CELEBRATING ST. EUGENE IN POLAND
By Fr. Louis Lougen, OMI, Superior General
The 150th anniversary of the death of St. Eugene continues to be celebrated throughout the world. On October 28 and 29, I was privileged to participate in two days of celebration in Poland with many other Oblates, lay people, priests, Brothers and Sisters from Poland, from all over Europe, from Canada and from the Delegations and Missions of Poland.
On Friday, October 28th, there was an International Conference in Obra, entitled “From the French Revolution to the New Evangelization”. This conference was sponsored by the Department of Church History, Faculty of Theology, of the Adam Mickiewicz University of Poznan and the Oblate Scholasticate in Obra. This conference considered the charism and mission of St. Eugene de Mazenod on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of his death.
Three hundred participants filled the auditorium for a full day of twelve lectures. The conference was opened by Fr. Ryszard SZMYDKI, Provincial of Poland, and he warmly welcomed all those present. Fr. Pawel ZAJAC, responsible for organizing this stimulating day, then gave an introduction to the French Revolution and the personal remembrances of Eugene de Mazenod. Professor Roberto Regoli of the Gregorian University in Rome gave incisive input on Napoleon Bonaparte’s relationship to the Catholic Church. Dr. Rafal Dobek, of Adam Mickiewicz University, expounded on the union of the altar and throne in France since 1825, a very relevant theme for Eugene de Mazenod’s mission. This was complimented by an in-depth presentation on anti-clericalism in 19th century France given by Prof. Andrzej Chwalba from Cracow’s Jagiellonian University.
After a brief break, we entered directly into a biographical narrative of St. Eugene’s life by Fr. Pawel LATUSEK, of the Scholasticate in Obra. This was followed by a delightful and very personal perspective of Eugene de Mazenod, his family and personal contrasts, given by his sister’s descendant, Mr. Bertrand Morand of Aix-en-Provence. Fr. Fabio CIARDI, from the General Administration, gave us a deeper understanding of Eugene’s missionary method, away from Jansenism and closer to the Savior.
After lunch, Eugene de Mazenod and the influence of the French school of spirituality was presented by Fr. Kazimierz LUBOWICKI, of the Pontifical Faculty of Wroclaw. A look into Eugene’s relations with the Jesuits gave us a deeper appreciation for the ties we have with the Society of Jesus and this was the work of Fr. Robert Danieluk, S.J., of the Society’s Roman Archives. Fr. Frank SANTUCCI, from the Aix-en –Provence community, then gave us an understanding of the pastoral work of Eugene as Bishop of Marseille.
Fr. Marek ROSTKOWSKI, from the Rome’s Pontifical University Urbaniana, helped us understand the significant Oblate contribution to missiology. From Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University, Warsaw, Fr. Jaroslaw ROZANSKI, gave a presentation on eminent Oblate missionaries. Fr. Franck Santucci brought the day to a very fitting conclusion by relating the charism of St. Eugene to the new evangelization. Fortunately, these talks, which were replete with information, insights and questions to be deepened, will be published so that the entire Congregation may reap the benefits of this International Conference.
On Saturday, October 29, the celebration of the 150th anniversary of St. Eugene’s death continued, moving from the academic sphere to liturgical, spiritual and artistic expressions. More Oblates, many lay people and religious from Oblate parishes and ministries arrived and we began the day with the solemn celebration of Morning Prayer of Pastors, commemorating St. Eugene. Fr. Kazimierz LUBOWICKI preached a homily centered on St. Eugene’s relationship with Jesus Christ. Later that morning, a festive celebration of the Eucharist presided by Bishop Eugeniusz JURETZKO, of the Diocese of Yokadouma, Cameroun, followed in the old baroque church of Obra. Everything in the liturgy was just as St. Eugene would have liked it. Fr. Fabio CIARDI, leaned over to me at one point and whispered in my ear, “These Oblates are proud to be Oblates!”
In the afternoon, we were participants of two special programs: a theatrical production and a concert. A play, “Eugene de Mazenod’s Leaflet” written and produced by “Nineveh”, the Oblates’ youth movement from Katowice, was the first event. It was a representation of Eugene today, ministering to the broken and poor and leading others to find passion in Jesus and to become announcers of the Gospel of the Savior’s mercy and love. This was extremely well portrayed, very creative and current; the message resonated in the hearts of the audience. I am impressed at the capacity of the young people to identify with St. Eugene and his message and to communicate it in such a powerful and inspiring manner.
When the play was over, we went almost immediately to church for the musical concert. The church of Obra was packed and the renowned Polish musical group, “Gang Marsela”, performed a variety of popular and religious music. The band presented several songs inspired in the life of St. Eugene and his experience of the cross, his love for the poor and his ministry of compassion. At first the strains of modern pop music seemed to be in stark contrast to the ancient ornate church. Yet, the music conveyed the eternal message of God’s love revealed in the cross of our Savior and touching our lives today.
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