It is only after Vatican II that the word “charism” was used to describe the particular God-given characteristics of a religious family, but it is exactly this concept that Eugene is referring to when he speaks of the spirit of the Missionaries:
Our Lord Jesus Christ has left to us the task of continuing the great work of the redemption of mankind…
Each Society in the Church has a spirit which is its own; which is inspired by God according to the circumstances and needs of the times
He uses a military image of the whole Church as an army on the march to destroy the power of evil and establish the Kingdom of God. The Mazenodian family is to be an “elite body” – a division specially chosen and trained for its talents to prepare the way for the main army to arrive.
Each Society in the Church has a spirit which is its own; which is inspired by God according to the circumstances and needs of the times wherein it pleases God to raise these supporting bodies or rather it would be better to say these elite bodies which precede the main army on the march, which excel it in bravery and which thus obtains the more brilliant victories
Letter to Henri Tempier, 22 August 1817, O.W. VI n. 21
This was the mission of Eugene’s group: to be a task force to prepare through parish missions, youth ministry and the permanent missions for the fuller and deeper establishment of the Church in Provence.