The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) is a missionary religious congregation in the Catholic Church. It was founded on January 25, 1816 by Saint Eugene de Mazenod, a French priest born in Aix-en-Provence in the south of France on August 1, 1782. The congregation was given recognition by Pope Leo XII on February 17, 1826. The congregation is composed of priests and brothers usually living in community. Their traditional salutation is Laudetur Jesus Christus ("Praised be Jesus Christ"), to which the response is Et Maria Immaculata ("And Mary Immaculate"). As of 2011, the congregation had approximately 4,400 (including 580 in formation) members serving in numerous parts of the world.
The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate were founded in 1816 in Aix-en-Provence by Eugene de Mazenod. Born into the French minor nobility, his family were forced to flee to Italy during the Revolution. There he experienced years of family instability, poverty and danger. The family was forced to flee successively to Turin, Venice, Naples and Palermo. Returning to France as a young man, he entered the Seminary of St. Sulpice and was ordained in 1811.
On January 25, 1816, Father Eugene de Mazenod and four companions came together to preach missions in Provençal.
The congregation was established to renew the Church in France after the Revolution, primarily to
"(1) Revive the spirit of faith among rural and industrial populations by means of missions and retreats, in which devotion to the Sacred Heart and to Mary Immaculate is recommended as a supernatural means of regeneration. "He hath sent me to preach the Gospel to the poor", has been adopted as the device of the congregation. (2) Care of young men's societies, Catholic clubs. (3) Formation of clergy in seminaries
However, the work of the congregation soon developed and the charism of the Oblates is that they
are not specialised, except in facing urgent needs.... It was enough for bishops to come to our Founder and say to him: "I do not have anybody..." for him to act, re-examine his manpower, cut personnel here and there, and release 2 or 3 men for these new needs. And that continues today still. You see, it is a question of passion, of missionary concern.
As members of a religious congregation the Missionaries Oblates of Mary Immaculate embrace the evangelical counsels, taking the three traditional religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Poverty means that all possessions are held in common and that no member may accumulate wealth. Chastity, abstaining from sexual activity, is intended to make the religious totally available for religious service.
The congregation’s Rule of 1853 makes a statement which still applies:
”Whoever wishes to become one of us must have an ardent desire for his own perfection, and be enflamed with the love for Our Lord Jesus Christ and his Church and a burning zeal for the salvation of souls.."
In the initial stages, those interested in joining the congregation have several meetings with an OMI priest, usually with visits to a community. Young adults aged 18 and over, meet regularly to share their experiences of God and what He may be calling them to become. During this time the members of the congregation share what it is like to be a priest, religious brother. Those who are enquiring about entering the congregation are strongly encouraged to attend Mass as often as possible, to read the Sacred Scriptures especially the Gospel accounts and to regularly spend time in prayer in order to better discern their vocation.
This is a 2-4 year-long experience of living in an OMI community, sharing in many aspects of the life of the congregation. During this time the postulants participate in the prayer life of a community, share more deeply with others and become involved in one of more of the congregation’s apostolates. Essentially, it is an extended period of discernment for the postulants and an opportunity for the congregation to assess the strengths of the candidates and possible areas requiring growth. For those straight out of high school it is possible, in some provinces, to begin working on an undergraduate degree.
Next follows the novitiate which is the time for preparing to take the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The novitiate year is crucial, for it is then “…that the novices better understand their divine vocation, and indeed one which is proper to the institute, experience the manner of living of the institute, and form their mind and heart in its spirit, and so that their intention and suitability are tested.” Thus, the novices are given the opportunity for longer periods of prayer and spiritual reading as well as silence in order to reflect on the vocation God is offering and nature of their response. The spiritual development of the novice is of particular focus, especially through spiritual direction. During the novitiate the history and Constitutions of the Congregation are studied in depth.
A simple profession is made at the end of the novitiate and the person officially becomes a member of the Congregation for “By religious profession, members assume the observance of the three evangelical counsels by public vow, are consecrated to God through the ministry of the Church, and are incorporated into the institute with the rights and duties defined by law.”
After the novitiate, the new members of the congregation continue their studies. In the Philippines this normally involves a 4-year theology degree, followed by a missionary year abroad, although a student may make a request to study at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. In Canada, studies are undertaken at Saint Paul University in Ottawa. Scholasticates from four provinces in Southern Africa (Central, Lesotho, Natal and Northern) study at the congregation’s scholasticate in the small town of Hilton in KwaZulu-Natal or at the international scholasticate in Rome.
Vows are renewed annually; after three years a member may request final vows. According to Canon law, temporary vows may be renewed for a longer period but not exceeding nine years.
Pope Pius XI (1857-1939) was so impressed by the courage of the Oblates that he referred to them as “Specialists in the most difficult missions of the Church” Indeed, regarding their ministry the Oblates declare:
”We fulfill our task in healing the world by understanding its evolutionary character, by critically engaging its contemporary spirit, and by meeting its new needs in new ways.
We seek out and immerse ourselves in the lives of the most abandoned in their many faces and voices, and struggle with those most affected by conflicts.
The Oblates preach in parishes, retreat centres, issues of justice and peace, indigenous peoples, and Catholic schools. The Oblates are active on five continents. They maintain a presence at a number of Marian Shrines including Lourdes, Our Lady of Snows, in Belleville, Illinois, Notre-Dame de Pontmain, France and in Loreto, Italy.Blessed Joseph Gérard (1831–1914), French missionary priest, called the "Apostle of the Basuthos," beatified in 1988
Blessed Józef Cebula (1902–1941), Polish priest killed by the Nazis at Mauthausen concentration camp, beatified in 1999
The Martyrs of Laos, include one Italian and five French missionary priests, beatified in 2016
Thomas Cooray (1901–1988), Cardinal, Archbishop of Colombo in Sri Lanka
Francis George (1937–2015), Cardinal, Archbishop of Chicago
Joseph-Hippolyte Guibert (1802–1886), Cardinal, Archbishop of Paris
Sebastian Koto Khoarai (1929-), Cardinal, Bishop Emeritus of Mohale's Hoek
Orlando Beltrán Quevedo (1939–), Cardinal, Archbishop of Cotabato in the Philippines
Jean-Marie-Rodrigue Villeneuve (1883–1947), Cardinal, Archbishop of Quebec
Hubert Constant (1931–2011), archbishop of Cap-Haïtien in Haiti
Vital-Justin Grandin (1829–1902), missionary bishop during the formation of Canada
Denis Hurley (1915–2004), archbishop and anti-apartheid campaigner
Roger Schweitz, Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Anchorage
David Douglas Crosby, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hamilton
Mark Edwards, Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne
Victor Gnanapragasam prefect of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Vicariate of Quetta, Balochistan, Pakistan.
Angelito Lampon, Vicar Apostolic of the Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo, in the Philippines.
Sebastian Koto Khoarai, Bishop Emeritus of Roman Catholic Diocese of Mohale's Hoek
Jean Khamse Vithavong, Vicar Apostolic of the Vicariate Apostolic of Vientiane, in Laos.
Carl Kabat (1933–), American priest and peace activist
Albert Lacombe (1827–1916), French missionary during the formation of Canada, broker of peace between the Cree and Blackfoot tribes
Adrien-Gabriel Morice (1859–1938), linguist, cartographer, and ethnologist
Edmund Peiris (1897-1989), Sri Lankan Sinhala priest, 2nd Bishop of Chilaw, Sri Lanka
Émile Petitot (1838–1916), Canadian cartographer and ethnologist
Ronald Rolheiser (1947–), Canadian-born author of several spiritual books
Larry Rosebaugh (1935–2009), American priest and activist
Constantine Scollen (1841–1902), Irish-born missionary priest among the Blackfoot, Cree and Métis peoples of the US and Canada
The OMI founded the University of Ottawa in 1848, then the College of Bytown. Since the University of Ottawa became publicly funded in 1965, Saint Paul University exists as a separate but federated institution with a pontifical charter to grant ecclesiastical degrees and a public charter, through the University of Ottawa, to grant civil degrees.
The congregation has been involved in religious and secular publishing, helping to establish a number of church, community and ethnic newspapers in Canada including Ottawa's francophone daily newspaper Le Droit.
The Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas. Formerly, they ran a seminary in Pass Christian, Mississippi.
The National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois, along with its nearby retreat centre, King's House.
The Colegio Vista Hermosa in Mexico City and several missions in the area of Oaxaca.
The Oblates also opened and operated a mission school in 1863 in what was to be later named Mission, British Columbia. Its aim was to bring the indigenous people - the Sto:lo - to a Christian and agrarian lifestyle. Later, the school became a federally mandated residential school named St. Mary's and was closed in 1984, making it the last BC residential school to close. It is now operated as a cultural centre by the Sto:lo people
Notre-Dame-du-Cap Basilica in Trois-Rivieres, the national shrine to the Holy Mother, and Canada's National Shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Iona College in Brisbane, Australia
Mazenod College (Victoria)
Mazenod College (Western Australia).
Notre Dame University, Cotabato City
Notre Dame of Midsayap College in North Cotabato
Notre Dame of Greater Manila in Caloocan City.
Notre Dame of Jolo College, Jolo, Sulu
Notre Dame College, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Oblate Primary School, Kowloon, Hong Kong
St Eugene de Mazenod Oblate Primary School, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Po Yan Oblate Primary School, Kowloon, Hong Kong