Chapter Report - installment 2: I. MILESTONES

The State of the Congregation
Report from the
Superior General to the 2010 General Chapter (Public version)
Installment 3: II. CALLS 1 - 3

I. Milestones and factual events


Timelines of world and church history affecting us directly

What on the world level has marked the Oblates during the last six years? Picking a limited number of world events that have affected us particularly, I mention:

  • war and strife in several countries where we are present: in Sri Lanka (2004 - 2009), Congo (even after the 2nd Congo war of 1998 - 2003), Southern Philippines and Jos, Nigeria (2009 - 2010), harassing of Christians in India and Pakistan (mainly 2009);
  • the tsunami of December 26, 2004;
  • the Financial crisis of 2008 - 2009;
  • the settlement of the Canadian Indian Residential School affair in 2008 – 2009;
  • the end of the Sri Lankan civil war in May 2009;
  • the Haiti earthquake of January 12, 2010.
  • Important Church events over the same period were:
  • the death of Pope John Paul II and the subsequent election of a new Holy Father, Benedict XVI in 2005;
  • the 5th Latin American Conference of Bishops at Aparecida in 2007;
  • Abuse scrutiny in North America (2003 - 2009) and Western Europe (from 2009);
  • the Synod on the Word of God in 2008;
  • the second African Synod in 2009;
  • the ongoing exposure of the sins of the Church.
What are the milestones that mark the road of our Congregation over the last six or even twelve years?

The changing map of the Congregation

From the Central Government, we have given emphasis to the strengthening of existing missions and delegations, and the list is long: Zambia, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Pakistan, China, French Guyana, Guatemala. Also several provinces have received reinforcements from others who are richer in vocations, and this is still an ongoing process.

While we have slowed down the pace of beginning missions in new countries, following what had been recommended at our assemblies, a few new beginnings did come about: 2000 Rumania, 2001 Belarus, 2003 Guinea-Bissau.

Continuous efforts have been made to adapt our Unit structures to the needs of the mission and our resources. Some of the main moves were:

  • The five provinces of the US became one in 1999.
  • Canada moved from eight provinces to three between 2003 and 2005.
  • One vice-province and two delegations within Brazil merged into a province in 2003.
  • India become a Province in May 2010.

Many other moves happened within the framework of the restructuring of the 24 vice-provinces mandated by the 1998 Chapter:

  • Argentina and Chile became one province in 2003.
  • the Netherlands and the two Belgium provinces merged into one.
  • Scandinavia and the Polish Vice-province of France-Benelux joined Poland and
  • the Central European Province was formed out of Germany, Austria and Czech Republic.
  • Recently, in 2010, Thailand became a delegation of the Philippines and
  • the Delegation of Japan - Korea is now governed by Colombo and supported by Jaffna and the Philippines.
The Oblate map of Africa has not changed yet but there, as in other parts of the world, regional cooperation has become a standard, especially to support our study center at Cedara in Southern Africa and to consolidate the studies of our formandi from Cameroon, Congo and Senegal.

Several restructuring scenarios are still being worked on, particularly Italy and Spain; Paraguay and Uruguay; Bolivia; Peru; Natal and the Northern Province of South Africa, and finally Namibia, Central Province of South Africa and Lesotho.

Oblate mission events

Some other milestones indicate the type of missionary work about which the Congregation is concerned. This is especially emphasized in the following symposia which have taken place:

  • Secularity (several symposia)
  • Interreligious Dialogue
  • Indigenous ministry
  • Mission with youth
  • Migration.

Other events, moves or changes worthy of special note are:
    • The Immense Hope evaluation process has been ongoing since it gained momentum at the Mexico Interchapter meeting of 2001.
    • There have been important efforts to strengthen and refocus JPIC ministry: we have now a full time director at the General Administration, Fr. Camille Piche, and a permanent representation at the UN in collaboration with VIVAT, Fr. Daniel LeBlanc; also, new statutes for our service at the General level have been worked out.
    • As to charism animation, the Central Government has been increasingly involved in the De Mazenod Centre in Aix and is set to take over 60, Cours Mirabeau completely. In addition, a person has been given the full-time task of charism animation throughout the Congregation.
    • The Standing Committee on the Brothers and the Lay Associates Committee have brought new energy to these expressions of the Oblate charism
    • Important financial moves have been up for discussion and eventual decision. Financial resources have changed ownership through the sharing programs and the Missionary Resource Campaign to strengthen our presence as evangelizers of the poor in the 21st Century. Some provinces have made additional efforts even beyond what was stipulated by these programs and have regularly shared resources with the whole Congregation: the US Province, Belgium / Netherlands, the Anglo-Irish Province, Spain and recently the Province of Brazil.
    • The post of grant director has contributed to support missionary work out of non-Oblate sources. We had sought for a person for this office since 1999 but the appointment could only take place in 2005.
    • The study about the possible sale of the General House was given significant attention over the last five years; the matter came close to a decision but the process was suspended in February 2010 because of the proximity of the Chapter.
    • Court cases and settlements have continued to weigh enormously on some provinces.
    • An important missionary event was a kind of closure to the more than 10 years of litigations in Canada arising from the Indigenous Residential Schools. This led to an important visit of native Chiefs to the Pope and to our General House in April 2009.
    • Last but not least, it should also be mentioned that since 1998 we have again an Oblate cardinal, Francis Cardinal George. New Oblate bishops and prelates are appointed regularly and their number of around 45 has remained quite stable.

Finally let me mention a few events which have to do with God's great deeds among us:

  • the beatification of Jozef Cebula in 1999,
  • the 10th anniversary of the canonization of St. Eugene in 2005,
  • the prospect of the beatification of our Spanish Martyrs in 2011,
Will we receive the inscription of the feast of Saint Eugene de Mazenod into the universal liturgical calendar in the same year 2011, on occasion of the 150th anniversary of our Founders' death? We certainly need the prayer to and the intercession of our Oblate saints to continue the work they have begun.

[to be continued]