By Frank Santucci OMI, Coordinator of the Mazenodian Family Committee.
In recent years the Church has been promoting the establishment of “families” of groups of people around the charism of the founders and foundresses of religious congregations. Within this context, the US Province celebrated the Year of Oblate Vocations as the opportunity to make all those involved in the charism of St Eugene de Mazenod more aware of their vocation. The US Mazenodian Family consists of eight groups who exist because of St Eugene’s charism: the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the Honorary Oblates, Affiliates, Associates, Employees, Mission Supporters, Partners, and Youth.
We concluded the Year of Vocations with representatives of each branch coming together to reflect on, to celebrate and to discern ways of collaborating around our different expressions of the Mazenodian vocation, Under the guidance of David Muñoz and his committee, 34 people came together as delegates and were joined by 10 members of our three neighboring Canadian provinces as invited guests. The Congress took place at Oblate School of Theology on January 22-25, 2019.
The successful establishment and development of the Mazenodian Family requires solid theological and spiritual foundations. Dr. Tom Bushlack, lay Benedictine Oblate and professor of theology, opened the reflection with a keynote public lecture exploring the concept of “oblation” and its meaning in the context of developments of a lay theology of ministry since Vatican 2. On the second evening, Ron Rolheiser stimulated the reflection with his public lecture: “The Oblate Charism Today: Its Essence and Its Urgency.”
Frank Santucci continued the process with the delegates by presenting the origins and foundational principles and ideals of the vocation to the Mazenodian Family and how this has developed in the province. Sandy Prather HOMI presented her own journey with the charism over many years as an Associate and Honorary Oblate in Canada, and invited each delegate to share on the experience of their journey with the charism of St Eugene.
The first morning ended with a video call and interchange with Fathers Louis Lougen, Superior General, Warren Brown, Regional Councilor for North America, and Peter Stoll, the Councilor for Asia-Oceania who is responsible for lay associates.
The delegates spent the afternoon reflecting and sharing on the questions: “What is it about the charism that draws me?”;“Do I see my connection as a vocation/call and as my way of responding to the call of discipleship?”; “What challenges me to grow in all this? How do I understand right now how I belong?” and, “How can I deepen my connection to the charism?”
The final afternoon invited each group of the Mazenodian Family to reflect on the future with two questions: 1/ “What are the possibilities for growth in the Mazenodian Family for the group I am a part of, and for the whole Mazenodian family “and 2/ “What are some next steps in my group and in the whole Family?”
Discussion was lively and a wealth of ideas emerged. These are being collated, and will be studied by the Mazenodian Family Committee to chart the future course of the Charism family of St. Eugene.
An important part of the congress was to celebrate our vocations and to enjoy each other’s company – and there were many opportunities to do this throughout the day and at night after the lectures. One morning was spent visiting two of the San Antonio missions and the Riverwalk – moments to get to know each other better.
The climax of the congress was the celebration of the Eucharist recalling the anniversary of our foundation. Oblation was highlighted by the renewal of vows of two scholastics and the first commitment of 22 members of the new Spanish Associate group. At the end of the Mass, Oblate Partner, Lauretta Agolli, presented Fr Lou Studer with an Icon of St Eugene that she had written for the Mazenodian Family. The evening ended with a celebratory meal.
ENTHUSIASM AND ENERGY
A high level of enthusiasm pervaded throughout the days we spent together: enthusiasm at the beauty of our charism, enthusiasm at what we learnt from one another. This was accompanied by a high level of energy to continue to grow as a charism family dedicated to working together to bring the Good News to the most abandoned. Many dreams and ideals were expressed, and it is now up to us to journey together and put them into practice.
In his lifetime, St Eugene’s enthusiastic and zealous heart was described as being “as large as the world” – the charism congress proved that his heritage continues to be alive and strong as all the members of the Mazenodian Family grow in their cooperation with his same missionary zeal.
Video presentations from the Congress are available for viewing below. The first is a just-posted presentation featuring Sandra Prather, HOMI who speaks about her personal experience with the charism of St. Eugene. The second features Fr. Frank Santucci, OMI, and the third is a keynote address by Thomas Bushlack, Ph. D. In the coming weeks there will be one more featuring Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI.