Photos and Story by Will Shaw
On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception Missionary Oblates all over the world gather to celebrate the Feast of their Patroness and Oblates in Belleville are no different. The event is hosted by the Oblates of the St. Henry’s Community, and as in recent years, Fr. Jim Allen, Superior of St. Henry’s also invites the local Oblate Associates to join in the celebration which has been held at the Esquiline Retirement Community on the grounds of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows.
Fr. Jim Allen, Geri Furmanek, National Director of Mission Enrichment and Oblate Associates, and Christie Hart of the Esquiline coordinated this year’s event wherein the Oblates provided an entree, the Associates provided a scrumptious variety of side-dishes and desserts, and the Esquiline provided a gathering space which had been beautifully decorated for the holidays plus the professional assistance of their dining facility and staff. It all resulted in a grand, “Mazenodian Family-style” potluck supper!
The evening began with a welcome and First Vespers led by Fr. Jim Allen. Then it was on to the dinner buffet and great fellowship between the Oblates and the Associates.
Describing the gathering Fr. Allen said, “We have the Oblates from the several communities here and we have a good number of the Associates who are close to us in many ways. We’re really fulfilling a wish of the Founder in a letter he wrote right before the Feast of the Immaculate Conception to the Oblates in France, that he wanted this Feast to be a big celebration of Oblates, so we’re carrying on.”
“It’ was a fun evening and a great success,” said Geri Furmanek. “I really appreciate the relationship between Christie at the Esquiline and Fr. Jim, plus the collaboration of the Associate groups from the Shrine and King’s House.”
After dinner it was a quick clean up, thanks in large part to the Oblate Novices who took charge of it. All things considered, it was a celebration of faith, food and family the Founder himself would have enjoyed.