A phrase that is almost in danger of passing unnoticed in the description of the life of the Missionaries is: “in preaching and in the direction of youth.”
We came into existence for two clear missionary purposes: 1/ to preach the Gospel to those who were abandoned, and 2/ to direct youth.
Thus their life will be spent in prayer, in meditating the sacred truths, in practising the virtues of religion, in studying Sacred Scripture, the holy Fathers, dogmatic and moral theology, in preaching and in the direction of youth.
Request to the Capitular Vicars of Aix, 25 January 1816, O.W. XIII n.2
Eugene’s main occupation for the three years before the foundation of the Missionaries was the care of the young people in his Youth Congregation. After January 1816, this work continued, but now as part of the mission of the whole community. Eugene was the one responsible for the youth, but when he was away preaching parish missions, one of the other community members took charge.
The two key verbs that we thus receive from our founding generation are: “preach” and “direct”. Initially, the Missionaries came into existence to preach the Word of God and to accompany and direct young people in the ways of God. Later, the scope and the recipients of missionary zeal were to expand, but always with the same two verbs as being foundational: preach and direct.
Today we could re-state these two actions in this way: show people who Jesus is and be a bridge to help them to meet him.