It was in 2013 that the Superior General in Council gave a clear mandate for the long-awaited major renovations of the General House of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Rome, Italy.

With that mandate, a committee was formed (delegated by the Superior General) to oversee the entire project. The committee was comprised of Fr. Paolo ARCHIATI, the Vicar General, Fr. Marc DESSAREAULT, the Treasurer General, Fr. Roberto SARTOR, the House Treasurer, Fr. Thomas KLOSTERKAMP, the then Superior of the General House, and Antonio Finiti, our engineer/architect. (At present, Fr. Mokone RATHOKOA, the new House Superior has taken the place of Fr. Thomas on the committee).

Then and now

The committee recognised some parts of the project as top priorities, needing immediate attention. The boiler room, the drainage system around the foundation of the house, the crypt below the main chapel, the plaster on the outside walls, and the replacement of the old windows came under that category. Apart from them, renovations done to the main chapel (lighting and wiring), the central heating system (with five new boilers) and the rooftop are also worth mentioning.

Fr. Marc in front of the solar panels

This year the committee decided to concentrate on something they already had in mind for several years:  the project of solar panels. A total of 332 German photovoltaic panels have already been fixed on the rooftop and they are expected to generate over 90 kilowatts per day.

Fr. Marc is of the view that the project would allow us to get our investment back in six or seven years. In general, it is said that any ‘good’ solar panel project should give you your initial investment back within the first 10 years. The final connection to the grid needed to activate the production of electricity got underway in mid-January.

“The electricity produced by the solar panels will be solely for the usage of the General House, and we will soon see its advantage with the reduction of our electricity bills” Fr. Marc added.

“During the summer we have an added advantage. The three heat pumps, which are active and produce the air-conditioning during the summer, will be sending the heat they produce to the boilers downstairs, and they in turn will help produce hot water for the House. In that sense, it will be a double recycling of electricity.”

Being able to activate the solar panels and being able to be more autonomous regarding electricity is quite an achievement, taking into consideration all the hard work put in by the Treasurer General, the House Bursar and the team. Their seven years of tireless work is to be commended.

However, the renovation project of the General House is far from being over. There are a few more steps to be completed this year. The main dining hall, scheduled for next summer, is one of those. The sports field is also most likely be converted to a multi-sport field.

Fr. Deschâtelets, Superior General blessing the first stone (Left). Bishop Luigi Traglia, Vicar of Rome consecrated the chapel – 10 November 1950 (Right) [Photos- OMI General Archives, Rome]

The Oblates have had to move their General house or headquarters (so to speak) from one place to another, several times during our 200-year-old history, first from Aix-en-Provence to Marseille, then to Paris, Liège, and finally to Rome in 1905. Its first destination in Rome was a stone’s throw from the Colosseum, in what is today Via Vittorino da Feltre. Finally, in 1950 it was moved to its present destination in Via Aurelia 290, a stone’s throw from St. Peter’s Basilica.

Once a point of discussion whether the Oblates should retain or sell the property, the OMI General House is now preparing herself to shelter many more Oblates in the generations to come.