520 - March 2012
February 3rd, 2012 - February 21st, 2012



The Oblates and the Roms

Some “small things” are “bearers of hope.” Marcel ANNEQUIN, stationed in Orly, tells us of one which, for him, is worth more than all the gold in the world.

Since October 2008, I am part of a support committee for Rom families, in conjunction with the association “Romeurope.” Actually, in Orly, there are five families (20 persons) on land where they have built huts. A request for their removal was filed by the city. In June, the High Court issued its decision, deferring the enforcement of the eviction notice for one year in order to give them time to find a suitable alternative.

With the support committee, in negotiation with the mayor’s office, we made some progress: schooling, residence at the Communal Social Action Centre, job seeking, access to showers, rat control, access to a health center, and family aid.

I have become close to the families who are super-friendly.

In one family, Mugurel is in fifth year of high school. With two other Rom teens from Sucy en Brie (Madalina and Ancuta), Mugurel recently received, in the context of the 2009 Stockholm Junior Water Prize, the first prize, called “Land Action,” for having cleaned the banks of the Seine several times with the association, Organization of Ecological Rescue. Since 1990, the organization conducts collection operations on the banks of the region of Paris, pulling in tons of garbage, from a supermarket trolley to the carcass of an automobile.

Mugurel and two other Rom teens were selected for this award, given by the Swedish Embassy. The three teens, in France for three years, were all proud to receive their prize of a thousand Euros in the elegant salons of the embassy.

The person who presented the award spoke from the heart. “These Rom people live without running water, without electricity, sometimes, as at Orly, close to the largest water plant in the Paris region. The school children are also good examples to their French comrades. They sort the waste; they have forged ties with their local townships. They have made sculptures with plastic bottles and scrap metal, and they have shown them publicly.”

Mugurel is proud to tell me: “We climbed down on ropes; we gathered everything we found and put it into garbage bags. I do this so that things will be clean for everyone. For receiving the award at the embassy, there were the consul and journalists. We told what we had done. We were even on television.

“What I would like to have now is a real house for the whole family. We are five families here. What we need most is running water.” The paradox: the encampment is a few steps from the water treatment plant! And it would be enough to have a pump for a waterline at the entry into the street where they live.

“What I would like to say to everyone is this: don’t throw away anything on the banks of the Seine or in nature. It is important to keep the earth beautiful.” (Marcel Annequin dans Audacieux pour l’Evangile, janvier 2012)

Relic of Blessed John Paul II in Koden

On December 26, 2011, feast of the martyr St. Stephen, a relic of Blessed John Paul II – a drop of his blood – was solemnly received at the Basilica of St. Ann in Koden. Presiding at the Eucharist was the local Oblate Superior, Fr. Bernard BRIKS.

The relic is a gift of His Eminence, Cardinal Stanslaw Dziwisz, Archbishop of Cracow, to the Discalced Carmelite Monastery in Koden. It was brought into the basilica by Sister Anna Kosinska from the Carmelite community.

At the beginning of the Eucharist, Fr. Briks read the documents attesting to the authenticity of the relic. He also thanked the Carmelite Sisters for allowing the faithful of the Koden shrine to venerate this precious relic of the beloved Polish Pope.

In his homily, Fr. Roman NISIEWICZ recalled important events in the life of John Paul II. After the Eucharist, the many faithful present came forward to venerate the relic.

At the basilica, the faithful also venerate an image of the Virgin Mary, believed to have been painted by St. Augustine of Canterbury at the request of Pope St. Gregory the Great. The icon was brought to Koden by Nicholas Sapieha in the seventeenth century. In 1946, Karol Wojtyla was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Adam Sapieha, Archbishop of Cracow. Pope John Paul II gave the Marian Shrine of Koden some vestments and liturgical vessels.

In the future, the relic of Blessed John Paul II will be honored in the basilica during important celebrations and during the pilgrimage season from May to October. (www.oblaci.pl)

Remembering the “Uncle Fathers”

In the sixties almost every Flemish family had an "Uncle Father”: bearded men with many tall tales to tell in homes, schools or parish halls. They told about a life in the 'missions', inspired by the ideal spreading the Good News. Most of them worked as missionaries in the Congo. Canvas, a Flemish television station, is presenting “Uncle Father”, beginning on January 24; the series allows the missionaries to tell their story in eight thematic episodes. Among the missionaries taking part in the series are two Oblates of Mary Immaculate: Fr. Daniel DELABIE and Bro. Hugo VAN DEN BROECK.

Most of them left by boat from the quay in Antwerp. They took leave of their fathers and mothers, wondering whether they would ever see them again. And after a long journey, they wound up in a country that they knew about only from books and photographs.

Between 1950 and 1960, there were over 2500 missionaries active in the Congo: Missionhurst (CICM), Jesuits, Oblates, White Fathers, etc. They worked among people, many of whom had not previously seen a white man. They built roads, schools, churches, hospitals and their own houses. They found themselves living among wild animals and they were bewildered by unfamiliar rituals and customs. Flanders seemed so far away; they were homesick and they looked forward to letters from home.

But they did help to change the Congo, sometimes at the risk of their own lives. When they finally returned to Belgium, the former colony had become an independent but impoverished country.

Father Daniel Delabie was born on August 7, 1933 in Marke, the son of a flax merchant. Fascinated by the stories of missionaries working among the Indians in Northern Canada, in 1952, he entered the Oblates. He was ordained a priest in 1958 and one year later set out for the Congo. He worked primarily in Central Congo, in the region of Idiofa. During the struggle for independence, he had to deal with the growing distrust of whites, but despite this, he remained at his post. In 2002, he returned to Belgium. Now he lives in the Oblate house in De Panne .

Brother Hugo Van den Broeck was born on April 3, 1927 in Ekeren. His father was an official at the port of Antwerp. He joined the Oblates as a Brother in 1949. In May 1954, he went to the Congo. He taught for ten years at a technical school, but when that school was sacked by riots, be took on other work, especially building dams, hospitals, schools and churches. Because of problems with his eyesight, he had to give up that work. In 1997, he returned to Belgium and he too lives in the Oblate community of De Panne.

A new province being born

Fifty-six Oblates (37 Italians and 19 Spaniards) met on January 16-18 for a joint assembly in view of the unification of the Oblate provinces of Italy and Spain.

Most of the work was devoted to the discussion and approval of the “Statutes of Unification” which will govern the new “Mediterranean Province” to be born from the coming together of the Spanish and Italian provinces. The statutes have now been sent to the Central Government for their approval and will be then returned to the new province for an experimental term of three years.

The two presidents of the Assembly were the two provincial superiors: Fr. Nicola PARRETTA (Italy) and Fr. Otilio LARGO (Spain); the moderator was Fr. Salvatore DE GEORGE from the United States. Also present was Fr. Yves CHALVET, provincial of France and president of the provincial superiors of Europe, as well as some members of the General Administration.

Fr. Louis LOUGEN, the Oblate Superior General, presided at the concluding Eucharist; also present were laity and youth from the Roman Oblate family.

The official beginning of the new religious province, the “Mediterranean Province,” will happen at some time in 2012. The new province will comprise 253 Oblates involved in the evangelization of eight nations. (P.C.)

First Oblate house inaugurated

Since January 27, 2012, the Oblates in the Czech Republic (part of the Central European Province) have their own house. Previously, they had lived in parish rectories.

Located in Tabor Kolokoty, the house has seven rooms for Oblates and guests, as well as all the other facilities for community life. It is only a few hundred meters from the Shrine of the Virgin Mary of the Assumption which is under the care of the Oblates. There are four Oblates in the community, coming from the Czech Republic, Austria and Poland. Three of them are in engaged in ministry to the parish and to pilgrims; one of them is engaged in another ministry.

In his homily, the provincial, Fr. Thomas KLOSTERKAMP, stated that with the inauguration of the new house was not the completion of a project but an opening to the future. “When missionaries build a house,” he said, “then the work begins.” (Nachtrichten, February 2012)

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