Martine Caffo (Oblate lay associate from Aix-en-Provence)
The European Regional meeting of the 2nd Oblate Lay Associations Congress was held in Kokotek, Poland in parallel to the main Congress which was held from May 27-29, 2022. Martine Caffo, a pensioner from Aix-en-Province shares his experience.
I went to Kokotek, Poland, without really expecting any revelation about my mission as a lay person. I have been in contact and connection with Oblates for about 12 years. At Kokotek, as the days went by, rubbing shoulders with others, I became aware of the extent to which the Oblate charism is. Indeed, in meetings, conversations, in the listening without preconceived ideas or judgement, each one was considered in his or her simple humanity, just as he or she is, and was received as a gift.
For me, it is obvious that each person follows his or her own path of faith by living the commandments to the best of his or her ability, but at Kokotek, through the small workshops offered, the discussions, listening to all these interventions via Zoom throughout the world, it is clear that we all, and each one in particular, have a job to do, ideas to contribute and to work together in collaboration with our Oblate priests and brothers in order to accomplish our mission at the service of the poorest. But poor in the broadest sense, not only material poverty, but all kinds of poverty, addictions of all kinds, voluntary or forced isolation, handicaps, realising that we are useful instruments whatever our achievements and their extent.
There is much to do, service is the magnificent path to which we are called, which makes us grow. Let us know how to give simply in joy. In Kokotek universality was beautifully represented, let us then be in communion in order to fulfil our mission.
Here are the highlights of the Congress in Kokotek for the European Region:
Even though the status of the laity varies greatly within the countries of Europe, there is a need to build community based on the establishment of good and balanced relationships between Oblates and laity. The desire and need for community are pillars of communion. The preparation of this congress was the first step (relationships, networking, working together). Even if face-to-face meetings are precious, the use of new communication technologies allows the maintenance of the relationship, the development of the spiritual bond and the common Oblate identity. However, this community should not be closed in itself but should be open to all, especially to young people who can enlighten our way into the future.
Despite our European diversities, we feel the need to deepen and clarify our identity as lay Oblates or Associates. Even if some may fear rigid rules and structures, however, there are some common points necessary to understand this identity, such as the preparation of a common formation programme. Resources already exist such as “15 days with Eugene” and other materials, which could be put together online and be made available to all.
However, the exchange of information is not enough. We are fortunate in Europe to be able to live and experience the spirit of St. Eugene by visiting places linked to the life of the Founder (Aix-en-Provence, Palermo, Rome…) or other places of importance to Oblates (Pozuelo de Alarcon for the Spanish Oblate martyrs) which could be another basis for formation.
Oblates should be part of our formation to share and learn together: the lay Oblates can also enrich the life of the Oblates; we can contribute to their formation. The relationship of Oblates in first formation with the Lay Associates seems very important to us. Let us not forget that young people are the future of the Lay Oblates and that we (Oblates and lay people) must support and nourish their journey.
Mission is to be shared by Oblates and laity, using the talents and vision of the laity, who are “in the world” in a different way from Oblates. The path must be one of partnership. This means moving from involvement to balanced participation and, in some cases, to leadership. It is a matter of saying to the laity “we are going to do this”, to asking the laity, “what are we to do?” thus ensuring the coherence of the common framework.
We must “be” and live the life and charism we speak of. Our mission must be coherent, relevant and exemplary, especially for young people. The message and our example must inspire them and motivate them to act.
We need to seek out and recognise material and spiritual poverty, loneliness, addictions, and be ready to be missionaries in new ways, bringing hope to these people. We can discover that this poverty is also within ourselves. Mission cannot be detached from Formation and Communion. So, we must also share in this way.
(pg/ln/zdj. J. Bien/wideo: P. Jenek)