By Fr. David Muñoz, OMI
On October 29, 2016, the Buffalo, New York, Oblate Associates gathered for their annual day of reflection at Holy Angels Church. The preacher for this year’s day of reflection was Fr. Jesse Esqueda, OMI, from the Oblate mission in La Morita, Tijuana, Mexico.
The Oblate Associates reflected on the theme of the 36th General Chapter: Evangelizare pauperibus misit me. Pauperes evangelizantur. Fr. Esqueda led the Oblate Associates into a deeper reflection on the Oblate charism by speaking on his own experience as a missionary to the poor in La Morita. Many of the Associates felt inspired to continue to be missionaries to the poor and even expressed a desire to one day go on a mission trip to help Fr. Esqueda in La Morita. As part of the day’s reflection, the Associates meditated on Pope Francis’ message to the Oblates on occasion of the 36th General Chapter. The Buffalo Oblate Associates hail from the three parishes served by the Oblates: Holy Angels, Holy Cross, and Our Lady of Hope. There are also various Associates from other parishes in the Diocese of Buffalo that are not served by the Oblates.
The day after forty-six Oblate Associates renewed their commitment to continue to live out the Oblate charism, four others made their first commitment. Currently the Buffalo Oblates count on the help of fifty Oblate Associates.
The Buffalo Associates are currently involved in running a Food Pantry for the West Side of Buffalo. It typically feeds about 150 families every month. Associates have also begun a ministry called “The Children’s Cupboard” to help the many families who have children but few resources. Twice a week, Associates will open the Cupboard to give clothing, toys, diapers, and other supplies for infants to the many poor, immigrant, and refugee families who have small children. Another ministry of the Oblate Associates is a second-hand clothing collection program. These donations are then sorted and days are set up for people from the neighborhood to find clothing for themselves.
This past year the Buffalo Associates held three large events to reach out to the poor of the West Side. During the summer months, they held two evangelization events held at Holy Cross and Holy Angels parishes. Associates set up on the main avenues in front of the parishes with music, food, and donations of clothing. The idea was to welcome people to pray with them, eat with them, and to help them with whatever needs.
For Thanksgiving, the associates worked together with another important ministry in Buffalo called St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy, a lay missionary group which serves the poor on the East Side. The
Oblate spiritual director for the associates, Fr. David Muñoz, OMI, also serves as a part-time chaplain at St. Luke’s Mission and has fostered collaboration between the Oblates and the Mission to acquire food for 275 families. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving the associates distributed bags of food at each one of the parishes that the Oblates serve. This same food give-away will be repeated for Christmas.
The Buffalo Associates have many plans to continue to reach out to the many poor, immigrant, and refugee families in Buffalo. Fr. Muñoz is hopeful that the Associates will continue to grow and help the Oblates to continue the mission to evangelize the poor and most abandoned.