GENERAL ADMINISTRATIONFrom Notre Dame du Laus until today
As part of the Jubilee of Mercy, on October 8-9, there will be a special event honoring Mary, the Mother of God. Many of our Oblate Marian shrines will probably commemorate this event in a special way. It is not surprising that this Congregation with a special devotion to Mary serves in 21 Marian Shrines. The Oblates also serve in 6 other shrines dedicated to various mysteries of Christ or of the saints. Perhaps there are even more! Some of these shrines were established by the Oblates themselves. Other shrines, such as the world-famous Shrine of Our Lady at Lourdes, France, have different origins, but the Oblates have been called to minister there.
We are celebrating this year the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Congregation when St. Eugene de Mazenod and a few diocesan priests came together primarily to evangelize through the preaching of parish missions. Essentially, they were working only in Provence and were still attached to their bishops. However, in 1818, the Missionaries of Provence received an invitation from the Vicar General of the Diocese of Digne to take charge of ministry at the Shrine of Notre Dame du Laus in the High Alps, some 160 km from Aix. It included the care of a parish community.
Our Lady of Lourdes, France
That would mean an entirely different type of ministry for Eugene de Mazenod’s missionaries. But even more significantly, since they would no longer be ministering only in Provence, the very nature of their community life would change. In well researched articles found on our international website (www.omiworld.org) under the "Library” link, Fr. Michel COURVOISIER goes into interesting detail about the soul-searching the missionaries went through and their ultimate decision to take on a new way of preaching missions at a Marian shrine. The Founder also decided to take some time at St-Laurent du Verdon to write a revised rule of life to fit their new circumstances of having more than one community. In effect, they were gradually becoming a congregation of religious. (1818-1819 Le projet de fondation au Laus et ses conséquences [in two parts]; texts in French only)
Our Lady of the Snows, Belleville, IL, USA
In August 2012, Fr. Frank
SANTUCCI wrote in the blog "Eugene de Mazenod speaks to us” (http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?p=1621)
an article entitled: "The prototype of Oblate Shrine and Retreat House
Eshowe Ngome Shrine, Vryheid, South Africa
"Notre Dame du Laus was the first establishment of the Missionaries outside of Aix and it was a Marian sanctuary: a place of pilgrimage and a place where people came for some days of retreat. Because it was our first, it remains the prototype for this ministry in the five continents of the Oblate world today and sets the direction.
Shrine of Notre Dame du Laus, France
"It was first of all a place of ‘PERMANENT MISSION’. In other words, all that the Missionaries worked to achieve when they went to a town for a prolonged mission, they hoped to achieve during the short time spent by the pilgrims to the sanctuary. Sometimes in the space of a few hours!
Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto, Tamontaka, Philippines
"The pilgrims came to honor Mary and to express their devotion to her. Building on this, the missionaries, made the experience of being with Mary an opportunity to focus with her on Jesus the Savior. All our Marian shrines were to be Christocentric.”
Some 197 years after the acceptance of shrine ministry by the Missionaries of Provence, the sons of St. Eugene de Mazenod continue to offer a place of peace and healing to men and women of many, many cultures.
It was in 2008 that the first ever International Oblate Congress on the Mission with Youth was held in Sydney, Australia. It was mainly to re-emphasize that the ministry with young people is of great importance in our Congregation. Eight years later, the second such Oblate Congress was held in Aix-en-Provence, France, from the 7th to the 12th of March 2016.
Five participants from each Oblate region, both Oblates and youth, along with Fr. Louis LOUGEN, the Superior General and several members of the General Administration, gathered there to initiate a process to develop a missionary vision and a strategy for the coming years concerning the Congregation’s mission with youth.
Following Cardinal Cardijn’s methodology for Young Christian Workers, "See-Judge-Act”, the Congress discussed the Congregation’s future plans for mission with youth with much interest and enthusiasm. The first two days were dedicated to SEEING. The participants, together with Fr. General and Fr. Gilberto PIÑÓN, Assistant General, discussed common trends among youth today and how far, at present, the Congregation responds to these trends.
The third and fourth days were dedicated to JUDGING. Fr. Bonga THAMI from the community of Aix helped the participants discern their own call to the service of youth in the light of the life of St. Eugene de Mazenod. These talks were complemented by our visits to the cities of Aix and Marseilles. Frs. Asodo ISTOYO and Bonga were our ‘tour guides’. These visits reiterated the fact that the Founder had a great concern for the youth of his day. The highlight of the visits was the Holy Mass celebrated at the tomb of St. Eugene in the Cathedral of Marseilles; Fr. General presided at the Mass.
The final phase of the Congress was ACTING. Focusing on the results of the discussions of the previous days, the participants divided into small groups where they would discuss and develop concrete proposals for various areas of concern. Finally these proposals were gathered together and formulated into a final draft as a proposed working document for the Oblate Mission with Youth in the coming years. At the end, in an atmosphere of prayer in the Foundation Room, the participants signed a letter to the whole Congregation and it was then presented to Fr. General.
Special thanks go to Fr. Chicho ROIS, the General Councillor for Europe, who was the main organizer of the event and to all the members of the community of Aix. (Fr. Shanil JAYAWARDENA)
The General Committee of Oblate Brothers gathered in Aix-en-Provence on February 11-20, 2016, for a meeting that was fraternal and strengthening in its sharing. Present for the meeting were: Jean-Marie DIAKANOU (Africa-Madagascar), Noel GARCIA (Asia-Oceania), Ivar Ruiz (LATIN AMERICA), Jason Rossignol (CANADA-USA), Rafal DAKOWSKI (Europe), Zygmunt WOLNIAK (General House), Jacques LANGLET (France), Benoit DOSQUET (Permanent Secretary), and Gilberto PIÑÓN (Assistant General, Delegate of the Superior General).
The Aix community made a presentation on the beginning of Oblate fraternal life in the Congregation. We had the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to Marseille and on February 17, we made a day of retreat at the Shrine of Notre Dame de Laus to celebrate the expansion of our Congregation outside of Provence and the community where we received our first vocation of an Oblate Brother.
The committee also took time to share the regional reports from the respective delegates. These reports included not only the statistical data but also presented various issues and concerns. Since each delegate will also participate in the 2016 General Chapter, we prepared various documents, statements, and other materials necessary for the Chapter in September/October.
The committee also spent some time studying the recent Church document: "Identity and Mission of the Religious Brother.” This document presents not only a theological framework for religious Brothers but it also very clearly explains how crucial the vocation and presence of religious Brothers is in male religious communities. The document illustrates the foundational truth that all Christians, by virtue of Baptism, both brothers and sisters, share the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Accordingly, religious Brothers express it in a special way through their consecration. Thus, both religious Brothers and priests fulfill the mission to evangelize through community. "Ministry is not a personal ‘task’ but a call from Jesus Christ to BE in community.”
While the previous meeting recommended a workshop on Oblate fraternal life, at this meeting, as a follow-up to the document "Identity and Mission of the Religious Brother,” it was decided to prepare a retreat on Oblate Fraternal Life. At the request of the General Council, this retreat will be proposed to the Regions.
The committee extends a special thank you to the community of Aix for providing us with Oblate hospitality, translations, and leading us in prayer.