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Our Founder : Eugene de Mazenod

Our Founder: Eugene de Mazenod

Eugene de Mazenod was born on August 1, 1782, at Aix-en-Provence, France , on the eve of the French Revolution. His father, Charles, was of the noble class; his mother, very wealthy. At the age of eight, young Eugene had to flee France as it was rumored that the revolutionaries intended putting to death the sons of nobles. His exile lasted eleven years.

At Turin, he made his first communion and was confirmed; in Venice , he came under the influence of an exemplary family, the Tinallis. Saint Eugene later wrote, “It was there that I discovered my vocation to the priesthood.” In a later move to Sicily, he became part of the luxury and grandeur of the court at Palermo .

Returning to Aix-en-Provence as a very worldly young man of twenty, Eugene sought to re-establish the family fortune by marrying into wealth. First he could not find a woman rich enough, and then, the woman he intended to marry died!

On Good Friday, 1807, at the age of twenty-five, Eugene encountered Christ in his own life and recognized him as his Savior. “My soul was longing for its ultimate goal, God, the unique good whose loss I deeply felt.” Dormant, earlier aspirations came alive.

At the age of twenty-six, Eugene entered the seminary of St. Sulpice in Paris . His ideal was clear: “He would be the servant and priest of the poor.”

Ordained in 1811, his bishop was faced with the dilemma of what to do with this young aristocrat. “…so personal and impetuous” and was somewhat relieved when Fr. de Mazenod asked to work with the poor and abandoned of the cities and outlying missions.

The zealous young priest turned his efforts towards the youth. He founded an association for young people. He worked also with prisoners and preached to the poor.

In 1815, Eugene de Mazenod felt the need for companions, who would share his apostolate, live in community with him, and commit themselves to God through religious vows. On January 25, 1816, Fr. de Mazenod and four companions committed themselves to God and dedicated their lives to bring the Good News to the poor. This they would do primarily by preaching parish missions. Pope Leo XII approved the Society in 1826 under the name of the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of the Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin Mary.

Eugene de Mazenod became Bishop of Marseille, France in 1837 and was able to make his influence effective not only locally but also in other parts of the world.

At his death in 1861, his religious congregation numbered 417. His Oblates were found in France , Great Britain, Canada, the United States, South Africa and Sri Lanka . When on Mission Sunday, 1975, Pope Paul VI beautified Eugene de Mazenod, there were 6,000 Oblates working on five continents. In 1995, the Church officially recognized him as a Saint.

Saint Eugene de Mazenod was a man for his time. He was loyal to the Pope but almost lost his French citizenship because of it. Years later, he was made a Senator of the French Empire, but not a Cardinal because of the tension between the Emperor and the Holy See. He was determined, eloquent, austere, obstinate, impulsive, generous, intuitive and sensitive. On his deathbed, his last words to his worldwide brotherhood of Oblates were: “Amongst yourselves practice charity, charity, charity … and in the world, zeal for the salvation of souls.”


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