Marius Suzanne seemed to have teased Eugene about a civic honor he had just received from the King of Sardinia:

I really think you make fun of me in your manner of remarking about my knighthood.

Letter to Marius Suzanne, 7 March 1827, EO VII n 264

The historian Rey give us the background

For a long time, Marseille, like all cities located on the shores of the Mediterranean, formed an Italian colony: the Sardinians, the Genoese, the Sicilians were represented. This fluctuating group of immigrants formed a considerable population generally deprived of religious care. The founder decided to take care of them. His  zeal and assisted by his knowledge of the Italian language, allowed him to achieve unexpected results.

Shortly after his arrival in Marseilles as vicar general of the diocese in 1823, Eugene had become aware of the many Italian immigrants who were abandoned in their need for spiritual help because the church was unable to minister to them in their own language. He responded immediately by inviting them to gather them at the shrine and church of Le Calvaire, under the care of the Oblates

The Italian Consul mentioned this in his reports to the Court of Sardinia. King Charles Felix, a deeply religious prince, learned with great satisfaction the success achieved by the Vicar General of the Diocese of Marseille, whose sermons in Nice had made a big impact, reaching even the royal palace. Using the consul of Sardinia, His Majesty sent to Father de Mazenod the nomination and decoration of Knight of the Religious and Military Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus, an honor held in high esteem at that time and worthy of appreciation.

REY I p 425

In 1836, the king, Charles Albert bestowed upon him the title of commander; and twenty years, King Victor Emmanuel II bestowed upon him the title of grand officer – always in grateful recognition for the ministry to the Italian dockworkers and their families.

Today the Missionary Oblates continue this same Gospel outreach to immigrants in all parts of the world.


“Dignity does not consist in possessing honors, but in deserving them.”   Aristotle

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    A thought occurred to me this morning as I reflected on how we are all immigrants in one way or another. In my own history the beginnings that we have traced back start in northern Italy with two brothers being forced to leave and who made their way to England and some others from Scotland and Ireland. Eventually Canada and here am I. Even deeper though is my faith and spirituality – all of it due to the gift and caring of another and others. It began with Jesus and then his apostles and disciples who were sent out to minister and lead and share the good news, to minister to those who were not native to…

    I imagine that there was a part of Eugene that felt good about the honour bestowed upon him – he had not sought it, but he was recognized as worthy of it and so he appreciated it even though it was not the end goal of why he did what he did. Interesting, he did it because he felt that those immigrants were worthy of it so he afforded them their dignity, as sons and daughters, as heirs to the kingdom of God, just as did Jesus and his disciples.

    Who are the immigrants in my life and community? Who are the newcomers, the settlers and the foreigners, the aliens and the outsiders? What do they look like? How to I love and minister to and with them? How do I share with them all that I have been given? To Eugene it would seem they were no less than another face of the most poor.

  2. Ken Hart says:

    For me, the essence of Oblate Charism is care for and ministry to the Most Abandoned.

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