In October 1847, the Oblates responded to the invitation of the Bishop of Nancy to establish themselves in his city. This community would serve as a second novitiate house as well as being a center from which the Oblates would go out to preach parish missions.

Writing to the Vicar General of Nancy, Eugene stressed an important aspect of our preaching:

I very much want to acquaint you with the spirit of our Society which does not correspond to certain ideas that are usually entertained and which undoubtedly have their good side, but are not ours. You recommend that I send you excellent men and remind me that you are spoilt at Nancy by the best preachers who succeed one another in your area. I will not ask you if these excellent preachers have converted many people. That is not the practice of excellent preachers; and that is what has made a former parish priest of Toulon, who always used to call on all the famous preachers, say that they never drew anyone to the confessional; and that is why he asked me for some Missionaries, whom I constantly refused to send him precisely because people were too accustomed to hearing excellent preachers.

Letter to M. Marguet, Vicar General of Nancy, 21 October 1847, EO XIII n 117


Eugene insisted that every Oblate had to do his utmost to be an “excellent preacher.”  The young priests had to spend long periods preparing their sermons for the rural parish missions and these were examined by the more experienced local Superior. “Excellent” for an Oblate preacher did not refer to refined oratory, diction, vocabulary and intellectual exhibitionism. “Excellent” meant communicating Jesus Christ as Savior in the clearest and simplest way so that everyone could open their hearts and lives to Him.

“The homily is the touchstone to measure the pastor’s proximity and ability to meet his people, because those who preach must recognize the heart of their community and must be able to see where the desire for God is lively and ardent.”  (Pope Francis)

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Lay Oblate says:

    Eugene does not mince his words as he writes to the Vicar General of Nancy – not to criticize him and the preachers in Nancy but to note that their preaching had almost a performance quality to it; that they put on a good show. We are reminded of Luke 12:48 which states “…to whom much is given, much will be required” A great show is not enough, when we are all expected to share our experience of God.

    Rather than being able to entertain we are asked to speak, share and to “break open” the Word of God. Eugene wanted to touch the hearts of those they would be preaching to. And Confession was a simple way of noting how many had been touched (along with being simply the next step of asking for God’s forgiveness.)

    There is a common way of responding to another by saying “I hear you…” – sort of like saying I agree and then walking away without ever having their hearts been touched.

    It is not just by preaching, although that is a particular gift given to some, our very lives might be an example of our relationship with God, and that invites others to follow…

    “In proclaiming the word, it is our tradition to be simple and direct and to speak a language adapted to and easily understood by our hearers. In all our ministry, but especially in that of reconciliation we will reflect the understanding, patience and compassion of the Saviour. (R 7g)

  2. Sr Alice Mputsoe says:

    I am a proud product of The OMI apostolate…

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