EUROPECelebrating 200 years !
One of the most faithful OMI bloggers is Fr. Fabio CIARDI, Director of the General Service of Oblate Studies (http://fabiociardi.blogspot.it/). Here he describes the three day festival of the Oblates and their associates in Italy for the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Oblates.
700 x 200 do not equal 140,000 but they equal a great party! From all over Italy, 700 persons came together at Sacrofano, in the beautiful Roman countryside, to celebrate the 200 years since the birth of the Oblates.
There were three days of events, sharing of experiences, performances and prayers to thank God for having given to the Church this great charismatic family, which for two hundred years has been seeking to bring far and wide the proclamation of the Gospel, humbly and in simplicity of life.
A handful of Oblates were there and lots of lay persons that share the charism, the spirituality and the mission. In many, many parts of the world this year, there have been such celebrations and now it was the turn of Italy.
The arrivals themselves showed that we are part of a large family. We see some of them often and some of them we had not seen for years. But there was that immediate recognition, as if the same blood is flowing in our veins.
The youth were in charge of Saturday evening. They talked about their experiences in Cracow for World Youth Days; they sang their songs. No one pretended that the level of artistry was that great, but they are our young people and we feel at home with them; it felt like family, with a simple and real joy.
The highlight of Sunday morning was a conference by the historian and biblical scholar, Andrea Lonardo. We had invited him to speak to us to get a reading on St. Eugene and his missionary story from the point of view of an outsider, placing him primarily within his history time-frame. It was a beautiful presentation with a great effort to make the message current. His fundamental premise was the holiness of St. Eugene and his foundation: "Holiness is an essential element in understanding the faith. The saints are the genuine interpreters of the Gospel. There is no holiness without mission. Personal holiness cannot be separated from the holiness of others.”
Even the arts reminded us of our beginnings. In the evening, there was a musical performance of "Mite” and his band. The musical about the apparition in Lourdes, "Aquero” was just the right touch for the day, as well as a delightful impersonation of Saint Eugene and the missionary story of the Oblates.
But the celebration was not limited to thought of the beginnings. It was especially a sharing of the experiences of today, of a life that goes on, of the mission as it is lived by our people in their day to day lives. There were profound and intense moments of prayer, such as two hours spent in prayer and meditation, walking through woods bathed in the sun. At a given moment, the people began to remember, calling out the names of so many Italian Oblates they had known and who are now in heaven. We felt that they were again present and one with us.
May these 200 years become an encouragement to move onward and to carry forward the ideals of the beginnings.
In Ukraine, the Missionary Oblates launched the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Congregation on 25 January 2016, by feeding more than 300 homeless persons in the streets of Kyiv. Over the course of the year, the Oblate parishes in Ukraine had their own special celebrations. As the anniversary year moved towards its conclusion, all the Oblates working in Ukraine, Crimea and Russia came together for a retreat on 14-19 November 2016.
While they would have liked to travel to Aix-en-Provence for the retreat, that was not possible. Therefore, they invited Aix to Ukraine by inviting the superior of the Aix community, Fr. Krzysztof ZIELENDA, to preach the days of recollection. The topic was: "In the midst of the Oblate charism.” In addition to the conferences, there was time devoted to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The retreat concluded with a visit from the President of the Bishops’ Conference of Ukraine, Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki of Lviv. He concluded his visit by solemnly handing over the relics of the great witness of charity, Pope St. John Paul II.
Writing on behalf of the Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Mokrzycki said: "Reverend Father, Superior of the Delegation! Through you, I would like to convey greetings to the whole Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate on the occasion of the great 200th anniversary of existence of your religious family. It is no accident that 200 years ago, on the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, your holy Founder Eugene de Mazenod, along with several other priests, began the apostolic activities of a new religious community.
"It seems that the Apostle Paul was very close in spirit to your Founder. One could think so, based on the similarity of their lives, remembering, for example, their conversion that opened them to God and the Gospel. Choosing this way of life, St. Eugene de Mazenod described it thus: ‘The Lord has sent me to evangelize the poor.’ Such was the need of the time and the conditions of the Church and the world.
"That was 200 years ago, and today we see the relevance of those words and the need for your ministry in the universal Church. The vocation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate to proclaim the Gospel to both the spiritually and materially poor is needed in Ukraine. For 27 years now, the priests of your Congregation have been a sign of faith for the people of our country.\
"By gift of Divine Providence, your anniversary takes place during the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Divine Mercy, thus emphasizing the Lord’s great love for all people and that the Almighty longs and looks forward to our doing the same. May your pastoral ministry lead believers to the gospel, provide a helping hand to the poor, and plant signs of love through which the faith and the hope of God's people might be strengthened.
"Thanking you for your service in Metropolitan Lviv, your sacrifice and your testimony of a holy life, I commend you to the care of Mary Immaculate, and I ask Almighty God to give you generous gifts of blessing and peace.”
As a sign of gratitude for the zealous service of the Missionary Oblates in Ukraine, the archbishop presented to Fr. Pavlo VYSHKOVSKYI, the Delegation Superior, a memorial medal on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the restoration of the structures of the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine.