OUR FOUNDING CHARISM TODAY: WITNESSING JESUS CHRIST FAITHFULLY THROUGH OUR OBLATE CHARISM DEMANDS THAT WE PUT THESE PRIORITIES INTO PRACTICE

Action on behalf of justice, peace and the integrity of creation is an integral part of evangelization…
Whatever their work, Oblates will collaborate, according to their vocation and by every means compatible with the Gospel, in changing all that is a cause of oppression and poverty. They thereby help to create a society based on the dignity of the human person created in the image of God.

CC&RR, Rule 9a

Fr. Kennedy Katongo’s last testament to us on this Constitution concludes with his listing the four Oblate priorities in the ministry of Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation.:

HUMAN RIGHTS

We commit ourselves to work especially in promoting the rights of all peoples, as individuals and as communities, with special emphasis on indigenous peoples and migrants. We commit ourselves so that all peoples should be respected in their right to life from conception to life’s natural end and to have access to basic human needs as well as the right to enjoy the free exercise of civic, political, social, religious and cultural rights, and to have a healthy community to live in.

PEACE AND RECONCILIATION

We are also attentive to include in the initial and ongoing Oblate Formation curriculum the specific training in the area of conflict resolution and reconciliation at the social, religious and political levels, for instance between ethnic groups in the regions that we are currently ministering.

ECOLOGICAL AND ECONOMIC SUSTAINABILITY

We commit ourselves to an integral relationship between humanity and nature as gifts of God, and protection of the environment and commitment to ecology.

EDUCATION AND FORMATION

We are committed to the promotion of basic literacy and education as a fundamental right so as to empower people in their search for greater dignity and opportunities. We believe that preparation and updating for this dimension of our mission should be included in all of our formation programs. This includes the different stages of initial formation, ongoing formation and leadership training programs that are planned at different levels of the congregation. We act so that lay people and Oblates together assume responsibility for our mission. Catholic social teaching and JPIC training needs to be an integral part of our formation programs for Oblates and the laity.

Kennedy Katongo OMI (http://www.omiworld.org/en/content/news/3805/towards-a-spirituality-of-jpic-the-oblate-charism-at-the-service-of-the-poor/ )

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“Every minister worthy of the name has to walk the line between prophetic vision and spiritual sustenance, between telling people the comforting things they want to hear and challenging them with the difficult things they need to hear. In Oxford, my father began to feel as though all the members wanted him to do was to marry them and bury them and stay away from their souls.”   Timothy B. Tyson

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OUR FOUNDING CHARISM TODAY: LIBERATION BEGINS WITHIN THE MAZENODIAN COMMUNITY AND IS WITNESSED TO OUTSIDE

We are members of the prophetic Church. While recognizing our own need for conversion, we bear witness to God’s holiness and justice. We announce the liberating presence of Jesus Christ and the new world born in his resurrection. We will hear and make heard the clamour of the voiceless, which is a cry to God who brings down the mighty from their thrones and exalts the lowly (cf. Lk 1: 52).

CC&RR, Constitution 9

Action on behalf of justice, peace and the integrity of creation is an integral part of evangelization.

CC&RR, Rule 9a

Therefore, as Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and our associates, we strive to integrate into our ministry this vital aspect of the “liberating presence of Jesus Christ and the new world born in his resurrection” (C 9). We do this through our OMI JPIC congregational priorities.

These four Priorities were first developed in 2009 and were revised in 2012 following a process of both consultation and discernment by the Central Government and the OMI JPIC General Service. This process took into account the 2010 Chapter mandate “to develop fresh animation for mission and for discerning new missionary strategies and major missionary challenges”. It is also very clear that these priorities are ad intra: Witnessing Jesus Christ faithfully through our Oblate Charism demands that we put these priorities into practice first in our own Oblate community life; and ad extra: The way we organize our community is our first missionary commitment in witnessing and building the Kingdom of God, preached by Jesus, as the Good News for all Creation, all men and women.Kennedy Katongo OMI (http://www.omiworld.org/en/content/news/3805/towards-a-spirituality-of-jpic-the-oblate-charism-at-the-service-of-the-poor/ )

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“Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are ‘disciples’ and ‘missionaries,’ but rather that we are always ‘missionary disciples.’” Pope Francis The Joy of the Gospel, n.120

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OUR FOUNDING VISION TODAY: SHOWING A VERY HUMAN FACE OF JESUS TO THE WORLD, ONE FULL OF COMPASSION AND SOLIDARITY

We are members of the prophetic Church. While recognizing our own need for conversion, we bear witness to God’s holiness and justice. We announce the liberating presence of Jesus Christ and the new world born in his resurrection. We will hear and make heard the clamour of the voiceless, which is a cry to God who brings down the mighty from their thrones and exalts the lowly (cf. Lk 1: 52).

CC&RR, Constitution 9

Action on behalf of justice, peace and the integrity of creation is an integral part of evangelization.

CC&RR, Rule 9a

As Oblates, we look at the world through the eyes of the Crucified Savior so that those who suffer will be strengthened with the hope of the power of the resurrection (C#4); this was the perspective of our Founder St. Eugene de Mazenod and the Oblate charism. As Father Louis LOUGEN, our Superior General, says about the Oblate Charism:” “We are fired by a charism that is unique and special in the Church, one that makes us very close to the poor, the rejected, the forgotten, the people that society ignores, and the people who don’t feel accepted in church…We show a very human face of Jesus to the world, one full of compassion and solidarity.” Thus, many Oblates all over the world are working with, among and for the poor and are therefore exercising this ministry, even though they may not use this JPIC terminology.

Kennedy Katongo OMI (http://www.omiworld.org/en/content/news/3805/towards-a-spirituality-of-jpic-the-oblate-charism-at-the-service-of-the-poor/ )

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“The poor are always prophetic. As true prophets always point out, they reveal God’s design. That is why we should take time to listen to them. And that means staying near them, because they speak quietly and infrequently; they are afraid to speak out, they lack confidence in themselves because they have been broken and oppressed. But if we listen to them, they will bring us back to the essential.”   Jean Vanier

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OUR FOUNDING VISION TODAY: SEEING, TO “REALLY SEE”

We are members of the prophetic Church. While recognizing our own need for conversion, we bear witness to God’s holiness and justice. We announce the liberating presence of Jesus Christ and the new world born in his resurrection. We will hear and make heard the clamour of the voiceless, which is a cry to God who brings down the mighty from their thrones and exalts the lowly (cf. Lk 1: 52).

CC&RR, Constitution 9

Action on behalf of justice, peace and the integrity of creation is an integral part of evangelization.

CC&RR, Rule 9a

Just last week, Father Kennedy Katongo, director of JPIC for the Oblate Congregation, published a reflection: “Towards a Spirituality of JPIC: the Oblate Charism at the service of the poor.” Because it fitted in so well with our reflections on the founding charism today, I intended to reproduce parts of it in these reflections. Three days later, Father Kennedy died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 36. These reflections now become his testament to us to continue pursuing the ideals of St Eugene which Kennedy and his JPIC collaborators dedicated themselves to work with us to achieve.

Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Ministry is central and at the heart of our mission as Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

… Therefore, the ministry of JPIC begins with seeing, to ‘really see’ – to have a truthful and deeper look at – to take a contemplative stance and a prophetic reading, to be able to discern in light of the values of the Gospel what is happening in our world today – our common home. JPIC ministry assists us in analyzing the current reality with a contemplative perspective to see more deeply the structures that generate poverty, devastation of the environment, conflict and violence and how we might more fully make the values of the Kingdom more visible and functional. This is the reality and the world in which we as Oblates live and minister to the people.”

Kennedy Katongo OMI (http://www.omiworld.org/en/content/news/3805/towards-a-spirituality-of-jpic-the-oblate-charism-at-the-service-of-the-poor/ )

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“What is needed desperately today is prophetic insight. Scholars can interpret the past; it takes prophets to interpret the present.”   Aiden Wilson Tozer

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OUR FOUNDING VISION TODAY: MAKE THE WORLD OF THE POOR LESS LIKE HELL AND MORE LIKE HEAVEN

We are members of the prophetic Church. While recognizing our own need for conversion, we bear witness to God’s holiness and justice. We announce the liberating presence of Jesus Christ and the new world born in his resurrection.

CC&RR, Constitution 9

Father Jetté invites us to reflect:

Announcing the liberating presence of Christ means to recall the ever present and actual role of Christ in man’s liberation and the establishment of a better world, one that is more just, more welcoming to the poor, the sick, the unfortunate. We have here a discreet reference to liberation theology which sees God at work today in our world in order to bring it integral liberation, that is, not only from death and sin, but, more immediately, from certain consequences of sin, as, for example, unjust social structures or the exploitation of the poor by the rich.

“The new world born in the resurrection [of Jesus Christ]” has a double meaning. First of all, this is the eschatological world which will come at the end of time, when the Kingdom of God will have been fully accomplished and our bodies will have been transformed, when there will no longer be any death, suffering or sin.

But there is also a world more according to the Gospel, one that is already possible here on earth, thanks to Christ’s action which continues in people’s hearts and through the ministry of the Church and which strives to establish more justice, trust and love among men and between the peoples of the earth. The Kingdom comes and grows when the Word of God is proclaimed to people; it is like a seed that is cast into the ground and is meant to grow (Matthew 13:3-23). Article 9 summons us to play our part in the coming of this new world that is more according to the Gospel.   F. Jetté OMI, The Apostolic Man, Pages 101-102

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“To expect heaven on earth is an illusion, but to tolerate the existence of hell on earth is not Christian. We are called to work with the poor and to help them make their world less like hell and a little more like heaven.” James Cooke OMI

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OUR FOUNDING VISION TODAY: PROPHETS AS LAMPS OF THE NEW WORLD

We are members of the prophetic Church. While recognizing our own need for conversion, we bear witness to God’s holiness and justice. We announce the liberating presence of Jesus Christ and the new world born in his resurrection.

CC&RR, Constitution 9

Eugene looked at the Cross and saw himself as he really was: confused and lost and lacking direction. Conversion meant that he had finally found his focus. It was seeing himself through the eyes of the Crucified Savior that gave him a focus. They led him to begin to look at the world through those same eyes and understand the purpose of his life as being a “co-operator of Christ the Savior.”

Through the eyes of the crucified Christ he became aware of a crowd of poor lost people milling at the foot of the Cross, focused on themselves and their misery – just like the women at the empty tomb who had to be brought to their senses by the angel and told: “He is going ahead of you to Galilee. There you will see him.”

“Galilee” is the place of our everyday lives. The message of the Crucified Savior is a summons to fully immerse ourselves in our everyday lives as the place to discover the liberating presence of Jesus Christ and the new world born in his resurrection. Just like Eugene, once we enter into this personal process as missionary disciples, then we find ourselves becoming even more aware of those around us who are most in need of the same change of vision.

Here is the Oblate message and mission: journey with the poor and abandoned, in their humanity, to discover the liberating presence of Jesus Christ and the new world born in his resurrection in their human struggles and joys, and then to accompany them in their growth as Christians and saints in the process.

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“A zealous man feels that like a lamp he is made to burn; and if consumed in burning, he has but done the work for which God appointed him. Such a one will always find a sphere for his zeal. If he cannot preach and work and give money, he will cry and sigh and pray.”   J. C. Ryle

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OUR FOUNDING VISION TODAY: RECOGNIZING OUR PERSONAL NEED TO CONVERT OUR MISUSE OF SACRED ENERGY

We are members of the prophetic Church. While recognizing our own need for conversion, we bear witness to God’s holiness and justice.

CC&RR, Constitution 9

For what seems to feel like an eternity of months we have been inflicted with a presidential campaign that seems to have as its only objective that of digging up as much dirt as possible on the opponent and use it to destroy the reputation of that person. Each day we are bombarded with the question: “what new scandal or personal weakness has been revealed?” Sadly in democracy, election campaigns in many countries of the world have become defiled in this way. Father Ron Rolheiser reflects: “What we see in all the negative things that make up so much of the evening news each day is not evil energy but rather the misuse of sacred energy.”

As members of the Mazenodian family, we share in the prophetic function of the Church: to search for and point out the sacred energy in the midst of evil energy, and to journey with people on that journey of transformation.

BUT there is one condition! We need to be constantly on a journey of personal conversion that gives witness to the sacred energy that we seek to embrace daily. Unless we do this, and are energized by the Savior, we risk becoming like so many politicians and using the same methods. It is this danger that Euegene warned against in his vision statement that we now know as the Preface. Initially aimed at Oblate priests, its scope and vocabulary can be adjusted to accommodate the whole Mazenodian Family today.

They are convinced that if priests could be formed, afire with zeal for men’s salvation, priests not given to their own interests, solidly grounded in virtue – in a word, apostolic men deeply conscious of the need to reform themselves, who would labour with all the resources at their command to convert others – then there would be ample reason to believe that in a short while people who had gone astray might be brought back to their long-unrecognized responsibilities. “Take great care about what you do and what you teach,” was Paul’s charge to Timothy, “Always do this, and thus you will save both yourself and those who listen to you” (1 Tim 4: 16).

Preface

Unless we constantly seek conversion we will not be abe to withstand the criticism that any prophetic ministry invites.

Chapitre

“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”   Bishop Hélder Câmara

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OUR FOUNDING VISION TODAY: WE ARE MEMBERS OF THE PROPHETIC CHURCH

We are members of the prophetic Church. While recognizing our own need for conversion, we bear witness to God’s holiness and justice.

CC&RR, Constitution 9

This statement reminds me of the words of Fr. Rossetti on the ministerial priesthood. These words apply equally to all Missionary Oblates, brothers and priests:

“If you have been a priest for many years and you look back at decades of service and, after reviewing your ministry, cannot find one time when your preaching, ministry, or personal witness met with disapproval, you have to ask yourself if you really preached the Gospel. If our words and homilies have never been rejected by some people and if we have never been criticized for our public stance, then we have never fully preached the message of Jesus.” (The Joy of Priesthood, p.20)

The two hundred years of our Oblate history are filled with the names of a multitude of Oblate missionaries whose ministry has been prophetic. In practically every country where we serve, prophetic voices have been raised against injustice, persecution, discrimination, and any other form of betrayal of the Gospel values of God’s holiness and justice. The disapproval shown against some even led to their being put to death (Jozef Cebula, Victor Lelievre, Michael Rodrigo, Wrodarczyk, Ben de Jesus – just to name a few).

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“The perpetual danger which besets religion is that it may substitute politeness and aestheticism for prophetic insight and power.”   Georgia Harkness

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36th GENERAL CHAPTER BEGINS TODAY

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Prayer for the 36th General Chapter
God our Father,
we thank you for the gift of religious life
which you have given us through Saint Eugene de Mazenod.
You have called us to a missionary life
in order to preach the Gospel to the most abandoned:
“Evangelizare pauperibus misit me. Pauperes evangelizantur.”
During this General Chapter
in the year of the 200 anniversary of our Congregation,
we ask you for the grace of finding in your Son, Jesus Christ,
the center of our life and of our mission.
We hear the call to a profound personal and communal conversion.
Help us to become the salt of the earth and the light of the world,
so as to proclaim to today’s world the values of your Kingdom
through words and deeds.
We beg you, Lord, to send upon us your Spirit
to help us to be your Oblates, inflamed with your love,
sparing no effort to extend your Kingdom
and totally committed to the good of today’s poor.
We ask you this through the intercession of Mary Immaculate,
our Mother, and of Saint Eugene de Mazenod.
Amen

Chapitre

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OUR FOUNDING VISION TODAY: THE CALL TO PROPHETIC DYNAMISM

The heart of our spirituality, the focus of our charism and the source of our mission is expressed in our Rule as: “Through the eyes of our crucified Saviour we see the world which he redeemed with his blood, desiring that those in whom he continues to suffer will know also the power of his resurrection”(C 4). The next constitution of our Rule of Life that we will spend time reflecting on, reflects our founding vision today and impels us to do exactly this:

We are members of the prophetic Church. While recognizing our own need for conversion, we bear witness to God’s holiness and justice. We announce the liberating presence of Jesus Christ and the new world born in his resurrection. We will hear and make heard the clamour of the voiceless, which is a cry to God who brings down the mighty from their thrones and exalts the lowly (cf. Lk 1: 52). This prophetic mission is carried out in communion with the Church, in conformity with the directives of the hierarchy and in dependence on our Superiors.

CC&RR, Constitution 9

Fernand Jetté, our Superior General from 1974 to 1986, comments on this:

… everyone recognizes that it is necessary for a missionary Congregation dedicated to evangelizing the poor to open itself to this new dimension and to commit itself, clearly and according to its proper vocation, to the struggle for justice and the defense of human rights. That is the sense of the present article, an important article that is not without its elán (ed. animating force).

In fact, the prophetism that it asks for, even though it may bear in a special way on social justice, is much more vast than the sole defense of human rights. It expresses a reality that lies at the very heart of the religious life, the latter’s basic prophetism, namely, contesting the world, that is to say, the world filled with ambiguity and marked by sin in which we live, a world to be contested with God’s justice and holiness. If lived the way it ought to be, that is to say, radically, the religious life is, by its very existence and the practice of the vows, both an absolute contestation, often silent, of everything that is worldly in the world and in the Church, as well as the proclamation of a new world born of Christ’s resurrection.

The Apostolic Man, p. 99

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“The task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us.”   Walter Brueggemann

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