A SIGN OF SURRENDER OR OF HOPE?
It was a very busy afternoon at the Oblate house in Vermicino (Rome) that saw the birth, on May 20, of the new Mediterranean Province, composed of the former provinces of Spain and Italy and their respective delegations and missions: Senegal, Venezuela, Uruguay, Romania and Sahara.
The first part was dedicated to showing the many members of the Oblate Family who were present the various areas of the Oblate mission in which the two former provinces have been engaged until now: evangelization and secularization; evangelization and youth; evangelization abroad; evangelization and the poor.
Then there was the celebration of the Eucharist in the languages spoken in the territories of the new province: Spanish, Romanian, French and Italian.
At the beginning of the celebration, the two ex-provincials of Italy (Fr. Nicola PARRETTA) and Spain (Fr. Otilio LARGO) addressed the assembly. The former affirmed that, during these years that led to the unification, he had the distinct sensation of being guided by the Spirit. The latter emphasized that it is certainly a moment of great joy with exciting possibilities, even though each one is being called to lose something of the past. He added: “Now it’s up to us to live according to the expression of St. Ignatius of Loyola: Pray as though everything depended on God and work as though everything depends on you.” From their statements, it remained clear that, although the unification of the two provinces might have been the result of reduced numbers, the signs of hope abound.
Father Louis LOUGEN, Superior General, then read the Decree of Erection of the new province, adding at the end a bit of humor: “I am not the creator of this marriage, but only the celebrant.”
In his homily, commenting on the phrase from the Gospel of the Solemnity of the Ascension, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature,” (Mark 28:19) Fr. Louis said, among other things: “As Oblates of Mary Immaculate, our missionary vocation has its origin in these words of Jesus. We hear this call and seek to respond to it with our entire being. Like our Founder, Saint Eugene de Mazenod, we have personally experienced the gracious and unconditional love of Jesus the Savior in our own lives. It is this experience that we have discovered is Good News and we are sent to share this experience with others. We want people to know Jesus […] You, the Oblates of Italy and Spain, have Saint Eugene’s spirit of bold daring in choosing life and seeking new ways to respond to the present reality. You have done this to remain faithful to the Oblate charism and for the good of the mission. I have no doubt that God has guided you in this choice.”
The celebration was enriched by many symbolic gestures. A letter from one of the Spanish martyrs was carried to the altar at the beginning of the Mass. During the offertory, on the other hand, there was brought forward a strawberry plant as a symbol of the union of the provinces of Spain and Italy. This Mediterranean plant is in fact the symbol of the city of Madrid and also, according to the Italian poet Giovanni Pascoli, symbol of the Italian flag because of its unusual characteristic of having at the same time green leaves, white flowers and red fruit. Into the earth around this plant presented during the celebration was mixed earth coming from the first two Oblate communities in Spain and Italy: Diego de Leon and Santa Maria a Vico. Then there were presented bread and honey, symbols of the promised land.
Fr. General also gave the first obediences for the Mediterranean Province to Fathers Enzo MACCHIA and Lucian BOSOI and to Brother Valentin VRINCEANU. As a surprise, he also gave another obedience: to Fr. Saverio ZAMPA, currently from the Vercelli community, who will be the first superior of the new community at Aix-en-Provence.
The celebration concluded with a greeting and words of thanks from Fr. Alberto GNEMMI, the new and first provincial of the Mediterranean Province: “The Eucharist just concluded summarizes the significance of this moment. It speaks to us of the unity of the body. God, who from two peoples makes one, appeals to us: to remember Jesus Christ, who is our treasure and whom the world desires, without even having met him, in the face of a Christianity that -- let’s admit it -- has shortness of breath.”
Working with Fr. Gnemmi will be his Provincial Council: Frs. Gennaro ROSATO, Ismael García, Adriano TITONE, Eutimio González, Aldo D’OTTAVIO, Alberto Ruiz and Ciro ANDREOZZI.
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