FATHER GENERAL’S LETTER FOR FEBRUARY 17, 2014
Gratitude to our Oblate Brothers
L.J.C. et M.I.
Dear Brother Oblates,
Blessings for a Happy Feast Day! This is a day of great thanksgiving for the grace of our vocation. Thank you for your missionary lives of generous service and dedication, lived in so many challenging ways and making known the Good News all over the world! I thank you for your life-giving oblation. I would like to recognize also the rich collaboration and mutual interaction between vowed Oblates and Associates inspired in the charism of St. Eugene around the globe.
On this special feast in the first year of our Oblate Triennium, dedicated to a new heart in Apostolic Community and to reflection around the vow of chastity, I would like to say a word on the vocation of Oblate Brothers. This topic also follows on my letter of December 8, 2013, regarding vocations. Last year the Central Government dedicated substantial time to study the vocation of Oblate Brothers. In seeking the renewal of our religious life, the Oblate Triennium calls us to recognize an essential dimension of our charism: the vocation of Oblate Brothers. It is not just ‘really great’ to have Brothers in the Congregation; they are necessary to who we are as Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. If we do not have religious Brothers among us, the Congregation is not what it should be.
When the Church approached the Millennium, Pope John Paul II publically requested forgiveness of many different groups in the Church. I don’t believe he asked forgiveness of religious Brothers. In this letter I, as Superior General, would like to ask forgiveness of our Oblate Brothers for the mistreatment, lack of respect, discrimination, and oppression of many kinds with which Oblate Brothers have been treated in the Congregation over decades. We priests, superiors and formators were often lacking in humanity and charity toward Oblate Brothers. We have sinned and I ask you to forgive us.
While there have been many advances made in how we live in common as Brothers and priests, and in our understanding of the vocation of Brothers, we still need a change of mentality. There exist misunderstandings and disrespectful ideas about Brothers in areas such as the discernment of Brothers’ vocations; the formation and accompaniment of Brothers; the necessity of Brothers in the Congregation; the role of Brothers in a clerical congregation. I urge each of us to examine our lives and attitudes and to ask for the grace of conversion in growing to appreciate the person and mission of Oblate Brothers.
When the Union of Superiors General was preparing for our visit to Pope Francis at the end of November, 2013, one of the concerns we raised with him was that of religious Brothers. He lamented the lack of a real understanding of this vocation in the Church today. With us he is concerned about the rapid drop in the number of Brothers in the Church and the great loss this signifies. When it was announced that 2015 will be dedicated to Consecrated Life, he told us that during this year a special emphasis has to be given to the place of religious Brothers in the life of the Church.
On this feast day I invite us all to consider a sign of conversion in relation to Oblate Brothers. We can begin by expressing our gratitude to the Brothers among us for their lives and their mission. In organizing its vocation ministry, each Unit might envision how it can encourage more vocations to the Oblate Brotherhood. Each Unit could see how it can implement the Congregation’s formation program for Brothers so that no young Brother is ever left abandoned to an improvised formation program. Let us find ways to cherish the memory of Oblate Brothers who have gone to the Father’s House. I would like each Oblate Unit to consider reclaiming the Solemnity of Saint Joseph each year as a special day to pray for, celebrate, and raise consciousness about, the vocation of Oblate Brothers. A simple sign of change would be to cease using “Oblate Fathers” to identify ourselves. A phrase such as “Missionary Oblates” or the like might be an alternative. We ask the Holy Spirit to help us in rediscovering, understanding and affirming the vocation of Oblate Brothers in our Congregation.
Happy Feast Day!
Rome, 17 February 2014
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