From 1818 to 1825, the Congregation bore the name Missionaries of Provence. After the founding in March of 1825 of the house in Nîmes, a house outside of Provence, the missionaries called themselves Oblates of Saint Charles. In Rome, during the octave of the feast of the Immaculate Conception that was celebrated with solemnity, the Founder decided to call his missionaries the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. “It was an inspiration,” wrote Father Rey, “which passed from his heart to his head. From the beginning, he used to call oblates those who had finished their novitiate and made their vows in religion. From now on, they will be Oblates of the most holy and Immaculate Virgin Mary and more briefly the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. But they would bear this name only when the vicar of Jesus Christ would have brought them to birth, or by the fact that he adopted this religious family, he would confer upon them a kind of baptism by assigning it a place among the congregations recognized by the Church.” (REY, I, p. 358-359)
Father de Mazenod immediately incorporated this name into his petition to the Pope which he finished December 8 and spoke of it to Leo XII in the audience of December 20, 1825: “Oblates of Mary Immaculate,” he wrote to Father Tempier on December 22, “But this is a passport to heaven! How have we not thought of it sooner? Avow that it will be as glorious as it will be consoling for us to be consecrated to her in a special manner and to bear her name. The Oblates of Mary! This name satisfies the heart and the ear.” (Oblate Writings I, vol. 6, no. 213, p. 223) In this letter to Father Tempier, Father de Mazenod admits that “This change has seemed necessary to me in order not to be confused with an infinite number of communities which bear the same name [Oblates of Saint Charles].” (Oblate Writings I, vol. 6, no. 213, p. 220)
In the decree of approbation of February 17, 1826,, this name was officially given to the Congregation: Missionarii sub titulo sanctissimae Virginis Mariae Immaculatae. The March 21, 1826 brief of approbation used the expression: Congregatio Missionariorum Oblatorum sanctissimae Virginis Mariae sine labe conceptae. The terminology has often varied. The title that has prevailed through usage is that of Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.
Sources and Bibliography
COSENTINO, Georges, o.m.i., Histoire de nos Règles, vol. II, Perfectionnement et approbation... 1819-1827, Ottawa, Éditions des Études oblates, 1955, p. 88-96.