In 1816 Eugene de Mazenod and his first companions had come together to form the Missionaries of Provence. The plan was to have only one community, based in the former Carmelite Convent, and to concentrate on evangelization in the villages of Provence through preaching missions. Nothing further was envisaged.

Then in 1818 everything changed with a new step being revealed by God’s will: the invitation to consider changing plan by establishing a second community and a ministry that they had never imagined for themselves: a Marian Shrine.

This was to have major consequences for us: the decision to change from being a single group of diocesan priests to becoming a religious congregation in vows with more than one community, drawing up a Rule of Life, and launching into shrine ministry.

All this happened in 1818 – and we celebrate 200 years of these decisions in November. For this reason I will focus on these events and their meaning in the coming weeks.

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I look at all that has happened within the Spirit, within the heart of God – step by step we are renewed and transformed – always it is ongoing.

    The same charism, gift of the Holy Spirit – for the same Church and within the same hearts – going deeper and moving outward from there. The image that comes to mind is that of a small boat moving out from the pier, going into the harbour and then further; and as the boat picks up speed, moving out into the depths – the ripples become waves – them too growing as they move outwards.

    I look at the congregation today, the Mazenodian Family with new faces and expressions of living with that Rule of Life – it’s expressions too have grown and changed – new borders being crossed and new expressions of the charism, of the spirit and the spirituality – being recognized in a new light. I think of what it was like for Eugene when later as Bishop of Marseilles he became aware of the famine in Ireland and the misery and death coming from that. He began with taking care of those poor who had fled to France and then allowed that love to grow as he encouraged the priests and parishes of his diocese to join in his efforts and to find ways to send help to Ireland. Another change of direction. The charism did not change but the focus grew and became more encompassing.

    Oddly enough I am looking forward to returning to look a little more deeply at 1818 and reflecting on that in light of the events and ways of being today. A small drop of grace into the water of life and how that grace spreads out. Change can be hard – letting go of some of the old that is comfortable – letting go so that we can look deeper and see a new expressions emerging from that. I see it happening within the Mazenodian Family today – even as we look back to the beginnings. What a way to look forward to the upcoming anniversary and celebration!

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