It is with particular joy that I receive you, who represent a Missionary Religious Family in the Church dedicated to evangelization. I greet you all with affection, beginning with the Superior General, elected a short while ago, and his new Council. You are here for the General Chapter in the year in which you celebrate the bicentenary of your foundation, by the work of Saint Eugene de Mazenod, a young priest desirous of responding to a call of the Spirit. At the beginning of its history, your Congregation endeavored to rekindle the faith that the French Revolution was extinguishing in the heart of the poor of the countryside of Provence, overwhelming also many ministers of the Church. In the course of a few decades, it spread in the five continents, continuing the path initiated by the Founder, a man who loved Jesus passionately and the Church unconditionally.
Today you are called to renew this twofold love, recalling the 200 years of life of your Religious Institute. By a happy and providential coincidence, this Jubilee of yours is inserted in the Jubilee of Mercy. And, in fact, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate were born of an experience of mercy, lived by the young Eugene on a Good Friday, before Jesus crucified. May mercy be always the heart of your mission, of your evangelizing commitment in the world of today. On the day of his canonization, Saint John Paul II described Father Mazenod as a “man of Advent,” docile to the Holy Spirit in reading the signs of the times and seconding God’s work in the history of the Church. May these characteristics be present in you, his sons. You must also be “men of Advent,” capable of gathering the signs of new times and guiding brothers on the paths that God opens in the Church and in the world.
Together with the whole world, the Church is living a time of great transformations, in the most diverse fields. It is in need of men who bear in their heart the same love for Jesus that dwelt in the heart of young Eugene de Mazenod, and the same unconditional love for the Church, which makes an effort to be ever more an open house. It is important to work for a Church that is for all; a Church that is ready to receive and accompany! The work to do is vast to realize all this; and you also have your specific contribution to make.
Your missionary history is the history of so many consecrated persons, who offered and sacrificed their life for the mission, for the poor, to reach distant lands where there were still “sheep without a shepherd.” Today, every land is “mission land,” every dimension of the human is mission land, which awaits the proclamation of the Gospel. Pope Pius XI defined you “the specialists of difficult missions.” Today the mission field seems to widen every day, always embracing new poor, men and women of the face of Christ who ask for help, consolation, hope in the most desperate situations of life. Therefore, there is need of you, of your missionary daring, of your readiness to take to all the Good News that frees and consoles.
May the joy of the Gospel shine first of all on your face, may it render you joyful witnesses. Following the example of the Founder, may charity among you be the first rule of life, the premise of every apostolic action; and may zeal for the salvation of souls be the natural consequence of this fraternal charity.
During these days of Chapter works, you have widened your gaze and heart to the dimensions of the world. May this fraternal experience of prayer, encounter and communal discernment be the stimulus for a new missionary impetus, point of departure for new horizons, to encounter new poor, to bring them together with you to encounter Christ the Redeemer. It is necessary to seek appropriate evangelical and courageous answers to the questions of the men and women of our time. Therefore, it is necessary to look at the past with gratitude, to live the present with passion and to embrace the future with hope, without allowing yourselves to be discouraged by the difficulties you meet in the mission, but strong in fidelity to your religious and missionary vocation.
While your Religious Family enters in the third century of life, may the Lord grant you to write new evangelically fruitful pages, as those of your fellow missionaries that, in the past 200 years, witnessed, sometimes also with their blood, a great love for Christ and for the Church. You are Oblates of Mary Immaculate. May this name, described by Saint Eugene as “a passport for Heaven,” be for you a constant commitment in the mission. May Our Lady support your steps, especially in trying moments. I ask you, please, to pray to her also for me. May my Blessing, which I impart to you and to your entire Congregation from my heart, accompany you always on your way.