Being Close to the People: Practicing the Hospitality of God

By Lucie Leduc       Originally Published by the Missionary Oblates of the OMI Lacombe Province in Canada on OMILACOMBE.CA

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Bishop Sylvain Lavoie

You, you alone will be the sole object to which will tend all my affections and my every action…. I wish to love you alone and all else in you and through you.

Frank Santucci, OMI – Eugene de Mazenod Speaks to Us, www.eugenedemazenod.net, Nov. 3, 2015, quoting St. Eugene de Mazenod, Notes made during the retreat in preparation for priestly ordination December 1-21, O.W. XIV n.95

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My years of experience journeying with and in friendship with the Oblates is enveloped in the two woven threads of God as guest and host. The journey begins with welcoming people where they are at as Beloveds of God; hosting them with a very real and warm hospitality at the supper table, the Eucharistic table, the table of the heart and the many other places of encounter. Friendship and mutuality grows as Oblates share their lives as humble guests in the lives of others. After hosting and giving, they turn to being nurtured and receiving from others in a growing mutual self-giving. The bonds, once formed, and very much in the spirit of St. Eugene’s words quoted above, grow into an ever deepening communion of life-giving intimacy.

My own journey with the Oblates began some thirty years ago. As a young, single mother of three, I was welcomed at their tables and into the heart of their charism and mission. I was inspired by their missionary tales of ministries in the North and across Canada, in South Africa, Kenya, Peru, Guatemala, and so many other places. I, too, grew to share table and mission with them. It follows that I would eventually work in their retreat centres, first at Queen’s House in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and now at Star of the North Retreat House in St. Albert, Alberta, and that a ministry of hospitality would suit me.

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Before this sounds all too good to be true, there is a shared understanding that real life, intimacy, and friendship is chock full of challenges, struggles, and crosses to bear. Growing in closeness with people reveals weakness everywhere! Not the least of which resides in myself. We learn to bear these together. The stronger bear up the weaker, and in true gospel reversal, the weaker bear up the stronger. It works in a context of shared faith and an openness on all sides for the greater good of community life to channeling the love of God through the whole body.

Working with people in retreat ministry is a growing extension of these experiences. As an Oblate Associate now, what has been formed in Oblate community becomes practice in ministry. Hospitality is key to developing a closeness with people of all walks of life. Whether we meet people on a spiritual journey, or people seeking a safe place to gather, our ever growing aim is to practice the hospitality of God.