GENERAL ADMINISTRATIONOblate Consultation Library
In recent months I have set up a library of Oblate literature that can be easily consulted by our students. There is, in the house, a wonderful historical "Oblate Library” that brings together a large number of works by Oblates, works in all fields of interest, from theology to astronomy, from psychology to ethnology, from pastoral to paleontology, but it is not easily accessible and is organized by author, not by material.
The "Oblate Consultation Library,” as I have called it, is much simpler and, as a whole, easier to consult, especially because it is always open to everyone. The books are arranged by subject: biographies of Saint Eugene; his writings and those of his companions; Rules; Superiors General; General Chapters; studies about Oblate spirituality; history of the Congregation; biographies of famous Oblates. It was inaugurated on December 7 and is already being used.
It is dedicated to Father Marcel BERNAD (1860-1928). Born in France, since his youth he studied and taught in Ireland and then spent the rest of his life at the scholasticate in Liege. He was always interested in studies; among other things, he composed a 500 page work on the doctrinal formation of theology students. During the first centenary of the birth of the Congregation, he published a systematic Oblate bibliography, containing 4,000 titles. He also published the first photography album with many historic photographs of the origins of the Oblates, today no longer available otherwise.
"The Oblates of Mary Immaculate,” he wrote, "like the apostles, have received the mission not to write but to preach: Evangelizare pauperibus misit me. To this, they have remained faithful. The number of missions and retreats that they have preached greatly surpasses the books they have written.” At the same time, he recognized that "by writing, the Oblates have done missionary work. Thus, no one will complain if they have written some books; rather, we can get the impression that they have not written enough.”
That is what St. Eugene thought too: "It is through the spoken word and not the written word that conversions happen in great numbers.” But he also had the impression that the Oblates did not study enough. "Who could exempt from this duty priests or religious, who must not only be the salt of the earth, but also the light of the world?” He especially pressed upon the young men "not to neglect their studies, not only of theology and philosophy, but also of literature… They should know their own language well and practice using it. It will be time well spent. Make fire erupt from the stone; but for that, it is necessary to hit it: the spark comes from the blow.”
Then, when he opened the foreign missions, he began to ask the Oblates to write, to write, to write…and to publish, so as to make known all the wonders that the grace of God was accomplishing through them.
The photo of Marcel Bernad is located on the wall of the new library (not by chance, he is shown with a book in hand!). Next to his photo are the photos of three famous Oblate writers, the first two great biographers of St. Eugene, RAMBERT and RAY and the first great historian of the Congregation, ORTOLAN. Between them, there is also the almost unknown photo of the sister of St. Eugene, put there only out of affection…
Finally, there is the document that marks the beginning of the Oblates, the application for authorization addressed to the Vicars General of Aix by the five who wanted to live together, dated 25 January 1816. An easy way to celebrate the bicentennial of its birth. (Fabio CIARDI)
Fr. Roberto SARTOR, the treasurer of the General House, writes about the ongoing work of repair and remodeling at via Aurelia 290.
General House: The first part of the outside work on the entry side of the house has been completed with the installation of new windows, repair of the roof, and the façade completely redone and repainted. Now we are completing the second part, on the rear side. The scaffolding is still covering the façade for the new plaster and paint; the windows of the refectory, the Secretariat and the General Archives have been changed.
International Scholasticate: A major work has been completed at the International Scholasticate; there is a new boiler for heating and for hot water. These will begin functioning in a short time, thus making the scholasticate independent in that aspect.
The Guest House: A new, large construction site has been opened at the Guest House, to remodel it, internally and externally, in order to be able to accommodate a religious community of Sisters who are expected to arrive in September 2016, to reside in this building for a period of 12 years or so.
Crypt / Archive: In the large crypt too, after having been emptied of books and bookcases, there are major works in progress. So far, the work has focused on demolition to make spaces suitable and sufficient to become the seat of the new General Archives. We are trying to preserve the mosaics in the chapels that were formerly used for individual Masses and which represent images of Mary, Queen of the Oblate missions: at the North Pole, in the Philippines, at the Shrine of Pontmain, and especially the big mosaic in the apse, representing St. Joseph, St. Eugene de Mazenod and Pope Pius XII, the reigning pope at the time of the construction of the General House (1949-1950). During the work, we have made a lovely discovery which expresses how much the Congregation loved the pope: behind the altar of the crypt dedicated to St. Joseph, we found two large boxes filled with prayer intentions which the missionaries in Sri Lanka offered at the time of the golden jubilee of priestly ordination of Pius XII in 1949: prayers for his personal intentions from the schools, colleges and parishes.
The new financial year of the General Administration for 2016 will be the moment for assessing and planning the extent to which we can continue this project of restoration and renovation of the house.
Despite all these works going on, the life of the community, after the inconvenience of noise and abundant dust due to the change of the windows in the rooms and in the offices and in some common rooms, seems to hold steady, with its rhythm of studies, administrative services, conferences, meetings and various committees.
The virtues of fraternal charity and patience by everyone in the house help to maintain calm and peace, including for the treasurers who are always being put to the test.