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

Oblate Students from Rome visiting Aix

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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

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

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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

Category: News

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

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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

Category: Mission, News

Meeting of the Mazenodian Family – February 2016

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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

Category: Mazenodian family, News