It was in 2008 that the first ever International Oblate Congress on the Mission with Youth was held in Sydney, Australia. It was mainly to re-emphasize that the ministry with young people is of great importance in our Congregation. Eight years later, the second such Oblate Congress was held in Aix-en-Provence, France, from the 7th to the 12th of March 2016.
Five participants from each Oblate region, both Oblates and youth, along with Fr. Louis LOUGEN, the Superior General and several members of the General Administration, gathered there to initiate a process to develop a missionary vision and a strategy for the coming years concerning the Congregation’s mission with youth.
Following Cardinal Cardijn’s methodology for Young Christian Workers, “See-Judge-Act”, the Congress discussed the Congregation’s future plans for mission with youth with much interest and enthusiasm. The first two days were dedicated to SEEING. The participants, together with Fr. General and Fr. Gilberto PIÑÓN, Assistant General, discussed common trends among youth today and how far, at present, the Congregation responds to these trends.
The third and fourth days were dedicated to JUDGING. Fr. Bonga THAMI from the community of Aix helped the participants discern their own call to the service of youth in the light of the life of St. Eugene de Mazenod. These talks were complemented by our visits to the cities of Aix and Marseilles. Frs. Asodo ISTOYO and Bonga were our ‘tour guides’. These visits reiterated the fact that the Founder had a great concern for the youth of his day. The highlight of the visits was the Holy Mass celebrated at the tomb of St. Eugene in the Cathedral of Marseilles; Fr. General presided at the Mass.
The final phase of the Congress was ACTING. Focusing on the results of the discussions of the previous days, the participants divided into small groups where they would discuss and develop concrete proposals for various areas of concern. Finally these proposals were gathered together and formulated into a final draft as a proposed working document for the Oblate Mission with Youth in the coming years. At the end, in an atmosphere of prayer in the Foundation Room, the participants signed a letter to the whole Congregation and it was then presented to Fr. General.
Special thanks go to Fr. Chicho ROIS, the General Councillor for Europe, who was the main organizer of the event and to all the members of the community of Aix. (Fr. Shanil JAYAWARDENA)
Youth United with Oblates Around the Heart of
St. Eugene de Mazenod
At the end of the Congress, Father General and the other participants signed the following letter to the greater Oblate Family:
Sunday, March 13, 2016
Dear Oblates, Lay Associates and Oblate Youth,
God has much to do with Youth and their joy. This is a truth that St. Eugene de Mazenod felt at the beginning of his priestly ministry and it was, in part, through his work, with and for the youth, that the Oblates were born. This is why, we Oblates from around the world, with Father General, Louis Lougen OMI, his council members, Lay Associates and Youth Representatives gathered in Aix, in the year of the Congregation’s 200th anniversary of existence, to further articulate and re-elaborate our Ministry with Young People at the Second International Congress on Mission with Youth.
We acknowledge the importance that the Oblate youth gatherings before the International World Youth Days have had in underlining the vital place of youth in our mission, and are strengthened by the changes that came to be through the Chapters of 2004 and 2010, where the mission of the youth was re-centralized and emphasized in our Constitutions and Rules. We recognize the great efforts made world-wide after the First International Congress and see the fruits of efforts put forward to put youth ministry back as a central priority in our missions. We want to thank all those Oblates, lay and youth, who have made this happen, but we also realize that a lot still needs to be done. The problems of our young people need to receive central attention. Seeing no meaning in life, they are without hope for the future, but in this difficult reality, youth have a special role to play, particularly in ministering to each other.” [cd. EPM 5 and 13]
As we gathered at the birthplace of our Congregation, accompanied in this process by the International Community of Aix, we centred ourselves around the example of St. Eugene himself as a youth minister and model for us Oblates. According to our Founder, our presence among youth is essential to our evangelization. The widespread poverty of today’s youth is not just a question of material deficit, but is also a deeply spiritual one that touches every area of their humanity in our diversified contexts. Despite this, we know and experience that you, our youth, have immense capability to transform this situation through your incarnating of Gospel values through the charism of St. Eugene de Mazenod. This capability is expressed in your generosity, commitment to face challenges, authentic openness to diversity, thirst for spirituality, sense of justice, readiness for change, but most of all your zealous charity in its different forms. This is very important to us. Your presence is a gift to us. Your enthusiasm gives us courage. Your love for St. Eugene encourages us to rediscover him in today’s world and gives us new gratitude for our mission. Your love for the church enkindles in our hearts the joy of our Oblate mission. At the same time, we Oblates are moved by your situation in today’s world; like the Founder, we want to respond to these calls, not only re-affirming that mission to youth is a fully Oblate ministry, but challenging ourselves to do more for you and with you.
We Oblates want to be challenged by you. We want to grow in a common vision that Oblate youth ministry is not just faced with the diversity of our contexts, but that we have one charism that unites us all. We want to listen to you, the young people of the world, and hear your needs, so that by working together we can focus on how to get the message of Christ out into the world. In this mission we want to return to the example of St. Eugene who calls us to help each other become first human, then Christians and lastly saints, realizing, that this is our common patronage. Only this way will we be able to help you find your true vocation and the call that God has specific for each one of you.
In order to do this, we echo again the vital need of collaboration. We recognize the need of a centralized and common vision for ministry with the youth on all levels of the Congregation. We also work closely with our lay partners, adults who help us in the ministry with young people. In this collaboration you, the youth, are, in a special way, co-responsible for these ministries, not just as receivers, but as active participants of the Oblate mission. We want you to feel welcome in our communities, taking the example of our lives and challenging us to be more like St. Eugene, witnessing that we are true Apostolic Men. We want to be evangelized by you and see you as partners in our missions to the poor and most abandoned.
The Oblates have a responsibility for an integral growth of each young man and woman who put their trust in us. We want to build strong and healthy relationships with our young people so as to be mutual witnesses of God’s love to the world.
In getting this message out, we want to be courageous in using all the accessible methods of communication and social media. We know the dangers these resources have, but we want to work together with you to encourage all types of media to be an edifying source of God’s word to all its users, not tools to enslave them. For this to happen, we must work towards well-made and sustained media ministry directed to all the youth in all accessible forms.
Dear young people united with us around the heart of St. Eugene de Mazenod, we as Oblates realize that this is your time: a time full of amazing changes, where everything seems possible and impossible all at once. Remain with us steadfast in the journey of faith, with firm hope in the Lord and the light of the Holy Spirit. This is the secret of our journey together! It is the Lord that gives us the courage to swim against the tides of relativism, materialism and individualism in today’s world. Listening to the examples of the life of St. Eugene, we invite you to go against these currents. Like the young people who gathered around the Oblates’ Founder in the Youth Congregation, commit yourselves to great ideals, to the most important things Christ gives us. We Oblates promise to help you in this task, but ask you to walk with us.
Carry with you the flame of Christ’s love that burned in the heart of St. Eugene de Mazenod for the entire world – in every sphere of your daily life and to the very ends of the earth. In this mission we are not alone, but united worldwide in prayer, we entrust ourselves and each one of you to our Immaculate Mother. May Mary, Patroness of the Oblates, watch over us all and grant us the needed graces for this mission.
United in prayer with all our brother Oblates, Laity and Youth,
Fr. Louis Lougen, OMI, Superior General, and the other participants of the Second International Oblate Congress on Mission with Youth.
Fifth Sunday of Lent
In the Year of our Lord 2016