In Eugene’s Diary we read:

On the 25 April, 1813, Low Sunday, were laid the foundations of the holy Association of Christian Youth. The Director of this nascent congregation called to his side … [7 names follow]. After laying out for them his plan and showing them the advantages that would accrue to them from it, they began together the pious exercises of the Congregation to the great happiness of all.
It was agreed seeing the unhappy circumstances of the times to keep to a small number of religious practices which one would be careful to disguise as games.
The first session took place in the garden called the Pavillon l’Enfant. After a short prayer the group launched happily into games. The day drawing to a close, we entered a room of the Pavillon, and while the young men rested, the Rev. Director gave them an instruction that was followed by a decade of the rosary. At nightfall we returned to town, sorry that the day had been so short and looking forward already to another meeting that would take place the following Sunday.

Diary of the Aix Christian Youth Congregation, 25 April 1813, EO XVI

Note. In the Diary, Eugene usually refers to himself in the third person: e.g. “the Rev. Director.” This was because it was meant to be a public record (codex historicus) of the Youth Congregation, and not a personal diary.

Twenty-six years after the foundation of the Youth Congregation Eugene recalled:

I therefore answered the Bishop of Metz that my sole ambition was to dedicate myself to the service of the poor and the youth. I made my first debut in the jails, and my training consisted in surrounding myself with young people whom I instructed. I trained a good number of them in virtue. I saw some 280 of them gathered around me, and those who today still remain faithful to the principles that I had the happiness of instilling in their souls and who do honour to their faith in every rank of society or in the sanctuary, will uphold for a long time, either in Aix or in the other places where they are dispersed, the reputation that this congregation had rightly acquired for itself while I was able to care for it.

Diary entry of 31 March 1839 in EO 20

For a fuller treatment see the entries above: July 12, 2010– September 16, 2010. In fact if you go to the website and put the word “youth”: into the search-engine you will find an abundance of information on this important ministry in Eugene’s life.

Two hundred years later, the youth ministry of the Oblates continues along the same spirit and with similar fruits.

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Eugene and his endless energy and drive, his ingenuity in how he started the group and kept it going. Eugene, how he saw a need and went about filling it – his youth who most obviously were hungry, for the Word of God, for a better way to live, for community and connectedness, for direction of some sort in their lives. Having missed my own youth I am always and ever surprised somehow to see a group of young people, or even the odd one here and there who would be like some of the young men in Eugene’s group – they love God (and so each other) and live that out in so many wonderful ways. Eugene opened the door for those young men, taught and guided them, loved them, celebrated with them, celebrated them.

    Today we celebrate the anniversary of the birth of one group, the foundation of Eugene’s Youth Group, and yet this morning I find myself being pulled back to this time now, a time that signals something new and perhaps changes to come. I keep thinking I should be celebrating but there is no victory here, at least not one that I can see. I am thinking of the young man in Boston (an extreme example but one that stands out) who to all appearances to many was nice, lovable, smart, friendly, who though not yet proven to be is still held up as one of two who committed an act of terror. Whether he was responsible or not for the pain and hurt that was caused by those bombs, I found myself being a little aghast at the cheering and clapping crowds as he was driven away in an ambulance to receive treatment for his wounds. There was a part of me that I must admit to, who was thanking God that he was captured and who as I watched it on tv I wanted to (and I think that I did) shout out to my roommates that they [the police] had got him in a voice that was celebrating this. Very shortly after that though I began to think of the terror that he himself must of experienced, young, wounded, alone in that boat, knowing what it was like to be hunted. I felt incredibly sad for him and wondered at the wounds that had caused him to do what he had done and would there be anyone there to help him heal. He had become hated and reviled in less than a week because of the hurt he had caused. There was not victory in all of this somehow.

    Not really celebratory today but rather a little pensive. How many times have I acted out of my own woundedness? How do I do that today? How when I see it in myself or others can I respond? Where is God in all of this?

  2. Jack Lau, OMI says:

    Frank: Happy Anniversary to you and all in the de Mazenodian Family. We celebrated this feast day at the novitiate and I use the exact text that you shared and more. And yes I used the index and typed in the word youth. And for dinner we had Hamburgers/Hotdogs, salads and for dessert “Banana Splits”. So we were taping into our inner child and tomorrow the novices will be playing soccer!!!
    It was good to to give thanks for the youth ministers in our lives and how we have participated in this charism of St. Eugene.

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