GENERAL ADMINISTRATIONCongress on vocations to missionary life
Beginning on 7 July, some 32 Oblates coming from all the continents took part in a Congress on vocations to missionary life, one of the events organized by the Central Government during the bicentennial year of our foundation. Fr. Réjean VIGNEAULT from the Notre-Dame du Cap Province wrote this report on the congress.
We remember that three years ago, Father General invited us to enter into a Triennium to celebrate the jubilee of our 200th anniversary of foundation. Since then, many activities have taken place to highlight this great event. As part of the bicentennial, it was obvious that we should look at our involvement in the developing and formation of candidates for Oblate life. This is why two congresses were held, including one on our mission of ministry with youth, held in March, and the one that brings us together now, concerning vocations to Oblate life. Father General, in his letter for the opening of the Triennium that began with the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception December 8, 2013, confirmed the need for vocation ministry as something vital for the Congregation.
We are 32 participants, coming from practically 30 different Units; the Aix community has welcomed us into this holy land of our Oblate origins. Everything began with a word of welcome from our Superior General, Father Louis LOUGEN and from Fr. Cornelius NGOKA, Assistant General in charge of formation.
Father Lougen reminded us that our coming to this Congress on vocations to missionary life is a reminder that we do believe in the future. Therefore, we are gathered in this place to deepen our family spirit. The Oblate Spirit is unique and remarkable for our community. Knowing that our vocation ministry is so important, it is necessary that all our confreres remember this ministry in prayer.
"Come and see,” the theme for our meeting, allows us to hear Christ once again and also our Founder who challenges us in this "holy land.”
After the presentation of the program, we gathered around a small fire and lit small candles which we carried in procession to the chapel of the vows. There, we celebrated the opening liturgy of our congress.
For the following two days, nourished by prayer and celebrations, we started listening to the experiences of vocation ministry in our respective communities. They were intense days and rich in experiences of all kinds. For some, there is an abundance of wealth in manpower and material; for others, there is poverty humbly shared, but for all, the main thing is this: "Come and see.”
For two days, Brother Paul Bednarczyk, of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, spoke to us about the importance of discernment and accompaniment in our vocation ministry.
On the following days, we came to a better acquaintance with the first confreres of our holy Founder: Fathers Suzanne, Courtès and Marcou, Albini and Baveux. We went to Fuveaux and celebrated in the native village of Father Suzanne, a fruit of the first Oblate missions.
Thursday was a day of retreat. We spent the day in silence and we went to the Church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Seds for Eucharist. In the evening, before the Blessed Sacrament, we put our young aspirants into the hands of the One who calls us. During this entire time, we were accompanied by our confreres from the Aix community.
On Friday, during an evening liturgy, each participant signed the petition that the Founder and his companions had signed and sent to the Vicars General of Aix, two hundred years ago. On Saturday, 16 July, a pilgrimage to Marseille gave closure to the Congress. Father General sent us into our mission and blessed us with the cross of the Founder.
The Secular Institute of the Cooperator Oblate Missionaries of the Immaculate (COMI: Cooperatrici Oblate Missionarie dell’Immacolata) spent ten grace-filled days (19 – 29 July) at the foundation house of the first Oblate community in Aix-en-Provence.
The first part was dedicated to the biannual report on the work accomplished by the General Directors. Immediately afterwards, the COMI took part in spiritual exercises in the footsteps of St. Eugene de Mazenod, wisely guided by Fr. Fabio CIARDI, Director of the General Service for Oblate Studies. Then, at the end of the retreat, there was a meeting of the General Council.
Special moments in these days were the missionary send-off of two COMI who will be opening a new mission in Argentina, the renewal of temporal vows by three COMI and the 50th anniversary of oblation of one member.
This experience provided the opportunity to return to the font of the charism of St. Eugene and to live, with renewed missionary zeal, the COMI vocation in the world, on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the founding of the OMI Congregation.
For each COMI, it was a great gift to be welcomed into the "motherhouse”, thanks to the fraternal and warm welcome of the OMI community in Aix, and to have a special opportunity to live concretely among ourselves the commitment and the grace to be "one heart and one soul, "as St. Eugene recommended to his children.
The COMI, founded by the Oblate, Fr. Gaetano LIUZZO on 22 August 1951, as the "feminine face of the Oblates,” were granted papal approval in 2001. Currently, they are present in Italy, Congo, Uruguay and Argentina.