CANADA-UNITED STATESNOTRE-DAME-DU-CAP: Zealous fire retreat at St. Paul University
For the first time, a retreat based on themes drawn from St. Eugene de Mazenod was held at Saint Paul University in Ottawa, Ontario. It was facilitated and prepared by scholastic David MacPhee, a member of the student pastoral team and by Fr. Daniel Renaud, the University Chaplain. This retreat wanted to delve into the missionary call that is addressed to all Christians through the Oblate charism and the Oblate founder’s spiritual path. The retreat was offered simultaneously in French and in English.
The title for the retreat was Zealous Fire Retreat (“La retraite du feu sacré” in French) and is was scheduled over four days from March 24 to 27, 2010. It closed on the Saturday with the Eucharistic celebration of the Feast of Saint Eugene. Although the number of participants was modest (25 in total), those who were there were appreciative and offered positive comments and suggestions to improve the format.
Here are a few comments: “Based on lived experience… good listening period… nice method for praying based on biblical texts…This was very enriching for me and it still goes on…the theme has reenergized my faith and my missionary zeal… It was dynamic and inviting… I liked the content: to keep the sacred flame that animates us!’’
As Oblates, it was also a great experience in the way that it allowed the two of us to live a common apostolate while preparing the talks on a theme that had us returning to the zeal and spirituality which are at the foundation of the charism of Saint Eugene. (By David MacPhee and Daniel Renaud in www.omilacombe.ca)
Over six thousand people gathered on Thursday, April 16, 2010 at St. Maximilian Kolbe in Mississauga Parish to celebrate Memorial Mass honouring the late Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife, and the 94 other dignitaries that perished in last Saturday’s place crash. The Memorial Mass was organized by Fr. Janusz Blazejak, provincial of Missionary Oblates, and Fr. Andrzej Sowa, pastor of St. Maximilian Kolbe Church.
People came from all directions; some walked several kilometers, as police had closed off street access to cars. Many waved Polish flags while others came with flowers, pictures and candles. It was a sober but important occasion and everyone wanted to play a small part. Prior to the Mass a makeshift shrine was set up under a large wooden cross in the parking lot. It grew larger minute by minute as the crowds continued to flood in. Those who arrived early enough (two to three hours before the Mass) were lucky to get inside: the remainder were joined by priests outside and listened to the proceedings on loudspeakers.
Among the dignitaries in attendance were the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper; leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Michael Ignatieff; leader of the New democratic Party, Jack Layton; the Ambassador of Poland to Canada, Zenon Kosiniak-Kamysz; the Consul General of the Republic of Poland, Marek Ciesielczuk; the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, David Onley; and the President and Acting President of the Canadian Polish Congress, Wladyslaw Lizon and Jerzy Barycki. Many other dignitaries lined the pews of the packed church. Thirty-five priests, led by Archbishop of Toronto, Thomas Collins, participated in the Mass. Polish scouts were mobilized to provide logistical support and did so with enthusiastic efficiency and professionalism.
The Mass was touching. Especially moving was the opening hymn which was sung during the arrival of the Archbishop, the throngs of priests and the altar servers that preceded him. For a few minutes, the entire church shook under the voices of those in attendance. It seemed as though the hymn provided the perfect outlet for grief stricken Polish-Canadians to release their emotions. And they did. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper received a standing ovation and delivered a few fitting words about his fondest memories of President Kaczynski as well as the resilience of the Polish people. There were more speeches of course, all heartfelt and moving. (Assumption News and Views, April 2010)
Last April 23, approximately seventy-five Franco-Albertans met at Campus Saint-Jean in Edmonton Alberta, for a supper in honor of the Oblate Commemoration Fund and of Brother Anthony Kowalczyk.
About ten years ago, a project to revitalize the Brother AntHony grotto got underway at the university campus. As a first step, it was agreed to erect a life-size bronze statue of the humble man who influenced the history of this academic institution. This sculpture, by internationally renowned artist Danek Mozdzensky, will be placed near the Lacerte building, not far from the grotto built by Brother Anthony’s own hands.
Convened on personal invitation only, the purpose of this April 23 gathering was to assemble a number of potential donors who would help finance this historical project evaluated at $250,000.00.
Along with what was collected at this fund-raising supper, the total at this point amounts to approximately $90,000.00.
“Erecting this monument has a significant importance for the Campus St-Jean and the Francophone Community of Alberta”, affirmed Senator Claudette Tardif, who accompanied her husband, Denis Tardif, master of ceremonies for the supper.
Present also at the meeting were the sculptor Mozdzensky, the dean of CSJ Marc Arnal, Edmonton’s Archbishop Richard Smith, along with members of the Brother Anthony Committee.
Aside from the ideal of humility, piety and courage of Brother Anthony, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate were also honored at this supper for their role in the development of the francophone communities in western Canada. (By René Bélanger, OMI, translated by Maurice Blackburn, OMI in www.omilacombe.ca)
Rooted in the experience of lay association, our group here in Ottawa has been evolving since the founding of OMI Lacombe as a Province. First calling ourselves “Tempians” (for Father Tempier – St. Eugene’s #1 collaborator), we came together to socialize, to share our stories and to be with others who were attracted to the Oblate charism. Animated by the possibilities of having Oblate ministries in the Capital Region coordinated under the umbrella of a “Mission Centre”, we gradually grew in our identity and numbers. In one way or another we were experiencing Gods call to love through the Oblate charism.
Our “association” was not always that sharply defined, and we each came – questioning – seeking – ready to say “yes”. It was our individual experiences of the living call to mission in our hearts that brought us together and into community. We struggled with the word “associate”. By the 2006 Convocation, we started to refer to ourselves as Oblate Partners in Mission (OPM). This designation seems to better describe who we are. We see ourselves as an intentional community, made up of vowed Oblates, an Honorary Oblate and lay persons. We feel called to receive some formation and make an obvious and external commitment with the Oblates. We feel keenly the pull of being part of an Oblate community and living in the spirit of St. Eugene. “Associates” are members of the Basic Oblate Community in both Toronto and in Ottawa. All of us are invited to participate in District Oblate retreats and working processes. We work, we pray, we share and we socialize. We love and nourish each other, and always – put ourselves under the guidance of Mary Immaculate and St. Eugene. We come from several parishes, some from Galilee Centre, from Springhurst and there are a few of us down in the Toronto area – some of us know each other only through email. And although some have been around for a while we continue to look at where we are and where we want to go.
Besides our respective ministries, we have participated in some common projects. In the winter of 2009 we held an interfaith prayer service when our city was struggling through a bus strike and then last spring we spearheaded a “Work Bee and Cleanup weekend up at Galilee Centre up in Arnprior (we must have done a good job because Galilee Centre has invited us back again at the end of the month). Together we have worked through the sessions of the Animation Process on Poverty and now are trying to focus on Conversion and the upcoming 35th Chapter. We’re preparing to celebrate with one of our own, Garry Byrne who has just been named an Honorary Oblate an on May 21st we will begin the process of “Appreciating and Celebrating Lay Associates”. In June we will have a retreat given by Ken Hart titled “Growing Our Adult Faith” – a one-day workshop on life-long development of our faith – based on the experiences of St. Eugene.
We continue to look at mission and what God is calling us to do, who we are called to be. We are looking and questioning our identity as Oblate Partners in Mission/Associates and what that means. In our hearts we are “Oblates” – dare we say it out loud? (Submitted by Eleanor Rabnett in www.omilacombe.ca)