No. 463 March 2007
A little more than 20 Oblates from several continents attended the January 20-25 World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya. WSF participants passed resolutions pledging to strengthen the campaign against poverty, the global trade imbalance and gender inequality. Nearly 50,000 representatives from social movements, faith-based and Catholic organizations, trade unions and nongovernmental organizations passed the more than 100 resolutions. The forum provided a global platform of meetings, debates and marches to address international policies that exploit the poor, women and children, and the environment. The forum's theme was "Another World Is Possible." Participants denounced the amount of money nations spend on military buildup. They said those funds should be used to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which call on richer countries to commit resources in order to halve global poverty by 2015. They also pledged to vigorously campaign against foreign military bases and nuclear weapons.
At the end of the meeting, the Oblate participants left Nairobi to visit the Oblate mission in Meru and in the surrounding area. The large group was hosted and at the Oblate pre-novitiate in Meru, at St Stephen's parish in Kionyo and at the mission station in Igandene.
Over the next four days, the guests visited with the Oblates in the Meru area and the people in the local community. The many programs and projects which are part of the mission in Meru include primary and secondary schools, a water project, a bakery, a wood workshop and other initiatives. The water project has been in development for a number of years and now includes three major tanks in the mountains with nearly 40 collection tanks scattered on various hills at a lower level. Distribution pipes are attached to these tanks and take water to more than 2,800 farms throughout the area.
On the Saturday the delegation traveled together to visit a game park in Olejepta, about a two hour ride from Meru. Over the three-hour visit the group was entertained by the strutting, grazing and playing of elephants, deer, ostrich, rhinoceros and giraffes. On Sunday the visitors took part in liturgies at the local prison, St Stephen's parish in Kionyo and at the stations in Igandene, Ngongo and Njogune. In each place, the local congregations warmly welcomed each guest and included them in the celebration. The liturgies flowed smoothly and were alive with singing and traditional dancing. The entrance, offertory and communion were accompanied by upbeat singing and congregation-wide swaying and hand gestures.
On Sunday evening at the pre-novitiate in Meru, as the guests prepared to depart, they were joined by members of the Oblate mission in Meru for a barbecue. Over dinner conversations, one member of the group described their visit to Kenya as "having uncovered many points of view that he had not previously considered." Others spoke of their experience of the great diversity of language, race, ethnicity and culture that was represented in the Oblate group. Still others talked about the many faces and stories of the poor that were represented in the forum and in the post-forum experience and of the energetic response that Oblates are making to their plight in various regions of the world.
Born in 1943 in Villa Gonzalez, diocese of Zacatecas, Mexico, Gilberto spent most of his youth in Laredo, Texas, before joining the Oblates in the former Southern Province of the United States. After completing his first formation at the International Scholasticate in Rome, he was ordained a priest in 1971. Upon his return to Mexico, he worked in rural parish ministry from 1972 to 1974 and served as diocesan coordinator of youth ministry and of the catechetical program for Indian villages. He was successively director of vocations, director of the prenovitiate, provincial director of formation and Master of novices in Paraguay. In 1986, he was elected to the first of two terms as Provincial of the new Vice-Province of Mexico. He was serving as Superior of the Mission of Cuba when elected once again as Provincial of the Province of Mexico (2004-07).
www.omiworld.org), or directly, by typing this address: www.omiworld.org/animation.
Why this new section? Think of it as a filing cabinet in which all sorts of items relating to the Founder and charism animation are stored. Often Oblates or Associates search for material for a particular Oblate occasion or theme. A lot of material has already been prepared in the Oblate world, but it is not always easily available – hence this “filing cabinet” through which we can share what we have in a more accessible way.
I invite you to submit anything that you have prepared or have found useful on a theme related to our Founder and our charism – in whatever language it may be. I will put it on the webpage and it will be available to whoever may wish to download and use it. You can submit your material to the follwing address: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you download something and then translate it for your use, I would request you to send me a copy of the translation so that it can be filed for use by others of the same language.
We look forward to your active participation in making the spirit of St. Eugene more alive and relevant in its communication! (Frank Santucci, Founder and Charism Animation Service, Aix en Provence)
The title of Marek’s five year’s of research and writing is “The Cooperation of the Laity in the Missionary Activity of the Church in the Teaching of John Paul II.” The original is written in Italian. As his thesis director pointed out, Marek was faced with the daunting task of going through some 464 writings of the late pope. In his paper, he showed how the pope’s encyclical, “Redemptoris Missio” is the key to understanding the role of the laity as cooperators in the Church’s mission. In Chapter 7, the pope gives the basis for this teaching: “Since they are members of the Church by virtue of their Baptism, all Christians share responsibility for missionary activity.”
Marek accomplished his doctoral studies while at the same time serving as Director of the Urbaniana University Library. He is also responsible for Bibliographia Missionaria, an annual publication of the Pontifical Missionary Library.
Their “Youth for Life” programme runs workshops for various grades of school learners as well as retreats. The programme tries to develop a mentorship programme within schools to encourage life-giving patterns of moral behaviour among the youth. The programme has a clearly spiritual input.
Imparting moral values around the issue of HIV/AIDS is a priority of all Aids Action group members; and this is always done for the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Young people are the most vulnerable to infection as a result of uninformed attitudes. They are a majority of those who are dying in society as a result of HIV/AIDS. One of the reasons why youth are dying at an early age is because they are not given proper information, which is normally influenced by the media and peers. Parents are now finding it difficult to control and teach their children who are moving with great speed to their graves.
Among the various topics discussed in the workshops are self-esteem, decision making, peer pressure, goals, vision for life, love and lust, HIV/AIDS, drug abuse, and intoxicating substances, abstinence, sex, love and happiness. All these topics are meant to help young people in their human growth and development. (OMI Natal Update, Jan-Feb 2006)
All of this began on August 11, 2004, when Emanuele, son of Marco and Maria Grazia Trovalusci from Italy, lost his life in a tragic accident. For his parents, there were days of inconceivable sorrow: a boy of almost 18, while coming home to celebrate his sister Chiara’s feast day, was run over by a bus. Humanly speaking, there is no explanation, but faith, friendship, solidarity, and fraternity led his parents to decide that their son’s dream of one day being a doctor and spending a few years of his life working for the children of Africa should not end with his death. Today, that dream is a reality at the mission in Farim.
The Trovalusci family arrived a few days ahead of time and helped prepare the celebration.
First, there was a Mass presided by the bishop. Then the people and the authorities moved over to “Casa Emanuele.” Before the dedication, Father Carlo ANDOLFI and Sister Maddalena spoke of the purpose of the Center. Emanuele’s parents, with simple but emotion-filled words, told their story: they wanted to carry on the dream of their son and to show the importance of a gift freely given. Of course, the people already knew the story behind the Center, but it took on new meaning when told by the parents.
Among the crowd, there was also a delegation from Mansaba, including two adult Muslims who asked to say a few words. They announced that they were giving the mission a property of 27,000 square meters. One of them explained that Muslims and Catholics alike are religious people, and that in the light of the generosity behind “Casa Emanuele,” it was only right to make this gift to the mission to continue its good work for all the people.
The bishop concluded by thanking the family of Emanuele and all the others whose sacrifices made the Center possible. Referring to the example of the Trovalusci family, he reminded his listeners that one must be attentive to the good of all; he did not let the occasion pass to underline that if the Mission is looking for terrain for a school in Farim, it is for the good of the whole population. The message was directed at the authorities who were there, among whom were those in charge of schools at various levels. To the joy of the students, school has not yet begun. But the situation is truly unhealthy: education and health care are essential for a country to stay alive. For this reason, the bishop and Father Carlo believe it is urgent to build a school in Farim.
In this little corner of the earth, the human and health needs are immense. A project such as “Casa Emanuele,” besides responding to the situation of mothers and children who are sick and malnourished, will serve as a nutrition center. It will also serve as a reference point for other projects being promoted and supported by communities in the Castelli Romani and Prenestina districts of Italy. They are currently setting up health centers (small dispensaries and pharmacies) in 13 villages of the Mission. The project was the idea of Mauro Salvatori who considers himself a “lay Oblate.” Members of COMI (Cooperatrici Oblate Missionarie dell'Immacolata), a women’s Secular Institute closely allied with the greater Oblate family, are organizing the project and will offer on site training to those who will operate the 13 health centers in the territory of the mission of Farim. A kindergarten supported by “long-distance adoption” has already begun; there are now two classes with 56 children, but there are 500 requests to enroll. (Marcello SGARBOSSA)
Even though Fr. Eliseo “Jun”
MERCADO is officially “on sabbatical” after his work as Director of the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Office in Rome, he is still very involved in justice and peace ministry.
The old folks speak of a young woman who used to greet and encourage travelers, worn out by the intense heat along the Oaxacan coast of the South Mexican Pacific, as they sought a bit of shade among the trees that grew beside enormous rocks and as they refreshed themselves with water from a well that had been dug there. Some pious persons had constructed a little chapel for an image of Our Lady which some of the travelers recognized as having been stolen from an ancient mountain village called Santa Maria Shadani. After some complaints to the authorities, the image was restored to its owners.
Nevertheless, according to a legend, the image returned miraculously to the chapel. For some time, the young woman no longer showed up at that site, but she was seen in various places announcing that she would go back to the chapel and stay there as long as no one else claimed their property. And so, there the image has remained for more than 150 years, listening to and consoling hundreds of pilgrims that visit it.
It is a very simple image, painted on wood and for a long time protected by a very delicate sheet of glass, but amazingly it is still in very good condition. Since the parish church, constructed more than 300 years ago, needed maintenance, and since celebrations were also costly, the community came up with a good way to bring in some cash. They started a cattle ranch that after a while would bring in the necessary funds with its livestock. And who could better take care of the needs of the community and the Church than Our Lady? Thus began the cattle ranch known today as “Hacienda del Rosario,” under the care and the protection of that same Virgin Mary, known here as Our Lady of the Rosary. Undoubtedly, it is the patrimony of the first missionaries of this area that was evangelized by the Dominicans since the beginning of the 17th century.
For more than 50 years, our parish had rare pastoral visits from various diocesan priests who would primarily administer the sacraments of Baptism and Marriage. Therefore, the community took charge of the church and the traditional popular piety, as well as of the earnings of the “Hacienda del Rosario,” all managed by the civil authorities.
Depending on their honesty and on good weather, this property provided meat for the village celebrations, both civil and religious, as well as some extra funds. Today we can see that the original evangelization set down deep roots in our town, so much so that they continue with rituals, prayers and songs from 300 years ago, even in Latin, even though no one understands it, but the people like the way it helps them express their religious sentiments.
Our Lady of the Rosary is a symbol of unity among the nearby villages. Even though historically they have had serious problems and difficulties, year after year they come together on the last Tuesday of September to carry on their shoulders for more than 25 kilometers the image of Our Lady who visits each community. Thus, she has won the heart of every person in these “pueblos Chontales*” along the Oaxacan coast. (Vicente LOPEZ)
* Chontales = Ethnic group of this region.
Recently the Centre and its sister organization, Hands on Health, were the recipient of a Community Services Industry Award in recognition of the many volunteers regularly offer their services. The award was presented by the state’s Department of Community Development.
The Community Services Industry Awards celebrate and recognize the enormous contribution and tireless efforts of people and organizations statewide which make up the Western Australian community services industry – and whose work continues to make a positive difference in the lives of all Western Australians.
St Patrick’s Community Support Centre Volunteers and Hands on Health work together in Fremantle, offering meals, accommodation, welfare services and holistic healing to Fremantle’s homeless and disadvantaged people in crisis. The 60 volunteers of all ages give support which is practical, compassionate, spiritual and realistic.
St. Pat’s, as it is fondly known, is home and family for hundreds of the clients who often find themselves estranged from their own families of origin. Because many of the volunteers have been serving the Centre for several years, they are sources of strength for clients who have bonded with them over time.
Steve McDermott, Executive Director of the Centre, said that Brother Hannick, who died in 2005, would be extremely proud of the volunteers who gave of themselves so freely in order to help others. “Some of them have been volunteering here for over 25 years and that speaks volumes about how they value what they do and their dedication to our clients. Some of the volunteers help with pick up and delivery of donated goods while others work on reception or in the kitchen. Everyone pulls together because they believe in what they are doing and want to help.”
Welcoming Fr. Archiati, Fr. W. Emmanuel Fernando, the Chairman of the Oblate Formation Committee, said: “South Asia, as part of the global society, is experiencing very rapid changes. These changes are affecting profoundly the individuals, the groups and the institutions, including formal religions. As a result, new ways of perceiving the world, the society and the individuals are also emerging daily. A new historic consciousness has emerged and it continues to grow daily.
In this situation, the Federation of the Asian Bishops’ Conference (FABC) speaks of a new way of being the Church in Asia and new ways of expressing our faith. We, the Oblates in formation ministry, too feel called by God to a new way of being Oblates to respond to the people’s need for liberation, wholeness and salvation and also to respond to the call of eco-crisis. Such a mission-vision demands an integrated spirituality, prophetic thrust, ongoing conversation and dialogue with cultures and our major religions, openness and response-ability to the issues of poverty, justice, peace, ecology etc. Besides these issues, we are also compelled to think of the psycho-sexual development of individuals and families and the serious conflicts within and outside individuals.
To meet the new demands of this new historic situation, a new formation programme, ‘Asian Institute of Theology’ has emerged to try and form the future Oblates to listen, analyze and understand what is taking place in the world and in the Church, especially in South Asia, and respond meaningfully. The Oblate Formation Committee tries to be at the service of this programme. The members of this committee meet regularly to reflect together on the formation process at different stages and be of service to the candidates in formation. There is a need for a holistic spirituality at the different stages of Oblate formation that will resonate with the call for conflict management and resolution, wholeness and total health of the candidates in formation and which will energize them to listen , connect and collaborate with people and nature.”
The ensuing discussions brought out a number of issues that are of particular concern to formators in the Sri Lankan situation. For example, the provincial of Jaffna, Fr. S.M. Selvaratnam, updated the group on the violent and dangerous situation in his area, where not only many persons are displaced and children are left orphans, but formation itself is taking place in extremely stressful circumstances.
Father Archiati, sharing his impressions, noted that the Oblates are alive and are searching new strategies to translate the Oblate vision-mission in the formation process. He also emphasized the importance of having a team of formators in each House of Formation, interacting with a common vision and common criteria for assessing the candidates. (W. Emmanuel Fernando)
Whether there will ever be such an honor for the Filipino Oblate documentary project, I-Watch, is unknown. Nevertheless, carrying on the Oblate tradition of “leaving nothing undared,” Father Eduardo “Ponpon” VASQUEZ, began the I-Watch project with the mission to awaken, inform, educate and inspire persons or communities through video productions and presentations. It aims to motivate people to act together on urgent issues like poverty, the environment, peace, justice, culture and faith, especially as these issues have an impact on their local communities. It also aims to help the local indigenous groups (the lumad) in their struggle for equality, peace and justice.
Since its foundation, the I-Watch team has received requests for documentaries from various organizations and groups. Thus far, they have produced videos on such topics as the life of the new auxiliary bishop of Cotabato, the life-situation of the Dulangan-Manobos indigenous people of the island of Mindanao, and a presentation on the pros and cons of changing the Filipino Constitution. They have also produced a video on the history of Mindanao.
A graduate of the Social and Religious Communications program, Crec-Avex, in France, Ponpon would also like to make documentaries that tell the story of some of the Oblates who have worked and even given their lives in their ministry in the Philippines, such as the assassinated Bishop Benjamin de Jesus.
Fr Tom Shortall started the mission at Rosebud, Victoria (hence the name Rosies) in 1974. From there, it migrated to Melbourne in the early 1980's and was exported to the Gold Coast, Queensland, in 1987. As Rosies begins its 20th year in Queensland, they are intent on giving thanks to God for all the people that have been healed and befriended through an army of 500 volunteers over 8 (soon to be 9) centers.
On the Sunday 17th December, 2006, Rosies hosted their annual Christmas on the Street at the Gold Coast, Queensland. About 110 visitors came to the afternoon event which was hosted by about 20 of the Rosies volunteers. Over the last week leading up to and including Christmas day, smaller Christmas on the Street events were also hosted by Rosies at Cairns, Sunshine Coast, Caboolture and Brisbane city.
It was touching that Rosies’ friends on the street appointed a leader who presented a signed card to the lead volunteer, Mrs Claudette Neave. Claudette is a powerhouse of energy and has been volunteering for over 15 years on the Gold Coast Rosies team. Other Rosies stories can be found on their website under Newsletter: www.rosies.org.au
Also present were 23 persons from India from different religious traditions. The seminar focused on how the sacred can be found in such varied traditions as Hinduism, Saivism, Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity, and Islam. The event was organized by Daughters of Mary Immaculate, Sisters Josephine and Rose, and by Oblate Swami Joseph SAMARAKONE.
Each evening, the Daughters of Mary Immaculate (DMI), the Missionary Brothers of Mary Immaculate (MMI), and Oblate scholastics presented cultural performances on the theme of searching for the sacred. (Loorthusamy Sowriappan)
The meetings, from January 19 to 21, were held primarily at Mazenod College, the main site for the event. Gathering at the site, together with the participation of over 50 members of Oblate Youth Australia, was a fantastic opportunity for brainstorming, discussion and sharing. Throughout the weekend there were presentations, small group discussions and open-forums which all proved highly rewarding. With the combination of many talented minds, they were able to build an exciting vision; their dream for what the IOYE will be, and what it can achieve.
The Team came away with a real sense of enthusiasm and a commitment to make the International Oblate Youth Encounter an experience like no other. Everyone looks forward to welcoming the Oblate world to this exciting event in July next year!
For enquiries about the International Oblate Youth Encounter in 2008, please visit these websites: www.oblates.com.au and www.oblateyouth.com.
Roger, the former pastor at Neuhof, is a member of the Prado Institute of Consecrated Life. When he asked me to replace him at Trampoline Neuhof, an association founded by him, I had no idea of how much of my time it would take.
What’s it all about? It’s about moving people beyond public aid and teaching them responsibility.
The active members of the association are ‘clients’ and not dependants. They are sent to us by social workers. They come every two weeks, with a voucher that specifies what they can buy. It’s up to them to manage their own budget. They must also learn to respect the day and the hour; otherwise, they have to wait outside or come back later.
We sell them things received from the ‘Food Bank’ at 10% of their value; we charge 30% of the value for things we ourselves have purchased. Usually, the bill for each family rarely goes over 10 €, but the real value is 80.
Sometimes a client does not have enough to take care of his bill. We give credit, but never twice in row; otherwise they are disqualified. It’s severe but necessary. These refusals (rare indeed) are meant to help them reinsert themselves in society and an occupation. It’s part of the contract that each one signs at the beginning.
Each family commits itself for three months, renewable. They also commit to take part in one or the other workshop: learning to read, sewing, cooking, etc. Or they promise to come and help with unloading merchandise, whether sorting or putting it on shelves or labeling it or cleaning the store.
The store is open Monday through Friday. Usually I am there at about 8:30 a.m. and at 2:00 p.m. I stay as long as necessary. Since I am a volunteer, I am not obliged to be there since I need to be free for other activities in the community and the parish.
One reads in the Oblates’ Rule of Life that they dedicate themselves to those groups least touched by the Church; that they devote themselves principally to the evangelization of the poor; that one must teach people to act rationally… In our neighborhood, so multi-ethnic and so poor, that is indeed our mission. (Audacieux pour l’Evangile, janvier 2007)
In the case are displayed many of the books he has published, as well as his decorations: he is an Officer of the Order of Polonia Restituta and is a recipient of the Cross of Auschwitz.
Now residing in Belgium as a member of the France-Benelux Delegation, the distinguished Oblate author published in 2005 a very significant book entitled The Martyrology of Polish Oblates 1939-1945. As a former prisoner of the concentration camp in Mauthausen-Gusen, he undertook the task to describe the fate of his 126 companions coming from the Polish Province.
The work took about ten years of gathering materials, doing research in archives and libraries, and visiting the places of torture. He also recounts his own wartime experiences.
In order to fulfill the mission more effectively and to enrich all the aspects of Oblate life, many conversations have taken place in recent years in an effort to find the appropriate structure for our missionary presence in the northern countries of Europe. After these consultations, the decision was reached to reconfigure the General Delegation of Scandinavia into two district communities forming part of the Province of Poland. On this occasion I would like to thank all the missionaries of the General Delegation of Scandinavia for their missionary work.”
Father Teodor JOCHEM, the provincial of Poland, after consulting the Oblates working in Scandinavia, established two new “Districts” with specific statutes: the Districts of Denmark and of Sweden-Norway. Father General explained in his letter: “Ultimately, this is more than a question of rules and regulations, which exist only to serve Oblate life and mission. With this change, you, the Oblates of Scandinavia, are turning a page in history. In the whole of Europe, the members of our Congregation are increasingly working together, and with the new structure, you become clearly part of that movement. Your mission is a specific one; working with minorities and immigrants has always been part of our apostolate, from the time of the Founder on. I hope that all Oblates in migrant ministry worldwide are able to cooperate more and more in the future, for the benefit of so many people who migrate, Christians and believers of others faiths as well, who must not be left abandoned.”
He concluded: “I send you every best wish for the missionary life and work in two new Scandinavian district communities of Poland. May you have a good beginning to this new part of your history, on New Year’s day of 2007, solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.”
The first thirty years of Fr. King’s life as an Oblate priest were filled with activity and accomplishments. He was professor of theology at the Oblate scholasticate in Washington, D.C. He was a consultant to the bishops during the Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s. From 1968 until 1972, he served as Assistant General in Rome and then, from 1972 until 1974, as General Councilor. Upon completion of his service in Rome, he went to the Oblate mission in Puerto Rico and, a few years later, he worked among Hispanic Catholics in Lowell, Massachusetts.
While he lived this very active life, he felt a call deep within himself to seek the Lord in a more profound way. He asked his Oblate superiors for permission to explore a more contemplative life-style. What began as an experiment became a way of life.
The first five years of his spiritual journey was a time of discernment with masters of the contemplative life. After this time of guidance, and for the past 18 years, Fr. King has served as chaplain to a community of monastic religious women at the Monastery of Bethlehem and the Assumption of the Virgin in Livingston Manor, New York. This monastery is part of a world-wide network of communities of contemplative religious, founded in France in 1950.
Each day, the religious gather with Fr. King to pray and celebrate the Eucharist. The rest of their day is spent in solitude with the Lord.
During the past summer, Fr. King’s life as a hermit was threatened when he underwent major bypass heart surgery. At age 78, he was concerned that he would not be able to continue his life of solitude and prayer. But in less than a month, he returned to the monastery to resume his regular schedule.
While not all Oblates are called to this level of the contemplative life, Fr. King continues to keep the Oblates and their mission in his thoughts and prayers. (Oblate World, December 2006)
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