Vatican approval was necessary for this new mission, which Cardinal Fransoni granted. In responding to him, Eugene described the qualities of Fr. Semeria.

In keeping with the views of the Sacred Congregation, it has been my concern to select three very good men. This was not a very difficult task since our Oblates of the Most Holy Mary Immaculate, by the grace of God, are all good and all ready to sacrifice their lives for the glory of God to and work for the conversion and sanctification of souls. That is the precise goal of their vocation.

I have selected the best from among these good men: Fr. Etienne Semeria. He is still rather young, only 34 years old, but does possess the required maturity as far as virtues and all religious qualities are concerned. He has been the superior of the Corsican missions for a number of years. It is unbelievable with what success, with what blessings of God, even bandits have come to prostrate themselves before him; and marvelous indeed are the cases of reconciliation in this land we all know due to his zeal and goodness.

When the bishop learns of this theft I am about to perpetrate, I don’t know if he will forgive me. The Congregation, however, loans its members, it does not donate them. It is of utmost importance that there be a religious such as Fr. Semeria at the head of this first small community.

Letter to Cardinal Fransoni, Prefect of the S. Cong, of Propaganda Fide, 25 September 1847. EO 5 n 6


Etienne Semeria was a good choice and was eventually to become Bishop of Jaffna. (See: https://www.omiworld.org/lemma/semeria-bishop-etienne/)

“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.” (Douglas MacArthur)

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Lay Oblate says:

    I wonder if Eugene was aware of how prophetic his words to Cardinal Fransoni were when he wrote: “… the Congregation, however, loans its members, it does not donate them.”

    Fr. Semeria and his companions certainly persevered in the extremely difficult situations that they experienced in Ceylon under the leadership of Bishop Bettachini, the coadjutor of the Apostolic Vicar of Ceylon. Things are not always as we expect them to be. There must be a reciprocity between us, which might often seem to be a one-way flow – if we do not see through the eyes of our crucified Christ.

    We are all called to be fruitful – not just for our close brothers and sisters, but with all who we meet – no matter our status in life – it is a manner of respect and love.

    My reflection this morning has the Vow of Perseverance as a backdrop – not just for the Missionary Oblates in the 1800 and 1900s. It is invitation to be missionaries wherever we find ourselves called to serve with joy and trust in God – no matter our “milieu and culture”. It is then that we will experience the immense joy and trust as we walk together. Perseverance can only exist only where there is immense joy and trust as we walk with each other.

    It is in this way that we are called and sent – be it to distant lands, or right here at home as members of our parishes and beyond in the towns and cities we live in as members of the Oblate/Mazenodian Family…

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