In 1795, Eugene had the opportunity to take a short journey into Tuscany to accompany his mother, whom family interests were summoning back to France. Already the Marchioness de Dons, her sister, had returned with her son; Eugene’s mother would have lost all her rights of inheritance from her father, if she had prolonged her stay abroad. So this sad parting had to take place, she took her daughter with her…
On being separated from his mother and sister, he returned with his father to Venice to go on with his studies and tasks with the Zinellis, with whom he stayed until the time of his family’s departure for Naples.
Eugene’s mother’s family pressurized her to return to France and continued to interfere negatively in her relationship with her husband. In 1802 she legally divorced him.
Eugene’s father was fully, and unsuccessfully, occupied in trying to earn a living in Venice and did not have much time to look after his son. The break-up of Eugene’s family life led him to benefit from the loving environment in the Zinelli family
Four years passed by in this way: the affection of everyone in this very worthy family which had adopted me grew in proportion to the attachment I experienced myself in its regard…
How could I fail to make progress in such a good school? The family in whose bosom I lived was outstandingly Christian, and Don Bartolo, who was chiefly responsible for me, was really canonizable as a saint…
Diary of the Exile in Italy, EO XVI
This event in Eugene’s life was to give an imprint to his life: “losing” his family as an adolescent made him appreciate and value family life for the rest of his adult life: the importance of his relationship with his own family, his desire to create a sense of family among his youth congregation, and his image of the Oblates as being a family. It was one of the seeds that was to influence the development and expression of his spirituality – and ours.
As I reflect on this, I find myself spending time thinking with gratitude of the people who have provided a support system at various moments of loss in my life.
“And ever has it been known that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.” Khalil Gibran