EUROPEFRANCE: Martyrs of Laos - Closure of the diocesan process
Last February 27, Bishop Jean-Paul James declared complete the informational process in view of the canonization of the presumed martyrs of Laos.
There was, of course, the formal side of the closure: the swearing in of the members of the tribunal and of the courier who would bring the acts to the Apostolic Nunciature, and the setting of the bishop’s seal on the boxes containing the documents (more than 4,000 pages).
There were speeches which told the meaning of such a celebration:
First, that of Bishop James: our bishop recalled that the martyr is a witness of Christ by his life and his words, up to the very end. He pointed out that the process, in having us focus on these 15 witnesses, priests and Laotian laity and French missionaries, it put before us our vocation as the baptized and confirmed: to give witness to the Gospel. Our bishop also spoke of how much we are in communion with the Church of Laos.
Then there was that of Bishop Fihey, the judge-delegate. The bishop spoke of how much this process had made the participants enter into the experience of the mission in Laos. We were thus able to be in profound communion with the missionaries, the priests of the country, the lay Christians. Our horizons were broadened.
Finally, there was that of Father Roland JACQUES, omi.
Father Jacques, the postulator of the cause in the name of the Bishops of Laos, reiterated the importance for that Church to be able to celebrate some of her ancestors in the faith. He spoke in the name of one or the other of the relatives of the presumed Laotian martyrs. Finally, he expressed his thanks for the work that had been accomplished by both the tribunal and by the historical commission. The president of the commission, Mr. Marcel Launay, had recalled the complexity of the events in Laos and the need to be mindful of the context of the mission and of the death of the presumed martyrs.
Present at this celebration of closure were members of the families of the presumed martyrs who live close by: Father Malo, Farther Tenaud, Father L’HENORET, Father LEROY, Fr. Denis. Among them was a sister of Father Denis, a sister of Father Leroy and a sister of Father L’Hénoret. Their presence reminded us of how much these families had been involved in the mission of their brothers, uncles and cousins.
Also present was Father Jean-Baptiste Etcharren, Superior General of the Foreign Missionaries of Paris. The provincial superior of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate was not able to join us.
What are the next steps in this process? The 12 boxes of documents will be turned over to the Congregation of the Causes of Saints in Rome. In a few days, these boxes will be opened and the contents will be studied by the Congregation. That will take months and even years because there are many causes on the waiting list. If the martyrdom is recognized by the Holy Father, then the path to beatification will be opened. We hope that this will happened because we know the importance of such an event for the Church in Laos. And we remain in deep communion with our Catholic sisters and brothers who are still in a dangerous situation. (Serge Leray, Diocesan Chancellor)
Father Jean GUÉGUEN has been named a knight of the National Order of Merit. This decoration will be conferred upon him on July 24 at La Brosse-Montseaux (where five Oblates were shot to death by the Nazis on July 24, 1944).
It’s interesting to read Jean Guéguen’s account of the circumstances of this award: “Three years ago, the delegates from south of the Seine and Marne had written to the sub-prefect of Fontainebleau asking that the Oblates of Mary Immaculate receive an award… one time more since 1944! The only one left was the ‘National Order of Merit.’ They had to give a single name as recipient and Bernard DULLIER, provincial at the time, had suggested my name. I thought the idea had been buried when I got a letter from the Interior Minister whose first name is Brice! So the ball was rolling. Concretely, this decoration goes to the Congregation and the choice was made from among the living survivors of that day in July, 1944. There are still 18 of us, among whom one ex-Oblate, Philippe Pierre!”
As a matter of “general culture,” one can add that the National Order of Merit was established by General de Gaulle in 1963 to reward the “distinguished deeds,” civic or military, done for the French nation. There are three degrees: knight, officer and commander. Go for it, Jean! And take a jacket with wide lapels; there might well be other medals in the future…! (Bertrand EVELIN in OMI France, February 2010)
The activity of the Oblates in Ukraine is not much different from the normal activities of any parish: catechesis, preparation of adults for the sacraments, charitable activities, formation of adults and youth, liturgical celebrations. Indeed, it can be said that there is general faithfulness to the traditional models of ministry. What is different is the context: we ask ourselves every day how we can continue to promote the message of Jesus in a nation in which, according to the statistics, 63% of the people do not identify with any religion and only 0.6% are Roman-Catholic and 5.3% are Greek-Catholic. While one could not define Ukraine as a mission territory in the “strict sense,” we are faced with a real missionary task. We are working in a society in which we are a minority, not only as Catholics but also as believers. As much as 98-99% of the population does not participate regularly in any religious function. How do we touch these persons? How do we bring them the Good News and how do we help them encounter the Lord?
We must confess that we are not missionaries in the sense of going directly among non-believers. We believe that depends primarily on our personal conversion and on how we live the Oblate life and charism in community. We try to pray much for those persons who live around us.
For the moment, we are working to help the people who belong to our parishes to help them become more mature Christians, capable, in their turn, to be missionaries. After the experience of Soviet secularization, they are now experiencing a new kind of secularization coming from the media, from consumerism, from materialism, and from all those places where God is absent, where the values are quite different, and where our entire old way of thinking is brought into question.
Right now, we are involved in two ventures that to us seem to be good strategies for the development of evangelization. One of them is to open an Oblate house of hospitality that would allow those who are interested to live an authentic experience of Oblate life and faith. We believe it is very important to not lose sight of the spirit and the meaning of evangelization; especially, we want to help persons who come into contact with us to grow in the faith and to live their own Christian lives in a globalized and secularized world. We are also thinking about working out a formation program that is more specific to our Oblate charism in favor of the poor. The project consists in approaching the most abandoned and in putting ourselves at their service; one of our Fathers is already collaborating with one of Mother Teresa’s sisters in order to welcome and accompany the poorest people.
Within a couple of years, we will probably begin to work in a welcoming center (already being built) for homeless persons. We would also like to build similar centers in our two parishes in Kryvyj Rig and Chernihv.
The other challenge is to bring to completion our various construction projects for our communities. During the Soviet domination, everything was destroyed. Therefore, we had to rebuild many churches, seven of them up to this point. Some of the construction has been completed, while others are in the building stages. There are other ministry sites and chapels in our plans. The greater part of our efforts is taken up by these construction projects. Six of our 8 communities are recently built, as of 2003. This effort is also due to the fact that as Oblates, we chose those places where there was a small number of priests and the presence of the Catholic Church was less or even non-existent.
Among us, there is a continual search for missionary “strategies” adapted to the context where we are located. Most of us are convinced that it would be necessary to offer a different type of formation within our parish groups, one that is more explicitly missionary. Others believe that our own efforts are not sufficient and that we should develop even more of a communion and cooperation with the different movements sand the new communities which offer a serious formation and which offer more stability for those who take part. But all of us believe that God will guide us along His ways and will show us how to evangelize the Ukrainian people who still seem wounded by the terrifying soviet system. (Excerpt from an article by Pavlo Vyshkovkyy and Salvo D’Orto in Missioni OMI, February 2010)