By Fr. Art Flores, OMI
“Come and See” Aix-en-Provence, July 7-16, 2016
200 Years of Oblate Life and Mission
The Superior General and his Council invited Oblates involved in vocation ministry from all regions in the congregation to gather in Aix-en-Provence for the first time ever to discuss the vital ministry of inviting new members to join our Congregation. St. Eugene’s vision of gathering like-minded missionaries to share the Good News to the poor and forgotten people of Provence is at the heart of our missionary intentions and desires, and for 200 years has taken us to places never imagined, united in the bonds of charity and community to “leave nothing undared.” Our charism is essential in the Church, one that brings us close to the poor with a message of hope. “We would be remiss if we did not enthusiastically and boldly continue to invite young people to live as consecrated religious missionaries, priests and Brothers, within our charism (letter from the Superior General, December 8, 2013).
Focusing on the Joy and Generosity of our Oblate Life
The enthusiasm for our Oblate way of life was plainly evident in the 30 participants from around the congregation. Their joy and generosity to responding to St. Eugene’s charism is certainly a factor in attracting others to consider joining our community. The priority of this ministry is an affirmation of our belief in the future of our Oblate family.
The first part of the Congress had the vocation ministers giving input on what was going on in their perspective units and how vocation ministry unfolds in that context. The fruit of this sharing revealed many similarities and possibilities where collaboration can take place. Most Oblate units have at least one Oblate involved in the vocation apostolate. In many provinces, an Oblate coordinates a group of Oblates and Associates involved in Oblate animation throughout the unit. Vocation ministry and youth ministry are combined in many units, given the similarity of that outreach. Foundational to vocation outreach involves advertising the Oblate way of life to potential young men through leaflets, posters, videos, and various modes of outreach through social media. Home visitations, visiting schools and universities, attending local and national youth, and preaching in parishes staffed by Oblates help in vocational outreach. Most Oblate units have programs throughout the year for young men to “Come and See” Oblate ministry sites. Some good news: many units continue to have vocations, and some have reopened pre-novitiate and discernment communities thanks to positive responses from candidates. Oblates in general are supportive of the vocation promoter or vocation director, and our Oblate Associates have been very helpful in vocation promotion.
The Congress afforded the participants the opportunity for “study days,” aptly presented by Bro. Paul Bednarczyk, CSC, Executive Director of the National Religious Vocation Conference. Bro. Paul presented on several themes related to vocation promotion, including biblical foundations of call, canonical considerations, discernment of a vocation, best practices for vocation ministry, role clarification, and collaboration in vocation ministry. A significant learning was that communities attracting vocations are ones that have a clear idea of their work, live and pray in community, and have a strong Catholic identity. Also, communities with vibrant sponsored institutions tend to attract interest and generate vocations.
The Congress concluded with talks given by Fr. Louis Lougen, Superior General, and Cornelius Ngoka, General Councilor for Formation and Vocation. We used this time to talk on the common contexts, and to strategize on areas of collaboration in vocation ministry. Fr. Louis Lougen ensured us that the Holy Spirit is very much alive and active among the Oblates. From throughout the congregation he has seen signs of hope and commitment to the charism of St. Eugene. Our biggest challenge is to overcome the myth that secularism is winning the world over. God’s grace is much stronger, as is the power of the Gospel. God is in the heart of the secularized world. We must believe in God’s power, and not give in to those voices of secularism that can convince that vocation promotion ought not to be a priority. In this 200th year of our life, we are being reborn, and our rebirth does not mean we will rebuild large building or be thousands strong. Our mission will continue because the Church needs us! The reason why vocation promotion must be a priority is because our mission in the Church is needed. We are grateful to God for those He has sent our way, and we pledge to support the vital role of vocation ministry.
Leave Nothing Undared
Our Congress ended by celebrating Eucharist at the tomb of St. Eugene, and renewing our vows. Present in the midst of over 40 countries represented in the Congress was a clear and unifying dimension of our Oblate life – our closeness to God’s people, in particular, God’s poor. In the many stories shared, the joy of consecrated life as an Oblate was at the heart of a narrative that lives out in the context of many challenges. The hope lies in our courageous response to God’s call in light of our charism, and daring to invite others to join us. As we go forward into our third century, we do so grateful, and full of hope and zeal.
Congress on Vocations to Oblate Missionary Life
Aix-en-Provence, July 7-16, 2016
Thabo Lucas Mmolaoa – South Africa Rocky Costa – Bangladesh
Jule Dikany – Cameroun Eymard Dalpatadu – Colombo
Gabriel Matakumba – Kenya Jay Mirador – Philippines
Stephen Muriungi – Kenya Simon Heru Supriyanto – Indonesia
Alfred Rakotomalala – Madagascar Aloysius Wahyu – Indonesia
Jean-Maurice Sene – Senegal Velautham Anton Justin – Jaffna
Sibusiso Dlamini – Natal John Sherman – Australia
Chibwe Tembo – Zambia
CANADA – UNITED STATES EUROPE
Mieczyslaw Burdzy – Assumption John McFadden – Anglo-Irish
Réjean Vigneault – Notre Dame du Cap Vlastimil Kadlec – Check Republic
Mark Blom – OMI Lacombe Tino Migliaccio – Mediterranean
Art Flores – United States Dominik Ochlak – Poland
Przemek Koscianek – France
Carmine Marrone – Mediterranean
LATIN AMERICA TRANSLATORS
Miguel Diaz – Argentina-Chile Hipólito Olea – Mexico
Edicarlos Alves – Brazil Emmanuel Youngten – Johannesburg
Aurelio Ayala – Paraguay General Administration
Giovanny Nova – Venezuela Louis Lougen
Elio Dennis Lopez – Peru Cornelius Ngoka
Hector Ortega – Uruguay Warren Brown
Natanael Sermeil – Haiti Miguel Fritz