In the letter to the Bishop of Quebec, which we saw in the previous entry, Eugene has one sentence which it is important to focus on:
They are essentially men of the bishops. It is with this in view that I have founded them and, thanks be to God, they are all imbued with this spirit that belongs to their Institute.
Letter to the Bishop of Quebec, 10 August 1843, EO I n 22
The phrase “they are men of the bishops” has been misused at times. It does not mean that Oblate priests are to be treated by the local bishop as diocesan priests, to be used as he thinks best. The second part of Eugene’s statement gives the key to understanding this assertion: ” they are all imbued with this spirit that belongs to their Institute.” Oblate priests have a specific charism and spirit that they contribute to the local diocese and with which they do their ministry. On several occasions, Eugene withdrew Oblates from a place or refused an invitation to take on a ministry because the specific aspect of being missionary preachers, in an apostolic community, to the “poor with their many faces” was absent.
Our approach is to minister according to our charism in communion with the diocese and to be mindful that our vocation is different from that of the diocesan priests in their administration of the Word and the sacraments. When we are assigned to parishes we are called to fulfil the same ministry but as missionaries in apostolic community.
From our Rule of Life:
“Our love for the Church inspires us to fulfil our mission in communion with the pastors whom the Lord has given to his people; we accept loyally, with an enlightened faith, the guidance and teachings of the successors of Peter and the Apostles.
We coordinate our missionary activity with the overall pastoral plan of the local Churches where we work, and we collaborate in a spirit of brotherhood with others who work for the Gospel.” OMI Constitutions and Rule, Constitution 6