THE WISH FOR A MISSION IN AFRICA

On 4 July 1830, France had conquered Algeria. As soon as Eugene heard this, he saw an opportunity for mission to the most abandoned and immediately offered to send Obate Missionaries there.

As soon as Algers had fallen to the arms of good King Charles X, I set to work in an attempt to provide the Catholics in the colony with the assistance of our religion. Ever nourishing the hope of one day seeing many infidels open their eyes to the light of the Faith, I wrote to my uncle, the bishop of Marseille and asked him to write both to the Prime Minister at that time and to the Cardinal Chaplainfor aid and protection to that effect. The project was very warmly received and we were informed that this very important subject would be immediately broached and our Congregation given the protection and aid as requested.

The Government had liked the idea, and just as Eugene was about to write to the Pope for permission, the July Revolution had broken out – and that was the end of the project.

I was about to write to the Supreme Pontiff, our dear and ever magnanimous protector,when all of a sudden the disastrous revolution befell us.We waited to see what was going to happen and whether or not France would keep its conquest.

Two years later the great need continued – Eugene thus renewed his request to be able to send Oblates.

The news we later received from those territories revealed the insufficiency, considering the number of Catholics flocking to those regions, of the assistance that the few priests who are unaccustomed to the sacred ministry can give them. That was when I felt a renewed desire to step forward and offer anew the services of our Congregation, not to the Government which no longer harbours the same zeal for the faith, but to Rome, which by right and disposition, entertains the “sollicitudo omnium Ecclesiarum” (ed. “The concern of all the churches”)
In any case, should your Eminence wish to increase the size of the Mission, I again offer our tiny Congregation

Letter to Cardinal Pedicini, Prefect of the Sacred Cogregation of Propaganda Fide, 10 April 1832, EO V n 1

Yvon Beaudoin concludes in a footnote: “Cardinal Pedicini took this letter very seriously since he wrote to the Nuncio in Paris on the matter. The latter answered, on June 29, 1832, that the Government would not accept the Oblates because the Congregation was not officially recognized, and because Fr. de Mazenod and his missionaries were not held in favour.”

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One Response to THE WISH FOR A MISSION IN AFRICA

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Today we celebrate the Feast of Blessed Josef Cebula OMI, who died in a Nazi Death camp in 1941. I thought of this as I read and began to reflect on this time in Eugene’s life – a little over 100 years before Blessed Josef died. The beginning of Eugene’s ‘dark night of the soul’ a time of great suffering for him. Blessed Josef Cebula who would not give in to the Nazi authorities and who continued to live his vision, his dream, his oblation. And Eugene – in his letters is beginning to enter into a very dark night of dying to self continues to think of his vision – a mission in Africa – his going out to the most abandoned no matter where they were, in this case Algeria. He wrote of the state of the Church there: “The news … from those territories revealed the insufficiency, considering the number of Catholics flocking to those regions, of the assistance that the few priests who are unaccustomed to the sacred ministry can give them.” And I was reminded of the Forward and the Preface and the connection to the heart and reason for Eugene saying yes and founding the congregation which the French government was no longer recognizing. Josef Cebula never turned away from his oblation, nor did Eugene during those years. It would be so understandable if either Josef or Eugene had given into what had to have been a temptation many times and yet they both persevered – to the end. I think of Eugene (who himself welcomed the idea of being a martyr for Christ) welcoming Josef home.

    I look at my own life – how do I persevere through a struggle? Do I give up or do I somehow accept the courage and grace from God to persevere and step forward – even if those steps are barely recognizable as my own. To go outside of my norm as did Josef Cebula and as did Eugene as he not offering the congregation to the French government but to the Church herself who this right belonged to.

    Sometimes when we think of using another person or persons as our model we tend to see only the good times, the great and joyous times. When we make our oblation – no matter the words – it is for the darkness and the light as we move towards our goal, our end.

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