IN THIS ISSUE
The First Mission
The Salve Regina resonated inside the walls of Eugene’s chamber as his fellow Oblates prayed. His cancer-ridden body was slowly shutting down, but Eugene’s mind drifted to how far his mission had come, and how far the Oblates still had to advance. With the grace of God, a scared young boy in political exile had turned the world around and brought compassion to a war-torn France. The crest on his coat of arms resonated with authority: Evangelizare Pauperibus Misit Me, Pauperes Evangelizantur. “He has sent me to evangelize the poor; the poor are being evangelized.”
It all began in Aix. Dispatching the small band of ardent priests that followed him, Eugene set out on foot, trekking across the countryside to help the poor, the sick, and the abandoned of Southern France. He began with Masses for the local parishioners. Crowds were drawn in large numbers as Eugene preached in their common dialect, instead of the French spoken only by nobility.
Eugene spent his nights in prayerful reflection on God’s plan for him. Fifty-four years ago he had come to a transcendent realization of God’s Divine Mercy during the Adoration of the Cross on Good Friday. He had broken into tears as the love of God filled him, letting him understand the great mercy of the Savior Who died for our sins. So many things had gone wrong in his life - the divorce of his parents, the death of his fiancée; but God revealed a new plan for him – a plan to evangelize the world.
Having truly found his spirituality at the Seminary of Saint-Sulpice in Paris, Eugene set out in his vocation. Growing closer to God, Eugene realized that his mission was not to accept the prestigious job as Vicar General of Marseilles, but to minister with the poor in the most deprived areas of France. But this task was beyond only one man; Eugene needed help. He wrote a friend stating, “We want to choose men who have the will and the courage to walk in the footsteps of the Apostles.” He knew that, in return, they would receive a life of hard work, fatigue, and eternal joy.
He had left a life of wealth and luxury, only to find his true happiness in a life completely devoid of material things. As Eugene wrote a letter to his friend Fr. Tempier, he chuckled to himself, “We have never had the joy of being this poor since we made our vow of poverty. There is such a contrast between our former life and this new existence that we often have to have a good laugh at ourselves.” He and his fellow Oblates, then known as Missionaries of Provence, lived in a former Carmelite convent, dimly lit and poorly furnished, but they were happy.
Of the forty men then comprising the Missionary Oblates, four priests and two brothers were chosen to expand the ministry to Canada. They arrived in Montreal in the dead of winter, 1841. From then on, Eugene showed unbelievable daring in his acceptance of new missions: Oregon and Sri Lanka (1847), Texas and Algeria (1849), Natal, Lesotho, and the Transvaal (1850), and by 1858 they had arrived in Mexico.
But it all started with a scared boy in political exile. His family in ruins, his inheritance gone, and his fiancée buried. He thought about them now, and prayed the Salve Regina for them and his fellow Oblates as he drew his final breaths. Before his passing, Eugene’s last words to his Oblate brothers would carry profound meaning for centuries to come, “Among yourselves, charity… charity… charity; and towards others, zeal for the salvation of souls.”