Oblates of the Belarus in Aix

Photo_1

“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

Photo 1

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.

Photo 2

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.

Photo 3

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

Photo 1

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

Photo 1

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.

Photo 2

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.

Photo 3

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

Photo 1

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

Oblate Students from Rome visiting Aix

Photo 1

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.

Photo 2

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.

Photo 3

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

Category: News

Third Conference of the bicentenary

Asodo

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

Category: 200 years, News

Congress on Oblate mission with Youth

Photo 1

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.

Photo 2

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.

Photo 3

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

Category: News

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

Photo 1

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.

Photo 2

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.

Photo 3

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

Category: Mission, News