Oblates and Oblate Associates from all over the U.S. and Mexico converged on King’s House Retreat and RenewalCenter in Belleville, Illinois from May 1 – 4 for the 3rd National Gathering of Oblate Associates.
Geri Furmanek, National Director of Mission Enrichment and Oblate Associates, commented on the make-up of this year’s attendees: “Since the last National Gathering in 2009, Associates from 10 new areas have been formed and of those areas five were represented at this meeting. “ Associates attending this year’s meeting came from the states of New York, Florida, Massachusetts, California, Texas, Connecticut, Missouri, Louisiana, Illinois and Minnesota, as well as the country of Mexico. Live translation for Spanish-speaking A A A ssociates was provided by Fr Daniel Le Blanc, OMI, who took time out from his busy schedule at the U.N. to provide simultaneous translation.
The busy agenda began with prayer and a visit from St. Eugene as impersonated by Will Shaw, followed by a wonderful dinner prepared by Chef Todd Schrage, and the Dietary Staff of the Apartment Community of Our Lady of the Snows. The Associates were joined by several Oblates from the local community.
Presentations which were live-streamed over the internet began on Friday morning with an opening and welcome titled, “The Triennium and Oblate Associates” from National Director, Geri Furmanek. Fr. James Allen, OMI gave the Associates a thorough overview of the Oblate Congregation which included details about world regions, Provinces, the General Administration, numbers of Oblates and men in formation.
Fr. Frank Santucci, OMI gave his two-part presentation titled, “Eugene’s Central Experience of God” followed by Evening Prayer and oraison. The King’s House staff prepared a splendid dinner after which the Associates enjoyed the rest of the evening with Fr. Santucci.
Saturday morning a bus arrived to take the Associates on a one-hour trip to the Oblate Novitiate in Godfrey, Illinois. There they were welcomed by Oblate Fathers, Tom Horan, Rudy Nowakowski and Jack Lau along with our three Novices. Fr. Horan shared a media presentation with the group about the Novice program and our three Novices, James Raja (India), Nchimunya Haakakata and Paul Kunda (from Zambia) followed up with reflections on their experiences. The Associates also snacked on gluten-free cake and a bread native to Provence, France created by Fr. Jack Lau.
Since the Oblate Ecological Initiative’s CommunitySupportedGarden is on the grounds of the Novitiate, Fathers Rudy and Jack gave the Associates a tour of La Vista Farm on what turned out to be a beautiful day, on this site overlooking the Mississippi.
After a box lunch the bus set off again for a drive-by of the 630-foot tall Gateway Arch before heading to the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows. Shrine Director, Fr. Tom Ovalle, gave the visitors a personal tour of the Church and other Shrine devotional areas including: the Millennium Spire, the Amphitheatre, ResurrectionGarden, Our Lady of Guadalupe Hill and Lourdes Grotto.
Back at King’s House there was a celebration of the Eucharist, dinner, Evening Prayer and ritual to wrap up a very busy and illuminating schedule. More than one Associate went away feeling they had learned more about St. Eugene and the Oblates in 3 days than in all their previous experience with Oblates and their ministries.
Sunday morning, the Associates began scattering once again to the four winds, taking a re-energized “Zeal for Souls” back to their respective groups.