Evangelization of the people necessitated good priests to accompany them in their conversion and spiritual growth. Eugene was committed to this ideal both as an Oblate and as Vicar General of Bishop Fortuné in Marseille.
We are pursuing our system of purification, two or three more expulsions at the most and all our whole countryside will be in good hands; also the Jubilee has done wonders everywhere; the accounts which our parish priests are giving us are splendid everybody is going to confession …
Letter, 24 March 1827, in REY (I, 426)
Fr Woestman gives the background to this clergy reform: “For a real understanding of de Mazenod’s intention, the religious situation of France at that moment must be kept in mind. All religious communities of men and women in the France had been suppressed during the Revolution (1789-1799), their houses and churches were destroyed or used for secular purposes, the secular clergy was persecuted – murdered, imprisoned, driven into exile and hiding – and all seminaries were closed for many years. The effects of this continued to be felt long after the end of overt persecution. Thus the number of active priests between 1809 and 1815 dropped from 31,870 to 25,874. W. Woestman, “Priests” in Dictionary of Oblate Values (http://www.omiworld.org/dictionary.asp?v=9&vol=1&let=P&ID=1072)
“To reform a world, to reform a nation, no wise man will undertake; and all but foolish men know, that the only solid, though a far slower reformation, is what each begins and perfects on himself.” Thomas Carlyle