Missionary Oblate, Eugene de Mazenod, dedicated his life to bringing the Gospel to those who were most in need. During his years as Bishop of Marseilles he preached the Good News of salvation through his closeness to the most abandoned spiritually and materially. He did this by empowering people in his diocese to dedicate themselves to serving particular needy groups.

In today’s diary entry we see him focusing on the youth, on the most abandoned among the young men: the young delinquents and prisoners. Together with one of his diocesan priests, they started an industrial school for young prisoners.

May 21: Before my Mass in my chapel I gave the religious habit to three Brothers who are destined to serve the prisoners. They are the core of the association that we intend to create. I put them under the direction of Fr. Fissiaux, giving them the name of the Brothers of Saint Peter in Chains

Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, 21 May 1839, EO XX

To achieve this, a religious congregation was founded in the city, known as the Brothers of Saint Peter in Chains. They dedicated themselves to running industrial and agricultural penitentiaries, thus ensuring that the young prisoners would have a profession that would make a valuable contribution to society once they were released from prison.

Their mission continues today. In 2018 some of the Spanish members of this Congregation and their associates were beatified as martyrs.

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Looking through the eyes of our crucified Saviour, Eugene de Mazenod was always able to see those who made up the vast numbers of the most poor and abandoned. He allowed the Holy Spirit to use him as an instrument starting a new religious family for a very specific need – one that the prison chaplains were not called to do. I am reminded for a moment of Fr. Greg Boyle, Founder of Homeboy Industries in the US. Seeing the need and responding to it.

    The first Oblates who came to the shores of my own country followed in Eugene’s footsteps here; opening churches, schools, hospitals, and ensuring that new needs were met.

    Last night the news shed a light on Fr. Tony O’Dell and his local community who founded the De Mazenod Door to feed the hungry in Hamilton Ontario and who yesterday launched the Eugene’s House ministry for those who have nowhere to go. We were introduced to the first person to move into Eugene’s House and some of those who serve in the midst of a community serving both the De Mazenod Door and now Eugene’s House.

    Eugene de Mazenod saw everything through the eyes of the crucified Saviour and daily invites the members of his Mazenodian Family to walk with him.

    “We must lead men [and women] to act like human beings, first of all, and then like Christians, and, finally, we must help them to become saints.” It has never been just about ‘baptizing’ more into the Church; it first begins with being able to shed light on the most abandoned, the poorest of the poor. “Know then your dignity…” Eugene preached in the Church of the Madeleine.

    Eugene continues to invite us to share in his spirit, given to him by God.

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