In order to be the “most united family” in the world, it was essential that all its members contribute to achieving this ideal:
With regard to the Society each member assumes the obligation of living in obedience to the superior and of observing the statutes and regulations.
The Society is governed by a superior elected for life by its members and approved by the local Ordinary.
Request to the Capitular Vicars of Aix, 25 January 1816, O.W. XIII n.2
Each member had to guarantee his adherence to the guiding vision and to his willingness to work at putting it into practice. For Eugene, the two principles to achieve this aim were always obedience and charity.
Obedience was to God in living out the charism and vision that God had given through the Founder. The superior of the community was the focal point, the sign and the one responsible for the practical living of that unity to ensure that all were on the same track in the quality of their religious life and in their missionary activities.
On 25 January 1816, the first day of our existence as a missionary society living in community, Eugene de Mazenod was elected Superior of the group with the mandate of ensuring charity and obedience. Henri Tempier recalls:
“The Founder was chosen spontaneously and unanimously in spite of the reasons he gave for declining the position. I think that we would immediately have dissolved had this not been the case”
Frs de P. H. Tempier, Mémoire: O.W. II-2, p. 181.
Thirty years later, we find Eugene continuing to hammer this guiding point to the first missionaries in the difficult mission in Jaffna:
Live in perfect unity, and may the bonds of charity and obedience soften the hardships that are inseparable from your difficult ministry.
Letter to Etienne Semeria, 17 August,1848, EO IV n 4
“When obedience to God contradicts what I think will give me pleasure, let me ask myself if I love God.” Elisabeth Elliot