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.
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.
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