The month of May is traditionally considered a month of Mary, during which devotion and prayer to the Virgin Mary become more intense. For us, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, in addition to the Marian month, it is also a month where we celebrate two Oblate saints: St. Eugene de Mazenod, canonized 20 years ago, and Blessed Joseph Gerard, apostle of the Basuto. During this month of May, we increase our prayer for vocations to Oblate missionary life. A novena of prayer for vocations is usually proposed for all Oblate communities, between May 21, feast of St. Eugene de Mazenod, and May 29, feast of Blessed Joseph Gerard. We pray and encourage others to pray to the Lord to send laborers into his harvest (C. 52). I would like to take this opportunity to share with you two brief reflections about this vocation ministry.
The first relates to the letter of Father General for 8 December 2013, at the beginning of the Oblate Triennium, where he drew our attention to vocation ministry, a vital ministry for our Congregation. I encourage you to reread this letter. It stresses the need to invite young people, to challenge them by the testimony of our life and mission. We must continue to invite youth because our charism is unique and special in the Church:
“We are fired by a charism that is unique and special in the Church, one that makes us very close to the poor, the rejected, the forgotten, the people that society ignores, and the people who don’t feel accepted in church. We show a very human face of Jesus to the world, one full of compassion and solidarity. I would go so far as to say that our charism lies at the heart of the Church and indeed at the heart of the Gospel itself. We would be remiss if we did not enthusiastically and boldly continue to invite young people to live as consecrated religious missionaries, priests and Brothers, within our charism.” [i]
To the promotion of vocations there is added the testimony of a joyous Oblate missionary life and prayer to the Lord of the harvest. Vocation ministry is primarily an act of faith in Christ, Lord of the harvest.
I would like to emphasize the fact that the invitation of Father General coincides perfectly with the Founder’s belief that, in addition to missionary commitment and vocation ministry itself, the witness of the life and prayer of the Oblates were very important means for promoting vocations. For, above all, vocations are a gift from God. It is he who calls.
The second point I would like to share is the need to live the 200th anniversary of the Congregation as a time of grace for thanking the Lord for our vocation as Oblates and for renewing our attitude and commitment to promoting vocations to Oblate life. During this pilgrimage of grace, we are called to fan the flame of Oblate life and mission. Committing ourselves more to the awakening of vocations, welcoming and accompanying potential candidates, seems to be one of the concrete ways for fanning the flame of our Oblate life and mission. This can be achieved through a detailed assessment of the existing vocational ministry in each Unit in view of better organization. Where this is not yet the case, a responsible Oblate should be appointed to vocation ministry, who will work with a team for the awakening and accompaniment of vocations.
Some Units and regions are in the process of organizing congresses on vocation ministry. I think it is a good way to stir up and maintain the flame of the vocation to Oblate missionary life and to remind the Oblates that each of us is responsible for vocation ministry by the example of our joy and our generosity.
At the level of the Congregation, the General Administration will organize a congress on vocational ministry as one of the events marking the 200th anniversary of our founding. It will take place in Aix en Provence, 8-16 July 2016. This is an important occasion for inviting the entire Congregation to give thanks to the Lord for our vocation and renew us in this important ministry for our life and our mission.
During this time of preparation for the 200th anniversary of our Congregation, all Oblates are invited to renew themselves in their vocation to Oblate life and mission. The month of prayer for vocations takes on special meaning in this second year of the Oblate Triennium, devoted to formation and the vow of poverty. The difficulties and challenges we face in several Units of the Congregation in vocation ministry and the accompaniment of candidates make us aware of our poverty and invite us to trust in the Lord. Prayer is part of every ministry in favor of vocations; it enlightens it and supports it. Jesus himself asks us to pray “to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2). The mission belongs to God; it is he who calls and sends those he wants. It is our responsibility to participate actively in the work of God through our prayer and our commitments. The novena of prayer for vocations proposed to us in this second year of the Oblate Triennium will help us to listen to and learn from Christ, the Lord of the harvest.
Pope Francis reminds us that vocation ministry is primarily a ministry on our knees, praying. We pray that through the intercession of Saint Eugene de Mazenod and Blessed Joseph Gerard, the Lord will renew us in our vocation and send other youth to join us as Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
[i] Letter of the Superior General, Fr. Louis Lougen, OMI, on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 8 December 2013, in OMI Information, Number 539, December 2013.
Fr. Cornelius Ngoka, OMI, Assistant General
(OMI INFORMATION No. 555, May 2015)