Photos and Story by Will Shaw
On the weekend of May 20-21, 40 new Oblate Associates made a one-year commitment on the Feast of St. Eugene de Mazenod at Sacred Heart Parish in Eagle Pass, Texas.
Having completed the 12-session formation program coordinated locally by Dr. Carlos Hernandez, the group’s commitment weekend began on Saturday with a retreat led by Geri Furmanek, National Director of Oblate Associates. The focus of the retreat was on St. Eugene, the charism, and how we inter-weave Oblate spirituality in our everyday lives.
During the day, the Associates also heard from their Pastor, Fr. Lawrence Mariasoosai, OMI, who has been instrumental in cultivating interest in Oblate Associates, he reminded them, “Oblate Associates is not just another group to join, it is a way of life.” Parishioner and coordinator Dr. Carlos Hernandez spoke for the group, “I thank our priest for his blessing, his direction and support for this program. I believe we have been blessed, each one in different ways by the Oblates. I consider St. Eugene a model of perseverance and commitment to the poor and I believe that my responsibility as a parishioner at Sacred Heart is to continue with the Oblate Associates…”
St. Eugene himself, as impersonated by Will Shaw, visited with the new Associates, thanking them for their commitment to the charism and telling them that, “You, too, are ministers of God’s mercy. We cannot do God’s will alone. You are called to practice charity in your families, at work, in your parish and neighborhood.”
Toward the end of the retreat, the group received a very special visit from the U.S. Oblate Provincial, Fr. William Antone, OMI. Fr. Antone came at Fr. Lawrence’s invitation to celebrate the Oblate Associate commitment Mass on Sunday, and to bless a new statue of the Founder which has been placed in the parish garden.
On Sunday, Fr. Antone concelebrated the Mass with Fr. Lawrence, receiving the Associates commitment and presented them with their Oblate Associate crosses in front of the entire congregation.
At the reception following the Mass, Fr. Antone reflected, “I can see how attractive the charism of St. Eugene is when it is explained and when people get to know him…also the work we do as Oblates is attractive; we see how people relate to a Church that is close to the poor.”
Sacred Heart Pastor, Fr. Lawrence Mariasoosai, OMI, said, “It is a day of joy, not only for me but for the whole parish community of Sacred Heart. It is a blessing to me and to the parish.”
This is the second time Geri Furmanek has made the trip to Eagle Pass for an Oblate Associate retreat, having done one last year at Our Lady of Refuge Parish. She talked about what is unique in this community on the U.S.-Mexican Border, “I have really been impressed by the Oblates and Oblate Associates I’ve met in Eagle Pass…the parishioners have been very dedicated in following the Associate program, they’re also very much part of their parish life, as catechists, Knights of Columbus, and altar sodality and various groups that support a parish.”
“Interestingly in these groups, there are a lot of husbands and wives together, it was really touching to hear them share stories about their lives as a couple. I think in the future there will be more vocations to the Missionary Oblates because of the impact of these families, not only in their families, but on the family life of the parish.”
Fr. William Antone presents each new Associate with their Oblate Associate Cross