In sending missionaries to Corsica, Eugene was responding to what he discerned to be the needs of the most abandoned.

Firstly, far too many of the priests in Corsica had received very poor academic and pastoral training and it was their parishioners who suffered as a result. The Oblates were sent to Ajaccio to rectify the situation, primarily by establishing a major seminary to assure a solid formation of the future priests.

The newly appointed Bishop of Ajaccio took advantage of this opportunity to insist that some of his priests go back to the seminary to receive a proper formation. In his private journal, Eugene reflects on how the Oblates cooperated with this:

Letter from Father Moreau from Ajaccio. Very satisfying news from the diocesan major seminary. The work there for the directors is excessive because of the large number of participants, but their perfect behaviour encourages and compensates the teachers.

The second group calling for a response were the poor village inhabitants of Corsica. The Oblates responded by establishing themselves in Vico and making this apostolic community a mission center from which they ministered to the population and went out to preach missions in the isolated villages. The Oblates who staffed the seminary would join the Vico community to participate in the missions during their breaks from the seminaries.

They are persevering with the plan of giving the mission in Ajaccio in French and Italian. All our Fathers will take part in it.

A third response came from the forthcoming priestly ordination of two young Oblates who were destined to become fine missionaries for the rest of their lives, one of them in Corsica. They were both below the canonical age for ordination and had had to apply for dispensations in order to receive an early ordination

Letter from Rome. Dispensation from age for our Brothers Rolleri and Bellon

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 1 February 1837, EO XVIII

Today that spirit continues as the Mazenodian Family continues to listen to the call of the “new poor” in our rapidly changing world.

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Eugene himself had received such wonderful formation with the Sulpicians. In the midst of incredible turmoil the St. Sulpice Seminary gave him a new basis, a fuller picture and it was this that he wanted to share with other priests. Not something he had invented but which had been given to him and which he could share with the poor villagers around him and with his clerical brothers throughout the world.

    Calling for something more, something deeper among their brother priests so that they could in turn teach and share what they had received among themselves and among the poor whom they had been called to serve.

    Pope Francis who reminds his priests of the need to smell like the sheep of their flocks, the need to walk among their poor and not just govern from afar. Francis who calls for us all to live with more ‘heart’ and hear the cry of the poor which is the cry of all creation. Francis calling all of us who belong to this family of God.

    Eugene’s statement of “no smouldering wicks” and how this is not just for Oblate priests but for all of us who are members of the Mazenodian Family; called not only to share our wealth which we have been given but also our experiences of God.

    None of us ever have the full picture, there is always more that we can take in, always more that we can share with each other – including our own poverty.

    We are sent to evangelize the poor; the poor are evangelized. I believe that in being sent to evangelize the poor ‘others’ that it is not just ‘them’ who are evangelized but rather it is also myself, it is also my community. As we reach out to touch another, we ourselves are touched. It is like an infinite growing circle. And once again I am reminded of the image of the burning hearts.

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