the Oblates

The group made a long preparation for this visit. Last April, they had made a pilgrimage in the footsteps of St. Eugene in Palermo. Thanks to Enzo David and others, who did a study of places in the city linked to years of exile of St. Eugene. More than two centuries later, they repeated the same route of Eugene, from Palermo to Aix, with the same feelings of hope, of the future, and of the questions of faith. During the week, they lived in intimacy with the Founder, found themselves in the experience, and they felt confirmed in their belonging to the Oblate family. Helped by the conferences of Frs. Krzysztof and Bonga, they were able to enter deeply into their heart and being opened to the grace of these places as well as sharing these days with the Oblate community of Aix. The fraternity was also expressed during the preparation of a Sicilian meal in memory of the life of St. Eugene in the land of Sicily. They left full of joy and gratitude for the experience and happy to live this spiritual link between Aix and Palermo, the city that hosted St. Eugene at his birth and the other  welcomed him in his exile, where he found families and friends – two centuries ago but today as well. This “familial reunion” was filled with joy in our hearts and certainly that of St. Eugene.

Ileana CHINNICI, COMI

PilgrimAix – youth pilgrimage

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

The Toronto Youth on visit of Aix-en-Provence

A group of youth of the Oblate parish of St. Casimir in Toronto came to the cradle of the Congregation. They were accompanied by Fr. Marcin SERWIN who is in charge of youth ministry in the Assumption Province of Canada.

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They started with discovering region: Marseille, Arles and Avignon. After several days in Lourdes, they came back to Aix. Their pilgrimage of Aix in the footsteps of St. Eugene began with a day of recollection given by Fr. Bonga MAJOLA. He presented to them the life of St. Eugene de Mazenod from his childhood until he decided entering the seminary. He also asked them to pray for their families as well as entrusting their life with their projects to God.

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It was in 1841 when Eugène de Mazenod sent his missionaries to Canada. In 1889, they arrived in Toronto. They, the youth, are the fruit of the mission accomplished by the Oblates in Canada.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

Summer session for the oblate scholastics

Summer session for the oblate scholastics is a session that allows participants to live in the cradle of the Congregation, a spiritual experience which helps them to make a concrete step in their formation to missionary life.

Marseille, in front of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Guard

Marseille, in front of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Guard

This year there were 15 scholastics who attended the session. They came from Poland, India, Italy, USA, South Korea, Czech Republic and Guatemala. During the session, they followed lectures on the life of St. Eugene de Mazenod, the history of the Congregation and the Oblate Charism. It was, then, followed and deepened with the visits to places where Eugene had lived in as well as with sharings in smaller groups. All those were done in a climate of openness to the linguistic and cultural differences of each participant.

Mass at the tomb of St Eugene de Mazenod

Mass at the tomb of St Eugene de Mazenod

The session was animated by two members of the European Office of Formation (BEF), three formators and the Aix community. The session was closed with a Mass and renewal of vows presided by Father General at the tomb of the Founder in the Cathedral of Marseille.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

Scholastics Summer Session
International Mass

On the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time the Church of the Mission hosted a beautiful International Mass animated by the participants of the Scholastics Summer Session. The richness of our Oblate family in culture, language and diversity became evident and was highly appreciated by the parishioners of the Church of the Mission. During Mass three young Oblates shared their vocation stories and gave inspiring testimonies of their experience of the Session, among these was Dan Ziegler OMI a Scholastic from San Antonio Texas, here is his testimony:

Antonio Diodati, OMI and Dan Ziegler, OMI

Antonio Diodati, OMI and Dan Ziegler, OMI

“I grew up near Boston Massachusetts but I met the Oblates of Mary Immaculate when I was living in San Antonio Texas. I can’t say for sure what it was, but it seemed the more I get to know the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, there is something special about them. Being here in Aix-en-Provence helps me understand that specialness a little bit more. It is my pleasure to be here and experience this fine city and share my experiences with you.
The experience here in Aix-en-Provence has been very fulfilling. Not only have I been able to spend time with and get to know my Oblate brothers from around the world, but I have also been able to get to know more about our Founder, St. Eugene de Mazenod. It is one thing to read about a person, but to go to the place where he grew up and lived and ministered and preached is an entirely different experience.

During Mass

During Mass

One of the things that St. Eugene possessed was a deep desire for God. His faith was not superficial in the least but his faith was always a work in progress. Learning more about his life, it is my understanding that his faith was born out of a profound sense of his brokenness and his personal need for God as a healing savior. The divorce of his parents, the loss of his culture and identity in exile, his struggle with boredom and meaninglessness all led him to the realization that only God, through Jesus on the Cross, could give his life purpose and direction. Often times we wonder why we struggle, suffer, or seem lost, but these are the precise times when God is loving us the most, and this, I am learning was the experience of St. Eugene.

After Mass In front of the church

After Mass In front of the church

Another thing I have learned about St. Eugene is his fierce loyalty. He was a man who was fiercely loyal and expected nothing less of the men who would be his fellow Oblates. He challenges anyone to love the Lord with their whole heart, soul, strength and mind. In this way, St. Eugene was dynamically dedicated to loving and serving the poorest and most abandoned, including the prisoners, the youth, and the people of the countryside who were lacking spiritual guidance and direction in their lives. This is where I believe St. Eugene saw the face of God and found purpose, meaning and true joy in his life.
I cannot do justice to all of St. Eugene’s life story in this short time, but I can see how the patterns that emerged in our Founder’s life have shaped the international congregation that exists today and the diversity of men that God has called, myself included. I find a part of my own story, with all of its twists and turns, doubts and fears, brokenness and searching, in that of St. Eugene’s as perhaps many of us can. More importantly, it is through this community, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, that God is using all of our personal stories, our gifts and our shortcomings, to draw us closer to Him in a deeper loving relationship. In less than a couple of months, myself and many of my brother Oblates here will be making perpetual vows which means that we will vow poverty, chastity, obedience and perseverance for life. We ask for your prayerful support and we pray that together we can love and serve our Lord Jesus Christ as passionately and daringly as St. Eugene”.

Congress on Oblate Charism in context

Today, 200 years after the founding of our Congregation, how do we live the Charism? This is the question as a thread for the congress on the Oblate Charism organized by Father Fabio CIARDI, Director of the General Service for the Oblate Studies.

Fr. Krzysztof Zielenda during his conference

Fr. Krzysztof Zielenda during his conference

Connected via the Internet, this Congress has been held simultaneously in eight cities where the Oblates work Rome (Italy), San Antonio (USA), Mexico City (Mexico), Obra (Poland), Kinshasa (DR Congo) , Durban (South Africa), Colombo (Sri Lanka) and Manila (Philippines). It was attended by about 1,000 people per day, from 30 June to 3 July 2015.

Fr. Bonga Majola during his conference

Fr. Bonga Majola during his conference

Among many Oblates who participated there were two from Aix: Krzysztof ZIELENDA who spoke of the community of Aix as a place for the resources of the charisma and BONGA MAJOLA whose conference was about the experience Mazenod as a service for the charism. All lectures during the Congress will be published in four volumes of the journal “Oblatio”.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

Our Bicentenary begins in Aix-en-Provence

We were about twenty Oblates from the Province of France and one from the Province of Cameroon; we came to deeply immerse ourselves in the source of the charism of St. Eugene de Mazenod. A week of retreat in Aix-en-Provence, the cradle of the Oblates; it is indeed a grace! It was good to be here, in this lively city, so rich in history, and in this house where each corner tells this or that aspect of the founding events: The Foundation room, the Church of the Mission, the Chapel of the First Vows, and the Founder’s Room.

Retired participants

Retired participants

We felt at home in Aix and yet… overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the missionary project that arose here 200 years ago and has spread throughout the world, from the pole to the tropics. One would have to be Father General to be able to embrace the oblate presence all over the world! However, each one of us has been called by the Lord to give his small contribution. This is our pride and our joy!

The general theme of the retreat was that of the 2nd year of the triennium: Formation.

Joseph BOIS helped us to reflect on our first and only love, the love we bear for Christ, to continue to let ourselves be formed by Him. Henricus ASODO from Indonesia, made us discover how his missionary experience has helped to form him as an apostolic man; is it not so for each one of us? He also presented the apostolate of our Oblate brothers in his vast country: Oblates from Australia, France, and Italy and now from Indonesia who brought and continue to bring Christ to the poorest of the poor in Java and Borneo. Benoît DOSQUET made us to relive the 200 years history of our beginnings, and revealed the face of our founding fathers. It was good to hear about their wealth or their weaknesses or their experiences, it was all helpful to us for it allowed us to interpret our own experiences. Bonga MAJOLA, from South Africa, put his young missionary experience at our service to make us discover how the many crises that we might have been through have also formed us and how the cross is present in our mission. How do we accept it, how do we live it? And all this with reference to Eugene de Mazenod’s experience of the Cross. Krzysztof ZIELENDA, from Poland, challenged us concerning the place of the Virgin Mary in our life as Oblates. The stories leading to the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception and the role our Founder played in this regard, left us surprised and amazed.

Prayer in the foundation room

Prayer in the foundation room

Every day we went out on a pilgrimage in town to visit the sites in which Eugene de Mazenod and our First Fathers lived. These places are now engraved in our hearts.

We leave Aix, already prepared in heart and spirit to live this 200th anniversary of our Foundation in communion with all our Oblate brothers of the world. We have had more than a pilgrimage, more than a retreat; we have contributed to what could be seen as a “new Foundation” of the congregation in the world on the occasion of its bicentenary. Thanks to the wonderful and generous team which received us and animated our retreat.

François CARPENTIER, OMI

Mazenodian Family Meeting

Wednesday, May 27, a few days after the Feast of St. Eugene, the Mazenodian Family came together to respond to the invitation given them by the Oblate International Community in Aix. During the prayer time which introduced the meeting, the participants listened to a reading from the letter of St. Paul to the Philippians (2, 1-12), as well as to extracts from the Oblate Constitutions and Rules on the value of poverty and personal responsibility for the Oblates to reform themselves throughout their missionary life.

Photo 2

Fr. Krzysztof ZIELENDA then recalled the essential points which were developed by Fr. Gilberto PIÑÓN during his speech of February 15, 2015. The Identity of “lay associates” was then clarified as “a response to the call from Christ that lay associates live their baptism enlightened by the Charism of St. Eugene de Mazenod. In a family spirit they share among themselves and with the Oblates the same spirituality and the same missionary vision.”

Photo 3

However, to organise such a group and to give it an autonomous structure, it is important to take into consideration our proper culture, as well as the wishes of those interested. The Oblate community of Aix made two proposals to the participants. Firstly, to continue to consolidate around the Oblate community those who, directly or indirectly, are linked with it, i.e. the Mazenodian Family. Secondly, to gather into a new group of “lay associates” those wishing to know more about the charism of St. Eugene and to live it. This new group of lay associates would be autonomous from the Oblate community, nevertheless it would remain linked to the Mazenodian Family.

Photo 4

After reflection in groups, we arrived at the conclusion that we were not yet ready to become a group of “lay associates” autonomous from the Oblate community. We will continue to live as the Mazenodian Family, attentive to the call for the creation of a group of “lay associates”.

Chantal BERNARD-BRET

Pray with « Aixultez Group »

“God can call to the priesthood even someone with broken arms like me!” Said Fr. René Luc during his testimony given to the youth of Aix at their vigil of praise and worship in the Oblate Cloister. Fr. René Luc is the author of the book “Dieu en plein coeur.”

Photo-22

Saturday evening, May 29, the youth of Aix came together for the last time during this academic year to pray with “Aixultez Group.” This group is part of the “Maison des Lycéens” (Home of Teenagers). It is the same group which organizes Masses for Teenagers every Saturday at 18h30 (except during school holidays) in the Chapel of the Oblates on Cours Mirabeau. On June 6 they will celebrate their last Mass, which will mark the end of all the activities of “Maison de Lycéens” for 2014-2015 academic year.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

The feast of St Eugene de Mazenod

St. Eugene de Mazenod, the Founder of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a man passionately in love with Christ and unconditionally committed to the Church, died on May 21, 1861. Since his beatification in 1975 we celebrate his feast day on May 21. This year Oblates will celebrate Holy Mass on the Tomb of their beloved Founder in the Cathedral of Marseille at 10h30am.

Old Bishop’s house where St. Eugene died

Old Bishop’s house where St. Eugene died

As he lay dying, St. Eugene de Mazenod said to the Oblates around him: “my only suffering is that I must leave such men as you, men I love with a heart that you cannot comprehend. The good God has given me a heart of immense capacity and with it an immense power to love my children”.

Tomb of St. Eugene in the Cathedral of Marseille

Tomb of St. Eugene in the Cathedral of Marseille

The Oblate community of Aix-en-Provence sends their greetings to all Oblates and lay associates and wishes you all a blessed feast of St. Eugene, may you receive many graces through his intercession!

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

Fuveau and Saint Eugene de Mazenod

« 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

International masses in the Church of the Missions

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

Oblates and Sainte-Victoire pilgrimage

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.

Way to Santiago and Rome

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

De Mazenod Experience 2015, as it happens

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”

“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

Catechises at Gardanne

A catechises on the life of St. Eugene is an initiative of the pastoral team of Gardanne, a parish in the diocese of Aix and Arles. During this catechesis a number of children, youth and adults followed a presentation on the life of the Founder of the Oblates. They then participated in different workshops related to the theme.

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Among the workshops, there was one on Provençal language, another on Provençal dance – a little eye blink to the Missionaries of Provence. There were other workshops as well with themes such as, Missionary attitude in the world of today, Internationality, Theatre…etc During the course of the day, some pastry lovers showcased their creativity by baking, for the joy and enjoyment of everyone, “missionaries’ biscuits “. In a true spirit of intergenerational catechises the younger ones kept themselves occupied with reporting the events of the day on the internet and constantly updating online, giving the older generation a good opportunity to review their knowledge in this area.

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Powerful moments of prayer were present too, done in a form of contemplative dialogue. The day ended with the celebration of the Eucharist.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

The Image of the Invisible in the Chapel of the Oblates

“The world needs beauty in order not to sink into despair” – said Pope Paul VI in his message to the artists. From 23 – 30 March nearly a hundred people a day visited the exposition of icons, by Aimée BRASSENS, in the Chapel of the Oblates in Aix-en-Provence.

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Aimée BRASSENS has been writing icons since the age of 15 while at the convent of the Benedictines of Saint Maur. Later, she took further formation in theology and technique of writing icons for several years with Fr. Egon SENDLER, a master of iconography who has had numerous exhibits. In 2011, Aimée received a Medal of the City of Marseille, in appreciation for her works. “I am not an artist”, says Aimée BRASSENS, “I only know how to write icons. I am not the one who chose this, it came from on high. I have been doing it for a number of years, I spend at least four hours a day writing icons.”

Seeing the beauty of the exposed icons many visitors were emotionally moved. The guest book of the exposition attests how the visitors felt, “Moving icons written with love” … “May they help people to deepen their faith … and mine” – writes Jeanne Marie.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

Frat-Oser, Lenten weekend in Marseille

Each year, the Frat-Oser (the student group in the Oblate community) in Aix-en-Provence takes two days off. So, faithful to this tradition, the weekend of March 7 and 8, 2015, allowed us, the students of this school year 2014/2015, to have a look at these first months, in an authentic, fraternal, and spiritual atmosphere. Br. Benoît and Fr. Bonga accompanied us in this process.

Frat-Oser on the hill at Notre-Dame de la Garde

Frat-Oser on the hill at Notre-Dame de la Garde

So, on Saturday morning, we left on the way to Notre-Dame de la Garde in Marseille, where we were welcomed very nicely by the community of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, whose kindness warmed our hearts. The visit of Notre-Dame de la Garde, on a beautiful sunny day, was one of the high points to help us reflect over the past six months.

The gospel of the Samaritan woman, a theme of our day away, guided us in our prayers. With the times for relaxing, for spiritual sharing, and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the day was very rich. It gave us all a chance to strengthen the bonds which unite us, and it ended with an evening filled with good humour and joy for everyone.

Frat-Oser in front of the the tomb of St. Eugene De Mazenod

Frat-Oser in front of the the tomb of St. Eugene De Mazenod

On Sunday morning, after Mass celebrated by Fr. Bonga, we discovered, with much interest, the Cathedral of Sainte-Marie-Majeure, where is found the tomb of the Founder of the Oblate community, Saint Eugene de Mazenod. To learn more about this holy man gave even more meaning, both spiritual and material, to our belonging together as a group.

Then, at the end of the morning, we came back to Aix-en-Provence very happy, and we shared a good meal with the brothers of the Oblate community.

So, this weekend was for all of us an enriching experience, and a breath of fresh air.

Sam & Marie

Group of Veilleurs de la fraternité

On March 12, 2015, the group of “Veilleurs de la fraternité” under the patronage of the Oblate Missionaries invited the parishes from the city centre and numerous associations from Aix-en-Provence, in order to exchange ideas and information regarding diaconie.

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Present among others were: the Episcopal Vicar for the deanery of Aix-en-Provence and Gardanne, the parishes of Notre Dame de l’Arc, Saint-André, Saint-Jérome, the Cathedral, Saint-Jean de Malte, the Secour Catholique, the Order of Malta, the Halte de Jour Germain Nouveau, the Evangelical service for the sick, Saint-Vincent de Paul, Halte Vincent, the Relais Saint-Martin, the Blue Cross and Pause-Toit.

The « Frat-Oser » (group of students housed in the Oblate community) participated as well in this meeting, since this year they wish to be involved with a project in favour of one these associations.

Representatives of different parishes or associations presented their multiple projects which lead to a fruitful sharing and discussion. Another meeting is planned for the near future.

Béatrice PROIA

A new program of the De Mazenod Experience

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

The priests of Aix on the footsteps of Saint Eugene

During the last week of February a pilgrimage of the priests of the Diocese of Aix and Arles took place on the footsteps of Saint Eugene de Mazenod. Bishop Christophe DUFOUR with about thirty priests of his diocese made this pilgrimage together. The role of Guide and Preacher was entrusted to Father Bernard DULLIER OMI, author of “15 days with Eugene de Mazenod”.

Conférence de Bernard DULLIER

Conference of Bernard DULLIER

During the pilgrimage the participants attended the conferences on the spiritual journey of Saint Eugene de Mazenod. All the conferences were given at the Foyer of charity in Sufferchoix. The pilgrims visited the Church of Grans where the first parish mission, preached by Saint Eugene and his companions, took place three weeks after the Foundation of the Missionaries of Provence. Then, they walked following the footsteps of Saint Eugene through Marseille and completed the pilgrimage by the celebration of the Eucharist in the chapel of the vows at the Oblate House on Cours Mirabeau in Aix.

Church of Grans

Church of Grans

Here are some of the words Fr. DUILLIER pronounced during his inspiring homily at the closing Mass: “In this Chapel we encounter Christ who calls each of us by name, to be with him and to send us to bear witness to the Good News. In this Chapel, this morning, is present the Diocesan Church with its presbytery around its Bishop, the particular Church is a sign of the universal Church. At the end of this pilgrimage, a call is heard, a call to unity and brotherly love without which the Church is not the Church, a call also to love the Church; because no one can claim to love Christ, if he does not love the Church”.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

Father Gilberto encounters with the Mazenodian Family of Aix

To mark the 189th anniversary of the approval of the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and its Constitutions and Rules, the Mazenodian Family of Aix held an encounter with the Oblate community on Sunday, February 15th, 2015.

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During this encounter, we welcomed Father Gilberto PIÑÓN, Assistant General, who presented the history of the Oblate lay associates. In his presentation, Father Gilberto PIÑÓN first showed that for two centuries, the laity had been always with the Oblates in their mission of evangelization, according to the charism of the Founder. Indeed, Eugene de Mazenod, sensing the magnitude of the task ahead and before founding the congregation, had gathered to help the laity to pray and organize missionary activity: it was already a real cooperation project with lay people! After the Founder’s death in 1861, various general chapters of the Congregation evoke an association with the laity. The idea of cooperation and shared fraternity made its way as well as the creation of an organization to help the mission of the Oblates.

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In 1907, the term of “lay associate” is used for the first time. Then the assertion of the association with the laity is specified as “an extension of the Congregation among the faithful”; taking part in the joys, successes and failures of the religious family. They support the oblate communities, the whole congregation and missions, and become the “auxiliary apostles” of the Missionary Oblates.
With the Vatican II, the laity becomes more aware of their vocation. The number of lay people who involved in the life of the Church strongly increases and the new forms of collaboration with the Congregation come up. The 1992 General Chapter states that the laity is called to share the Founder’s charism on mission with the Oblates. In 1996, a congress of Oblates Lay Associates was held in Aix-en-Provence, the cradle of the Congregation. Their identity is then specified: “It is in response to a call from Christ that lay associates live their baptism, enlightened by the charism of Eugene de Mazenod. In a spirit of family, they share among themselves and with the Oblates the same spirituality and the same missionary vision”.

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Lay associates are passionate about Jesus Christ, the Church and the Mission, in following the example of St. Eugene. They have trust on human dignity. They deepen the charism of St. Eugene. Fr. Gilberto asked the Lay Associate to be always linked to an Oblate community and also in communion with the family of the laity. It’s the sharing of the same vocation, the same mission, in the spirit of St. Eugene de Mazenod in following Christ.

Chantal BERNARD-BRET

The Association of Centre International Eugene de Mazenod (CIEM)

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CIEM is an organization created in November 2011, subject to the provisions of French law of July 1st , 1901. Its purpose is to help publicize the work and thought of St. Eugene de Mazenod, Founder of the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and the universal reach of his message through linking with any person or entity with an interest in the work of St. Eugene. CIEM also wants to preserve and maintain the historical space, the cradle of the Congregation, located at 54, 56, 58 and 60 cours Mirabeau in Aix-en-Provence.

The association is composed of legal members, active members and associate members. Legal members are the Vicar General, General Treasurer and General Counsel for Europe of the Congregation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Active members are the Oblates of the Aix community and associate members are naturally and morally became members for one year in order to benefit from the service provided and the provisions of the association.

(See Statutes CIEM)

Summer Session for Scholastics

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Summer Session for Oblate Scholastics is neither a retreat nor a preparatory session for Perpetual Oblation. The principal aim of the Session is simply to allow the participants to live in the cradle of the Congregation, to make a spiritual experience that should help make concrete steps in their formation as missionaries. The Session takes place within the frame of a lived international experience which allows an exchange around issues concerning the Oblate Charism, Community, Stewardship of resources, and other aspects of missionary life.

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The next Summer Session for Scholastics will take place in Aix from 08 – 26 July, 2015. As participants, we are expecting Scholastics from Obra in Poland, San Antonio in the United States, Vermicino and International Scholasticate in Italy. Among the main themes of the Session is: Vocational Discernment, the experience of the cross lived by Saint Eugene de Mazenod, Oblation, Community and the place of Mary in the life of the Oblates.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

Polish Oblates on retreat at Aix

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The retreat for the community Superiors from the Province of Poland finished at Aix one week before the 199th anniversary of the Foundation of the Congregation. This retreat, given around the theme « Aix, our Holy Land », above all, allowed the participants to get to better know the place where the Congregation was founded. But it was also a time for prayer, and for meditation on Oblate writings. The first texts of St. Eugene de Mazenod on Community and the place of formation in the life of the Congregation, were also considered. These are two important elements for Oblates in preparation for the Bicentennial Jubilee of the foundation in 2016.

Among the participants were Fr. Marian PUCHALA, Vicar Provincial, certain members of the new Provincial administration in Poland, and Superiors from Ukraine, Norway and Russia. It was Fr. Karol LIPINSKI who travelled the farthest – for several years now, he has been on mission in Siberia, about 5.500 kms east of Moscow.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

Retreat of the community of the Central Government of the Oblates

Last December 28 until January 3, the Central Government came to spend a week of retreat at the cradle of the Congregation. The retreat was given by all five members of the Aix community.

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From the Central members, only Fr. Marc DESSUREAULT, General Treasurer, was missing, remaining in Rome for reasons of health. The theme of the retreat was « apostolic community», deepened by reflections on its biblical foundations, the issue of fraternity, the place of Mary and of the Cross in the community. A view of the concrete missionary situation in Indonesia completed the picture. In their evaluation, everyone noted the originality of the approach, with the different input from the five preachers, their personal life sharing, in French and in English. The retreat ended in Marseille, with Mass at the tomb of the Founder, St. Eugene.

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Everyone emphasized the importance of Aix, and of the different places. As one member of the Central Government said : for Oblates, Aix and Marseille play much the same role as the « Holy Land » for Christians.

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The symbolism of the house of Aix should be highlighted, also because certain changes are being considered to make it « speak » even more to those who come for renewal.

Joseph BOIS, OMI

The mazenodian family

Then Brother Benoît DOSQUET reminded us of the Oblate Triennium. That is to say the 3 preparatory years to the jubilee which started on the 8th of December 2013. The theme of the 1st year was: “A new heart: life in the Apostolic Community”. That of the 2nd year is: “a new spirit: a lifelong training”. The 3rd theme will be: “a new mission: zeal to leave nothing undared”.

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Father Joseph BOIS then recalled the circumstances, the conditions and the reasons that guided Eugene de Mzenod to buy, in 1815, the Carmelite Convent at the top of the cours Mirabeau. After careful consideration, Eugene de Mazenod realised that, to help the poor, to intervene in the abandoned countryside, and to be there to help the unemployed youth of Aix, his isolated effort would not be sufficient. It is with Father TEMPIER that he found real support and with 3 other priests that he installed in the building recently acquired. The 25th of January 1816 thus marks the birth of the “Missionaries of Provence”. The 25th of January 2016, the Community will celebrate the 200th anniversary of its foundation.

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Father Krzysztof ZIELENDA then outlined the path to be taken until this date and gave details of certain projects already envisaged. To celebrate the bicentenary of the Oblate foundation, several leads have already been proposed: a solemn mass at the Cathedral of Aix on Sunday the 24th of January, on the 25th a celebration between Oblates followed by a simple meal open to the youth and/or to the poor, an exhibition on the history of the Oblate Missions and without doubt other activities to be found, to be created or to be invented… From this point of view, participants at the meeting were asked to give their advice, and to share their ideas.

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A meeting will held in February to specify what the Congregation understands by “lay associates” or “the Mazenodian Family” and also to advance the plans envisaged for the year 2016. A moment of warm hospitality around a brotherly meal closed the evening.

Chantal BERNARD-BRET

A Retreat at 60 cours Mirabeau

In October, Father Joseph BOIS gave a preached retreat for the Oblates and Mazenodian family. The highlight was held in the house of 60 cours Mirabeau and the theme of “the apostolic community”.

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On the first day, the tone was set by the reading of Psalm 62, “God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you at dawn: my soul thirsts for you …”.

During the week, everyone was in silence, deepening the Word of God illuminated by the comments of Fr. Jo, share prayer time together, and walk to Aix and Marseilles in the footsteps of St. Eugene de Mazenod.

At the end of those days, during which Oblates and laity have been a long road together, participants were able to say how much they appreciated a formula that combines prayer, silence and pilgrimage.

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The reception of the Oblates, quiet and comfort of the house helped to foster an atmosphere serene and confident in the group. People came to live this very moment had the desire to find time for God, to listen, to look, to be interviewed by his Word. This retreat in the house of the Oblate Founder enabled each and every one to leave a greater assurance to the discovery of the Lord and to meet the other, in other words, be more “disciples-missionaries”.

Distinguished Visitors

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During the year 2014, two De Mazenod Experience sessions and nine other different sessions or retreats for Oblates were held in our house in Aix. In the same period, the house hosted several hundred people attending various spiritual, cultural or other activities. Among the visitors of this year, the young pilgrims from Hong Kong will probably take the place of honour.

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A group of 38 pupils, from the schools run by the Oblates in Hong Kong, came to Aix to learn more about St. Eugene de Mazenod their patron saint. The youngest of this group was eight years old. Eleven parents accompanied them, and they were all under the outstanding leadership of Mrs. Monica LAI, an Oblate associate in Hong Kong, responsible for the management of schools.

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To discover the birthplace of the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates and Marseille, these pupils had to make a journey of a several thousand kilometres. The most important moment of their trip was the Mass at the tomb of Saint Eugene de Mazenod celebrated by Fr. Ronnie YAP GICALAO, a Filipino Oblate missionary in Hong Kong. Before the Eucharistic celebration the pupils performed, at « the Major » Marseille Cathedral, a beautiful Chinese song dedicated to St. Eugene.

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The prayers of the little ones are always beautiful and pleasant as fragrance! May St. Eugene intercede for the Oblates of Hong Kong and for those to whom they announce the Good News.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

Christmas with the Fraternity Oser

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Thanks to Br. Benoit and Fr. Bonga for doing beautiful Christmas decorations in the house, especially in the dining room where we hosted a Christmas party with the Fraternity Oser, a group of students who lodge with us here in the community of Aix. The dining room was set beautifully in red, looked like an “oblate cafe”. The students came about at 20 PM; the party was started with aperitifs, followed by a little prayer led by Father Jo Bois and a ceremony of lighting candles with the Flames of Bethlehem. Br. Benoit prepared a special menu of ducks and potatoes. The food was absolutely nice. Everybody was so happy.

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Three tables were set to accommodate everyone. It was a wonderful fraternal encounter and, of course, a Christmas party to celebrate the Nativity of the Lord in advance. It was really obvious that the warmth of friendship and intimacy existed among us. After dinner, we entered into with distributed Christmas cards and gifts for the students. Everybody was happy. In the end, we did the dishes together and ended by saying “Merry Christmas to each one of us and to the family of the students with whom they will gather to celebrate Christmas and of course New Year 2015.

ASODO ISTOYO, OMI

Why St. Theresa was proclaimed a Patroness of the missions?

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A group of about sixty recently confirmed youth reflected on this question at the Oblate house in Aix-en-Provence. The weekend, organized by the youth ministry of the diocese, ended with a missionary experience on the Cours Mirabeau.

To find answers to the question about the Patroness of the missions, it was necessary to draw on the history of the Oblates. St. Therese of the Child Jesus was canonized by Pope Pius XI on May 17, 1925 and proclaimed universal patroness of the missions along with St. Francis Xavier, in December 14, 1927. The origin of this proclamation is primarily from the Oblates of North Canada. In 1912, Arsène TURQUETIL, assisted by two other young Oblates, founded a mission at Chesterfield Inlet, within the Inuit territory. Before being accepted by the Inuit community, who had for them only scorn and mockery, they spent the first four years in isolation, starvation, extreme cold, and insurmountable difficulty. In 1916, Fr. TURQUETIL received two important letters. The first letter was from his Bishop, Ovide CHARLEBOIS, threating to withdraw the missionaries from the Inuit community if they did not administer the sacrament of baptism within a year. Fr. TURQUETIL received the second letter, from an unknown sender, in a form of a parcel entitled “The short life of Sister Theresa of the Child Jesus.” Enclosed was a folded paper containing some soil taken from the tomb of the young nun. It was after reading this letter that Fr. TURQUETIL came to know that St. Theresa of the Child Jesus promised to spend her heaven doing good on earth. The following Sunday, Fr. TURQUETIL decided to put a pinch of the soil on the head of each Inuit who came to church that Sunday. A few days after this act, many Inuit requested to be baptized. It was on 2 July 1917 when Fr. TURQUETIL, finally, baptized four Inuit families. For him, there was no doubt that this was a miracle through the intercession of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. Since this incidence, the Missionary Oblates of Northern Canada continued to witness many favors in their missionary life attributed to the intercessions of St. Theresa. In 1925 Bishop CHARLEBOIS together with the Ordinaries of the Canadian missions, decided to ask the Pope to proclaim St. Theresa as Patroness of the missions.

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To conclude their weekend at the Oblate house, the newly confirmed ended with a missionary experience. They went out on the Cours Mirabeau, as a group, to interview the people on the street on their thoughts concerning the best Christmas gifts. The talks ended with an invitation to prayer in the Chapel of the Oblates, because as young missionaries, praying for loved ones is the best Christmas gift. After this missionary experience, a group of young people, responsible for organizing the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, witnessed many visits to the chapel for adoration.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

Apostolic letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to all consecrated people

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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Consecrated Life,

I am writing to you as the Successor of Peter, to whom the Lord entrusted the task of confirming his brothers and sisters in faith (cf. Lk 22:32). But I am also writing to you as a brother who, like yourselves, is consecrated to God.

Together let us thank the Father, who called us to follow Jesus by fully embracing the Gospel and serving the Church, and poured into our hearts the Holy Spirit, the source of our joy and our witness to God’s love and mercy before the world.

In response to requests from many of you and from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life, I decided to proclaim a Year of Consecrated Life on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, which speaks of religious in its sixth chapter, and of the Decree Perfectae Caritatis on the renewal of religious life. The Year will begin on 30 November 2014, the First Sunday of Advent, and conclude with the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple on 2 February 2016.

After consultation with the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life, I have chosen as the aims of this Year the same ones which Saint John Paul II proposed to the whole Church at the beginning of the third millennium, reiterating, in a certain sense, what he had earlier written in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata: “You have not only a glorious history to remember and to recount, but also a great history still to be accomplished! Look to the future, where the Spirit is sending you in order to do even greater things” (No. 110).

I. AIMS OF THE YEAR OF CONSECRATED LIFE

1. The first of these aims is to look to the past with gratitude. All our Institutes are heir to a history rich in charisms. At their origins we see the hand of God who, in his Spirit, calls certain individuals to follow Christ more closely, to translate the Gospel into a particular way of life, to read the signs of the times with the eyes of faith and to respond creatively to the needs of the Church. This initial experience then matured and developed, engaging new members in new geographic and cultural contexts, and giving rise to new ways of exercising the charism, new initiatives and expressions of apostolic charity. Like the seed which becomes a tree, each Institute grew and stretched out its branches.

During this Year, it would be appropriate for each charismatic family to reflect on its origins and history, in order to thank God who grants the Church a variety of gifts which embellish her and equip her for every good work (cf. Lumen Gentium, 12).

Recounting our history is essential for preserving our identity, for strengthening our unity as a family and our common sense of belonging. More than an exercise in archaeology or the cultivation of mere nostalgia, it calls for following in the footsteps of past generations in order to grasp the high ideals, and the vision and values which inspired them, beginning with the founders and foundresses and the first communities. In this way we come to see how the charism has been lived over the years, the creativity it has sparked, the difficulties it encountered and the concrete ways those difficulties were surmounted. We may also encounter cases of inconsistency, the result of human weakness and even at times a neglect of some essential aspects of the charism. Yet everything proves instructive and, taken as a whole, acts as a summons to conversion. To tell our story is to praise God and to thank him for all his gifts.

In a particular way we give thanks to God for these fifty years which followed the Second Vatican Council. The Council represented a “breath” of the Holy Spirit upon the whole Church. In consequence, consecrated life undertook a fruitful journey of renewal which, for all its lights and shadows, has been a time of grace, marked by the presence of the Spirit.

May this Year of Consecrated Life also be an occasion for confessing humbly, with immense confidence in the God who is Love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8), our own weakness and, in it, to experience the Lord’s merciful love. May this Year likewise be an occasion for bearing vigorous and joyful witness before the world to the holiness and vitality present in so many of those called to follow Jesus in the consecrated life.

2. This Year also calls us to live the present with passion. Grateful remembrance of the past leads us, as we listen attentively to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church today, to implement ever more fully the essential aspects of our consecrated life.

From the beginnings of monasticism to the “new communities” of our own time, every form of consecrated life has been born of the Spirit’s call to follow Jesus as the Gospel teaches (cf. Perfectae Caritatis, 2). For the various founders and foundresses, the Gospel was the absolute rule, whereas every other rule was meant merely to be an expression of the Gospel and a means of living the Gospel to the full. For them, the ideal was Christ; they sought to be interiorly united to him and thus to be able to say with Saint Paul: “For to me to live is Christ” (Phil 1:21). Their vows were intended as a concrete expression of this passionate love.

The question we have to ask ourselves during this Year is if and how we too are open to being challenged by the Gospel; whether the Gospel is truly the “manual” for our daily living and the decisions we are called to make. The Gospel is demanding: it demands to be lived radically and sincerely. It is not enough to read it (even though the reading and study of Scripture is essential), nor is it enough to meditate on it (which we do joyfully each day). Jesus asks us to practice it, to put his words into effect in our lives.

Once again, we have to ask ourselves: Is Jesus really our first and only love, as we promised he would be when we professed our vows? Only if he is, will we be empowered to love, in truth and mercy, every person who crosses our path. For we will have learned from Jesus the meaning and practice of love. We will be able to love because we have his own heart.

Our founders and foundresses shared in Jesus’ own compassion when he saw the crowds who were like sheep without a shepherd. Like Jesus, who compassionately spoke his gracious word, healed the sick, gave bread to the hungry and offered his own life in sacrifice, so our founders and foundresses sought in different ways to be the service of all those to whom the Spirit sent them. They did so by their prayers of intercession, their preaching of the Gospel, their works of catechesis, education, their service to the poor and the infirm… The creativity of charity is boundless; it is able to find countless new ways of bringing the newness of the Gospel to every culture and every corner of society.

The Year of Consecrated Life challenges us to examine our fidelity to the mission entrusted to us. Are our ministries, our works and our presence consonant with what the Spirit asked of our founders and foundresses? Are they suitable for carrying out today, in society and the Church, those same ministries and works? Do we have the same passion for our people, are we close to them to the point of sharing in their joys and sorrows, thus truly understanding their needs and helping to respond to them? “The same generosity and self-sacrifice which guided your founders – Saint John Paul II once said – must now inspire you, their spiritual children, to keep alive the charisms which, by the power of the same Spirit who awakened them, are constantly being enriched and adapted, while losing none of their unique character. It is up to you to place those charisms at the service of the Church and to work for the coming of Christ’s Kingdom in its fullness”.[1]

Recalling our origins sheds light on yet another aspect of consecrated life. Our founders and foundresses were attracted by the unity of the Apostles with Christ and by the fellowship which marked the first community in Jerusalem. In establishing their own communities, each of them sought to replicate those models of evangelical living, to be of one heart and one soul, and to rejoice in the Lord’s presence (cf. Perfectae Caritatis, 15).

Living the present with passion means becoming “experts in communion”, “witnesses and architects of the ‘plan for unity’ which is the crowning point of human history in God’s design”.[2] In a polarized society, where different cultures experience difficulty in living alongside one another, where the powerless encounter oppression, where inequality abounds, we are called to offer a concrete model of community which, by acknowledging the dignity of each person and sharing our respective gifts, makes it possible to live as brothers and sisters.

So, be men and women of communion! Have the courage to be present in the midst of conflict and tension, as a credible sign of the presence of the Spirit who inspires in human hearts a passion for all to be one (cf. Jn 17:21). Live the mysticism of encounter, which entails “the ability to hear, to listen to other people; the ability to seek together ways and means”.[3] Live in the light of the loving relationship of the three divine Persons (cf. 1 Jn 4:8), the model for all interpersonal relationships.

3. To embrace the future with hope should be the third aim of this Year. We all know the difficulties which the various forms of consecrated life are currently experiencing: decreasing vocations and aging members, particularly in the Western world; economic problems stemming from the global financial crisis; issues of internationalization and globalization; the threats posed by relativism and a sense of isolation and social irrelevance… But it is precisely amid these uncertainties, which we share with so many of our contemporaries, that we are called to practice the virtue of hope, the fruit of our faith in the Lord of history, who continues to tell us: “Be not afraid… for I am with you” (Jer 1:8).

This hope is not based on statistics or accomplishments, but on the One in whom we have put our trust (cf. 2 Tim 1:2), the One for whom “nothing is impossible” (Lk 1:37). This is the hope which does not disappoint; it is the hope which enables consecrated life to keep writing its great history well into the future. It is to that future that we must always look, conscious that the Holy Spirit spurs us on so that he can still do great things with us.

So do not yield to the temptation to see things in terms of numbers and efficiency, and even less to trust in your own strength. In scanning the horizons of your lives and the present moment, be watchful and alert. Together with Benedict XVI, I urge you not to “join the ranks of the prophets of doom who proclaim the end or meaninglessness of the consecrated life in the Church in our day; rather, clothe yourselves in Jesus Christ and put on the armour of light – as Saint Paul urged (cf. Rom 13:11-14) – keeping awake and watchful”.[4] Let us constantly set out anew, with trust in the Lord.

I would especially like to say a word to those of you who are young. You are the present, since you are already taking active part in the lives of your Institutes, offering all the freshness and generosity of your “yes”. At the same time you are the future, for soon you will be called to take on roles of leadership in the life, formation, service and mission of your communities. This Year should see you actively engaged in dialogue with the previous generation. In fraternal communion you will be enriched by their experiences and wisdom, while at the same time inspiring them, by your own energy and enthusiasm, to recapture their original idealism. In this way the entire community can join in finding new ways of living the Gospel and responding more effectively to the need for witness and proclamation.

I am also happy to know that you will have the opportunity during this Year to meet with other young religious from different Institutes. May such encounters become a regular means of fostering communion, mutual support, and unity.

II. EXPECTATIONS FOR THE YEAR OF CONSECRATED LIFE

What in particular do I expect from this Year of grace for consecrated life?

1. That the old saying will always be true: “Where there are religious, there is joy”. We are called to know and show that God is able to fill our hearts to the brim with happiness; that we need not seek our happiness elsewhere; that the authentic fraternity found in our communities increases our joy; and that our total self-giving in service to the Church, to families and young people, to the elderly and the poor, brings us life-long personal fulfilment.

None of us should be dour, discontented and dissatisfied, for “a gloomy disciple is a disciple of gloom”. Like everyone else, we have our troubles, our dark nights of the soul, our disappointments and infirmities, our experience of slowing down as we grow older. But in all these things we should be able to discover “perfect joy”. For it is here that we learn to recognize the face of Christ, who became like us in all things, and to rejoice in the knowledge that we are being conformed to him who, out of love of us, did not refuse the sufferings of the cross.

In a society which exalts the cult of efficiency, fitness and success, one which ignores the poor and dismisses “losers”, we can witness by our lives to the truth of the words of Scripture: “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10).

We can apply to the consecrated life the words of Benedict XVI which I cited in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: “It is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but by attraction” (No. 14). The consecrated life will not flourish as a result of brilliant vocation programs, but because the young people we meet find us attractive, because they see us as men and women who are happy! Similarly, the apostolic effectiveness of consecrated life does not depend on the efficiency of its methods. It depends on the eloquence of your lives, lives which radiate the joy and beauty of living the Gospel and following Christ to the full.

As I said to the members of ecclesial movements on the Vigil of Pentecost last year: “Fundamentally, the strength of the Church is living by the Gospel and bearing witness to our faith. The Church is the salt of the earth; she is the light of the world. She is called to make present in society the leaven of the Kingdom of God and she does this primarily by her witness, her witness of brotherly love, of solidarity and of sharing with others” (18 May 2013).

2. I am counting on you “to wake up the world”, since the distinctive sign of consecrated life is prophecy. As I told the Superiors General: “Radical evangelical living is not only for religious: it is demanded of everyone. But religious follow the Lord in a special way, in a prophetic way.” This is the priority that is needed right now: “to be prophets who witness to how Jesus lived on this earth… a religious must never abandon prophecy” (29 November 2013).

Prophets receive from God the ability to scrutinize the times in which they live and to interpret events: they are like sentinels who keep watch in the night and sense the coming of the dawn (cf. Is 21:11-12). Prophets know God and they know the men and women who are their brothers and sisters. They are able to discern and denounce the evil of sin and injustice. Because they are free, they are beholden to no one but God, and they have no interest other than God. Prophets tend to be on the side of the poor and the powerless, for they know that God himself is on their side.

So I trust that, rather than living in some utopia, you will find ways to create “alternate spaces”, where the Gospel approach of self-giving, fraternity, embracing differences, and love of one another can thrive. Monasteries, communities, centres of spirituality, schools, hospitals, family shelters – all these are places which the charity and creativity born of your charisms have brought into being, and with constant creativity must continue to bring into being. They should increasingly be the leaven for a society inspired by the Gospel, a “city on a hill”, which testifies to the truth and the power of Jesus’ words.

At times, like Elijah and Jonah, you may feel the temptation to flee, to abandon the task of being a prophet because it is too demanding, wearisome or apparently fruitless. But prophets know that they are never alone. As he did with Jeremiah, so God encourages us: “Be not afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you” (Jer 1:8).

3. Men and women religious, like all other consecrated persons, have been called, as I mentioned, “experts in communion”. So I am hoping that the “spirituality of communion”, so emphasized by Saint John Paul II, will become a reality and that you will be in the forefront of responding to “the great challenge facing us” in this new millennium: “to make the Church the home and the school of communion.”[5] I am sure that in this Year you will make every effort to make the ideal of fraternity pursued by your founders and foundresses expand everywhere, like concentric circles.

Communion is lived first and foremost within the respective communities of each Institute. To this end, I would ask you to think about my frequent comments about criticism, gossip, envy, jealousy, hostility as ways of acting which have no place in our houses. This being the case, the path of charity open before us is almost infinite, since it entails mutual acceptance and concern, practicing a communion of goods both material and spiritual, fraternal correction and respect for those who are weak … it is the “mystique of living together” which makes our life “a sacred pilgrimage”.[6] We need to ask ourselves about the way we relate to persons from different cultures, as our communities become increasingly international. How can we enable each member to say freely what he or she thinks, to be accepted with his or her particular gifts, and to become fully co-responsible?

I also hope for a growth in communion between the members of different Institutes. Might this Year be an occasion for us to step out more courageously from the confines of our respective Institutes and to work together, at the local and global levels, on projects involving formation, evangelization, and social action? This would make for a more effective prophetic witness. Communion and the encounter between different charisms and vocations can open up a path of hope. No one contributes to the future in isolation, by his or her efforts alone, but by seeing himself or herself as part of a true communion which is constantly open to encounter, dialogue, attentive listening and mutual assistance. Such a communion inoculates us from the disease of self-absorption.

Consecrated men and women are also called to true synergy with all other vocations in the Church, beginning with priests and the lay faithful, in order to “spread the spirituality of communion, first of all in their internal life and then in the ecclesial community, and even beyond its boundaries”.[7]

4. I also expect from you what I have asked all the members of the Church: to come out of yourselves and go forth to the existential peripheries. “Go into all the world”; these were the last words which Jesus spoke to his followers and which he continues to address to us (cf. Mk 16:15). A whole world awaits us: men and women who have lost all hope, families in difficulty, abandoned children, young people without a future, the elderly, sick and abandoned, those who are rich in the world’s goods but impoverished within, men and women looking for a purpose in life, thirsting for the divine…

Don’t be closed in on yourselves, don’t be stifled by petty squabbles, don’t remain a hostage to your own problems. These will be resolved if you go forth and help others to resolve their own problems, and proclaim the Good News. You will find life by giving life, hope by giving hope, love by giving love.

I ask you to work concretely in welcoming refugees, drawing near to the poor, and finding creative ways to catechize, to proclaim the Gospel and to teach others how to pray. Consequently, I would hope that structures can be streamlined, large religious houses repurposed for works which better respond to the present demands of evangelization and charity, and apostolates adjusted to new needs.

5. I expect that each form of consecrated life will question what it is that God and people today are asking of them.

Monasteries and groups which are primarily contemplative could meet or otherwise engage in an exchange of experiences on the life of prayer, on ways of deepening communion with the entire Church, on supporting persecuted Christians, and welcoming and assisting those seeking a deeper spiritual life or requiring moral or material support.

The same can be done by Institutes dedicated to works of charity, teaching and cultural advancement, to preaching the Gospel or to carrying out specific pastoral ministries. It could also be done by Secular Institutes, whose members are found at almost every level of society. The creativity of the Spirit has generated ways of life and activities so diverse that they cannot be easily categorized or fit into ready-made templates. So I cannot address each and every charismatic configuration. Yet during this Year no one can feel excused from seriously examining his or her presence in the Church’s life and from responding to the new demands constantly being made on us, to the cry of the poor.

Only by such concern for the needs of the world, and by docility to the promptings of the Spirit, will this Year of Consecrated Life become an authentic kairos, a time rich in God’s grace, a time of transformation.

III. THE HORIZONS OF THE YEAR OF CONSECRATED LIFE

1. In this letter, I wish to speak not only to consecrated persons, but also to the laity, who share with them the same ideals, spirit and mission. Some Religious Institutes have a long tradition in this regard, while the experience of others is more recent. Indeed, around each religious family, every Society of Apostolic Life and every Secular Institute, there is a larger family, a “charismatic family”, which includes a number of Institutes which identify with the same charism, and especially lay faithful who feel called, precisely as lay persons, to share in the same charismatic reality.

I urge you, as laity, to live this Year for Consecrated Life as a grace which can make you more aware of the gift you yourselves have received. Celebrate it with your entire “family”, so that you can grow and respond together to the promptings of the Spirit in society today. On some occasions when consecrated men and women from different Institutes come together, arrange to be present yourselves so as to give expression to the one gift of God. In this way you will come to know the experiences of other charismatic families and other lay groups, and thus have an opportunity for mutual enrichment and support.

2. The Year for Consecrated Life concerns not only consecrated persons, but the entire Church. Consequently, I ask the whole Christian people to be increasingly aware of the gift which is the presence of our many consecrated men and women, heirs of the great saints who have written the history of Christianity. What would the Church be without Saint Benedict and Saint Basil, without Saint Augustine and Saint Bernard, without Saint Francis and Saint Dominic, Saint Ignatius of Loyola and Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Angelica Merici and Saint Vincent de Paul. The list could go on and on, up to Saint John Bosco and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. As Blessed Paul VI pointed out: “Without this concrete sign there would be a danger that the charity which animates the entire Church would grow cold, that the salvific paradox of the Gospel would be blunted, and that the “salt” of faith would lose its savour in a world undergoing secularization” (Evangelica Testificatio, 3).

So I invite every Christian community to experience this Year above all as a moment of thanksgiving to the Lord and grateful remembrance for all the gifts we continue to receive, thanks to the sanctity of founders and foundresses, and from the fidelity to their charism shown by so many consecrated men and women. I ask all of you to draw close to these men and women, to rejoice with them, to share their difficulties and to assist them, to whatever degree possible, in their ministries and works, for the latter are, in the end, those of the entire Church. Let them know the affection and the warmth which the entire Christian people feels for them.

3. In this letter I do not hesitate to address a word to the consecrated men and women and to the members of fraternities and communities who belong to Churches of traditions other than the Catholic tradition. Monasticism is part of the heritage of the undivided Church, and is still very much alive in both the Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Church. The monastic tradition, and other later experiences from the time when the Church in the West was still united, have inspired analogous initiatives in the Ecclesial Communities of the reformed tradition. These have continued to give birth to further expressions of fraternal community and service.

The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life has planned a number of initiatives to facilitate encounters between members of different expressions of consecrated and fraternal life in the various Churches. I warmly encourage such meetings as a means of increasing mutual understanding, respect and reciprocal cooperation, so that the ecumenism of the consecrated life can prove helpful for the greater journey towards the unity of all the Churches.

4. Nor can we forget that the phenomenon of monasticism and of other expressions of religious fraternity is present in all the great religions. There are instances, some long-standing, of inter-monastic dialogue involving the Catholic Church and certain of the great religious traditions. I trust that the Year of Consecrated Life will be an opportunity to review the progress made, to make consecrated persons aware of this dialogue, and to consider what further steps can be taken towards greater mutual understanding and greater cooperation in the many common areas of service to human life.

Journeying together always brings enrichment, and can open new paths to relationships between peoples and cultures, which nowadays appear so difficult.

5. Finally, in a special way, I address my brother bishops. May this Year be an opportunity to accept institutes of consecrated life, readily and joyfully, as a spiritual capital which contributes to the good of the whole body of Christ (cf. Lumen Gentium, 43), and not simply that of the individual religious families. “Consecrated life is a gift to the Church, it is born of the Church, it grows in the Church, and it is entirely directed to the Church”.[8] For this reason, precisely as a gift to the Church, it is not an isolated or marginal reality, but deeply a part of her. It is at the heart of the Church, a decisive element of her mission, inasmuch as it expresses the deepest nature of the Christian vocation and the yearning of the Church as the Bride for union with her sole Spouse. Thus, “it belongs… absolutely to the life and holiness” of the Church (ibid., 44).

In the light of this, I ask you, the Pastors of the particular Churches, to show special concern for promoting within your communities the different charisms, whether long-standing or recent. I ask you to do this by your support and encouragement, your assistance in discernment, and your tender and loving closeness to those situations of suffering and weakness in which some consecrated men or women may find themselves. Above all, do this by instructing the People of God in the value of consecrated life, so that its beauty and holiness may shine forth in the Church.

I entrust this Year of Consecrated Life to Mary, the Virgin of listening and contemplation, the first disciple of her beloved Son. Let us look to her, the highly -beloved daughter of the Father, endowed with every gift of grace, as the unsurpassed model for all those who follow Christ in love of God and service to their neighbour.

Lastly, I join all of you in gratitude for the gifts of grace and light with which the Lord graciously wills to enrich us, and I accompany you with my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 21 November 2014, Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Francis

 


[1] Apostolic Letter to the Religious of Latin America on the occasion of the Fifth Centenary of the Evangelization of the New World Los caminos del Evangelio (29 June 1990), 26.

[2]SACRED CONGREGATION FOR RELIGIOUS AND SECULAR INSTITUTES, Religious and Human Promotion (12 August 1980), 24: L’Osservatore Romano, Suppl., 12 November 1980, pp. I-VIII.

[3] Address to Rectors and Students of the Pontifical Colleges and Residences of Rome (2 May 2014).

[4] POPE BENEDICT XVI, Homily for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord(2 February 2013).

[5] Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (6 January 2001), 43.

[6]Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (24 November 2013), 87

[7] JOHN PAUL II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata (25 March 1996), 51.

[8] BISHOP J.M. BERGOGLIO, Intervention at the Synod on the Consecrated Life and its Mission in the Church and in the World, XVI General Congregation, 13 October 1994.

 


© Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

 

A group of Oblates visiting Aix

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Each year a group of Oblates, from the Central Province of Europe, visit Aix-en-Provence. Like in the previous years, the highlight of their stay with us was the celebration of the Holy Eucharist on the Tomb of St. Eugene de Mazenod. The Central Province Europe was born from a recent unification of the Oblate units from three European countries, Germany, Austria and Czech Republic. This Province was created in 2007, and to date, it has 141 Oblates.

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Involved in their program during their stay in Aix was a day of Recollection, a moment of fraternal sharing among the participants, an exposition on the life of St. Eugene and the history of the Congregation, presented by Fr. Joseph LABELLE. Walking on the footsteps of St. Eugene, the group had an opportunity to visit Aix, Notre-Dame de Lumière and Marseille.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

Mazenod mansion

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It is not the largest building on Mirabeau avenue, but the interior is richly adorned in 18th century style: white and gold wainscoting, intertwined garlands on the ceilings, plastered walls, painted pier-glasses, etc. “This house, which his family was to leave forever in 1790, would always remain the cherished, but sad, symbol of his family life shattered by the upheaval of the Revolution and the symbol of his personal life disrupted in its very prime.” (LEFLON, I, p. 35) It was in this house that Eugene’s father and his two uncles were born. And, in the following generation, Eugene and his two sisters, the eldest Charlotte Élisabeth Eugénie, who died at five years of age and the youngest, Charlotte Eugénie Antoinette. To care for this little group of people, there were twelve servants. Their way of life was that of the rich nobility prior to the Revolution, but from his very infancy, Eugene was subjected to the threat of the Revolution. For example, on December 14, 1790, he could see across from his house the bodies of two of his father’s friends, executed by the revolutionaries and hung from the street lamps. At present, this house is occupied by a store and rented apartments.

René MOTTE, OMI

Founder of the Missionary Oblates

THE KEY EVENTS IN HIS LIFE

1782 : birth in Aix-en-Provence
1791 : forced into exile in Italy by the French Revolution
1802 : return to France
1808 : he enters the seminary of Saint-Sulpice, Paris, to study for the priesthood
1811 : he is ordained priest
1812 : return to Aix. He does not go to a parish, but dedicates his ministry to those who are not touched by the structures of the Church : the poor who speak Provencal, the youth, the prisoners, the inhabitants spread out in the small villages
1816 : he founds the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (originally called Missionaries of Provence)
1823 : named Vicar General of Marseille
1832 : ordained Bishop of Icosia, but with residence in Marseille
1837 : named Bishop of Marseille
1841 : he sends the first Oblate missionaries to Canada, England and Ireland
1861 : he dies on May 21
1975 : he is beatified by Pope Paul VI, as a missionary on fire for Jesus Christ and the Church
1995 : he is canonized by Pope John Paul II

TODAY, his missionary spirit is continued by some 4000 Oblates, missionaries in 64 countries, and by thousands of faithful lay people in the Mazenodian family around the world, and by the members of 44 Institutes of Consecrated Life who are connected to his charism.

Many find St. Eugene to be an intercessor for families in difficulty.

To learn more, visit the web site, or subscribe to the meditations : Eugene Speaks to Us!

To live and to die for the Gospel, it is still actual!

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« It is with great joy that I am writing to you. On the 10th of October, 27 hostages amongst whom 10 Chinese abducted in Waza and 17 Cameroonians abducted in Kolofata, were released by their kidnappers to the Cameroonian authorities on the 27th of July of the current year. Among the abducted persons were the wife of the Vice Prime Minister of Cameroon and members, several kids, of the family of the “Lamido” who also doubles as the Mayor of the town of Kolofata”.

Though the event that led to the release of the abducted brought about a very significant relief, however, the sadness caused by the fatal attack of the previous Wednesday by the group which cost the lives of some 18 civilians and a military in the vicinity of Kerawa (about 40kms from our habitation) still remains. As if that was not enough, a rocket was thrown last week which abruptly and prematurely brought to an end the lives of 9 other persons within the market of Amchide: a place I’ve often, in my correspondences, spoken to you about.

All those happened after a very sad event of which you might have certainly heard; It is about the death of a very dear friend, Luc BERKE, a lay man saddled with the responsibility to take care of a parish-district of Ldubam-Tourou, a locality which is not far from the Nigerian border. Luc was coldly killed by the Boko Haram group while he was returning, with a friend, from a village which falls within the jurisdiction of his Parish-district where he went to pray with his fellow parishioners. That gruesome massacre ended the lives of about 30 persons.
Luc was a person who was very committed to the cause of Justice and Peace. He decided, with his wife Esther, to, despite the menace and dangers, stay with and around his “parishioners” in faithfulness to Him who tells us that there is no such great love as to give one’s life for his friends. He left behind a very big family of 10 children and 3 others who were adopted of which the eldest has just got enrolled into the University.

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That which impresses me is that, just like Luc, other parish-districts’ administrators who also serve in the same context of being near the Nigerian borders, have all decided to stay-put and to continue their work of preaching the Gospel in full consciousness of the looming dangers.
I see a great sign of hope in the horizon in this that there is a rising progress of unambiguous condemnations from the muslim umma in the world over of those acts which, in themselves, depict Islam as a dirty belief.

It is never too late to do good and to speak the truth…. The truth which is that God wills that we all are brothers of a one big, united family…. Each of us, wherever he/she is and whatever his (religious) inclinations may be, is invited to contribute to his/her own quota in the edification of togetherness. This is what we are trying hard to achieve with our very little resources”.

We will not be deterred nor will we be discouraged by the violence! The attacks of Boko-Haram are not exclusively against the Christians, but against everyone who strives to promote Man and who refuses to be thrown into religious obscurantism. It is for this reason therefore that we, Christians, are in the frontline. It is necessary that we continue our battle, in collaboration with all our brothers no matter their religious confessions, for Man to be on his feet.

Grégoire CADOR (extracts of the letter to friends of the 11th of October 2014)

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

Vow Preperation Session

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Twenty two young Oblates arrived for the August 5th session, originating from 14 countries. One could say, the whole world is represented in Aix! At about 6 pm the last group of 9 young oblates arrived from the International Scholasticate in Rome with two others from the Vermicino Scholasticate. The first group of 8 scholastics from Poland arrived at noon, followed by one scholastic from China, one from Germany and another from Canada. All but two are in graduate theology studies (moral theology and canon law), approaching the end of their theological preperation of fist fromation. Each large group of scholastics are accompanied by a formator also reflecting the international dymension of our congregation: Frs. Edward DAGAVOUNANSOU (Cameroon), Gennaro ROSATO (Italy), Sébastien BUNING (Germany) and Piotr PIASECKI (Poland).

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Despite the fatigue of the road, these young Oblate scholastics arrived filled with enthusiasm, energy and joy. They arrived to prepare for perpetual oblation by drinking from the fountain of the charism of the founder. In the words of St. Eugene, they came to set their lukewarm hearts on fire. They came to the place it all began to be animated by the same spirit, which calls us to bring Jesus to the ends of the earth.

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Filled with the joyful awareness of being at the source of our oblate charism, which is Aix, their excitement is conteguasly present. Another exciting dimension of this extraordinary meeting is the intercultural and international scope of the group, for some experienced for the very first time. This meeting is a remarkable opportunity for us to experience and be enriched by the intercultural richness of our oblate family. This may perhaps be the last meeting for some as scholastics, therefore each one young oblate in his own way is contributing to creating fraternity, conviviality among the one another.

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Jean-Dieulhomme DUVERSEAU, OMI

Formation for Formators

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The session brought together a total number of 23 Formators from 21 different countries: Mexico, USA, Madagascar, Paraguay, Zambia, Cameroon, Sri-Lanka, Italy, Poland, Ukraine, Peru, Vietnam, Senegal, Thailand, South Africa, Philippines, Canada, Kenya, Indonesia, India and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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The session was thrown open by the sharing of experiences after which a full week was consecrated for formation on accompaniment and discernment from the psychological and human point of view by Fr. Micheal MORRISSEY. This was followed by a series of conference on the oblate charism and formation in the Prenovitiate by Fr. Joseph LABELLE. In the course of the sessions, the formators had the privilege to visit some historical and significant places in the history of the Oblates.

Presently, we have about 560 young Oblates in the post novitiate formation, and almost half of the number: approximately 240, comes from the Africa-Madagascar Region.

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Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

The Experience of the Council of the Province of Poland in Aix

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The tour of the house and places in Aix where the life of our congregation began, with meditations on texts of the Founder, as well as a walking pilgrimage from the church of Notre-Dame to Accoules de la Garde in Marseille following the footsteps of our early Fathers, and finally a visit to the Notre-Dame de Lumière sanctuary (where the French Province had its scholasticate for years) had unique and lasting effects on our Oblate hearts.

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Undoubtedly, a particularly exciting experience for everyone was the Eucharistic celebration at the tomb of the founder. Father Pawel LATUSEK shared this comment with us: Today, on the penultimate day of our exercises, we are here near our Founder. We are here to experience St. Eugene’s holiness in order to revive in us the desire for holiness. We are here to rekindle the hope and belief once again that holiness is possible, and that it is never too late. Here in this cathedral, where by preaching the Word of God and by the example of his own life, the Founder invites us reinvigour our own pursuit of holiness.

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With best wishes to Father Andrzej KORDA, Acting Provincial and his Council from the Aix community, from your brother in Christ; may your experiences of walking the footsteps pf our early Fathers bring much fruit to your ministry, as well as the ministry of the whole province.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

EMIC on track!

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In spite of these initial difficulties, already a number of activities have been initiated. At the end of January we had a very powerful and special time in Rome, with the members of the General Administration, during which we shared our joys and concerns. We also spent time preparing the essentials for the bicentinnial of the foundation of the Congregation. Most of the renovation of the house was completed in February shortly before the beginning of the session on the Oblate Charism in view of the bicentinary preparation for the Congregation (25 January 1816). And this session became a totally new beginning, marked with a week’s pilgrimage on the footsteps of St. Eugene, by an Oblate group from Belgium and Netherlands. Shortly after this was a two months “Mazenod Experience” in Spanish, which was followed by a pilgrimage of the Oblates and lay people of the Anglo-Irish Province. In July, the Provincial Council of Poland came for a retreat and pilgrimage. This was immediately followed by a three week’ session of those who work in the Oblate pre-novitiates. In August we had a three week’ session for the European Scholastics in prepration for Perpetual Oblation. Within a week from now we begin another Mazenod Experience in English and a number of other meetings are already on our programme.

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This has been a very busy year that has enabled us to verify and appreciate the renovation of the house. We expect some quiet and calm in December so as to celebrate Christmas in the intimacy of the community.

Joseph BOIS, OMI

House in Aix – inauguration of buildings

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Currently, the Oblate community in Aix is composed of five Oblates from five different countries: Belgium, the United States, Indonesia, France and Poland. They are permanent members of the Association of the Eugene de Mazenod International Centre (EMIC), a group which was founded in November of 2011, which has as its goal the dissemination of St. Eugene’s works, writings and thoughts, while animating and taking care of the historical space in which this religious family was born. In addition, the group is responsible for pastoral ministry in the Church of the Mission, and in the near future, may assist with youth ministry in the diocese.

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The renovation was guided by Mr. Éric FERMENT, who was assisted by Br. Benoît DOSQUET, the treasurer of the community, and Fr. Marc DESSUREAULT, treasurer general.

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A Testimony of a Missionary Commitment

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Dearest friends, greetings from Mexico!

I would like to share with you a quick note to tell you about the youth encounter that I was blessed to coordinate “It was a success!” The weekend of June 13-15 about 183 youth from various towns and cities of Mexico came together to share the Oblate Charism and to get to know Saint Eugene and the “Youth Association.”
We lived marvelous moments and the flame to love the mission was ignited.

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I would like to thank you, because “You were the first who ignited this flame in me! ;) You are a gift that God gave me!
As we were finishing our Youth Encounter I received a beautiful surprise: received the Oblate Cross as a sign of appreciation and commitment to the Oblate Youth (I began to cry…it was a beautiful surprise! Thanks to Christ!)
I would like to thank you for being my first teachers in the mission.
I send you an embrace to each of you and I pray for each of you and would like to share some pictures and wait for your response.

Kisses,
Celina Bernal, Lay OMI ;)

Anglo-Irish Province pilgrimage

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At present, the Anglo-Irish Province has 81 members who are assisted in their work by a considerable number of lay people including Jacob KIRK and Mary TYRRELL who took part in the program for animators in preparation for the TRIENNIUM which was held in Aix last March.

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The visit of the group from the Anglo-Irish Province gave the local community the occasion to renew our acquaintance with Father Edward CAROLAN who was a member of this community for a number of years. His familiarity with the place proved to be a very useful asset.

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

The Sacrament of Baptism in the Chapel of the Oblates

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There are activities going on daily in this Chapel of the Oblates: Masses are celebrated within the week at 7am and two Masses on Sunday at 9am and 11am respectively. From the month of July, the 11am Mass will be bilingual. The initiative of celebrating a Franco-Anglo Mass was of the Oblates in collaboration with the Dean and the Diocesan Pastoral Service on Tourism. Since its inception, the Oblates avail themselves permanently three days in a week for the sacrament of reconciliation.

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Madam Christine Pajon who is incharge of the Catholic chaplaincy of the Montperrin Hospital in Aix and a team of lay persons took care of the preparation for the Sacrament of Baptism.

Joseph BOIS, OMI

It is never too late to discover Aix

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Who are the Oblates from Belgium and Holland ? Father Georges VERVUSTE, provincial, answers as follows : »The region of Belgium and Holland was born in 2005 by the merging of the general Delegation of South Belgium and the province of Holland-Flanders, which had also merged in 2003 with the Vice-provinces of Holland and North Belgium. The old units of Belgium, Flanders and South-Belgium became districts, which now function autonomously. At the start the Province comprised 139 members. With the return of 11 missionaries to their country of origin, the death of 65 colleagues and the departure of one colleague, the actual number is 84. The Flemish region comprises 39 members, the South-Belgium comprises 21 members and the Dutch 24 members, of which 6 come from Surinam and 1 from Peru.

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The average age of the Oblates of the Province is 77,89 years : 53 are more than 75 years, 28 are between 75 and 66, 2 between 65 and 50, and 1 is less than 50 years. One understands that our most important task is to look after our aged and ill fellow members. Most do not need special care and still carry out certain pastoral activity. But we are no longer able to undertake missionary projects. We are doing our best in the 7 communities to keep a fraternity spirit and to mutually help each other and that the spiritual aspect is not forgotten. We also make sure that the 40 (!) members who do not live in the Oblates community feel that they are members of our community and receive any necessary help. Lets mention again that 33 Oblates, coming from our countries, are on mission outside the province. We are ready to welcome them whenever they wish to return to their home country.

The Oblates of Belgium and Holland have followed in Aix a series of lectures on the History of our Founding Father given by brother Benoît DOSQUET.

 

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

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Leaders of Triennium

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There are 17 Oblates and 4 lay associates who are attending this session. They come from 18 different countries where they practice their mission: Nigeria, Angola, Australia, Venezuela, India, Uruguay, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Cameron, Canada, Cuba, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Zambia, USA, Ireland, England and Poland.

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During this session, the teaching about the history of the Congregation and its charisma will be given by Fathers Gilberto Piñon, Fabio Ciardi and Joe Labelle.

(Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI)

The Mazenodian Family with Father Miguel Fritz

The reunion began with a time of prayer lead by Bro. Benoît Dosquet. By this prayer, the Family members united with the Oblates who are making their spiritual journey towards the bicentennial Jublilee. Then there was a presentation of the Oblate missions in Latin America given by Fr. Miguel Fritz, General Councillor for that region. A meal ended the evening.
The Mazenodian Family from Aix-en-Provence includes about 60 persons. The whole Family meets 4 times during the year : the first for the school opening in September, then around the feast of the Immaculate Conception in December, one at the feast of February 17, and finally around the feast of St. Eugene de Mazenod in May. The members of the Family also come together for formation meetings which take place during the year, at the times chosen by the participants.

(Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI)

Day of Consecrated Life

Approved on the 9th of September 2001 as a religious Congregation by Diocesan Law, the sisters Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate were established in Madrid in 1997 with the wish to live the same life as the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

It is a missionary Congregation of which the first service in Church is to announce Christ to the disinherited. Born in Church and for the Church, they want like Saint Eugene de Mazenod, to be heedful to the most urgent needs and respond to his call in the communion, with speed, boldness and creativity.

Today there are 19 sisters and 3 candidates of 5 nationalities: 10 from Spain, 4 from Germany, 5 from Poland, 2 from the Ukraine and 1 from Peru. They have lived, since the beginning, in poverty and simplicity giving to their Congregation an international and multicultural aspect.

(Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI)

The Triennium has begun in Aix

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Throughout Friday evening the pastoral service for youth led a prayer vigil.

On Saturday, several teams travelled throughout Aix inviting Christians to join us for the Christmas celebrations. At the beginning of the afternoon the Chain of Peace brought Christians together on the Cours Mirabeau and they made their way to the cathedral for the Mass in honour of Mary and then continued in procession to the shrine of Notre Dame de Seds (where Mary Immaculate has been venerated since the 14th century).

Sunday, the Oblate community held their festival, when after the Sunday Masses, the de Mazenod family assembled to share a meal. In the afternoon, Jo Bois retraced the beginnings of the Congregation and invited the Oblate family to reflect on the Triennium. The day came to a close with a period of prayer in the Suzanne area.

In the early evening a concert was held in our chapel for the benefit of the EMIC (Eugene de Mazenod International Centre).

(Benoît DOSQUET, OMI)

Installation of the new superior of the EMIC

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Father Krzysztof ZIELENDA, the new superior of the EMIC community, is of Polish nationality. Up till now, he belonged to the Cameroon province where he was, for several years, the superior of the scholasticate and rector of the Philosophy Institute of Saint-Joseph-Mukasa at Yaoundé. Father Henricus ASODO, of Indonesian nationality, was superior of the OMI scholasticate in Indonesia. The two new members of the community were welcomed by Fathers Joseph BOIS from France; Joseph LABELLE from the USA; and Brother Benoît DOSQUET who is Belgian.

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Benoît DOSQUET, OMI