The major event of 1819 was the community of Missionaries establishing themselves at the shrine of Notre Dame du Laus in January.
Until now the community had been based solely in Aix, and it had been easy to maintain the focus, spirit and unity of the group. Starting a second establishment 200 kilometers away was a totally new venture that produced new challenges.
The Missionaries were generous and zealous and so Eugene’s concern was not focused on the ministry they would DO, but rather that both groups BE by maintaining the same spirit. However great the geographical distance between the Missionaries, there was only one God-given spirit to guide them and justify their existence.
For this reason, the choice of the first superior of Laus was Henri Tempier, to whom Eugene was later to say:
First companion of mine, you have from the first day we came together grasped the spirit which must animate us and which we must communicate to others; you have not deviated in the slightest from the path we resolved to follow; everyone knows this in the Society and they count on you as they count on myself.
Letter to Henri Tempier, 15 August 1822, O.W. VI n. 86
Humanly, it was a big sacrifice because the two men were close and were used to cooperating on everything. But the importance of this venture demanded this personal sacrifice for the sake of the unity of his religious family.
“Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common.” Acts 4:32
Permitting myself to paraphrase Marshall McLuhan’s “the techniques of the arts” as “the techniques of our Mazenodian spirit,” I find that he evokes Eugene’s aspiration here:
As the unity of the modern world becomes increasingly a technological rather than a social affair, the techniques of the arts provide the most valuable means of insight into the real direction of our own collective purposes.