Bishop de Mazenod was a busy man who took care of the Oblate Congregation at the same time as the Diocese of Marseilles. In between his many activities he attempted to write letters to the Oblates.

My dear Fr. Semeria, look how much I have been able to write to you between May 9 to 11, when I take up again, I will not say my pen, which I have never put down since that time, but the letter that was intended for you. During the interval I have written to the whole of North America.

The missionary opportunities in Canada were rapidly opening up as the needs were perceived more clearly and loudly: thousands of people whose faith needed reawakening or who had never heard the Gospel. Eugene wanted to respond but did not have sufficient men to send. The young Oblates, who had not finished their formation and studies, were rearing to go and promised to complete in Canada.

On this very day four of our Brothers and a Lay-Brother are to embark for Canada. They have among them only one priest, a deacon on whom I conferred the diaconate the second day after I had made him subdeacon, and two in minor orders. These last two have not yet begun their theology – Fr. Allard will have the responsibility of teaching it to them at Longueuil; the deacon has only done one year’s theology. You will say that we are eating our wheat while it is still green, but it is not true: they will do their studies as well at Longueuil as here, and they will acclimatise themselves to the country as they learn the languages. Also, it was necessary to take advantage of the opportunity of a ship that was leaving Marseilles to go direct to Boston and offered us the advantages of saving five or six hundred francs a head.

To Fr. Étienne Semeria in Jaffna, 9 May 1848, EO IV n 3


Eugene’s zeal for the salvation of souls led him be optimistic in his plans for these men and their desire to have the opportunity to learn the local language and to absorb the culture. Their own zeal to evangelize often meant that their promises to complete their studies did not take priority and were often not fulfilled. Eugene was later to realize his mistake and to insist on the completion of the formation process before being sent on mission.

Our vision today: ” From a personal and coherent faith vision, scholastics will be able to present Christ’s Gospel in such a way that it reaches and touches the hearts of their contemporaries. Above all, they will interiorise in prayer what they study and begin to live what they learn, so that they will be credible signs of the message they are to preach.” (CC&RR Rule 66 b)

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Lay Oblate Associate says:

    Here I am reminded of young children learning to ride their bikes – with training wheels, but even that is not enough, for their parents are right there with them (holding on to the back of their seats or with a gentle hand on their shoulders); and at the same time looking ahead to make sure the way before them is clear of any obstacles and keeping an eye on the pedals, to ensure that the children are able to properly reach them.

    Dim memories arise of my younger sister wanting to learn to ride my bicycle and of my father securing small wooden blocks of wood to the pedals so that her feet could reach the pedals.

    In life there are certain steps that we must all learn to take before taking the larger steps that will require perseverance and a sense of direction. It takes a certain amount of wisdom to recognise those necessities before we are ready to move on in life. I thank of St. Paul who met the Lord on his way to Damascus, and upon hearing the voice of our crucified Saviour fell from his horse and was struck blind. He needed to be taught about the Jesus who died for him and who he in turn would die for.

    There can be a certain tendency to turn away when we are told we need to learn something more so that we can respond more fully to where God is calling us to be.

    Interestingly, the small calendar of Daily Inspirations sitting before me on my desk says: “I recognize my failing… I did not follow through on the idea that had certainly come to mind.” (1848 letter to Fr. Vincens)

    Wishing all a very Happy Canada Day!

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