By Fr. James Allen, OMI
On August 1 each year, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate celebrate the birthday of their Founder, St. Eugene de Mazenod. From his earliest days as a priest, he dedicated much of his zeal and enthusiasm in preaching Christ to the youth of Aix.
The year 2013 marked the 200th anniversary of St. Eugene’s Association of Christian Youth. In his diary of March 31, 1839, he recalled: I therefore answered the Bishop of Metz that my sole ambition was to dedicate myself to the service of the poor and the youth. I made my first debut in the jails, and my training consisted in surrounding myself with young people whom I instructed. I trained a good number of them in virtue. I saw some 280 of them gathered around me, and those who today still remain faithful to the principles that I had the happiness of instilling in their souls and who do honor to their faith in every rank of society or in the sanctuary, will uphold for a long time, either in Aix or in the other places where they are dispersed, the reputation that this congregation had rightly acquired for itself while I was able to care for it.
St. Eugene received an early birthday gift this year. Prior to World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, some 1,200 youth and volunteers from 29 countries gathered, as a warm-up to the Rio event, in Aparecida, Brazil, to celebrate Oblate World Youth Days. On July 19-22, they prayed and sang and danced together under the banner of St. Eugene’s love for the poor. And they spent serious moments reflecting on their own vocation as young men and women in today’s world.
In one of his talks to them, Fr. Louis Lougen, OMI, Superior General, encouraged and challenged them. Among other things, he said:
“An area of great importance today is information technology. It is a world that needs to be evangelized and needs to become an instrument of evangelization. I am an immigrant in this new land. But you young missionaries were born in this era and are natives in the land of information technology. You must introduce the values of the Gospel to this new region of the world which is sometimes against Jesus. You must also, with the audacious spirit of Saint Eugene, imagine new ways that information technology and the communications revolution can be used to proclaim and spread the Gospel. Use your gifts, illuminated by the Holy Spirit, to find new and creative ways to evangelize. Be at the service of those excluded from this territory, especially the poor and marginalized.”