At this moment the Oblates were in North America and Ceylon, both of which required a knowledge of the English language. One of the priests in Nancy was entrusted with teaching English to the novices.

I will not close my letter before tomorrow. It is very late tonight. In any case, tell him many things from me as well as to Father Depetro. No matter how imperfect his knowledge of the English language, enjoin him to perfect himself in it and even though he should teach the novices no more than the principles of grammar. I insist very much that he spend a few hours every week with them. Knowing English is essential for us in most of our foreign missions. Arrange this with Father Dorey. The finality of this little work places it entirely in the supernatural order.

Goodbye. my dear son. I embrace you tenderly and bless you as well as the whole family.

Letter to Fr Toussaint Dassy, 18 September 1848, EO X n 987


The Oblates had been founded in 1816, specifically to respond to the needs of people who were not hearing and understanding the Gospel in their own language. Throughout his life Eugene insisted that local languages be learnt in order to be as close to the people as possible. Learning a language meant entering into their culture and way of life so as to apply the Gospel more effectively.

” If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” (Nelson Mandela)

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Lay Oblate Associate says:

    The first thing that strikes me are Eugene’s closings words: “I embrace you tenderly and bless you…” Words from the heart: to the heart.

    “Come and learn who you are in the eyes of God” Words from the heart to the heart as Eugene gave his first Lenten Homily on Ash Wednesday – in Provençal way of speaking.

    When I heard Jesus say my name, saying to me that he loved me, I was transformed, transfigured and that continues to this moment. My poor shrivelled heart that was dying of a thirst that I was unable to recognize or speak of became transfigured in such a way that the people around me said they saw me in a new light. My entire being was drenched and lavished with love. I think for a moment of the living waters that Jesus spoke of to the woman at the well.

    I remember how Fr. Albert Lacombe OMI, accompanied the people to whom he had been sent, and his first experience of the hunt. Something within him came out of the hidden corners of his heart and he spent the rest of his life being with many of the Indigenous peoples of this land. Lacombe died long before I was ever born and yet he shared that love with me – as I delved into his life and then tried to share him with all that I know…

    My final paper for Oblate Studies Program was titled “Walking in the Footsteps of St. Eugene de Mazenod: Albert Lacombe as a Model of Missionary Discipleship for Oblate Associates”. His life continues to be a source of inspiration and response for me as we walk together on our shared journey of hope in communion.

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