The first months of the year 1820 were taken up with two important missions to the cities of Marseille and Aix en Provence. Together with the group of the Missionaries of France they were to work at the renewal of the whole city. The mission in Marseille was from January 2 to February 27 and that of Aix from March 12 to April 24. They were extremely demanding and time-consuming missions and unfortunately Eugene did not have time to write letters. Consequently I will have to rely on some of the eyewitness accounts to give an idea of some of the activities.
Because of the size of the two cities, preparations had begun 15 months before the mission was due to start. The superior of the Missionaries of France wrote to invite Eugene’s participation. The reply shows the fundamental option which was part of the spirit of the vocation of Eugene and his Missionaries: their reason for existence was to reach out to the poorest part of the population:
We are so happy to be able to lend a hand to your work in our area that we will not hesitate to leave everything and follow you to Marseilles. Because of that we will have to go back on our word to the parish priest where we were to go at the time set for your mission…
You can therefore count on us, but we must not hide the fact that we shall be of very feeble help; fortunately, your zeal and talents will supply for our insufficiency. If you are willing, we shall take charge, as we did at Arles, of that part of the city inhabited by the poorer people; thus we will not be going against the Rules of our Institute which require us to devote ourselves to that portion of the flock of Jesus Christ.
Letter to M. Rauzan, Superior General of the Missionaries of France,
30 0ctober 1818, O.W. XIII n.19
“In teaching us charity, the Gospel instructs us in the preferential respect due the poor and the special situation they have in society.” Pope Paul VI