By Fr. Louis Studer, OMI
Delegates at the 2016 Chapter, meeting in Rome in October, 2016, mandated the General Administration to plan and organize an international gathering of those who share in the Oblate charism, including Oblates. This international hybrid meeting took place the weekend of May 27-29, at the Whitley Center in San Antonio (for the North American region) and, on-line, and in several other main centers of the Oblate world.
Oblate Peter Stoll was the Chief Organizer of this event, along with Oblate David Muñoz and Honorary Oblate Sandy Prather who helped organize and led the event for the region of North America. Oblates and Members of the Mazenodian Family from each of the other four regions of the Oblate world (Africa, Asia-Oceania, Europe, Latin America) also helped plan this event.
Members of the Mazenodian Family and Oblates gathered in San Antonio for the weekend to share prayer, Eucharist, meals, conversation and also suggested concrete plans for our continued future together and will present to the General Administration many plans and ideas of how we can continue the strong momentum established during this weekend of our sharing together, both virtually and in-person.
On two jumbo screens at the Whitley Center, we watched participants from other regions share their vocation stories about how they first came to meet and know Oblates, the impact of the Oblate charism in their lives, the changes brought about in and through their participation in the charism and how they share that charism with others. Participants also familiarized us with many of the varied ministries of the Oblates in these five regions of the Oblate world.
This was the second Lay Congress in the history of the Congregation, with the first one held in 1996. The group agreed that many more must be planned, both regionally and congregationally.
Although it is difficult to estimate how many participated over these three days, it is estimated that over 50 countries participated on-line. Oblates currently minister in 70 countries. The main Regional Centers were Rome; Kokotek, Poland; Latin America based out of Santiago, Chile but virtual; Manila, Philippines, Dakar, Senegal; Johannesburg, South Africa. Other groups gathered at Colombo (Sri Lanka), Yaoundé (Cameron), Sassone (Italy), Crewe (UK), Hong Kong (China), Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Kenya.
We had 27 delegates from the Canada-US region. 5 from Assumption Province; 6 from Canada-Lacombe; 2 from Notre Dame du Cap; and 14 from the US Province.
I participated with the group gathered in San Antonio and found the stories, the sharing, both heartfelt and inspiring. I came away from the event, as I often do when I am with Members of the Mazenodian Family, convinced that their love of the charism, and their enthusiasm for embracing this charism in their lives enriches and strengthens that charism in us vowed Oblates. Several Oblates expressed the fact that they did not receive much information about the charism in their formation.
The theme of the Congress was “Celebrate, Connect, Commission.” Those three words were truly lived at our gathering as we shared together, prayed with and for each other and, as I heard from several of the participants on Sunday, from both Oblates and Mazenodian Family, “when are we going to do this again?”
The online stream of all three days of the event was recorded and is available for viewing on the following YouTube link: