THE FIRST OBLATE MISSION IN THE UNITED STATES
The Missionary Oblates had arrived in the east of Canada in 1841. Now, five years later, they were invited to establish themselves in the west coast of North America. Eugene de Mazenod wrote to an Oblate in France:
Bishop Blanchet, Bishop of Walla Walla, brother of the Archbishop of Oregon, wants to entrust his interesting mission to our Congregation; he wants the Fathers of our Society to work with him to extend the Kingdom of Jesus Christ in the regions entrusted to his care. By this preferential choice, the work of the Congregation will extend from sea to sea, and by spreading out we will range from Canada to the United States.
Letter to Fr. Pascal Ricard, 8 January 1847. EO I n 74
“Dear brothers and sisters, I continue to dream of a completely missionary Church, and a new era of missionary activity among Christian communities… Indeed, would that all of us in the Church were what we already are by virtue of baptism: prophets, witnesses, missionaries of the Lord, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to the ends of the earth!” (Pope Francis 2022)
How can I be a witness today in my ordinary everyday life?
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The country of France could fit into Canada 18 times and into the US the same number of times. And yet handfuls of missionaries were making a difference across this vast land – so much so that another bishop on the west side of the Rocky Mountains asks Eugene to send him some missionaries – missionaries who would make their way up the coast to British Columbia in Canada and 150 years later would play a part in my life, witnessing to me with the very ordinary of their lives.
Yesterday I had the joy of gathering together some of our Oblate Associates using zoom as we shared what it looks like to be witnesses – as we prepare to renew our Commitments next month. And then last night I gathered in the “upper room” of our parish building, with the catechumens in our parish RCIA program, journeying with them, hopefully witnessing to God’s great love.
A couple of weeks ago another Associate wrote to me, thanking me for how I witness through the way that I touch and support her and others – in how I love. All so that they can ‘be’ by virtue of their baptism. It seems so little, but then that is what the ordinary of our lives look like…