Aix community, “current-affairs”

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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

Category: Community, News

Spiritual retreat of COMI

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

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

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

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

BONGA MAJOLA, OMI

Category: Mission, News

Bicentenary and the Congress on Oblate vocations

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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

Category: 200 years, News

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

Louis Lougen

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

 

Category: 200 years, News

Oblates of the Belarus in Aix

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“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

Category: News

Aix welcomes a group of Flemish lay associates

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

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

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

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

Krzysztof ZIELENDA, OMI

Category: Mission, News

Fourth conference of the bicentenary

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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

Category: 200 years, News

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”.

Category: 200 years, News

The grace of being in Aix during this special year

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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

Category: 200 years, News

Bicentenary of the Oblates’ mission in Grans

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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

Category: 200 years, News