The Executive Board of the Provincials of Europe met on February 8-11, 2018, in Lourdes, where we remembered in prayer all our brothers from our provinces and the Congregation. We talked about our involvement at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes and its future.
The actual community is temporarily made up of four members: Nicola VENTRIGLIA from the Mediterranean Province and the superior; Paul HORROCKS from the Anglo-Irish Province, Mark KEMSEKE from the Belgium/Holland Province; and Linus SOSAI from the Jaffna Province.
The bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes, Bishop Nicolas Brouwet, having become aware of international issues facing the missionaries at the Shrine, has called upon the Oblates to continue their participation in the international coordination, particularly in the face of the language needs for Polish, Ukrainian, Tamil, Sinhalese, Vietnamese and Chinese. From the community point of view, he recently facilitated the grouping of the Oblates in the same corridor of the chaplains’ house, with a large common room, a chapel and bedrooms. The chaplains’ house is now made up of several communities: the Capuchins, the St. Martin Community, the Missionaries of the Immaculate Conception of Garaison, the Brothers of Ploërmel and the Missionary Oblates.
Msgr. Xavier d’Arodes, the one in charge of international coordination and our primary contact, in a letter tells how he, the Rector and the Bishop consider us: “In fact, the Lourdes Shrine first of all needs the Oblate charism as lived by Oblates. It would be helpful to think first of all about the contribution that the Oblates could make through their charism to a missionary dynamic and the evangelization of the crowds pouring into this international Shrine. The Missionary Oblates have a sincere love for the Blessed Virgin and a deep understanding of the graces She gives in abundance here in Lourdes. They have a real closeness to the pilgrims: our Oblates really seek to live and understand the difficulties that the men and women of this time have to face. We recognize their unstinting generosity. These are qualities that make us say that we need the Oblates because they have something specific for the Lourdes Shrine.”
Msgr. Xavier d’Arodes presented us with a pastoral project still being formulated, aimed at a ministry of encounter. We can no longer be content with making great sermons and liturgies, but it is necessary to organize a more personalized welcome for small groups; for families; for people with more unusual issues; for new linguistic groups (Chinese, Tamil , Portuguese …); for networks of like-minded people; for persons who are no longer touched by parishes or movements; for those who are waiting for healing, to be touched by grace.
A conversation can begin from a simple request; evangelization becomes possible. As a result, a greater place will be given to lay volunteers in pastoral care because pilgrims say things to them that they do not dare to say to the priest. The appeal made to the Oblates also concerns specific needs for the development of this project of the Shrine: a priest or a religious able to reach people digitally (an editor of the spiritual components of the online conversation). Someone who can do evangelization with young people (in the languages of international culture). Someone who can work on the formation of the lay volunteers for pastoral care (through the Lourdes or another hospitality program) and work to help them adapt.
On the European as well as at the global level, we are currently looking at how we are going to renew the partnership contract. We intend to look at how we can meet one or the other of these needs and whom we can send. Any candidates out there? (Vincent GRUBER, Provincial of France)