The request of Fr. Honorat to visit his aunt, became the occasion for Eugene to explain why he did not permit Oblates to visit their relatives indiscriminately.
You are strong enough, my dear Honorat, to bear a refusal. That is why I do not spare you this negative response that I am making to your request to go to Carpentras to see your aunt who is a religious sister there. I do not think her superiors will permit her to come and visit you. So leave her in peace in her cloister and go on your way with a greater spirit of detachment from relatives.
On the grounds of similar principles, I have just refused to let Fr. Martin go and see his sister at Gap. All the clergy of the diocese have intervened in this affair but there are always consequences to be considered in a Society, so I have refused Fr. Martin’s relatives just as I have refused those of Fr. Telmon, of Fr. Jeancard, and of Fr. Sumien. Accommodating all this fine affection for relatives would oblige one to empty a house in one week or to disrupt a mission or several missions.
I find it very costly to maintain regularity at such a price but duty must come before all. Adieu, very dear Father, I embrace you as well as dear Fr. Albini.
Letter to Jean Baptiste Honorat, 24 January 1827, EO VII n 260
In this letter the relatives cited were not the parents of Oblates – in the case of the fathers and mothers of Oblates, Eugene did show concern and allowed their sons to visit them if there was a serious need. It is important to bear in mind that the practice in religious life until not too long ago was that of a break with visiting their families. The more recent custom of annual vacations to visit with families was totally unimaginable at this time for religious sisters, brothers and priests. When the Oblates (and all other religious) started to go to the foreign missions after 1841, each one was fully aware that he was leaving France and his family forever and would never return.
Having said all this, we will see that Eugene’s relationship with his own family remained very close in later years.
“Religion kept some of my relatives alive, because it was all they had. If they hadn’t had some hope of heaven, some companionship in Jesus, they probably would have committed suicide, their lives were so hellish.” Octavia Butler