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.
“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!
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)
“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)