By Fr. Salvador Gonzalez, OMI
(Editor’s Note: Fr. Salvador Gonzalez, OMI is currently leading the de Mazenod Experience for Spanish-speaking Oblates from around the world. The “De Mazenod Experience” is a two month renewal program held at the historic, Mission House in Aix-en-Provence, France. The program is for Oblates who have been working in the missionary field of their respective provinces.
Fr. Gonzalez is from the U.S. and his regular ministries include leading retreats at King’s House Retreat and Renewal Center in Belleville, IL, and in the Office of Oblate Communications.)
Below are some of his personal reflections on the experience.
“The house in which we live was the monastery of the Carmelite Sisters until they were expelled by the French Revolution in the late 1700’s. It was empty for a while, then was converted into a temple to the goddess of “Reason.” In 1815, Eugene de Mazenod bought the church and two small rooms connected to house for the association of youth he had started, and to house his first 5 companions. From here the Oblates preached missions in surrounding towns and maintained a permanent ministry of preaching and hearing confessions in the mission church which continues to this day.
Being in this house connects the participants to the heart of Founder in so many ways: we pray and talk in the same room where he lived, and we share and work in the same room where his first companions had their community meetings. We are able to celebrate Eucharist in the same chapel as St. Eugene de Mazenod and we are within walking distance his birth home, his school, and his first places of ministry, such as the prison. This house is filled with the love, energy, and spirit of the Founder.
We will visit St. Laurent du Verdon, the de Mazenod country house where St. Eugene wrote our first rule of life. We will also visit Marseilles and see the tomb of the Founder who was Bishop of that port city and was so well-loved by the poor.
This Experience has participants from Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. These Oblates work tirelessly in their mission field and this time is a way for them to rest, renew themselves in the house where it all started for we Oblates. This experience truly is a needed homecoming for all Oblates.”‘