Eugene founded the Oblates to serve in the Church and to be of service to the mission of the Church, with the charismatic vision particular to us. Our vocation becomes tangible around the person of the bishop, in communion with whom we serve the local church. Writing to the Bishop of Nimes, where the Oblates had a community, Eugene assured him of this desire for missionary communion.
Your Lordship knows that our Society willingly works under your orders. When it is more numerous it will do even more, at least in as much as you will command it, for the ambition of each of us is, as long as we are in your diocese, to remain devoted to you and give your paternal heart every consolation it has a right to expect from priests who know your concern and the extent of their duty.
Letter to Bishop P.B. de Chaffoy of Nimes, EO XIII n. 60
This, however, was not a blind servitude – but a service rendered within the parameters of our particular charismatic focus. Whenever Eugene came across bishops who were asking the Oblates to do services which did not fit in with our specific vocation, he would remove the Oblates from that diocese or work.
Coincidentally, as I reflect on this letter, two of our Oblates have been named bishops within a few days of each other. Instinctively my reaction at each announcement was one of dismay because the Oblate Congregation was “losing” a good and talented man at the service of our own missionary needs. Yet that is not the case because we have been founded to be at the service of the most abandoned within the needs of the Church, and our missionary spirit continues to be at its service. Eugene himself gave the example when he was appointed bishop to respond to urgent and essential needs in the life of the Church in Marseille. With his Oblate heart and vision he became an agent of transformation – with a special solicitude for the most abandoned in his diocese.
“Be attentive that the candidates to be bishops are pastors who are close to the people, fathers and brothers; that they are gentle, patient, and merciful.” Pope Francis