Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 25, 2002
St. Eugene's Oblate sons help joyfully
By FR. JACQUES JOHNSON
The 10-year-old boy looked out the window one morning and saw three men hanging from tree branches just across the street where he lived. His father realized he might be the next one to hang.
So he took his son with him and ran for his life. The man was on the wrong side and some people wanted him and his family dead. So father and son ran from town to town, from country to country, with the enemy at their heels.
They escaped with their lives, but 10 years went by before it was safe for them to come home. They had been rich once but now they struggled. The parents divorced. The young man became some kind of playboy, partying a lot. But deep down he was not happy.
One day he went to church. It was on Good Friday. As he heard the story of the suffering, the crucifixion and death of Jesus, the young boy began to cry in church. Really cry! He realized how bad he was, how his many sins had helped put Jesus on that cross. And he could not contain his tears and sobs. He felt embarrassed with people noticing him.
But that cry was good for him. It was Jesus touching him, loving him in spite of his many sins. That experience changed his life. He had been very selfish, thinking only of himself, and of his self-gratification.
He saw himself as being cheap and unworthy, of having been on the side of Jesus' enemies. So he sought forgiveness from God and his soul was washed clean and he began to walk on an entirely different road. Instead of pursuing his own selfish interests, he started to think about others and to help people.
He discovered that a good road to walk on was to help people. That brought him profound happiness, filling his heart with a joy he never wanted to lose.
So he set his eyes on a very different journey. He joined the seminary as he felt called to become a priest.
After he was ordained, he started to work with young kids, helping them out in their social and spiritual life. He'd gather some 300 of them for weekend retreats.
He also liked to work with prisoners and he brought them hope. He even accompanied men who were condemned to death all the way to the place where they were hung. He stood there at their side right to the end.
His country was at war and there were many enemy soldiers who had been made prisoners in his town. He went to them and brought them the sacraments of the Church and encouraged them as much as he could. He treated them as real brothers.
When peace came he realized many people had been without priests for a long time. They were ignorant of their Catholic faith. Some had been without catechism or Mass and the sacraments for 30 years or more. He tried to help them get their faith back by teaching them about God and Jesus and the Church, but it was an awesome task.
So he connected with other young priests he knew and convinced them to join him in a society that would help people grow in their faith. So together, four or five of them went to a village and stayed there for a month or more all the while instructing the adults and children in the ways of God and providing them with the sacraments before moving on to other villages.
By the time they were done these people knew about God, they discovered how to pray again. Many were baptized, others received the sacrament of Reconciliation.
What joy it was for them to receive Holy Communion after decades of being shut out.
These priests created a veritable revolution in the country. That attracted many young men to join them.
One day the bishop of Montreal dropped by and asked for priests to come to Canada as many missionaries were needed there. That meant moving from doing parish mission work to foreign mission work, a challenge Eugene (that was his name) had never thought about before.
So he brought this issue to his men who numbered about 40 at the time. It was a unanimous "yes!" with the 40 volunteering to go.
Six months later six of them, average age 32, landed in Montreal after having said goodbye to their parents for the last time as they were never to see them again. Many more followed them. From Montreal they spread out and built up the Church all over Canada and into the United States.
They also went to many other countries bringing the good news of God's great love for the people everywhere. A few years ago Eugene was declared a saint by Pope John Paul - St. Eugene de Mazenod.
The day after, the pope brought relics of St. Eugene and put them on the altar where he says Mass every morning. The pope said that he prays to St. Eugene every day to help him become a good missionary like Eugene himself was. John Paul hasn't done badly.
Eugene's sons, "my sons" as he called them, increased in numbers, into the thousands, working in over 60 countries today. Eugene gave them a beautiful name - the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
They try to help people.
It's not hard to help people.
In fact, it's a real joy.
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