Two Celebrations of Prayer and Communion at the Conclusion of the Anniversary of the Congregation’s Foundation
January 19th, 2017
May zeal for the salvation of souls be a natural consequence of your fraternal charity. (Address of Pope Francis to participants in the General Chapter, October 7, 2016
Opening song – Introduction
February 11, 1816, fifteen days after the birth of the community, the Missionaries of Provence began their first joint mission in Grans. They came together to be missionaries, as they wrote on January 25 to the Vicar Generals of Aix:
– deeply moved by the deplorable situation of the small towns and villages of Provence that have almost completely lost the faith;
– convinced that missions are the only means by which these people who have gone astray can be brought out of their degradation. (Oblate Writings 13, 2)
Their vocation was to continue the mission that the Lord entrusted to Jesus Christ and that which Jesus entrusted to His Apostles, as clearly set out in the first Rule: “Their founder is Jesus Christ, himself, the Son of God; their first fathers are the Apostles.”
Listening to the Founder
The Lord inspired me with the plan of establishing a society of missionaries at Aix who, as a priority, would undertake to evangelize the poor country people, even in the smallest Provencal hamlets. I shared my idea with the Vicars General who approved it; and immediately I started to put the plan in motion by setting down the foundation of this little society which has worked incessantly for five years for the conversion of souls with a success that is due to God alone and can be regarded as miraculous.
With some zealous companions I was going to start immediately that same ministry to which they had wanted to recruit me, ministry among the poor abandoned souls all around us. (Eugene de Mazenod to Bishop de Bausset, Archbishop of Aix, December 16, 1819, Oblate Writings 13, 35-36)
Look to the past with gratitude
Your missionary history is the story of many consecrated people, who have offered and sacrificed their lives for the mission, for the poor, in order to reach distant lands where there were still “sheep without a shepherd”. Today, every land is “mission territory”, every human dimension is mission territory, awaiting the proclamation of the Gospel. Pope Pius XI called you “specialists of difficult missions”. (Address of Pope Francis to participants in the General Chapter, October 7, 2016)
A History Brimming with Daring
In 1859, Father Henry Grollier established the mission of Good Hope near the Arctic Circle. In 1872, following in the footsteps of Father Louis Babel, Father Charles Arnaud came into contact with the Inuit of Labrador. In 1917, Father Arsène Turquetil baptized the first Inuit of Hudson’s Bay.
In October 1865, Father Joseph Gérard performed his first baptisms at the Village of the Mother of God in Basutoland (Lesotho). In Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Bishop Bonjean dedicated himself to the development of Catholic schools. In 1876, he launched a newspaper published in English and Tamil. That same year, he ordained the first native priest trained in the seminary he had founded.
This was the era of the Cavalry of Christ in Texas along the Rio Grande. Father Yves Kéralum and several others lost their lives there. At the beginning of our century, in what is today Namibia, after three or four abortive attempts, the mission of Okavango was founded under the direction of Father Josef Gotthardt.
To this we must add the apostolic work done in Christian countries from the chaplaincies at Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre in Paris – in whose history the role played by Cardinal Hippolyte Guibert is well known – right up to the University of Ottawa. In 1868, the Oblates made a foundation in Lowell. From 1932 on, the first United States province addressed itself to pastoral care of the Black Americans.
We need only bring to mind foundations in Pilcomayo in 1925, the Belgian Congo in 1931, Laos in 1935, the Philippines in 1939, Haiti in 1943, Brazil in 1945. (M. Courvoisier, Daring, DOV, p. 227)
Remembering our History
We can take some time to speak about the most beautiful moments in the story of our Unit or Region, that even today can inspire us in our mission.
Live out the present with passion
The same audacity and creativity that characterized the first community in Aix and Oblate history, should continue in us…new needs require new responses.
The call of Pope Francis
The current field of mission seems to expand every day, embracing the poor again and again, the men and women bearing the face of Christ who ask for help, consolation, hope, in the most desperate situations in life. (…) It is necessary to seek adequate evangelical and courageous responses to the questions of the men and women of our time. (Address of Pope Francis to participants in the General Chapter, October 7, 2016)
The call of the General Chapter
We observe new forms of poverty, especially among young people:
– fundamentalism, individualism, materialism, consumerism, addiction to the digital world…
– the suffering of families, youth, the lonely, and the elderly.
– the situation of refugees, the homeless, and migrants who are forced to leave their countries, as well as the devastation of the environment.
– victims of injustice and violence, especially the indigenous peoples and minorities, the victims of human trafficking, of abuse and exploitation. (Message of the 36th General Chapter, 4)
As your religious family enters its third century of life, may the Lord allow you to write new pages that are as evangelically fruitful as those of your brothers who, over the past 200 years, have borne witness, sometimes even with blood, to that great love for Christ and for the Church. (Address of Pope Francis to participants in the General Chapter, October 7, 2016)
We are invited to write a new page of the Gospel with Mazenodian creativity and audacity (Message of the 36th General Chapter, 4)
How are we to write a new page of the Oblate mission?
– What are the most urgent and concrete calls of the people in the midst of whom we live?
– Do we give time, in our community, to let ourselves be questioned by our society?
– Do we seek out, in common, ways of responding? In prayer, in fraternal dialogue, in paying attention to the experiences of other people working for the Gospel?
– During the first mission in Grans, St Eugene wrote to Tempier back in Aix: “Between us missionaries… we are what we ought to be, that is to say, we have but one heart, one soul, one thought. It is admirable! Our consolations, like our hardships, are unequaled.” (February 24, 1816) How can we grow in the awareness of the value that community poses for the mission?
Embrace the future with hope
The future challenges us
May the joy of the Gospel shine forth firstly on your face, making you joyful witnesses. (Address of Pope Francis to participants in the General Chapter, October 7, 2016)
Without fidelity to our vocation, there is no future. Perseverance is not only the ability to hold fast, but most importantly, the ability to grow in passion for Christ, for the Church, for the evangelization of the poor. This is a gift which we ask for in prayer.
Prayer of St Eugene for perseverance in our vocation
Almighty, eternal God, you have called me, your unworthy servant, through no merit of my own, but solely out of your great mercy, to serve your divine Son in the Congregation of the Immaculate Virgin Mary. Humbly I pray, through the merits of the precious blood of our divine Saviour, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary conceived without sin, and of my patron saints: grant that I may not weaken in this holy resolve through any effort of the enemy of my soul, nor be deterred by impulses of the flesh, dissuaded by love of parents or counsel of relatives, restrained by fear of difficulties, distracted by the vanity of this world, overcome by bad company; that my passions may not impede me, work not break me, nor the suggestions of Satan pervert me. You have given me your gift to begin: give me now the power to persevere according to your holy Will. O God of Love, especially give me the talents I need to reach my goal, as well as confidence in those who are my spiritual fathers. Grant that I may labour unceasingly for my own and my neighbor’s salvation, and, above all, to promote your glory. Amen.
Final song: Magnificat anima mea Dominum
Published on the OMI World Website.
God bless you!