Photos and story by Will Shaw with Geri Furmanek, National Director, Mission Enrichment and Oblate Associates
On Saturday November 4, 2017, the Oblate Associates of Our Lady of Refuge Parish and the Mission Churches of Our Lady of Lourdes and Our Lady of Guadalupe in Eagle Pass, Texas, conducted a retreat for those who had just completed a year of formation.
This group of Oblate Associates began in 2015, and after a 12-month formation process about 20 individuals made their first commitment on July 9, 2016. Some of those first Associates took on the task of planning and coordinating the formation of new Associates which lead to this latest retreat and commitment Mass, all done in collaboration with Fr. Paul Dass Selvaraj, OMI, and Geri Furmanek, National Director of Oblate Associates.
Eagle Pass has three Catholic parishes and all three are run by Oblates: Pastor Jim Fee and Fr. Paul Dass Selvaraj administer Our Lady of Refuge, along with the mission churches of Our Lady of Lourdes and Our Lady of Guadalupe; Fr. Lawrence Mariasoosai is pastor of Sacred Heart; and at St. Jospeh’s is Fr. Richard Kulwiec. All three parishes and the two missions now have Oblate Associate groups. 39 new Associates made their commitment at Sacred Heart Parish on May 21, 2017 after formation and a retreat.
National Director, Geri Furmanek, came in to conduct the retreat and also arranged for the group to receive a special visit from St. Eugene himself, as channeled by Will Shaw. The Mass afterward would welcome the newest members making their first commitment, and provide an opportunity for the current Associates to re-commit for another year.
As it turned out, the Oblates of Eagle Pass were also receiving a visit from new U.S Provincial, Fr. Louis Studer over the weekend. Fr. Studer made time to drop in on the retreat and graciously agreed to celebrate the Mass and preach the homily.
Utilizing the spoken word, media and individual faith-sharing, the retreat focused on Oblate spirituality, St. Eugene de Mazenod, and the spiritual journeys experienced by the Associates themselves. Ms. Furmanek also ‘previewed” the Year of Oblate Vocations, which begins throughout the world-wide Oblate congregation on December 8, 2017 with the theme: “‘Come and See!’ (John 1:39): Focusing on the Joy and Generosity of Our Oblate Life.”
Eagle Pass has an exceptionally active and enthusiastic community of about 70 Oblate Associates. “The success of the groups and these retreats are all due to the participation of the Oblate Associates, the depth of their sharing, the ongoing work of the various coordinators, and the collaboration between the Oblates and the National Office. Fr. Paul Dass Delvaraj and I were in constant contact prior to this weekend, and that kind of preparation really helps to make it a special day for the Associates,” said Ms. Furmanek.
Back at the National Office of Oblate Associates in Belleville, Illinois Ms. Furmanek won’t have a lot of time to savor the event, she’s scheduled to be back in Eagle Pass in January, 2018 for another retreat and Commitment Mass for Oblate Associates who are completing their formation at Fr. Richard Kulwiec’s St. Joseph’s Parish. No doubt many of the Associates from other faith communities will be on-hand to embrace the Oblate spirit and celebrate with them.