GENERAL ADMINISTRATIONAn invitation from the Vicar General: “Of one heart and one mind…”
We are living in a time of grace. Last January 25, we celebrated 195 years of existence, and that makes us think that we are getting close to the end of the second century of our history. We are now preparing to celebrate the feast of St. Eugene and this year will be a big event, marking 150 years since his death. When we celebrate the anniversary of the death of our Founder, what comes up immediately and spontaneously are his last words to his Oblates, to those whom he loved with a father’s heart: “Among yourselves, charity, charity, charity, and outside, zeal for the salvation of souls”. The time of grace we are living as Oblates is also due to our recent Chapter, which ended by calling us to a deeper conversion, both personal and communal.
Individual Oblates and communities at different levels have already started responding to this call of the Chapter. At the same time, the General Council, gathered in plenary session between January and February, started working on a program for animation for the whole Oblate family. Reflecting and finding ways of going in depth into our commitment as Oblates is the best way to respond to the Chapter call and to prepare for all the anniversaries that we will be celebrating in the coming years.
I’d like to concentrate here on the first call to conversion from the Chapter document. It is about community. The first thing that we are reminded of is that our life and mission have their center in the person of Jesus Christ. St. Eugene considered the community of the apostles around Jesus as the model of the Oblate community; he also took the first Christian community of Jerusalem as another model for the Oblate community, especially because in that community they were all of one heart and one mind.
Following the example of those two communities, we are called to give our common life a new quality. The heart of the Oblate community is the call of Jesus, who has gathered us together through the needs of salvation that we hear in our world today. And we still hear many of those! One way of giving new quality to our community life is to deepen our relationship with Jesus through personal and community prayer and by reflecting and evaluating our own way of living. The recent Chapter calls us to do this under the guidance of the Spirit.
The nine points that articulate this call to conversion in community life are ways for centering our conversion on the person of Jesus. The witness of our life is a way of sharing the values of our religious consecration and an invitation for others to join the Oblate family. The quality of our lifestyle is to be periodically reviewed in specific areas and in a transparent and accountable way by each Oblate and by all together as a body. This is ground for real conversion.
Community life, when lived intensively, is also a place where we know the difficulties of our relationships and get wounded in our humanity. That’s why community is also a place for forgiveness and reconciliation. This is sometimes the most difficult aspect of community life, and because of this, it is, at the same time, the most real way of witnessing our faith and love as followers of Jesus.
In recent years our communities have become largely international and intercultural. This is a new challenge for our common life, a new call to witness the Gospel as disciples of Jesus. On one hand, we see the world becoming a small village; on the other hand, we experience every day the consequences of violence that creates new barriers, new frontiers, more ideological than geographical. This is why community life has become for us a privileged way of being prophetic by showing the world around us that living together is possible, even for people coming from places and cultures that are more distant than simply North and South, East and West. (Fr. Paolo ARCHIATI, Vicar General)
On February 15, the Holy See announced the appointment of Fr. Evans CHINYEMBA as Bishop of Mongu in Zambia. On September 30, 2010, the 35th General Chapter had elected him General Councillor for the Region of Africa-Madagascar. He succeeds Bishop Paul DUFFY who served as the first bishop of Mongu since 1997. Bishop Duffy had submitted his resignation when he turned 75 in 2007, but the Holy See asked him to continue his ministry for a few more years.
The new bishop was born in 1967 in Lukulu, Western Province, Zambia. His first profession of vows was in 1994. After attending the International Scholasticate in Rome, he was ordained in 2000. Prior to being named superior of the Delegation of Zambia in 2009, he worked in parish ministry for a few years. Most of his ministry has been in formation, serving as Formation Director of the delegation and as director of the pre-novitiate program in Lusaka. Besides speaking several Zambian languages, he speaks English and Italian.
The Diocese of Mongu, established in 1997, covers some 87,000 square kilometres in western Zambia, with a population of over 620,000; of these, approximately 10% are Catholics.
The Oblate presence in Zambia continues to grow. In this delegation of the United States Province, at the beginning of 2011, there were 73 members, including 49 scholastics.
In conformity with the Oblate Constitutions and Rules, the Superior General in Council, acting collegially, will choose a new General Councillor for the Africa-Madagascar Region.
March 1, 2011, was the tenth anniversary of the death of Archbishop Marcello ZAGO. In Italy, the celebrations of this event took place at Villorba, in the province of Treviso, his birthplace. The celebration was organized by his family, with the involvement of the parish, the diocese and the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
On Saturday, February 26, the memorial took place in the parish. After projection of a video on the Day of Prayer for Peace held in Assisi on October 27, 1986, Fr. Fabio CIARDI, Director of Oblate Studies and Research, gave a conference on the role of Fr. Zago in the preparation and realization of that day. This year, in fact, is the 25th anniversary of an event that was a milestone in Interreligious dialogue, one that marked the path of the Church and religions around the world, “an image,” as Fr. Zago wrote, “and a portent of what religious persons should be for society: intercessors with God for peace, builders of peace among men,” icons of the unity among the children of God, of the real possibility of dialogue, of friendship and of communion among all.
On Sunday, February 27, the Eucharist was presided by Archbishop Gianfranco Agostino Gardin, of Treviso. Participating were the Superior General of the Oblates, Fr. Louis LOUGEN, together with many confreres and friends of Fr. Zago.
With the Assisi event, Fr. Marcello Zago took leave of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, having been recently elected Superior General of the Oblates. The results of Assisi would not end there. As he prophesied at that time, “For those who want to understand the nature and the path of interfaith dialogue in the Church and the world, the prayer meeting in Assisi on October 27, 1986, will remain a crucial step, and an even more important symbol.”
In that day, he saw above all a confirmation of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. What the Council had stated in its documents, at Assisi was “expressed in a solemn way and understood by all, broadcast by the media. In Assisi, the welcoming of religious leaders and their presence at the prayer of different religions were in some way a recognition of religion and in particular of prayer, a recognition that religion and prayer have not only a social role, but also effectiveness with God. (Fabio Ciardi, OMI)
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