By Fr. David Muñoz, OMI, Director of Mazenodian Family Activities and Planning
The Kusenberger Chair of Oblate Studies was established in January 2017 to conclude the celebration of the 200 years of existence of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. It was made possible through the generous endowment of Deacon Robert and Mrs. Ruth Kusenberger.
The Chair is the first of its kind and is dedicated to the study and dissemination of the history, charism, spirituality and mission of the Missionary Oblates through teaching and research, academic and enrichment programs, an annual Kusenberger lecture, and cooperation with the other Institutes of higher learning at the service of the Oblate General Administration and all connected with the charism of Saint Eugene de Mazenod throughout the world.
The current holder of the chair is Fr. Frank Santucci, O.M.I., assisted by Fr. David Muñoz, O.M.I.
The 2023 annual Kusenberger lecture was held at Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX, on February 15th. The topic was “Enlarging the Tent: An Invitation to Growth for our Charism Families,” presented by Dr. Anne Walsh. Dr. Walsh is a native of St. John, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. She currently serves as the Coordinator of Partnership in Mission for the Redemptorist Family in North America, and as Chair of the Redemptorist General Commission for Partnership in Mission.
Since the topic was an invitation to understand charism families in the Church, the Chair of Oblate Studies, in collaboration with the Office for Consecrated Life of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, planned the first ever “Charism Fest” before the public lecture. It provided an opportunity for members of various charism families in the Church to share and dialogue with each other about their individual charisms. Fourteen charism families were present for this part of the event which was followed by a prayer service led by Fr. David Muñoz, O.M.I., Sr. Monica Wheeler, F.M.A., and Sr. Cherilly Galley, F.M.A. During the prayer service, participants were invited to pick up the ends of a small, make-shift tent, and stretch its cloth as a symbol of how all the charisms represented enlarged their tents to include the laity who share their charisms.
Following the prayer service, Dr. Walsh was welcomed by Fr. Frank Santucci, O.M.I. and Dr. Scott Woodward, president of Oblate School of Theology. Her lecture focused on her experience as a member of the Alphonsian/Redemptorist charism family encouraging participants from other charism families to reflect on their experiences of partnership as consecrated and laity in mission.
Approximately 230 people registered for the lecture, many following the lecture online from different parts of the world. Fr. Lou Studer, O.M.I., provincial of the U.S., concluded the evening with expressions of gratitude for all the work mentioning the invaluable contribution the Chair of Oblate Studies makes to the life of the Oblate Congregation as well as other institutes of consecrated life. The lecture is available on the Oblate School of Theology YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/live/Aav1mlPe4Z8?feature=share