“We are the Bishop’s men” is a slogan that has been much used and abused throughout the history of our Congregation. Taken out of context, it has been interpreted as a reason for an Oblate to be a “jack-of-all-trades-minister” in a diocese according to the bishop’s fancies. The context in which these words were written is the key to understanding this concept.
The Vicar General of Grenoble had approached Eugene about the possibility of the Oblates coming to work in the diocese. Eugene responded by spelling out Oblate ministry clearly. Our main ministry at that moment was evangelization through parish missions, and when not doing this it was to minister to the poor whom the church was touching least, and whom society regarded as “dregs.”
In a town, during the interval between missions, our Missionaries, dedicated as they are to the service of abandoned souls, carry on a very useful ministry among the lowest classes of people. For example, in Marseilles, they care for the dregs of society, people who are at the age of 25 to 30, and have not yet made their first Holy Communion, and who do not know their God or about their souls; they instruct them carefully, and their labors have been crowned with the greatest success.
He then stresses that this ministry is done in closest communion with the local bishop, always ready to serve him – but within the parameters of our charism. On several occasions in the future, Eugene was to remove Oblates from a diocese or a particular ministry that he did not judge as being in accordance with his understanding of our charismatic vocation.
We consider the bishops as our fathers from the moment they adopt us; their diocese becomes our family, and I can state that these children of adoption witness to it before anyone by their affection and attachment. Besides, we have the consolation of seeing the Bishops give us constant unmistakable moving signs of preference.
We are the Bishop’s men; we are at his disposition at every moment of the day or night. We must live habitually under his influence.
Letter to M. Testou, Vicar General of Grenoble, 17 June 1828, EO XIII n. 68
“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” Confucius