In Ukraine, the Missionary Oblates launched the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Congregation on 25 January 2016, by feeding more than 300 homeless persons in the streets of Kyiv. Over the course of the year, the Oblate parishes in Ukraine had their own special celebrations. As the anniversary year moved towards its conclusion, all the Oblates working in Ukraine, Crimea and Russia came together for a retreat on 14-19 November 2016.
While they would have liked to travel to Aix-en-Provence for the retreat, that was not possible. Therefore, they invited Aix to Ukraine by inviting the superior of the Aix community, Fr. Krzysztof ZIELENDA, to preach the days of recollection. The topic was: “In the midst of the Oblate charism.” In addition to the conferences, there was time devoted to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The retreat concluded with a visit from the President of the Bishops’ Conference of Ukraine, Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki of Lviv. He concluded his visit by solemnly handing over the relics of the great witness of charity, Pope St. John Paul II.
Writing on behalf of the Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Mokrzycki said: “Reverend Father, Superior of the Delegation! Through you, I would like to convey greetings to the whole Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate on the occasion of the great 200thanniversary of existence of your religious family. It is no accident that 200 years ago, on the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, your holy Founder Eugene de Mazenod, along with several other priests, began the apostolic activities of a new religious community.
“It seems that the Apostle Paul was very close in spirit to your Founder. One could think so, based on the similarity of their lives, remembering, for example, their conversion that opened them to God and the Gospel. Choosing this way of life, St. Eugene de Mazenod described it thus: ‘The Lord has sent me to evangelize the poor.’ Such was the need of the time and the conditions of the Church and the world.
“That was 200 years ago, and today we see the relevance of those words and the need for your ministry in the universal Church. The vocation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate to proclaim the Gospel to both the spiritually and materially poor is needed in Ukraine. For 27 years now, the priests of your Congregation have been a sign of faith for the people of our country.
“By gift of Divine Providence, your anniversary takes place during the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Divine Mercy, thus emphasizing the Lord’s great love for all people and that the Almighty longs and looks forward to our doing the same. May your pastoral ministry lead believers to the gospel, provide a helping hand to the poor, and plant signs of love through which the faith and the hope of God’s people might be strengthened.
“Thanking you for your service in Metropolitan Lviv, your sacrifice and your testimony of a holy life, I commend you to the care of Mary Immaculate, and I ask Almighty God to give you generous gifts of blessing and peace.”
As a sign of gratitude for the zealous service of the Missionary Oblates in Ukraine, the archbishop presented to Fr. Pavlo VYSHKOVSKYI, the Delegation Superior, a memorial medal on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the restoration of the structures of the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine.