Eugene and the Missionaries had been approached to establish themselves in Alais, in the Diocese of Nimes. Travelling to see the situation, he reported to Henri Tempier:

… Meanwhile, they offer to rent you lodging in a small house at the expense of the parochial administration, to serve as assistant to the parish priest and on Sunday to go two or three leagues from Alais and say Mass in different vacant parishes. I do not see how this can be the vocation of our missionaries. That is why I am very determined not to accept the offers which will be made to us. However, we are going to set out for Alais in order not to appear to act inconsiderately and without knowing the situation.
All however is not lost and the good God, who knows our good desires and the purity of our intentions, will no doubt provide for his work.

Letter to Henri Tempier, 7 April 1825, EO VI n. 176

In the process of discernment, he had to be open to every aspect of the situation so as to understand God’s will for them at that moment. What was clear for Eugene, however, was that the Oblates in France did not accept parish ministry – their mission was to minister to those who were not being touched by the local parish structures.


“The surest method of arriving at a knowledge of God’s eternal purposes about us is to be found in the right use of the present moment. God’s will does not come to us in the whole, but in fragments, and generally in small fragments. It is our business to piece it together, and to live it into one orderly vocation.” Frederick W. Faber

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I have read this today a couple of times and each time I am filled with a myriad of thoughts and avenues which I could pursue. I understand that Eugene did not want the Oblates to become simply an ‘add-0n’ to the current parish priests, helpers to fill the positions available in local churches. His and their mission was much more specific than that. They were ‘sent’ to those who the church was not touching, to those who were for one reason or another, not a part of the mainstream parishes as set out by the church. I keep thinking Eugene’s Lenten homily at the Church of the Madeleine – all of those people who because of their circumstances in life were not being touched by the structures of the Church. I am thinking of the prisoners who were condemned to die and so were abandoned by the Church because they had been found guilty but who Eugene walked and prayed with, who he brought the Eucharist to. I am thinking of the youth that were the beginning of his community, sort of his ‘dress rehearsal’ for his community. I am thinking of the fishwives in Marseille and the many there who were a part of his ‘greater parish’. As Frank said; “…. to minister to those who were not being touched by the local parish structures”.

    I wonder what that might look like today? I wonder who Eugene would be caring for as he walked down the streets of Ottawa, or San Antonio, of Lourdes and high in the mountains of Peru, or the towns and cities across Europe and even in the city of Rome. I think of the Oblate mission in Kenya and the Oblates there – to an area that is already Christian, where the people know God and experience God. It is a little like Eugene in Marseille and the role he played there. The world has changed and grown smaller in the past 200 years.

    I look at my own parish here at home, it is Oblate. And whether I call it a center of permanent mission or simply a parish, it is never-the-less a place from which we are sent out and which we minister to and with each other. I do see Eugene alive here, in the Oblates and in all those who share in his charism and walk along side of and with the Oblates.

    I started this morning thinking “who can know the mind of God?” What is God’s will for me and how do I ensure that it is God’s will and not simply my own? Prayer and discernment yes. And that little window that I see through – not getting the whole picture, just a tiny fraction all that I can see. I must move through that, in that. One small little piece. And in truth – that’s all I can manage.

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