On-going formation for Oblate brothers.

It was a beautiful day on May 9, 2018 at the Binh Nham Novitiate of Vietnam Mission. It was the gathering day for Oblates who had decided to follow the vocation of Oblate brotherhood. The program was designed by father James Nguyen Van Thom (who was also the chief of communication committee of Vietnam Mission).

From left to right: Brother Vincent Vuong; Father James Nguyen – The lecturer;

         Brother Joseph Trung; Brother Gerard Kimlong.

At the beginning of the gathering, father James gave a brief introduction to the history of brotherhood. Some prime examples include Saint Francis Assisi, Saint Gerard Majella, Saint Martin de Porres, Saint André Bessette, Venerable Anthony Kowalczyk, OMI. The vocation of brotherhood has a special place in the Church. 

Our Founder, Saint Eugene de Mazenod, paid special attention to Oblate brothers in the Congregation. Oblate brothers have taken an important place in his heart. Since 1841, brothers have occupied such a remarkable part of the congregation that the Founder sent them to all communities and missionary areas in France.

The vocation of brotherhood kept developing. In 1861, when the Founder was departed, there were up to 87 brothers out of a total of 414 Oblates at that time (20% of the total). In the 1960’s, when the number of the Oblates was as much as 7526, 1309 Oblate brothers were there to share the mission in the Congregation. 

Among the witnessing examples of the Oblate brothers was Polish brother Anthony Kowalczyk, OMI. He was born on June 4, 1866 and died on July 10, 1947.  His witnessing mirror left a deep impression of admiration and esteem on people from that point onward. People placed his statute in a cemetery park at Saint Albert, Alberta. He was declared venerable by Pope Francis on March 28, 2013. His procedure for canonization is in progress.

Father James stated that nowadays, the brotherhood vocation, particularly after Vatican II when the role of the laity has been more appreciated, can never be considered as “the second class religious.” Rather, they really play an equal position with the clergy out of the same dignity for those who received the same baptism. They are doing pastoral ministry and evangelization due to their vocation: teaching, managing, art-performing, and so on. Father James also expressed that brotherhood vocation must be formed in an proper order. The first priority is the relationship with God, focusing on spiritual life; the second one is the specific knowledge.

In the afternoon session was the sharing of the Oblate brothers. They are all expecting that the brotherhood vocation might be paid more attention, be taken care of more in terms of the formation. If possible, they wish the Vietnam Mission would give an introduction on the concrete orientation of Oblate brotherhood to those in the beginning stages, especially the pre-novitiate stage, so that the young men could grasp more the understanding of brotherhood vocation. Consequently, they could make a decision to follow priesthood or brotherhood. The novitiate is also crucial to help the novices to understand the brotherhood vocation. Therefore, it is necessary that during scholasticate, the scholastics should be reminded and explicated about the understanding of Oblate brotherhood so that they might conceive a good perspective of brotherhood in the Congregation.

Since this was a first gathering of on-going formation for brothers, they expressed their wish that there may be future gatherings so that the brothers could deepen Oblate vocation, particularly brotherhood vocation. Such a gathering is needed to give an opportunity for them to support and share with each other experiences they have undergone through religious and missionary life.

May Saint Joseph the Worker, the patron saint for Oblate brothers, intercede with God for us that more young men may listen and discern God’s calling to devote and serve Him and His Church through the vocational life of Oblate brotherhood and priesthood.

 

Brother Gerard Kim Long, omi

Translated into English: John Bt. Đức Minh, omi

 

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