Eugene’s primary work as a young priest had been his youth ministry with the almost 300-strong youth congregation he had started and nurtured in Aix en Provence. (See “MY BEAUTIFUL CHRISTIAN YOUTH CONGREGATION” at http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?p=1228 )
Many of them kept on contact with him over the years. Here he refers to one of them, Melchior Bremond, who had been a member of the Youth Congregation from 1814 to 1819:
Letter from M. Bremond, notary in Aix. He writes me the kindest things on the pains I took to safeguard his youth, congratulating himself on his subsequent happy experience.
Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 18 January 1837, EO XVIII
Twenty-six years after the foundation of the Youth Congregation Eugene recalled the beginning and successes of this venture:
I therefore answered the Bishop of Metz that my sole ambition was to dedicate myself to the service of the poor and the youth. I made my first debut in the jails, and my training consisted in surrounding myself with young people whom I instructed. I trained a good number of them in virtue. I saw some 280 of them gathered around me, and those who today still remain faithful to the principles that I had the happiness of instilling in their souls and who do honour to their faith in every rank of society or in the sanctuary, will uphold for a long time, either in Aix or in the other places where they are dispersed, the reputation that this congregation had rightly acquired for itself while I was able to care for it.
Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 31 March 1839, EO XX