Kirk Jacob and I recently spent two weeks at the Foundation house of the Oblates. We were attending a meeting for people who work to share the vision and charism of St. Eugene
The 26 participants came from all over the world from coldest Canada to sunny Oz and the many lands inbetween – from South America, Africa and the Oceanic countries too! I think it is fair to say that, although we have worked promoting St Eugene and his work for the last four years, neither Kirk or myself anticipated the effect that this event would have on us! It was a tremendous honour that we were invited to represent the Anglo Irish province. In the workshop, we looked again at the life of St Eugene which included walking to places in Aix which were important to him. We re-read the Constitutions and Rules of the Congregation which govern Professed Oblate life. We shared existing resources about St Eugene from around the world and we created new materials for the worldwide Oblate family to use in order to celebrate 200 years of the Oblate mission in the world.
In the coming months and years I know there will be more information about the 2016 Oblate Mission celebrations available. The Superior General, Fr. Louis Lougen, has asked that all people interested in the work of the Oblates or the life of St Eugene prepare for this anniversary in a special way. Not just by preparing for the celebrations, of which I am sure there will be many, but he invites us to prepare by learning more about St Eugene and become more engaged in the worldwide Oblate Mission. The preparations will finish on January 25, 2017!
The Founder’s house in Aix is now a retreat house; it was originally a Carmelite convent and although it has recently been refurbished it is no 5 star hotel, but it is truly a home from home. The international community who live there welcome members of the Oblate family from around the world.
Many friendships were formed and conversations were enjoyed despite the language difficulties. We had two official translators who translated French and Spanish into English or which ever language was required. There was also a fair smattering of Italian, Polish and Portuguese heard at other times.
There was a great sense of companionship and fun. One cause of the laughter was due to the translation. Not the fault of the translators, I hasten to add, but if the speaker was talking in Spanish there would first be laughter from those who understood it, then the translation would follow - more laughter and then finally a third time - everyone laughed together!
The Eucharist was, of course, a vital part of the day. We celebrated both St Patrick and St Joseph with a South American flavour. It was energetic and creative, I think the only thing missing was the dancing girls!!! The music was lively and so was the homily – though I confess I didn’t understand a single word of it. One of the most inspiring liturgies was the Semi –Indian Rite Mass presided over by Chinnappan Maria Susai who works as the Director of ‘Aanmodaya Ashram’, which is a project of the OMI Congregation in India. By contrast to the Brazilian fiesta it was a much quieter, more peaceful experience. A delightful ceremony involving light and flowers opened the liturgy. Hinduchantings were sung, then Buddhist scriptures were proclaimed in place of the First Reading followed by a Gospel text from St. John, which was greeted with an Indian Pascal hymn from the Upanishads!
It was a thoroughly enriching, informative and very inclusive meeting for me. I really enjoyed the experience of being involved in the international community even for the two weeks. It was a true celebration of diversity! Thanks to my confrères for the fun, friendship and wonderful memories. To paraphrase a sentence from the Gospel - It was good to be there!
– Mary Tyrrel