Eugene constantly fine-tuned the focus of the ministry of the Oblates to ensure that it was in keeping with the founding inspiration he had received from God.
Our Missionaries are to be employed principally, but not exclusively, in the missions. Thus, they could sometimes be working, as though in a sort of retreat, in parishes where the parish priest is absent.
Letter to Bishop Arbaud of Gap, 10 March 1828, EO XIII n 64
At this stage Eugene was clear that the Oblate vocation was not to parish ministry as pastors. We were evangelizers of the most abandoned as mission preachers. When helping in a parish it was meant to be of a temporary nature and had as its purpose a focused time of renewal or retreat with the parish community. Direct parish ministry was only to come many years later within the context of the foreign missions.
Today, in our use of time, talents and resources to help others, how focused are we on why we are doing it, and guided by which motivation? It is the question that Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser poses as he reflects on the motivation behind his teaching ministry:
“Was my teaching really about furthering God’s kingdom or about stoking my ego? I am not alone with these questions. These are valid questions for anyone who draws energy from his or her work, especially if, because of that work, he or she drinks in a fair amount of adulation. Our motivations are never completely pure. Indeed, if we are fully honest with ourselves, we have to admit that there is always some degree of self-serving in our service of others. But, mixed as our motives will always be, something else, something much more positive, needs to be factored into this, namely, the fact that God gave us our various talents and that God feels good about us using them.” Ron Rolheiser