One of Eugene’s earliest ministries had been with the prisoners of Aix, and he wanted this to continue as one of the ministries of the Oblates, as he wrote in the Rule:
Art. 1. We are never to forget that one of the principal ends of our Institute is to help the most neglected souls. For this reason, the unfortunate inmates of prisons have a rightful claim upon the charity of the Society.
Art. 2. We will, therefore, assist prisoners in so far as circumstances permit, by frequently visiting them, at least on Sundays, and by teaching them their religious duties.
Art. 3. Above all, we will endeavor by the gentlest exhortations to bring them often to confession and also to receive from time to time Holy Communion.
Rule of 1825
Eugene’s biographer, Rey, writes:
The ministry of the house of Aix was growing. It was in the early months of 1821 that the Missionaries of Provence took responsibility for the care of prisons. Until that time they had been voluntary chaplains and now they became the official chaplains. Fr Moreau was the first to do this ministry and he wrote to Fr. de Mazenod:
“I am so happy to take care of the unfortunate prisoners. I would be envious of the one who would want to replace me. If you want to give me further proof of your care, you would only have to confirm me in this sublime occupation. I go every day to the prison. Today I spent three and a half hours there. A large number are willing to follow my recommendations for their salvation. I know that I should not be dazzled by the beautiful externals, but I am moved by tears of joy at seeing the cooperation of the majority of them.”
Letter of Noel Francois Moreau to Eugene de Mazenod, 3 August 1821 in Rey 1
“The more I think about the human suffering in our world and my desire to offer a healing response, the more I realize how crucial it is not to allow myself to become paralyzed by feelings of impotence and guilt. More important than ever is to be very faithful to my vocation to do well the few things I am called to do and hold on to the joy and peace they bring me. I must resist the temptation to let the forces of darkness pull me into despair and make me one more of their many victims.” Henri J. M. Nouwen