A “NEW BEGINNING” IN AIX
On February 21, 2013, Fr. Louis LOUGEN, the Superior General, officially inaugurated the new apostolic community at the birthplace of the Congregation. He spoke to an assembly of Oblates and other members of the Mazenodian family.
It is a very special moment to be here with you at this time. I am here to install Father Saverio Zampa as the new Superior and to bless you as an apostolic community. It is a new beginning for this key community in the Congregation and we are filled with joy. This is the fruit of many years work and the reflection of many Oblates since the time of the previous General Administration. We have committed ourselves to preserve this house as a center of animation for the Oblate charism and as a center of missionary labor both within these walls of the Mission Chapel and outside in the city of Aix.
I am grateful to Father Yves Chalvet-de-Récy, Provincial of the Oblates of France, and his Council for the close cooperation with the General Administration in making this transition possible and smooth. I would like to remember with gratitude so many Oblates who have ministered here throughout its history, especially those in recent years when the transition began. I am deeply indebted to the Oblates who stayed here in the interim, especially Father Jean-Pierre Caloz, until the new community members arrived. Brother Benoit is to be especially recognized and thanked for the crucial role and heavy responsibilities he has had during this long transition period. I am grateful to the members of the Central Government, Fathers Paolo Archiati, Chicho Rois, Rufus Whitley and Marc Dessureault who generously gave themselves to bring this project to fruition along with Mr. Bertrand Morard and other professional people who assisted us.
A special word of thanks has to be said to each of you, the new members of this community. I am grateful to you, Father Saverio Zampa, Brother Benoit Dosquet, Father Joseph Bois and Father Joseph La Belle for your generous availability and daring spirits to come to Aix for this project. Each of you brings many fruitful years of Oblate life and mission to enrich this Oblate community of 60 cours Mirabeau as it begins a new chapter of its history. I also want to express my gratitude to your Provinces of origin for their support when I called you to come here.
I am grateful also to you, our close friends, the Mazenodian Family. Your interest, support and prayer express in a deep way our unity in the charism of Saint Eugene. He counted on lay men and women right from the beginning of his missionary involvement. This relationship has a long history and we hope that it continues to our mutual enrichment. Brother Benoit has told me how much work you have done during the remodeling of 60 cours Mirabeau. Thank you so much!
Indeed, this is an evening of gratitude! It is especially good to give thanks to God who has moved so many people to bring about this new beginning for the Oblate community of Aix. I would like to remember some words written by our former Superior General, Father Jetté: “Eugene de Mazenod felt this need for community living right from the beginning of his little Society; he established life in common even before he required the religious life. He saw it as essential and that for two reasons: as a support and stimulus in our effort to be saints and as a means of stability and efficacy in our missionary activity. He did not intend to group together a number of freelancers: he wanted to establish a real corps – an elite body, - a community of priests and Brothers who are able to live together under the same program and to work together in the Lord’s vineyard” (O.M.I. The Apostolic Man, by Fernand Jetté, O.M.I., 1992, pp. 53-54).
In light of Father Jetté’s words, I would like this community to help each of you become saints and to serve as the base for an efficacious mission: animating the Oblate charism; ministering from the Mission Chapel; and discerning other future missionary activity. Your life in common must be characterized by a deep communion with Jesus Christ and likewise a deep communion among you. This communion is never a closed or inward-looking reality. Our communion of life is “the means of stability and efficacy” for mission, to reach out in service and to announce the Gospel to the poor and abandoned. I am convinced that if you live the mandate of charity given us by the Founder, you will be fired with missionary zeal. Let all your activities flow from a united community that seeks God’s will today and discerns, reflects, discusses, plans, evaluates together. This will be a prophetic call to the Congregation and society.
I have a special relationship with you. I am called to be the successor of Saint Eugene at this time in our history and to establish this community under the General Administration. Just as Saint Eugene was so connected to the first group of Oblates here, I want to be close to you to support you, encourage you and love you. Perhaps the first community at Aix found such a connection with Eugene de Mazenod a bit overwhelming! But I think you know what I mean. I will pray every day for you and at Oraison I will be specially united to you.
We are preparing for the Bicentennial of our Congregation in 2016. It is an important time for us to continue to respond to the 2010 Chapter “Call to Conversion.” The community of Aix and the Central Government, sparing no effort, must work close together so that all who seek to live the Oblate charism will hear and respond to the call that “we are in need of a profound personal and community conversion to Jesus Christ.”
I bless this community for the missionary generosity with which each of you has come. I bless you for your love for the Congregation and the Oblate charism. I bless you for your desire to live De Mazenodian charity and zeal, to be nothing less than saints. I bless you and pray that the Founder’s passion for Jesus Christ, for the Church and for the poor will burn in your hearts.
At the end of a talk we have a custom of remembering Our Lady. I dedicate this community to Mary Immaculate, “Mother of our apostolic community,” and pray that she may be among you as she was among the disciples gathered in the Cenacle at Pentecost. Her presence invites us to “…personal intimacy with Jesus…, to care for one another as brothers and to love the people to whom we are sent to proclaim the Good News” (Witnessing as Apostolic Community”# 45).
The Church is living two great ecclesial events at this time which I would like to remember as we begin this community in Aix because they are very connected to us as Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate: the Year of Faith and the New Evangelization. I recall the depth and beauty of our Constitutions and Rules which consider Mary as “the model of the Church’s faith and our own” (C10). This short phrase links our journey of faith with Mary. This community, inspired by Mary, will assist Oblates and others to deepen their faith and develop their relationship with Jesus the Savior, the basis for the mission of evangelization.
The theme of New Evangelization evokes Pope Paul VI’s precious reference to Mary: “May she be the Star of the evangelization ever renewed which the Church, docile to her Lord’s command, must promote and accomplish, especially in these times which are difficult but full of hope!”(EN 82). Yes, we are graced to live in a challenging and fascinating period. We are filled with hope. Under Mary’s tender protection, this community and its mission will nourish and renew the faith of all who come here and spark the passion for mission and evangelization in our challenging times.
Mary Immaculate, Mother of our Apostolic Community, pray for us!
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