By Jarek Pachocki OMI , OMI Lacombe Canada – Vocation Director , Photos by Fr. Louis Studer, OMI, U.S. Provincial
During the week of April 17-21, 2023, Oblates who are involved in vocation and formation ministries within the Canada-US region gathered at Queen of Apostles Renewal Centre in Mississauga, ON. It was a time of discernment and fraternity that echoed the sentiments expressed by Pope Francis to the Oblates at the General Chapter, “You are a religious family dedicated to evangelization. And you are gathered to discern together the future of your mission in the Church and in the world.”
Our main focus was on building relationships as we explored and discerned together the direction from the Chapter for vocations/formation in the region. The story of the disciples walking to Emmaus gave us a meditative background; and the Oblate Constitutions and Rules along with the Acts of the 37th General Chapter focused our reflections on the theme “Pilgrims of Hope in Communion: Journeying in Our Regional Vocations/Formation”.
Dr. Carol Kuzmochka from St. Paul’s University in Ottawa, ON facilitated our conversations and discernment. Through the whole process she encouraged us to listen to each other with open minds, hearts and wills in order to see others’ perspectives, build emotional connections, shift in identity and self, and connect to the emerging future. Even though we didn’t have expectations or a strategic agenda, the Holy Spirit was moving as the new vision and passion for vocations/formation in the region was emerging.
One day our General Councillor for Canada-US, Jim P. Brobst OMI, joined us virtually from Rome. He reminded us that mission attracts and builds vocations more than vocations determine the mission. Three elements help to make it possible: mission (poor & evangelization), community (welcoming & joyful), and vocation (directors & province culture).
The 37th OMI General Chapter calls on all members of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate to recognize that as a religious community, we are incomplete without the witness of our Oblate brothers. The Oblate brothers from the region, George Litiya OMI, Harley Mapes OMI and Pat McGee OMI shared their experiences of missionary and community life with us. In our congregation we are first missionary Oblates living the charism which is equally expressed in the vocation of an Oblate priest and brother. “As priests and Brothers, we have complementary responsibilities in evangelizing.” (OMI Const. 7)
Another day we welcomed virtually our Superior General, Chicho Rois OMI, and Assistant General with the responsibility for formation, Henricus Asodo, OMI. They shared joyful insights and experiences that gave us another perspective of the reality of vocations/formation in the region, and they also challenged us, “My dream is having young Oblates who are joyful being close to the poor… Are we ready to welcome vocations?”
Through our conversations, discernment and shared stories a number of themes/directions have emerged as we move toward the future: interdependence and communion, a call to conversion, authentically living the Oblate charism where our community becomes a place of welcome and discernment, building communion and collaboration, and embracing a sense of belonging to the region.
“A new moment of conversion (…) Like the disciples of Emmaus, we return to our respective Units with renewed hope to announce the Gospel.” (Acts of 37th OMI General Chapter)