Eugene needed a large house and property to accommodate the nearly 300 energetic youth who met every Thursday and Sunday for prayer, instruction and games. At the same time he needed a big house to accommodate the future members of the missionary group he was planning to start to share in the ministry he was engaged in.
He then turned his attention to the centrally-placed former Carmelite Convent. Here Eugene’s charismatic vision was to become a reality.
My approaches were unexpectedly successful. In a single interview the affair was settled and I found myself proprietor of the major part of the old Carmelite convent situated at the top of the Cours with a charming church attached, somewhat the worse for wear, to tell the truth, but which we could restore to use for less than a hundred gold sovereigns.
We come across the practical point that every dream has to have a down-to-earth foundation of the means with which to put it into practice. Eugene was fortunate to have the possibility of borrowing money from his family, but it was not enough, and it would have to be paid back within a year.
So much for my story. But the amusing thing is that all that was done without my being held back by the thought that I had not a single cent (ed. sol). To prove I was not mistaken, Providence immediately sent me twelve thousand francs, loaned to me without interest for this year. Now tell me how to reimburse them. I have made a golden deal since the whole establishment, including repairs to the church, will cost me only 20 000 francs. But where shall I find this sum? I have no idea.
In the meantime the missionaries are on my back. They want to begin tomorrow. In vain I tell them we need time to fix the rooms and make the house habitable. They cannot wait that long. And then, what about means of livelihood when we set up the community?
Letter to Forbin Janson, 23 October 1815, EO VI n.5
Eugene’s father was still in Palermo, and his son writes to inform him of his missionary project. Eugene firmly believed in divine providence to make his foundation possible – but that did not mean sitting around waiting for something to fall from the clouds. He had to work hard to find the means to finance the missionaries, but with the conviction that God would indeed provide through others.
… What is good about it is that I am forming it without a penny. We must trust fully in divine Providence. If your rich people of Palermo would want to contribute to it, that would be the most wonderful work they have ever done. One has no idea of the peoples’ need.
Letter to Charles Antoine de Mazenod, 8 November 1815, EO XIII n.1
In Aix a Prospectus for the Missions was produced in which an appeal was made for benefactors to participate financially in the evangelizing activities of the Missionaries by subscribing towards the expenses of setting up the house of the Missionaries of Provence.
But an establishment, which should produce such great fruit as an institution that can be described as being so necessary, cannot be formed without the contribution of the faithful by their charity. We have no doubt that those who have in their hearts a sincere love for religion, will agree to the pleasing duty of sowing some temporal goods in order to reap eternal ones.
Is it possible that they would wish to deprive themselves of the graces that God does not fail to give to those who cooperate in such a holy work?
We sense that this is not the most favorable of times; but the danger is too urgent for us to put off being associated with this good work. In order for the contribution not to be too much of a burden, we propose a subscription or a participation as a means to contribute in a very inexpensive way, for several years, depending on the possibilities of each one.”
We will have daily prayers in the church of the mission in Aix for the benefactors and during the course of the missions we will urge the people to do the same.”
Formula of subscription:
” I promise to pay each year for (_____) insofar as my possibilities allow, the sum of ___, as a contribution to the expense of the establishment of the house of the Missions of Provence, founded in Aix in the former convent of the Carmelites.”
OMI General Archives, Rome, DM-IX-1
Our foundation in Aix would not have been possible, without the material contribution of benefactors. Our 200-year missionary history would not have been possible without the generosity of our benefactors. Let us pause for a moment to recall these lay partners in our mission – let us give thanks for them, and let us pray for them.
Gautama Buddha gives us a good missionary perspective: “Good people and bad people differ radically. Bad people never appreciate kindness shown them, but wise people appreciate and are grateful. Wise people try to express their appreciation and gratitude by some return of kindness, not only to their benefactor, but to everyone else.”