|History of the Missionary Association of MaryImmaculate
Marek A. RostkowskiO.M.I.
1. The origins (1879-1920)
The history ofreligious Orders shows that the founders often tried to set up a kind ofassociation of auxiliaries to promote the charism of their religious family.They wrote rules of life adapted to the particular living conditions of thelaitybut which took as a starting point the spirit of the Order itself. Thelay persons remained in the worldbut they had particular bonds with thereligious family. Thus they could share in the spiritual life and good works ofthe Order as rewards for the assistance which they brought by their prayers andtheir offerings.2
At the beginning ofthe great missionary movement of the nineteenth centuryseveral new religiouscongre-gations were strengthened thanks to groups of laity ready to help themin their apostolic and missionary activity. This help took especially the formof prayersacrifices and offerings. Some congregations founded associations offriends of the missions.3 When the Spanishpatronato and the Portuguese patroado were just about overmorethan two hundred and fifty associations of laity started to rally themissionary spirit and generosity of the people of God for the support ofmissionary activity.4
The origins andinspiration of the Missionary Association of Mary Immaculate (M.A.M.I.) arefound even before the foundation of the Congregation of Missionary Oblates ofMary Immaculatei.e. before 1816. The first call for material aidwith thepromise of prayers and spiritual advantages in returnprecedes even thefoundation of the Congregation. When Eugene de Mazenod was preparing to openthe first house of missionaries at Aix-en-Provencein 1815he wrote a“Prospectus for the missions”5 inwhich he exposes the material difficulties and limits he faced. It presents theneeds of this work and a project for the cooperation of the laity in the formof a registration and annual subionaccording to each one’sability.6 Thenas the new religiousCongregation of which he was the first Superior General extended its missionaryactivity outside of Francehe saw the need for an association of auxiliarymembers to promote the work of his missionaries in the world;
The General Chaptersof 1850 and 1856 had proposed the creation of a lay Third Order associated withthe Oblatesbut Eugene de Mazenod was opposed to this since the Societyfounded by Pauline Jaricot offered the same advantages.
After the death ofthe Founder in 1861the attempts to organize auxiliaries became more frequent.At the level of the General Administrationthey are found in the reports andthe resolutions of the General Chapters. The Chapter of 1879 said:
The GeneralChapter desires thatwith the approbation of the Holy See and enriched withindulgencesa kind of confraternity or Third Order be instituted by us in viewof enrolling the faithfulboth men and womenso that they may follow a moreperfect way of life and willingly and wholeheartedly undertake every kind ofgood work.14
The main reasons forthis proposal were to follow the example of other congregationsto get out ofisolationto facilitate recruitment and to obtain needed financialassistance.15 Howeverthis proposal remaineda “pious wish”with no other consequence than the creation of somemagazines like Les Petites Annales in Francethe Oblate MissionaryRecord in Ireland (1891) and La Bannière in Canada(1893).16
Twelve years laterthe Chapter of 1893following the example of the Oblate Provinces of Franceand Englandapproved two resolutionsthe first being the foundation of anassociation or third orderthe otherthe creation of an association for thecollection of funds in favour of the apostolic schools (juniorates).
During the periodbetween 1879 and 1920the General Administration presented seven petitions tothe Holy See to obtain indulgences in favour of the benefactors of the Oblatejuniorates19 the members of“Marianischer Missionsverein”20the “Consociatio Mariæ Immaculatæ ad fovendas religiosas etapostolicas vocationes”21 and the benefactors of formationhouses and the missions.22 These requestsillustrate the initiatives taken at the provincial leveli.e. the creation atthe local level of very concrete forms of various kinds of associations. Ineach province of the Congregationthe structure and the organization of themovement was adapted to the local situation. The differences were due to thediverse aims of these associationsi.e.on the one handto find help for thejuniorates andon the other handto create a confraternity or a kind of thirdorder.23
Up to 1906all thescholasticates and their personnel depended directly on the Superior Generalwho had to support them financially. But the juniorates were the responsibilityof the provinces; it is they who took the initiative to found associations tosupport them.
In 1840the Provinceof France-South created “The Society for Juniorates or Religious andApostolic Vocations” to recruit and prepare vocations. Benefactors couldhelp by setting up a scholarship or by “adopting” a young missionaryor by making a cash donation.24 In 1864the“Scholarship Fund” was begun with the aim of covering the expensesfor the training of novices and the pupils of the juniorates. This would latertake the name “Vocations Society”. In 1907the Les PetitesAnnales magazine referred to them for the first time as the“Association of Mary ImmaculateVocations Society”. Five yearslaterit published a plea for the Oblate missions which explained that thisassociation is placed under the patronage of Mary Immaculate and that it wouldbe called the “Association of Mary Immaculate to Support Religious andApostolic Vocations”.25
In Canadathesituation was very similar. In 1891the Oblates opened the Sacred HeartJuniorate in Ottawa. To raise the money to maintain this housethey found somebenefactors whom they called “associates.” Lists of these benefactorsappeared in the review La Bannière de Marie Immaculéetheofficial organ of the juniorate. Another foundationthe “The Sacred HeartFund”also provided some assistance.26
In the Anglo-IrishProvincethe situation at the beginning was similar to that of France andCanada. The Oblates gathered a group of benefactors who helped by giving grantsfor the pupils and the novicesbut it was not set up as an association in thestrict sense. From 1876 there was a group in InchicoreIrelandfor men andwomen; it was under the patronage of the Immaculate Conception. In 1879it had approximately 10000 members.27
In 1883Fr. WilliamRingO.M.I. organized the first pilgrimage from England and Ireland toLourdes. To promote this workhe founded the “Association of the Month ofMay”. The great success of the pilgrimages
At the same timeinEnglandFr. Matthew Gaughren founded “Apostolic Circles”
In 1894the deaconMax Kassiepeencouraged by his superiorFr. Leon Legrandfounded the“Marianischer Missionsverein” (MMV) (Marian Missionary Union) whichspread quickly thanks to the Maria Immaculata magazine
Max Kassiepe alsoexplained the structure of the organization. Each member offered ten pfennigsper quarter. The collection of this sum was entrusted to the promoterswhowere each responsible for a group of twenty-five members. In exchange for thisserviceeach leader had the right to receive the Maria Immaculatamagazine free. Each donor received once a year a report on the activity of themissions and of the Saint Charles Juniorate.
The organizationfounded by this young Oblate had 16000 registered members in 1900after onlysix years. In 1897the central office was transferred to Hünfeld. On theoccasion of the 25th anniversary of the “MarianischerMissionsverein”May 51919Pope Benedict XV congratulated and blessedthe founder-director and his associates for their organization and theirwork.37
It is necessary toaddin connection with these beginningsthat in 1896 the Superior GeneralFr. Louis Soullier38 made a request forindulgences to the Holy See in whichfor the first timehe used the name of“Association of Mary Immaculate to Promote Religious and ApostolicVocations”. Following the example of the provinces of GermanyIreland andEnglandthe Superior General indicated three activities: to promote andsupport vocationsprayers and almsgivingand to organize pilgrimages to thefamous Catholic shrines.39 This associationobviously aimed at bring together the three organizations founded in thevarious provinces of the Congregation: the “MarianischerMissionsverein” in Germanythe “Vocations Society” in Franceand the “Association of Mary Immaculate” in Ireland. While eachstressed one activity or the othernone had the three. The next stage would bethat of unification and collaboration.40
|2. The coordination of the activities (1920-1946)|
The First World Warslowed down the development of the missionary works and the forms ofcooperation by the laity. The first General Chapter after the warwhich tookplace in 1920sought to unify and better organize under the name ofConsociatio Mariæ Immaculatæ the different works which haddeveloped in the provinces.41 In hisreport42 the Superior GeneralArchbishopAugustin Dontenwill43 said that the goal ofthe “Association of Mary Immaculate” was until now to help thevocations of the junioristsbut that circumstances led the Oblates to broadenthe scope of its activities to include all the apostolic works of theCongregation. This new element was introducedJuly 201920by a decree ofthe Apostolic Penitentiarywhich approved the changes in the definition of theactivities of the AMI and confirmed the granting of indulgences as approvedbefore. The document specifies that the sole name of the association will beConsociatio Mariæ Immaculatæ and that its goal is notlimited to helping religious vocations by prayer and offeringsbut extends tocooperation with all the missionaries in their fields of apostolate.
The General Chapterapproved the creation of a center for the Association located at the GeneralHouse in Rome; howevereach province and each vicariate of the missions hadthe right to establishwith the permission of the Superior Generaltheir owncenter. This permission included founding magazinesbulletinsetc. as a meansof communication between the directors and the members of Association. All theprovinces were invited to promote this work in their territory
The next GeneralChapterin 1926submitted the question of the AMI to the Commission forpropaganda and the press. This Commission concluded that there was a need forcoordinating the activities of the AMIpropaganda and recruitmentall ofwhich have the same goaland proposed the appointment of a General Secretarywho would live in Rome and of provincial and local directors. Each communitywas to have a priest responsible for the work of the AMI. The GeneralSecretary’s role was to centralize the flow of informationthestatistical data and to coordinate the development of the various publications.The commission recommended adding to the title of the Association a word thatstressed the idea of missionsi.e. Missionary Association of Mary Immaculate(MAMI).46
In 1929ArchbishopDontenwill sent a circular letter to the Congregation entitled TheAssociation of Mary Immaculate.47 Itstates that the Association is like an extension of the Congregation among thefaithful. It brings together the friends and benefactors around themissionaries. Its members offer to workaccording to their abilityto supportthe missionary work. Under the protection of Mary Immaculatethey become the“auxiliary apostles” of the Oblate missionaries. In a certain sensethey form part of this religious familysharing its joysits successes andits failures. They work to make the Congregation better knownto diffuse itspublicationspromote vocations and support its apostolate with their alms. TheOblates offer themin exchangea sharing in the prayerssacrificesgoodworks and merits of the missionaries.48
Archbishop Dontenwillcalled attention to the increase in vocations and the development of thestructures for formation in the various provinces. The search for materialmeans always created problems for the young Congregation. It was particularlydifficult to find funds for the students who depended directly on theprovincesbut the assistance of the M.A.M.I. made it possible to overcome thisdifficulty. It was now necessary to find assistance for the missionaries“who work in the vineyard of the Lord.
The other goal of theAssociation is the spread of Oblate publications. The majority of the provincesof the Congregation created their own reviews or periodicals. Thanks to thehelp of the members of the M.A.M.I.the missionary spirit could enter thehomes and develop a missionary awareness.50
Let us note that inthis Circularthe Superior General does not seek uniformity of activities norto impose a single model of organization. On the contraryhe asks that thestructures be adapted to the situation and the mind of each country or area.The experience of each province should help to improve the service to theCongregation and its missionary activities.51
In accordance withthe proposal of the 1926 General ChapterArchbishop Dontenwill presented aplan for the organization of the Association. Fr. Johannes PietschAssistantGeneralwas appointed Secretary General of the M.A.M.I. He was to beresponsiblewith the provincial directorsfor the coordination of theactivitypropaganda and information. Each province was to appointin eachhousean Oblate charged with finding zealous people and to encourage andcoordinate their effortsto distribute the magazinesthe newsletters and thebooksto organize the conferences in their area.53
Each provincialdirector was free to organize the activity of the M.A.M.I. in his territoryaccording to the needs of the province. This is why one can not speak of onesole association for the Oblate worldbut about a federation of associationshaving the same goal and using the means best adapted to their particularsituation.54
At the end of hisletterthe Superior General explains the relationship with the Society for thePropagation of the Faith; he quotes a note from the general council of thisSocietyaddressed to the religious instituteswith the aim of supporting itswork and not of creating similar works which would stop its progress; thecouncilhoweverspecifies that it cannot meet all the needs of the missions.That is why it approved the cooperation of missionary institutes with groups offriends and benefactors that supported the missionary activity. It hoped thatthe religious would also recommend the Pontifical Society to the people withwhom they work. The Superior General finished by saying that the M.A.M.I. wasnot there to competebut to find the resources for the Congregation’smissions which the Propagation of the Faith could not provide.
Following thepublication of Circular Letter #141there was a real expansion of theAssociation throughout the Congregation. The next General Chapter in 1932recognized its great activity in the fields of publicationspropaganda and therecruitment of new members. Several missionaries received directly from localcenters of the M.A.M.I. liturgical vestmentsbooks and other liturgicalobjects for their churches. The provincials’ reports to the Chapter
In 1934the GeneralDirector of the M.A.M.I. initiated a program of a daily mass offered for allthe members of the Association. This idea had been put forth from the start bythe Province of Germany for the members of the “MarianischerMissionsverein.” Thuswith the cooperation of all the provinces of theCongregationFr. Pietsch made a list of fixed dates so that at least one masswould be said each day for the members of the M.A.M.I. This practice has twosides: on the one handall the provinces assume the responsibility for sayingthe mass in turn andon the other handall the members benefit.
|3. Regrouping the Associations|
The 1948 GeneralChapter asked the new Superior GeneralFr. Léo Deschâtelets
The goal of theAssociation is threefold: first of allto form the Associates with a solidpiety and a strong devotion to Mary Immaculatepatroness of the Congregationand the Association; in the second placeto encourage them to help themissionary vocations and the formation houses andfinallyto interest them inthe conversion of sinners and infidels.66Among the meansthere are prayer(three Ave Maria each day for theformation of missionaries and the conversion of sinners)action (thepublications and propaganda)and alms. In returnthe Associates will share inall the spiritual benefits offered by the Congregationi.e. the prayersgoodworks of all the Oblatesthe special prayers in the houses of formation andindulgences. Each daya mass is celebrated for all the living and deceasedAssociates. The enrollment in the Association makes it possible to become anauxiliary apostle and to belong to a movement which is the extension of amissionary congregation.67
Regarding theorganization of the Associationthe document underlines the principal role ofthe promoters who are the true co-operators and coordinators of the interiorlife. Under their guidancethe members will carry out their activities andtheir service for the missions. The letter specifies the conditions ofenrollment68 and the case of deceasedAssociateswho remain in the Association and profit from the perpetual massesbut it is impossible to register the deceased as members of the M.A.M.I.sinceit is a community of the living. Their enrollment is possiblebut only on thelist of the deceased benefactors.69
One of the newfeatures was a 15% tax on all income of the Associationwhich was to be senttwice a year to Rome and put at the disposal of the Superior General. He woulddistribute this money to the neediest missionsthe more recent missions orthose in difficulty.70 This provision changedat the 1953 Chapter to a voluntary contributionand was soon forgotten.
The most positiveaspect of this document was to stress the spiritual training of the members.The Superior General affirmed that this Christian formation was the first andmost important goal of the M.A.M.I. The Oblate missionaries must work veryseriously for the personal sanctification of the Associates and inspire themwith a true missionary spirit. The members of Missionary Association of MaryImmaculate belong to the religious family of the Oblates; they are theircollaborators. That is why they must be formed with an Oblate spiritualityespecially a devotion to Mary Immaculate and a concern for the salvation ofsouls. Material aid is not the principal goalbut the creation of an elite offaithful for cooperation in all the fields of Oblate apostolate. All theformation must be well plannedfrom the local level up to the central level.Not only the laitybut also contemplative women religious are invited tobelong to the Association and to cooperate spiritually in the development ofthe missions. The provinces have the autonomy to organize meetingsretreatsand spiritual exercises not only for the promotersbut also for all themembers of the M.A.M.I.72.
Circular Letter No.182 announced the decision to make the AROMI
The following GeneralChapters in 19531959 and 1965 underlined the great progress of the activitiesof the M.A.M.I. The Association was helping in almost all the provinces andvicariates of the Congregationadapting itself to the variouscircumstances.77 New forms of the movementwhich corresponded to the times and the countries began to emerge.
Following the exampleof aggiornamento given by the Second Vatican Councilduring the 1966General Chapter the Oblates try to interpret the thought of the Founderaccording to the terminology of the times. The revision of the Constitutionsand Rules stressed the values to which the contemporary world was particularlysensitive and to which the Council had made reference. It presentedmoreovera new theological reflection on the Churchmissionary activity and the laity.In the provisional textpromulgated on August 21966 by Fr.DeschâteletsSuperior Generalwe find for the first time textsconcerning the laity.80
Constitution 2affirms that “In a spirit of fraternal charity they [Oblates] collaboratewith all other Instituteswith the clergyand with the laity in the work ofevangelization.” As servants of the Churchthey are called to cooperatewith the other Gospel workers andamong themthe laity. Rule 4 specifies thiscooperation well:
Knowing thatconditions in a given society can sometimes be such as to hinder the work ofevangelizationthey will be able to cooperate with all the organizationsinterested in the improvement of human conditions. They will not be unfamiliarwith the efficacious means used by such organizations. Let them be carefulhowever not to become involved in temporal affairsbut rather to help laypeoplewho will be directly in chargeto assume their full responsibilitiesas persons and as Christians.
It is also necessaryto point out the text of Rules 25 and 40 which speak about a close“collaboration with a well-trained laitywhom they will develop andinspire”;81 the Oblate communities“will welcome… lay persons who cooperate with us in theapostolate.”82 At the service of thecommunity of the baptizedthe Oblates “will gladly acknowledge thecharisms of lay people and ardently foster their development” asConstitution 47 stresses. They will respect their freedom in the secularsphereand support them in their proper role in the mission of theChurch.83
The 1972 GeneralChapter should have re-examined the provisional text of 1966 for a finalapprovalbut the capitulars felt that this trial period had not been longenough and decided to prolong it until the following Chapter.84 Theyonly modified some Rulesand added a second part to Rule 89:
The MissionaryAssociation of Mary Immaculate is strongly recommended as a most importantassociation and a valid help from the laity in favor of our missionary thrustand outlook.85
Among the reasons forthis additionwe must underline the fact that the members of the M.A.M.I.bytheir prayertheir sacrifices and their material contributions had made aconsiderable contribution to the missionary work and thatin factthisassociation could become a means of beginning a kind of affiliation to theCongregation of Missionary Oblates.86 TheM.A.M.I. appears for the first time in the Constitutions and Rules of theOblates. This movementwhich in 1971numbered some 900000 members infourteen provinces of the Congregation and provided some US$700000 to themissionary activity87 set down the path of anew and closer cooperation with the Oblates.
It is necessary tonote some new elements that appear in the activity of the M.A.M.I. after theSecond Vatican Council. Among the recommended goalsthere is action forjustice in the worldecumenismhelp for development in the Third Worldandthe formation of the laity for the apostolate. For the cultivation of amissionary spirit in the associatesthe need for the meetings withmissionaries on holiday in their country of origin is stressed. Meetingsaudio-visual conferencesthe magazinesthe annual or occasional pilgrimagesalso certainly contributed to the recruitment of new members. The provincesinsisted on the role of annual retreats for the promotersin Oblate houses orin the parishes.88
During the meetingof provincial directors of the M.A.M.I. which took place in RomeFebruary 121978the then Superior GeneralFr. Fernand Jettéinsisted on the factthat the members of the Association are lay people and must remain sobut thatthey have an Oblate heart and are in a certain sensepart of the Oblatefamily. They not only provide material aid for Oblate works and missionaryactivitythey do not only promote vocationsbut they offer something moresignificant: their faith in the Congregation and their esteem for it. TheOblates have needed and will continue to need the laity in order to live inholiness.89 The members of the Associationare entitled to their special prayers and their spiritual assistancebut thatis not enough: Oblates must be committed to helping them develop their interiorlife and Oblate spirituality.90
In 1980the GeneralDirectorFr. Anthony Hallprepared the Directory of the MissionaryAssociation of Mary Immaculate.91 Thisdocument gives a short historical synthesis of the movementits definitionits goalits advantagesits privilegesits organizationits program and itsprojects. The M.A.M.I. is an association of volunteersfriends of the Oblateswhose purpose is to support the missionary effort of the Congregation. Amongthe privileges which are reserved to themare the indulgences approved by theApostolic Penitentiary on November 211967.
The documentspecifies that the provincial directorswho are responsible for the animationand the organization of the Association in their provincesare named by theprovincial superior. The confirmation of this nomination by the SuperiorGeneral is not necessary. The members meet at general meetingson the occasionof patron feasts93 or at ordinary meetingsto planevaluate and make decisions. The celebration of a monthly mass for themissions is also recommended. Among the new elements to be noted are therecommendation to create prayer groupsand groups of volunteers for themissions and the assistance of the sick and the handicapped.
1 Secondchapter of the licentiate thesis: La cooperazione dei laiciall'attività missionaria. L’esempio dell'Associazione Missionariadi Maria Immacolata (The cooperation of Lay People in Missionary activity.The Example of the Missionary Association of Mary Immaculate)presented to thefaculty of missiology of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1998.