EUROPEAix: Colloquium on the Founder
To mark the 150th anniversary of the death of Saint Eugene de Mazenod, on Saturday, 5 March, the Missionary Oblates, together with the Mazenod Foundation of Méjanes, offered a series of lectures at the Verrière Amphitheatre, Aix. Nearly 200 people gathered to participate in this event.
Brother Dominique DESSOLIN, director of the International de Mazenod Center, opened the conference by introducing the theme and the various presenters. He said it would be two days dedicated to the “two feet” of Eugene de Mazenod: one, Aix and the other, Marseille; or rather, that of the Founder of a Congregation and that of a Bishop, head of the Church of Marseille.
To better understand Eugene de Mazenod, Mrs. Chelini-Pont, a professor of history, law and religion at Paul Cézanne University, introduced us to the situation of the Church in Provence between 1810 and 1830. This enabled us to better understand the pastoral directions of Eugene de Mazenod for his time, so as to help better situate our own.
Archbishop Dufour of Aix and Arles, president of the Bishops’ Commission for Catechesis and the Catechumenate, gave an analysis of the passing on of the faith today in Provence.
The day continued with three interventions on the passing on of faith and the founding of the Missionary Oblates. Frank SANTUCCI, animator of the Oblate charism for the Congregation, presented the legacy of Eugene de Mazenod, Founder of the Oblates, from the point of view of activities experienced today at 60 Cours Mirabeau. Fabio Ciardi, Director of Oblate Studies and Research, focused on the current reality of the Oblate missions worldwide; and Lorraine Sainte-Marie, a professor at the University of Ottawa (Canada) developed her talk around the place of Saint Paul University in the formation of understanding the faith and the integration of faith in one’s life.
On 6 March, we gathered at the diocesan building for a three-fold conference.
Frank SANTUCCI presented the transmission of faith by Eugene de Mazenod, Bishop of Marseilles, during the expansion of the city between 1837 and 1861. Lorraine Sainte-Marie presented the evolution of ministerial training, from the point of view of the reality of the Church of Canada. Luc TARDIF, Provincial-elect of the Notre Dame du Cap Province in Canada, used the writings of Eugene de Mazenod to introduce the latter's relationship with the Oblates of America.
In the afternoon, we met in the De Mazenod Room of 60 Cours Mirabeau Mazenod for a dialogue with those who had nourished us with their words throughout these two days.
One of the final interventions was in response to the question: how would Eugene de Mazenod have passed on the faith in our context, as bishop of Marseilles? Referring to the 35th Chapter, in which he participated and during which the capitulars heard the call to take the Gospel seriously, Luc Tardif said: “Before we even begin to consider passing on the faith, we must live the Gospel among ourselves.” He added: “I think that as Oblates in the Church, we take the Gospel too much for granted. We concern ourselves with others so that they might become more or less like us. But the constant return to the practice of the Gospel is an indispensable roadmap for us if we are to be minimally credible witnesses to those around us who do not share our beliefs.
In 1956, the Superior General, Fr. Leo DESCHÂTELETS, asked the Oblates of the Central Province of the United States to begin a Catholic mission in Greenland. There had been no official Catholic presence there since the Reformation. But to facilitate their passage into Greenland, the Oblates learned that it would be helpful to establish themselves in Copenhagen, Denmark, since Greenland, at that time, was still governed by that Scandinavian country.
The first superior of the Scandinavian mission was Fr. John TAYLOR who, in 1962, became the Bishop of Stockholm, Sweden. The Oblates moved to Copenhagen in 1958. In 1961, they were ready to found a parish in the suburb of Herlev.
Vor Frue Kirke (Our Lady’s Church) in Herlev celebrated the 50th anniversary of its founding on Jan. 30, 2011, with a pontifical high Mass presided by Bishop Czeslaw Kozon of Copenhagen. Fr. Urban FIGGE, who founded the parish and now lives in the USA, was present to greet the parishioners of Vor Frue Kirke. Also present was the provincial of Poland, Fr. Ryszard SZMYDKI and his predecessor, Fr. Teodor JOCHEM.
The Oblates no longer minister in Greenland, but they continue to serve the Church in the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden and Norway. In 2007, the General Delegation of Scandinavia took on a new juridical status. The Oblates there, originally from Poland, the United States and Sri Lanka, now belong to the Province of Poland.
When this change in status took place, the Superior General, Fr. Wilhelm STECKLING, wrote: “Scandinavia has a proud mission history of almost 50 years in which the Gospel has been proclaimed in Greenland, Denmark, the Faeroes, Sweden and Norway. This mission is far from over and will continue for many years to come, because the Catholic Church in Scandinavia still needs and welcomes Oblate missionaries.”