It was in 2008 that the first ever International Oblate Congress on the Mission with Youth was held in Sydney, Australia. It was mainly to re-emphasize that the ministry with young people is of great importance in our Congregation. Eight years later, the second such Oblate Congress was held in Aix-en-Provence, France, from the 7th to the 12th of March 2016.

Five participants from each Oblate region, both Oblates and youth, along with Fr. Louis LOUGEN, the Superior General and several members of the General Administration, gathered there to initiate a process to develop a missionary vision and a strategy for the coming years concerning the Congregation’s mission with youth.

Following Cardinal Cardijn’s methodology for Young Christian Workers, “See-Judge-Act”, the Congress discussed the Congregation’s future plans for mission with youth with much interest and enthusiasm. The first two days were dedicated to SEEING. The participants, together with Fr. General and Fr. Gilberto PIÑÓN, Assistant General, discussed common trends among youth today and how far, at present, the Congregation responds to these trends.

The third and fourth days were dedicated to JUDGING. Fr. Bonga THAMI from the community of Aix helped the participants discern their own call to the service of youth in the light of the life of St. Eugene de Mazenod. These talks were complemented by our visits to the cities of Aix and Marseilles. Frs. Asodo ISTOYO and Bonga were our ‘tour guides’. These visits reiterated the fact that the Founder had a great concern for the youth of his day. The highlight of the visits was the Holy Mass celebrated at the tomb of St. Eugene in the Cathedral of Marseilles; Fr. General presided at the Mass.

The final phase of the Congress was ACTING. Focusing on the results of the discussions of the previous days, the participants divided into small groups where they would discuss and develop concrete proposals for various areas of concern. Finally these proposals were gathered together and formulated into a final draft as a proposed working document for the Oblate Mission with Youth in the coming years. At the end, in an atmosphere of prayer in the Foundation Room, the participants signed a letter to the whole Congregation and it was then presented to Fr. General.

Special thanks go to Fr. Chicho ROIS, the General Councillor for Europe, who was the main organizer of the event and to all the members of the community of Aix. (Fr. Shanil JAYAWARDENA)