511 - May 2011
April 4th, 2011 - May 10th, 2011

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CANADA-UNITED STATES

Prayers for our leaders

In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the death of St. Eugene de Mazenod, the Friends of St. Eugene, an Oblate associate group from Labrador West, have undertaken a special year-long prayer project as a sign of support and encourage­ment for our new Superior General and Council.

Beginning February 17, 2011, Fr. Louis LOUGEN has begun a symbolic visit to many homes in Labrador West as his picture and a prayer card are passed from one Friend to another. Each associate will be in charge of the picture and asked to offer a daily prayer for seven days. At the conclusion of the week, the Friend of St. Eugene who has offered these prayers will send Fr. Lougen a card with a heartfelt note of encouragement and prayerful support for his ministry and administration of the Congregation.

God has indeed richly blessed the holy charism of St. Eugene de Mazenod and his sons and daughters down through those 150 years. Today we are the ones who have been graced and blessed to hold the candle, the light, the flame that radiates from that charism. We are the ones invited and urged to pay it forward – “it” being the love, the goodness, the good news mes­sage so that hearts and lives will continue to be touched by the holiness of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Members of our faith family in Labrador West will be well aware of the Friends of St. Eugene prayer project since on each Sunday, they will witness the passing of the prayer card and the picture at the conclusion of our liturgy. It is our hope that parishioners will, through these exchanges, learn more about the charism of our founder and the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. The heart of St. Eugene de Mazenod continues to beat strongly in this cold, northern climate, far from the docks of Marseille where he once reached out to the poor and marginalized in his own unique way.

This prayer chain for our Oblate Superior General and Council will continue until February 17th, 2012. This is the prayer the parishioners will offer:

O God, our merciful Father, assist and protect our father in Christ, the Superior General of our Congregation. Look on him with love and strengthen him with every blessing. Open to him the storehouse of your wisdom, that he may bring out from it treasures both old and new. Help him to fulfill his obligations as our father and guide. Grant that through his ministry, we may remain faithful to our mission and ever grow in that unity of mind and heart which our Founder wished for us. This we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (by Tony O’DELL in Oblate Spirit, April 2011)



Oblate named director of Pontifical Missionary Societies

On March 4, 2011, Cardinal Ivan Dias, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, named Oblate Father Andrew SMALL as National Director of the Pontifical Missionary Societies (Pontificie Opere Missionarie) in the United States. His mandate will last until 2016.

In 2009, Father Small had been named Director of the Collection for the Church in Latin America by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. In that role, he was very involved in the relief to the people and the Church in Haiti after the devastating earthquake of 2010.

Born in Liverpool, England, in 1968, he has been a professed Oblate since 1991. He was ordained a priest in 1999 for the Anglo-Irish Province. He later received an obedience to the United States Province.

The Pontifical Mission Societies consist of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, the Holy Childhood Association, the Society of St. Peter Apostle and the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious. The four Societies each received the title “pontifical” in 1922 to indicate their status as official instruments of the Holy Father and of the Universal Roman Catholic Church.

National offices exist now in more than 120 countries. Today, this “family” of mission societies is the Church’s primary means to inform Catholics about her worldwide missionary work and encourage their active participation - through prayer and sacrifice - in those efforts.



Preaching the Vocation Gospel

Fr. Ken THORSON, the Vocation Director of OMI Lacombe Province, gives some food for thought for the Oblate Family throughout the world.

At the end of January, ten women and eight men attended a retreat, hosted by our pre-novice candidate Bradley Clark and me, and three Sisters of the Presentation of Mary. These eighteen people came to Discernment House, run by the Presentation Sisters, serious about knowing God’s will for their lives, curious about religious life, and open to it as a possible vocation choice. Over the weekend, these young adults learned a little about our vows, our community life and prayer, and they learned some good discernment methods, and we Oblates, along with the Sisters, learned something about the possibilities for collaboration.

Since that weekend, I’ve been thinking a lot about our provincial approach to vocation ministry. In the last two years we have worked hard to lay some good foundations: the opening of the vocation office in Ottawa; vocation contacts in each district; the development of literature for candidates; the vocations website, numerous discernment weekends across the country, etc. While significant foundational work remains we are at a point where we need to begin asking some serious questions about the future of vocation ministry in our province.

As I speak with Oblates and Associates across the country it’s clear to me that most of us still want men to enter our community. At some point in these conversations however, my question is, “Why do you want that?” and although the answers vary from Oblate to Oblate and Associate to Associate, most can be summed up in this way: “We want men to enter the Oblates, because the world still needs the Oblate charism”. If we believe this then we obviously need to heighten our vocational efforts, and find new energy and means for inviting those gifted with our charism to join us.

But how will we do this? While we are not yet at the point of answering this question, we are working on it. In the meantime I want to encourage Oblates and Associates to be zealous in looking for opportunities, large and small, to promote vocations. Some examples of what each Oblate and Associate might do:

  • Commit to inviting one young person per year to consider taking in a discernment retreat.
  • Pray daily for vocations to the Oblates.
  • Reflect upon and write your own vocation story, and experience of ministry and community life and how you’ve come to know God in it. Send this to the vocation office for use in various promotional efforts.
  • Preach or speak publicly at least twice a year on the subject of vocations. Tell your vocation story – people love to hear our stories. Invite your hearers to share their stories and start a conversation about how God works in our lives.
  • As appropriate invite potential candidates to join you in your ministry, and to join you at your table and in your chapel. Let them get to know you.
  • Finally, reflect on your life as an Oblate or Associate. Where are you living your commitment well, and where is there room for change and growth? Recommit to the non-negotiables of community life.

St Francis famously said to his brothers, “Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” This is good and inspiring advice, but when it comes to vocation ministry it is not enough. To be sure we must live lives that are themselves a joyful invitation, but if we believe that the church and the world still has need of our charism today we must all of us be explicit about inviting people to join us… and in this work of invitation, words are necessary.



A home away from home

Within the community of the Oblate parish of St. Joseph in Ottawa, there is a day program dedicated to the needs of vulnerable women. “St. Joe’s Women’s Centre” first opened its doors on May 6, 1984, to meet the needs of vulnerable women who were sleeping in a make-shift shelter or living on the streets of Ottawa. Many of the women had lost contact with family members for a variety of reasons such as mental illness and addictions.

A unique family began to emerge, one made up of Centre and parish staff, volunteers and women from all walks of life. Many of these women were searching for a safe and non-judgmental environment which they would, with time, call their “home away from home”. The age of the women coming through our doors ranged from 16 to 80 years of age; with such a large span of ages the needs of the women were equally diverse.

In the beginning our means were meager and we strived to do our best for those who relied on us each day. We opened at 9 a.m. and served a light breakfast, hoping that someone would arrive at our doors with a hot lunch for the women. The coffee pot was brewing all day and there was always someone there to listen. All of this took place on the second floor of the Oblate Hall in a small space that had previously been used for storage. The Centre would close its doors for the evening at 10 p.m., at which point the women would walk down Laurier Avenue to the make-shift shelter for the night.

With time the City of Ottawa recognized our endeavors and offered emergency funding to assist us with staffing and the purchasing of food and other items that the women desperately needed. And just as the women relied on us for support, we too relied on our community for donations of clothing, toiletries and food. We were often overwhelmed with the generosity of their many donations, which frequently included money to purchase whatever was needed.

In June of 1989 the Centre moved from the small upstairs space of the Oblate Hall to our present location. This space was previously the kitchen, dining room and other rooms of the residence for Oblates who lived upstairs and served at St. Joseph’s Parish. This move brought even more women through our doors. We now had the space for offering different services and programs. Over time we saw the range of our population expand to women who were at risk of being homeless, women living in subsidized housing or rooming houses and those who were couch-surfing (sleeping from one friend’s couch to another friend’s couch) and we began to see women with their children.

It was quite evident to us that, with a shift in our population, we needed to look at programs, services and community partnerships that could enhance the overall quality of life for some of our newest family members. We believed that quality of life included being able to have access to laundry facilities, an emergency grocery program, a nutritional hot meal, the services of in-house nurses who specialize in addictions, mental and chronic health issues, and a social work advocate who would help them attain social assistance and lost identification cards.

Now in 2011, our space has spread out to include a clothing and computer room, a playroom for the children, two full bathroom facilities with showers, staff offices and the availability of several of the parish meeting rooms and the parish hall for our events and programs. Today the staff is made up of a director, a coordinator of volunteers and student placements, a front-line worker, a family resource worker and a part-time cook. Programs being offered include yoga classes, a walking club, arts and crafts, children’s programs, New Beginnings and a variety of workshops. (By Marsha Wilson, Director, in www.omilacombe.ca)



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