In 1816, at the beginning of our Congregation, all the members were diocesan priests because its aim was mission preaching and dispensing the sacraments. In 1818 when we became a religious congregation, the situation changed and the Oblate vocation was primarily to religious life which expressed and lived out in the priestly ministry of the missions. Soon some came forward who experienced being called to religious life but not to priesthood. This was the origin of the Oblate Brothers. Each came with his particular gifts, many with a profession, which they placed at the service of the mission of the Congregation. It is no exaggeration to say that the Brothers were the mainstay of community life and ensured the supportive structures of the religious life and what was needed for the Oblate mission to be able to function fully. In the foreign missions in particular, they were the guarantors of religious community life for the priests who were always on the move for the preaching and sacramental ministry. In these cases the missionary contribution of the Brothers was their prayerful support by witnessing to their faith, teaching religion, building churches, running schools and sharing and teaching the local population their particular trades and skills.

Because they were the motor of religious life in a community and had not studied theology, Eugene insisted that the superiors of the communities assist the Brothers, especially the one who had just finished their novitiate to deepen their knowledge and spirituality of religious life.

Designate one of our Fathers to take particular care of the Brothers. giving them at least one instruction a week on their general duties and obligations as religious.

Letter to Fr Joseph Burfin at Limoges, France, 9 December 1848, EO X n 992


I am always grateful for the Brothers I have met in my life and the inspiration they have been for me. For the seven years that I was a scholastic in Cedara, South Africa, two Brothers ran a dairy farm so as to support our livelihood. (One of them was a British nobleman, entitled to be called “Sir”, but who was a model of simplicity and humility and whom we knew as “Uncle Bob”). They and others whom I have been privileged to know have given their lives to service and inspired me through their dedication to prayer and exemplary religious life. Today we find Oblate Brothers in many important ministries throughout the world, and we thank God for this gift.

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Lay Oblate Associate says:

    Thank you for this beautiful reflection Frank!

    I have always had a particular identification with Oblate Brothers because they serve everybody, their specialness and humility was like my prayer that I not only prayed but which I try to live daily. “Lord, make me little (humble), make me ordinary (who I am) – a light to my neighbours’ feet.” Curiously, on the Church’s bottom rung of the hierarchical ladder.

    I remember years ago when I worked for the government as an IT specialist the IT section of our Department. We had a 1 Day workshop on “service”, which we attended. At that time we were often highly regarded for this still new technology we brought to the department, and where women were still a bit of an “oddity”). The Directors opening statement was in the form of a question: “Who do you work for?” There were a couple of replies and then I dared to call out loud: “the World” Everybody laughed but our Director General replied: “Exactly.” And then he reminded us of who we served.

    As a member of the Oblate/Mazenodian Family as well as being a member of the laity we find a special model of “Servant Leadership” in and with our Brothers. They do not lessen any, but they too serve the World.

    I am grateful that God has called me to be a lay woman in the Church, and that St. Eugene de Mazenod invited me to “stand at the foot of my crucifix.” (Eugene’s letter of invitation to Henri Tempier)

    Wherever God has called us to be with Oblate hearts, we are grateful for Jesus being our model, for the Church being our model, for all the members of our Oblate/Mazenodian Family who become models for us. There are no labels or rungs, but each call to our particular role is a special and treasured model of life.

    I am grateful to each and every one of you…

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