EUROPEEuropean Joint Session in Pozuelo
The Joint Session of the European Oblate Interprovincial Conference (CIE) with the Central Government recently took place in Pozuelo, Madrid, on 13-17 April, as about 50 Oblates gathered from across the region to meet around the general theme of Discerning a New Spirit – Beginning a New Journey.
In the five days together, there was open sharing of experiences of mission, plenty of discussion around the issues facing Oblates in Europe today and a respectful listening to and learning from each other. Fr. Ray WARREN, as Acting President of the CIE, set the tone in his welcome address in which he recognised that for this encounter, we are a community together. A sense of fraternity, openness to each other and free discussion characterised the days spent together. Each day comprised prayer and the Eucharist in the chapel dominated by an image of the 22 Oblate Martyrs (and one layman), presentations on particular themes followed by small group discussions and plenary sessions, plenty of conversation over the table and social time together. Judith King, a laywoman from Ireland, acted as facilitator and kept us focused on the task with her competent and gentle presence.
Fabio CIARDI led us in a day of retreat, speaking on the theme of Prophets of a New World. Drawing from the Constitutions and Rules, the experience of St. Eugene, and scripture, he helped us reflect on our mission to proclaim the Word in the light of the changing face of Europe. Fr. Pierre de Charentenay, SJ, helped us reflect on The Church and Europe Today, beginning with the provocative statement that “Europe was a Christian continent”. To respond to the situation today, the Church needs to deepen its spirituality, remain faithful to the Gospel, live more authentically and bring light upon what others would prefer to hide.
Three main themes were addressed during the Joint Session. The first, on Crossing Borders, looked at the experiences of a growing number of Oblates from elsewhere who come to work in the European mission, with testimonies from Fr. Joseph RAJ and Fr. Alex JOSEPH. Ways of better integrating such Oblates into the mission were explored as were the induction process for both the Oblate and the receiving community.
The second theme derived from the
call of Pope Francis; a morning was given over to discussion of Going out to those on the peripheries’, a
rich concept for Oblates called to evangelise the poor and most abandoned. Fr. Leo PHILOMIN spoke of his mission in
Darndale, a parish on the periphery of Dublin where he saw his task as “keeping
alive the flame of faith”.
The third theme concerned Oblate structures in Europe. The Provincials of France (Fr. Vincent GRUBER), Mediterranean (Fr. Alberto GNEMMI) and Central Europe (Fr. Stefan OBERGFELL) spoke of the good and bad experiences of unification. Fr. Chicho ROIS spoke of the process involved, stressing that restructuring must be to improve Oblate life and mission and that it can’t succeed without conversion and the engagement of every Oblate. Various scenarios and implications were discussed and it became clear that for restructuring to proceed, there was a need for Oblates in Europe to have a change of mind-set, to look beyond national identities as primary, and to see themselves as Oblates first, at the service of mission.
Father General addressed the assembly on the last day, blessing and encouraging the Oblates of the Region. He made three calls: to find more ways to interrelate and integrate across the European Region, East and West; to create a vocations strategy for the Region; and to create 8-10 communities, international in character, places of intense living of the Oblate charism, engaged with lay people and committed to mission to those on the peripheries of Church and society. (Kevin MCLAUGHLIN)
For the fifth time, the Oblates will be hosting special “Oblate World Youth Days” in conjunction with the international WYD that will take place in Krakow, Poland, on 26-31 July, 2016. The Oblates of Poland are inviting young people associated with the charism of St. Eugene de Mazenod, to come together in Wroclaw on 20-25 July. Wroclaw is the largest city in western Poland. It is situated on the River Odra in the Silesian Lowlands of Central Europe, about 145 miles / 233km from Krakow.
During the Oblate event, there will be catechetical sessions; meetings with the Oblate superior General, Fr. Louis LOUGEN, and the Provincial of the Polish Province, Fr. Antoni BOCHM; a Festival of Nations; concerts; skits; and the Way of the Cross.
Preparations for the Oblate youth festival are under way. Fr. Tomasz, MANIURA, Oblate youth coordinator, has been asked to be in charge of the preparations. A website and registration materials are being prepared.
This will be the fifth meeting of Oblate youth in connection with a World Youth Day. Previous gatherings took place in Germany (2005), Australia (2008), Spain (2011) and Brazil (2013).
The 2016 Oblate
WYD will have special significance since that will be the year of the 200th
anniversary of the founding of the Congregation. From the very beginning of
this band of missionaries, the members shared their faith, their mission and at
times, even part of their home with young members of the Christian Association
The origin of World Youth Day goes back to an encounter of Pope St. John Paul II with youth at St. Peter’s Square in Rome.
In 1984 at the
close of the Holy Year of Redemption, over 300,000 young people from around the
world responded to the invitation of Pope St. John Paul II for an International
Jubilee of youth on Palm Sunday in St. Peter’s square. Looking out to the crowds who answered his invitation he said,
“What a fantastic spectacle is presented on this stage by your gathering here
today! Who claimed that today’s youth has lost their sense of values? Is it
really true that they cannot be counted on?” It was at this gathering that the
Holy Father entrusted to the youth what is now known as the World Youth Day
Cross, to be carried throughout the world as a symbol of the love of Christ for
The following Palm Sunday, coinciding with the United Nation’s International Year of the Youth, Our Holy Father took the opportunity to welcome the youth of the world to Rome again. Later, he announced the institution of World Youth Day on December 20, 1985, and the first official WYD was held in 1986. (http://worldyouthday.com/)
Further information will be provided, as it becomes available from the organizers of Oblate World Youth Day. (http://wyd2016omi.org/en/oblackie-sdm-2016/)