From 28 – 30 October 2016, during the First Congress of Lay Associates, about fifty persons met at the Hotel La Madone in Trois-Rivières: Oblates, Lay Associates and partners. The theme of the Congress: Diving into the Oblate spirituality of a lay person today.
Friday evening, the 28th, was an opportunity for the “Mazenodian family” to watch a movie together. Popcorn was provided for the participants as they sat in front of the screen to watch an interesting documentary about the origins and the life of the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. It was a lovely discovery for one and all to the point that they showed an interest in getting a copy of this Oblate documentary: Audacieux pour l’Évangile (Daring for the Gospel).
Saturday, October 29, after breakfast, all were invited to gather for prayer times, reflection and talks, from speakers who got things moving: Melanie Charron and Pierre-Olivier TREMBLAY. Melanie set the scene by “immersing” the audience into the realities of today’s world: “We’re all riveted to our computer screens or telephone to the point that they ‘screen’ us from our relationships with others. How do we reconnect with the person before us, be it a stranger, a friend or a family member? How do we create dialogue so as to encounter others who are locked in their solitude or barriers? How do we create joy in a gloomy world…?”
As for Pierre-Olivier, he spoke of his experiences at the Shrine. This summer, Pokémon invaded the gardens of the Shrine of Notre-Dame-du-Cap; pétanque players held their congress on the grounds of the Shrine, and finally the Door of Mercy attracted many pilgrims from all over. These three elements helped to give a new look at the world of today and to welcome all the new facets in the lives of people of all ages.
The Oblate Missionary Centre, the Centre St-Pierre, the Hotel La Madone, the Shrine of Notre-Dame-du-Cap, and the administration of the Notre-Dame-du-Cap Province were all represented there; these men and women took the microphone to tell about their mission, their vocation and their work.
Lay Associates and Oblates led moments of prayer, of meditation and of reflection and they spoke of their contribution to the Oblate community and to society. Small group discussions brought people together and created bonds. The Mazenodian family came together day by day during this congress which will remain in the annals of missionary gatherings as something to be repeated.
To better understand the Oblate charism and its beginnings, the participants learned of some writings of the founder, St. Eugene de Mazenod: three prefaces of the Constitutions and Rules of the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. These writings were used to start discussions: the signs of the times, in what world do we live? What values surround me? What are the cares of the poor? How do I see them? Where do I see the wheat and tares in the world today? What are my beliefs? In this world with multiple needs, what are my gifts, talents and resources that I can offer? Who is this Jesus in whom I believe? What is the Gospel scene which currently moves me to action? In what way does Jesus of Nazareth shed light on what the Spirit is doing in the world? In light of what we live and perceive as the world’s needs, in the light of our talents and our resources, of our capabilities and of the action of the Spirit in this world, what are our goals, our missionary vision? Our commitments? (http://www.omi-qc-on.com/)
Editor’s Note: There are Oblate Associate groups in the U.S. also. If you would like information about Oblate Associates, contact Geralyn Furmanek, National Director of Oblate Associates, at (618) 394-6990 or firstname.lastname@example.org