EUROPEThe Church of Marseille celebrates St. Eugene
On Saturday, May 21, Marseille celebrated the 150th anniversary of the death of Saint Eugene de Mazenod, its bishop from 1837 until 1861, and the Founder of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1995.
During the day, some 120 pilgrims walked the footsteps of St. Eugene to Saint-Ferréol, to the Old Gate, to the Calvary of the Accoules, to the neighborhood of the Panier and to Notre-Dame de la Garde. Afterwards, a Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated in the cathedral by the Archbishop of Marseille, George Pontier, surrounded by Cardinals Roger Etchegaray and Bernard Panafieu and by Fr. Louis LOUGEN, Superior General of the Missionary Oblates.
A procession and a prayer at the tomb of the saint closed the celebration, after the singing of the Salve Regina and the presentation of a small statue of St. Eugene to Archbishop Pontier.
That was the point of departure for his journey to sainthood, or at least the point of departure of his conversion, of his change of life, of his journey toward priestly ministry.
This evening, we hear Eugene de Mazenod tell us, with St. Paul: “When I came among you, I did not come to announce the mystery of God with lofty human language nor with wisdom. While among you, I wanted to know nothing other than Jesus Christ, the Crucified Messiah.”
Let us too leave aside our spiritual routine. Let us contemplate Christ on the cross. Let us allow ourselves to be touched by the depth of God’s love for us. Let us understand that the superficiality of our lives or of our faith can only lead us to bitterness and deception. Let us be taught by Christ, by the wisdom of the cross, by the power of a life devoted to others, by the infinite love of God for each one of us and for all humanity.
It is in this ceaselessly renewed contemplation that Eugene de Mazenod will place his apostolic zeal, his concern for those who are the little ones, the marginalized. We know that he will never stop organizing parish missions for which he will gather around himself missionaries who will one day become the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. His shepherd’s heart will focus on the most abandoned: domestic servants, peasants, those condemned to death, victims of cholera. He will preach to them in Provençal so that they can understand in their own language that God loves them so much that his dearly beloved Son shed his blood for them too, especially for them. The attention he paid to these little ones will shock those of his own social milieu, just as it still shocks today, especially when concern for them rankles the so-called social balance. His commitment was not political. It was spiritual, in order to live after the manner of his dearly beloved Master and Lord, Jesus Christ, who had come to seek out the suffering and lost sheep.
His motto as a bishop was “Pauperes evangelizantur”, “The good news is being proclaimed to the poor.”
Let us also draw from our contemplation of Christ’s love for all people the zeal needed to proclaim to all their dignity as children of God, and especially to those for whom the material conditions of life could make them doubt: the refugees, the imprisoned, the jobless, the underpaid, the sick, and so many youth who are almost discarded into the trap of easy money. How can we touch each one, how can we see them as Christ sees them? How can we recognize in their faces the features of the suffering Christ? How can we commit ourselves for them and with them?
It was also in this contemplation of the heart of Christ, pierced on the cross for the salvation of the world, that Eugene de Mazenod could hear the call of the far-off missions and would send the first Oblates of Mary Immaculate to Canada, then to Sri Lanka, to South Africa and to the United States. He always took the broad view.
Today’s realities are different. Continuous migration and the breaking down of progress make our own countries the place for first evangelization and of interreligious dialogue. Nor do we forget for a minute the concern for sharing between Churches. Today, four diocesan priests have been sent on mission elsewhere.
During his time as bishop, the population of the diocese doubled. He responded to these changes by creating new parishes and by fostering a missionary spirit among his clergy. He had the wonderful idea of building the present basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde and of starting the construction of our cathedral consecrated to Our Lady of the Assumption. His devotion to the Virgin Mary was deep. The Congregation which he founded has been placed under the protection of Mary Immaculate. Mary…he meditated on her at the foot of the cross as she brought to completion her “yes” at the Annunciation. He saw her assenting to the trials of her Son as she joined her “yes” to His “yes” to the Will of the Father. Eugene de Mazenod would live, united to Christ and the Virgin of Calvary, the trials that he would undergo during his life and ministry. And they did not go lacking!
May Saint Eugene de Mazenod accompany us today! May he intercede for us! May he keep our hearts turned toward the heart of Christ who made of His own life a gift in order to save us from a life that is meaningless, hopeless and inhuman! Learning from him, may we be filled with apostolic zeal for making known to all their dignity as beloved children of God! May our communities be fraternal, open, rooted in the Word of God and the celebration of the sacraments! May they overflow with love and attention to the poor and the unfortunate! May they take care that the Good News be proclaimed to the poor!
May the Virgin Mary, Notre-Dame de la Garde, Mary who stood next to her Son even at the foot of the cross, may she encourage our hope by her faithful, motherly and loving presence! May her beloved Son fill our hearts! May we always have the desire to live in Him, for Him and like Him!
On May 13, 2011, the former General Treasurer, Fr. Alfons KEUTER, went to his eternal rest in Hünfeld, Germany, at the age of 72. He had been a professed Oblate for 52 years.
He was appointed General Treasurer in 1988 by the Superior General of the time, Fr. Marcello ZAGO, and his Council. He served the Congregation in that role until 2001.
Fr. Keuter’s expertise as an accountant extended beyond the ordinary administration of the Congregation’s finances to activities like organizing training sessions for Provincial Treasurers and creating projects like the O.I.P. and the Capital Sharing Fund. The latter have led to greater sharing in the Congregation and helped local Oblate units to manage better their financial resources. He traveled to all corners of the Congregation to help the various treasurers in various ways, especially with new forms of reporting that make possible a consolidated financial report for the entire Congregation. At the General House, he managed a five-year renovation project which included the replacement of the electric and hydraulic systems, the creation of new office space, private baths and repainting of the entire interior.
After his tenure as General Treasurer, he went back to Germany. In the Central European Province, he served as Director of the Retreat Center in Hünfeld. There too he managed a huge project for the renovation of the house. At the same time he was the first national director for the OMI Associates. In 2010 he moved to the Oblate house in Aachen. From there he preached a number of retreats for religious sisters. Since his return to Germany, the General Administration asked him, on several occasions, to go to various Oblate Units in order to provide financial advice. His last trip was to the Congo in January 2011.
In his last three months, Alfons suffered from an “unknown” sickness, a bacterial tropical infection he may have contracted as much as 15 years ago. It affected his brain and caused a stroke and epilepsy. He was hospitalized for the last three months. After Easter he fell into a coma. He spent the last week of his life in the Oblate nursing home in Hünfeld.
On May 24-29, there
was a meeting of the European Interprovincial Conference (CIE) at Hünfeld,
Germany. All of the European Provincials, Superiors of Delegations and Missions
were present. Assistant General, Fr. Gilberto PIÑÓN as well as the General
Councillor for Europe, Fr. Luis Ignacio ROIS were also present. Fr. Adriano
TITONE served as facilitator of the meeting and Fr. Fabio CIARDI was the
During the meeting, the major superiors reflected upon the call of the last Chapter to conversion in order to revitalize the Oblate mission on the European continent. Decisions concerning different initiatives were taken, above all concerning Oblate formation and youth ministry.
Fr. Thomas KLOSTERKAMP finished his mandate as the president of the European region. Fr. Yves CHALVET DE RÉCY, provincial of France, was elected as the new president; his councilors are Fr. Ryszard SZMYDKI, provincial of Poland, and Fr. Georges VERVUST, provincial of Belgium-Holland. The new secretary of the region is Fr. Angelo CAPUANO from Italy.
Even though the number of Oblates in Europe is diminishing, the outcome of the meeting was a sign of hope for the future. The assembly unanimously named these priorities: greater involvement in formation (first as well as ongoing) and in youth ministry. It was emphasized also that, besides the issues of Oblate ministry and management of material goods, much more important are personal contacts within the European reality, especially those at the inter-provincial level. (Wojciech KLUJ, outgoing European Secretary)
The last spring event in Kokotek (Youth Formation Centre – Polish Province) offered a whole kaleidoscope of activities, attractions and… whims of the weather! The 14th Oblate Youth Convention together with a parish picnic was organized by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and the Youth Association, NINIWA. More than 1,000 persons assembled in the Niniwa Formation Centre (including about 200 young people from all over Poland).
From the April 30 to May 3, spiritual retreat days focused on the theme of a quotation of Blessed John Paul II: “To preach the Gospel from the roof tops”. On Sunday, the beatification ceremony put special emphasis on the pope’s words of encouragement to young people so that they would not be afraid to be witnesses of God. The holy Mass concelebrated by more than ten priests was an important point in the Monday schedule. Bishop Jan Wieczorek presided at the Mass and prayed for Fr. Ludwik Konieczny, the founder of the centre in Kokotek and the head of the parish for 36 years, who celebrated his 80th birthday.
As an additional attraction, there were concerts by two groups: “30 i 40 na 70” [30 and 40 per 70] and “Trąbki Jerycha” [Jericho Trumpets]. Moreover, the play “Kaleidoscope” was staged by a youth group from Iława. The weather was also changing like a kaleidoscope! The sunshine, rain, frost at night, snow on Tuesday! Fortunately, the proper precautions had been made and the outdoor events were held without any problems. In the convention 13 oblates participated, including the Provincial, Fr. Ryszard SZMYDKI. (Fr. Błażej MIELCAREK)
On May 4, Fr. Acacio VALBUENA, the retired Apostolic Prefect for Western Sahara, died. His missionary service was as broad and diverse as his life. He worked in Argentina; he was a provincial, a novice master and an Apostolic Prefect.
On February 25, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI had accepted his resignation from the pastoral care of the Apostolic Prefecture of Western Sahara, submitted because of his age.
Acacio Valbuena had governed this Apostolic Prefecture since July 10, 1994. Born in the town of Horcadas - León on May 8, 1922, he was ordained a priest on March 17, 1945.
He was a hard worker, dedicated and generous, outgoing and realistic. A great Oblate has left us. His funeral Mass was celebrated at Diego de León on May 6. Afterwards, his body was taken to Pozuelo de Alarcón. (Nosotros OMI)