The Delegation of Zambia held its Assembly on January 5, and 6, virtually due to the continuing Covid pandemic. On January 5, Fr. Louis Lougen, OMI, Superior General, addressed the Assembly via Zoom, followed by Fr. Louis Studer, OMI, U S. Provincial, whose keynote address announced that the Delegation of Zambia will now begin the process to become a Province!
The Provincial and members of the administrative team had originally planned to attend the assembly in person, but the world-wide spike in the Omicron variant made international travel inadvisable for the time being. Below are the texts of the online addresses made to the assembly by Fathers Lougen and Studer.,
Superior General’s Address to the Zambian Assembly
Greeting to Oblates of the Delegation of Zambia!
I have so many good remembrances of past Delegation Assemblies: first, with Fr. Ron Carignan in 2004; later with Fr. Joe Phiri; then with Fr. (now His Lordship) Evans Chinyemba. In almost six years as provincial, I visited Zambia 7 times. They were wonderful experiences! So much hope and promise in your youthfulness, generosity and high ideals. We are very thankful to God for this growth. All of Africa is very important for the Church and for the Congregation.
I would like to mention three words: gratitude, faith and integrity.
GRATITUDE: I would like to express my gratitude for the commitment of the Oblates of the Delegation of Zambia to the Congregation. You have responded to the missionary call that I have made to serve God’s Kingdom in other lands. Thank you for this courageous generosity. You also help in the Mother Province, the USA, and that is an important sign of your relationship to the founding Province. I also thank the U.S. Province for their assistance to you and for accompanying you in the development of the Delegation. I would also like to recognize my gratitude to Fr. Raymond Mwangala and the member of his Council for their willingness to serve as Delegation leadership at this time. We have a lot for which to be grateful at this time!
FAITH: We easily talk about the secularization of people all over the world, especially in the large cities. I see that we too, Oblates, Brothers and priests, are influenced by secularization. Although faith should be the heart of our lives, we easily drift away from practices of faith for other activities. We easily abandon prayer because we have so many responsibilities. On a weekend in which we have celebrated many Masses, too quickly we justify our lack of prayer by saying that we have prayed with the people. We say that we need to relax, unwind and chill out and so prayer is omitted. The true source of our life is God and we need to be connected to God daily in prolonged personal prayer and in community prayer.
A large Unit had an assembly and began with a powerful “Veni Creator Spiritus.” After chanting this, the comments I heard from the Oblates were: “Another meeting and a big waste of time! We are going to have bla-bla-bla, but no action! A small group has decided everything and we are here just to acquiesce to their program! Etc.” We had just prayed to the Holy Spirit and it was beautiful. But we don’t believe that the Spirit is among us or that we are open to the Spirit. As you begin this Delegation Assembly, believe that the Spirit of God is among you. Let each Oblate really give his voice, his insights and participate with all his heart. Each one of you, by giving of himself to the process will make this an Assembly that matters and that reflects a discernment on where the Holy Spirit is leading you.
INTEGRITY: Religious life, Brothers, Sisters and priests are being exposed for the inconsistencies in our lives, especially in the sexual and financial spheres. The Holy Father just concluded the year dedicated to St. Joseph. He stands as a model of the integrity that all of us should cultivate in our lives. Integrity, transparency, accountability are essential in living a chaste life, in living the vow of poverty, in being obedient, in persevering in our oblation and growing in holiness. Integrity is coherency between who we say we are and what we do when no one is watching. We also are called to be men of integrity in our community life and in our life of prayer. We are men of God and the people look to us as men who are friends of God, close to God. Yet, many times we are far away from God; we are wrapped up in money concerns, not for the mission, but for personal gain; we become involved in bad, unchaste relationships; and we live a false life that only has the appearance of consecrated life.
For the firm foundation of a missionary Delegation, for a Unit that has a future, you must be Oblates who have faith-filled hearts and who are men of integrity.
Fr. Louis Lougen OMI
U.S. Provincial’s Keynote Address to the Zambian Assembly
Thank you for inviting me to address this Assembly today! Happy New Year to you!
As some of you may already know, I announce to you today the exciting news of the beginning of a joint effort and commitment to, the delegation of Zambia becoming a Province! I also promise you the support, the cooperation,
the assistance of the U.S. Province in this united effort. This is a process that will happen over a relatively long period of time, with a lot of important and necessary steps to be taken to bring it to completion.
In my conversation with you at this Assembly, I hope to outline some of the many initiatives and steps that have already been taken, initiatives and steps that bring us to where we are today: the determined effort to begin the
process whereby the delegation of Zambia will one day soon become a Province in the Oblate Congregation!
As you already know, the General Administration has provided us with an important document written for the very purpose for which we embark on this process today.
I also promise you my own full cooperation and assistance throughout this process. I promise, as well, the cooperation and assistance of the leadership of the U.S. Province in this united effort!
As the document, Discerning and Sustaining Oblate Mission: Principles and Procedures makes clear: there are many steps required in this process, many questions to be answered, permissions to be sought, a process that needs
to be carefully followed to help ensure the process proceeds well and smoothly, with good communication to the Oblates in both entities as well as to our employees, our Associates, and all interested parties.
The document Discerning and Sustaining Oblate Mission outlines some of the preliminary requirements in place for such a process to begin.
I will briefly summarize where we have come since this vital and important mission (delegation) of Zambia was first begun in 1984.
We are celebrating 37 years of vibrant missionary activity in Zambia! We should all feel a lot of pride and a strong sense of accomplishment about what has been accomplished! But, having said that, we have much that remains to be done!
Most important of all is not the administrative structure of whether Zambia is a delegation or a province but most important of all is the good ministry, vibrant community life, growth in the charism of St. Eugene, generous support and help from our Associates, from all who continue to collaborate with us to continue to make the Oblate ministry in Zambia forward looking, hope-filled, gospel oriented.
Permit me to briefly review where we have come since the foundation of this mission by the Southern U.S. Province in 1984.
Vocations to the Oblates in Zambia continue to be on the upswing. There are 70 Oblates in vows in Zambia! There are 25 Zambian Oblates in first formation in novitiates and scholasticates in the world. There are 27 Zambian students in the pre-novitiate. The future is bright and promising!
You are very generous in sending Zambian Oblates to the U.S. Province, and to several other provinces in the Congregation. This continues at an ever-faster pace as the years go by, including the initiative for Oblates to
minister in the San Antonio Archdiocese and then their stipends being sent to Zambia to help continue the ministry in Zambia! You provide Formators, Pastors, Prison Chaplains, Associate Pastors, Professors in several provinces of the Oblate Congregation! Thank you for your generosity!
Although the only first formation program in Zambia is the pre-novitiate, that program continues to give young men the training, the background, the human development skills, for them to successfully meet the demands and requirements of the various Novitiate programs they attend in the Congregation. And, after the Novitiate, for the various Scholasticate programs as well, including our own Scholasticate in San Antonio.
You are continuing to expand your commitments in ministry, taking on new parishes, both here and in the United States. This is a strong testimony not only to your continuing generosity but also to your hard work, commitment to ministry, to the people of God! And you minister, in many of these places, to the materially poor. This is another strong indication of your readiness to become your own Province and follow ever more closely in the footsteps of our Founder!
The Oblates of the delegation of Zambia are young, enthusiastic, energetic, with a variety of skills, along with a keen pastoral sensitivity. This includes several Zambian Oblates who have the potential for future leadership. This too is an important dimension for consideration in discerning next steps for you to become a province. You presently have a strong, committed, skilled leadership team, in frequent contact with all the Oblates of the delegation.
One of the reasons we can embark on this important step today is the frequent virtual communication that has been taking place the past couple years between the Zambian delegation leadership and that of the U.S. Province. This has been a great help in building our mutual trust of one another, helping us to work together more closely and become more aware of the problems and issues we are facing together. I have learned to appreciate and respect more each of you currently serving on the delegation council and you, Fr. Raymond, as well.
Most important to be said is that today the delegation of Zambia and the U.S. Province begin a new, exciting venture together. As we together engage in this venture, I want to assure each of you of our continuing commitment to remain focused on bringing this venture to a successful, fruitful completion.
And, throughout this time and even after the process has been brought to completion, I promise you the continued financial assistance of the U.S. Province for your endeavors and plans in Zambia.
The special, unique relationship of Zambia and the U.S. will continue! We rely on the assistance of your qualified personnel in our province, your students in our formation communities, your youth, your hopefulness, your enthusiasm! We will continue to support you financially, give advice where necessary and appropriate, hopefully benefiting you with our wisdom, our years of ministry, and our grey hair!
Our relationship with you over these past 37 years has been a tremendous blessing to the U.S. Province! As we near 40 years together, that number so significant in Scripture, the time has come to embark upon the delegation of Zambia becoming the Province of Zambia in the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate!
I feel a great deal of pride as the Provincial who is able to initiate this important endeavor.
I ask each one of you to give it your full support, your strong encouragement, and, most important, your many prayers! I ask the same of the U.S. Province Oblates.
I look forward to the day when we can announce together: We inaugurate today the new Oblate Province of Zambia, Province of the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate!