Interview with Geri Furmanek, National Director of Oblate Associates by Will Shaw
On Saturday July 9, 2016, a retreat leading to a First Commitment for a group of new Oblate Associates was held at Our Lady of Refuge Parish in Eagle Pass, Texas.
The Associate groups come from three Oblate parishes and two missions in the Eagle Pass area: Our Lady of Refuge, Sacred Heart, St. Joseph’s and the Missions of Our Lady of Lourdes and Our Lady of Guadalupe. It all started when Oblate Father Paul Dass Selvaraj decided to begin an Associates group at Our Lady of Refuge, and invited men and women from neighboring Oblate entities in Eagle Pass to study the Charism of St. Eugene using the Associate Formation Program.
As they neared the end of their year of formation, Fr. Paul contacted the National Director of Oblate Associates, Geri Furmanek to come to Eagle Pass to facilitate the Associate retreat and participate in the First Commitment ceremony which took place at the 6 PM Mass at Our Lady of Refuge.
Describing the retreat, Ms. Furmanek said, “It was a day of prayer, of faith-sharing, of reflecting on the Charism of St. Eugene and how it pertains to their everyday lives. We also talked about forming community and its joys as well as the challenges which go along with community and interacting with a variety of individuals and personalities. In particular, I encouraged any decisions to be done with a prayerful discernment so that ideas for outreach and service come from God, not just following any idea. Each Associate needs to be heard and share in the decision-making process, and the decisions are grounded in prayer.”
For the past twelve months, the individuals who made their First Commitment went through an education and formation process learning about St. Eugene de Mazenod, and Oblate spirituality which has been passed on to Missionary Oblate priests and brothers for the past 200 years. After the retreat, Ms. Furmanek met with the new coordinators of the parishes and missions, answering their questions and outlining their assistance in communicating with the National Office and sharing responsibilities in their respective groups.
Ms. Furmanek was impressed: “They’re a very diverse group; one group of five women has been praying the rosary together daily for the past five years; there are several couples, and several mothers with their adult daughters; plus the mother of a soon-to-be Oblate Pre-novice. All are very committed to their Catholic Faith, and seek to grow closer to Christ as an Oblate Associate. I was really touched by their openness, honesty and deep faith sharing.”
With these newest Associates in Eagle Pass, the number of Oblate Associates in the U.S. now tops out at 500! Thanks to Fathers Paul Dass Selvaraj and Jim Fee for their hospitality and communication with the National Office. Good results like these occur because we all work together and keep each other informed.
Why do people become Oblate Associates? Ms. Furmanek suggests it’s because, “Men and women are responding to that sense that God is calling them to something deeper. They find that the simplicity of the Associate program helps them interweave their faith life with their everyday busy lives through the faith sharing in Associate Communities.
After the retreat, the day culminated in the Mass and First Commitment. Pastor of Our Lady of Refuge, Fr Jim Fee, OMI was the celebrant with Fr. Paul Dass Selvaraj, OMI receiving the Oblate Associate’s commitment.