Oblate Triennium

A Time to Give Thanks

With the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of our Patroness, Mary Immaculate, in this year of Our Lord 2013 we begin the , a preparation period of three years for the 200th jubilee of our beginnings as a Congregation. This anniversary is an opportunity for us to give thanks to God for the grace of our Congregation, to review our lives in light of the conclusions of 35th General Chapter and to recommit ourselves to the call and the vision that inspired Saint Eugene de Mazenod to form the Missionaries of Province in 1816.

Within the context of our reality today, we continue to drink from the same spirit that nourished Father de Mazenod and gave shape to his missionary drive: the transforming encounter with Jesus the Saviour; the conviction that the poor have dignity as sons and daughters of God; the sensitive heart to reach out to those forgotten by the Church’s ministers; his passion for the Word of God and the ministry of preaching the Good News; his conviction to embrace vows and community as the way to holiness; his closeness and approachability to all the poor, especially to youth and prisoners; his connection to lay co-workers; the vision of the Congregation as a family strongly united by charity; his emphasis on Oblates as co-operators of the Saviour; his struggle to balance a deeply contemplative life with intense missionary activity; his courage and audacity to leave nothing undared in extending the reign of Christ; the desire to live solely for God’s glory; the tender love for the Mother of Mercy which he inculcated in his sons and commissioned them to spread…

The jubilee of our Congregation draws us to appreciate and express gratitude for God’s guidance and blessings during these past 200 years. We recognize the heroic missionary history and dedication of Oblates past and present. In faithfulness to the tradition we bear, and creatively responding to the signs of the times that call to us, we position ourselves for the future. In order to be both grounded in the Oblate charism we have received and responsive to the needs of the poor today the 35th General Chapter in 2010 convoked us to embrace the reality of “a profound personal and community conversion to Jesus Christ.” It is only by daring to open ourselves to the process of conversion that the Spirit will fan the flame of our missionary zeal. If we give ourselves to this transforming work of the Spirit our jubilee will be a kairos throwing us anew into the heart of God’s mission at the service of the most abandoned people of our society.

As you have seen above, the Oblate Triennium is a three-year period and each year has a theme. We, the members of the Central Government, are making available a series of reflections to be used in community to help us prepare for our jubilee. These reflections are meant to help us in two ways:

  • First, the reflections will bring us together once or twice a month as brother Oblates, a people of faith whose lives are centred on God and God’s mission. We are asked to share about that which is most central and precious in our lives: our faith; our relationship to Jesus and to the poor; our vocation and our missionary lives; the significance of apostolic community; etc. In visiting the Congregation I have witnessed the great community spirit among us. Most communities have adopted a plan for our life in common with prayers, meals, meetings, etc. I now ask us to go more deeply in our apostolic community life by sharing our faith and our experience of God. The resources that have been prepared provide a point of departure for a journey together.
  • Second, it is hoped that this jubilee time of grace and the sharing of our faith, will lead us, individually and communally, to some changes in our lives that we can express through gestures or concrete signs of conversion. Some examples that have been suggested: a Unit moves from many Oblates living alone to form communities of Oblates; a Unit withdraws from ministries that are certainly good to take on a new ministry in response to more urgent needs of the poor; Oblates choose specific ways to live more poorly and close the gap between their lifestyle and the people they serve; a community commits itself to recycle its refuse and be mindful of the wise use of water; a vocations ministry is seriously organized where it has been left to improvisation; a community reduces or eliminates the use of private vehicles as a witness to poverty and the environment; Oblates commit themselves to a deeper form of community life; Oblates choose to work together to address issues of exploitation and unjust practices toward workers; Oblates make efforts at inter-religious dialogue and peace-making where there are challenges in this regard; etc.

Our beginnings were humble and passionate. Celebrating the 200th Jubilee of our roots cannot be about nostalgic sentimentalism, triumphalist celebrations and dinner parties. The Central Government is committed to the Oblate Triennium as a pilgrimage of grace to help deepen our faithful response to God as consecrated men, renewing our prophetic witness of the vows, our life of faith and our life in apostolic community. It is our hope that this period of preparation will revitalize us to be missionaries close to the poor and available without reserve for difficult missions.

We place this Oblate Triennium under the loving care of Mary Immaculate and of Saint Eugene’s audacious spirit. This jubilee is a gift of God, a holy time, a kairos for each Oblate and for all those associated with us, lay people, young people and religious congregations that have connections with the Oblate charism. As we open the Oblate Triennium, beginning to prepare for our 200th Jubilee through prayer, shared reflection and missionary activity close to the poor, I ask you not to approach our bicentennial with ‘just a little bit of hope’ ‘wondering if’ God will revitalize us or thinking ‘maybe’ God will renew us. Please give yourself entirely to this invitation of grace. The spirit of immense hope fills our beings as we recall Paul’s exultation that God’s power working within us can do immeasurably more than we can even ask or imagine (Eph. 3:17-21). Let us welcome this time of blessing!