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.