When I began this 24th edition of the General’s News, there were reports of Pope John Paul II’s worsening health. Within days, the Holy Father was dead.  As I prepare to end this letter, his funeral has not yet occurred.  But by the time you read it there will be a new Pope.  And so the cycle continues, a cycle that began with St. Peter and will end only with the final return of Jesus in glory. 


By this time you will have heard, seen and read much about Pope John Paul II, the man and his legacy.  I would like to honor his memory in this letter by reflecting on the theme that he has given to the Church this year, the theme of the Holy Eucharist.   And since you are likely to read this letter during May, the month of Mary, I would like to share with you his own reflections on the Eucharist and Mary. [i] 



Pope John Paul was a great thinker.  His mind was rich and subtle.  But he was also a man of deep prayer.  And it was his prayer that sustained and nourished him through the years of his long and eventful life.  His example, his words and his many writings reveal that there were two principal pillars that supported this holy man’s spiritual life and sustained him in his many sufferings.  Those two pillars were his priestly devotion to the Holy Eucharist and his filial dedication to Mary, the Mother of God.  Just two years ago in April 2003, Pope John Paul II published an encyclical on the Eucharist entitled, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Church of the Eucharist.  At the end of that encyclical he dedicates an entire chapter to the theme of Mary and the Eucharist that is entitled, “At the School of Mary, Woman of the Eucharist.”   I would like to reflect with you on what he writes in that chapter.  His rich imagination fills in where the words of Scripture are often silent on exactly what Mary thought or felt, especially regarding her experience of “the breaking of the bread” during the period between the Lord’s ascension and her own holy death.  The Holy Father’s reflections take us into uncharted waters and provide us with often new and fresh insights into both Mary and the Eucharist. 

For the Holy Father, Mary is first and foremost the Mother of the Church.  Therefore, “if we wish to rediscover in all its richness the profound relationship between the Church and the Eucharist, we cannot neglect Mary.”

He readily admits that the Gospels are largely silent on this subject. Indeed, the accounts of the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper make no mention of Mary. Yet Mary must certainly have been present at the Eucharistic celebrations of the first generation of Christians, who as the Acts of the Apostles tell us were devoted to "the breaking of bread" (Acts 2:42).  Therefore, she must surely have shared many times, along with the first Christians, in the Eucharistic banquet. 

What must have been her thoughts when she heard Peter or John or James or any one of the other apostles recite the words that Jesus had spoken at the last supper: “This is my Body given for you; this is my blood poured out for you”?  As his Mother, she had given Jesus his body. It was her blood that coursed through his veins.  That body had been crucified on a cross for the world’s salvation and that blood had flowed out for the world’s redemption.  Now, in partaking of the bread and drinking from the cup, Mary is receiving that same body and blood.  If we stand in awe and wonder when we receive the Body and Blood of our crucified and risen Savior, what must Mary have experienced in partaking of her Eucharistic Son and Lord? Certainly, the respect and reverence of that holy Mother is a fitting model for those of us who receive that same Holy Bread and drink from that same saving Cup!

The Holy Father assures us that we can gain what he calls an indirect picture of Mary’s relationship with the Eucharist by studying her interior disposition. For he is convinced that Mary was a "woman of the Eucharist" throughout her entire life, long before it was instituted at the Last Supper. Let us look at the various elements of this indirect picture of Mary’s relationship with the Eucharist. 

(1) The Eucharist is first and foremost a mysterium fidei, a mystery of faith! Only the eyes of faith can see beyond the Bread to the Body of Christ and beyond the wine to the Blood of Christ.  We believe because Jesus has said “this is my body, this is my blood.”  Mary is our model in such a belief in God’s word.  As the Holy Father says, “If the Eucharist is a mystery of faith which so greatly transcends our understanding as to call for sheer abandonment to the word of God, then there can be no one like Mary to act as our support and guide in acquiring this disposition…With the same maternal concern which she showed at the wedding feast of Cana, Mary seems to say to us: "Do not waver; trust in the words of my Son. If he was able to change water into wine, he can also turn bread and wine into his body and blood, and through this mystery bestow on believers the living memorial of his passover, thus becoming the 'bread of life'."

(2) The Holy Father says that in a certain sense Mary lived her Eucharistic faith even before the institution of the Eucharist.  How did she do that?  By offering her virginal womb for the Incarnation of God's Word. He continues, “The Eucharist, while commemorating the passion and resurrection, is also in continuity with the incarnation. At the Annunciation Mary conceived the Son of God in the physical reality of his body and blood, thus anticipating within herself what to some degree happens sacramentally in every believer who receives, under the signs of bread and wine, the Lord's body and blood.”

This is a powerful thought.  Mary utters her “Fiat” and the Lord takes flesh in her womb.  When we utter our “Amen” just before receiving communion, we welcome that same Lord into our heart.  What happened to Mary in a physical sense at the moment of Incarnation happens to each of us sacramentally at every Eucharist.  Therefore, her faith and trust in God’s word at the moment of the Incarnation must find an echo in our faith and trust in God’s word every time we receive Holy Communion.  Mary, the Mother of the Church, is the model for every Christian, especially at the moment of our reception of the Eucharist. 

(3) Right after the Annunciation, Mary goes into the hill country to help her cousin Elizabeth with a difficult pregnancy.  She bears Jesus within her womb.  The Holy Father sees a Eucharistic implication in the mystery of the Visitation.  He says, “When, at the Visitation, she bore in her womb the Word made flesh, she became in some way a "tabernacle"--the first "tabernacle" in history--in which the Son of God, still invisible to our human gaze, allowed himself to be adored by Elizabeth, radiating his light as it were through the eyes and the voice of Mary.”

This is another powerful reflection by Pope John Paul II. Mary hurries to help out her cousin in very tangible and concrete ways.  She made meals for her, cleaned the house and no doubt helped during what must have been a difficult delivery.  She remained with Elizabeth to help her and her newborn son through the early weeks.  In doing all that, she also brought the blessings of Jesus to the entire household of Zechariah.  When we leave the Church to go back into our communities, our apostolates, our homes and workplaces, we carry the Eucharistic Lord with us.  In all the little ways that we help and assist those with whom we share daily life, the Lord whom we carry within us also blesses them.  In short, we give them more than a helping hand.  We bring the Lord to them, for we too, like Mary, are his tabernacle among them.

(4) This is what John Paul says about Mary’s participation in the Lord’s sacrifice: “Throughout her life at Christ's side and not only on Calvary, Mary made her own the sacrificial dimension of the Eucharist. When she brought the child Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem "to present him to the Lord" (Lk 2:22), she heard the aged Simeon announce that the child would be a "sign of contradiction" and that a sword would also pierce her own heart (cf. Lk 2:34-35). The tragedy of her Son's crucifixion was thus foretold, and in some sense Mary's place at the foot of the Cross, was foreshadowed.”  From the moment of Simeon’s prophecy, Mary prepared for what would be her painful participation in the rejection, suffering and death of her son.  As John Paul says, “Mary experienced a kind of ‘anticipated Eucharist’-one might say a ‘spiritual communion’-of desire and of oblation, which would culminate in her union with her Son in his passion, and then find expression after Easter by her partaking in the Eucharist which the Apostles celebrated as the memorial of that passion.”

The implications for us are clear.  If we are to imitate Mary’s Eucharistic attitude, then we have to find redemptive meaning in the pain, the sufferings, the diminishments and the setbacks that come to every life.  In our reception of the Eucharist, we participate in the Lord’s sufferings and commit ourselves, as he did, to offer our sufferings for the world’s redemption.  In imitation of both Jesus and Mary, then, every time we participate in the Eucharist we rededicate ourselves to a suffering love on behalf of others.

(5) Pope John Paul reminds us that from the Cross Jesus gave Mary as Mother to the Apostle John.  Through John, he also gave Mary as Mother to the Church and to each one of us.  To experience the memorial of Christ's death in every Eucharist is also to accept--like John—Mary who is given to us anew [at each Eucharist] as our Mother. We place ourselves “at the school of his Mother.” Like a child at his or her Mother’s side, we learn from her how to receive the Word made flesh as Bread of life; we learn how to nourish it in prayer and also how to bring it into our daily lives with one another.  We learn, finally, how to unite whatever we suffer, as she did, with the sufferings of her Son for the good of our broken and hurting world. 

(6) Finally, the Holy Father suggests that we re-read our Lady’s Magnificat in a Eucharistic key.  In doing so we will see how it unlocks for us, as it did for the Holy Father, a deeper understanding of the Eucharist.  We will find there, as he did, a prayer of praise and thanksgiving, one that recalls the wonders worked by God in salvation history and especially in the redemptive incarnation of Jesus.  The Magnificat reflects what the Holy Father calls the eschatological tension of the Eucharist. For every time the Son of God comes again to us in the "poverty" of the sacramental signs of bread and wine, the seeds of that new history wherein the mighty are "put down from their thrones" and "those of low degree are exalted" (cf. Lk 1:52), take root in the world. Mary sings of the "new heavens" and the "new earth" which find in the Eucharist their anticipation and in some sense their program and plan [as well]. The Magnificat expresses Mary's spirituality, and there is nothing greater than this spirituality for helping us to experience the mystery of the Eucharist in our own lives. The Eucharist has been given to us so that our life, like that of Mary, may become completely a Magnificat, a daily prayer of praise unto the Lord!

I would like to conclude with a few words from St. Francis de Sales that relate Mary and the Eucharist.  “Picture to yourself the most holy Virgin Mary [at the Annuciation] when she conceived the Son of God…The soul of that beloved Mother was completely centered upon that beloved Child…In proportion as God’s grandeur was, as it were, restricted and constrained within her virginal womb, so did her soul further increase and magnify the praises of that infinite mercy.  Her spirit leaped with joy, like St. John [the Baptist] within his mother’s womb, in the presence of her God whom she felt within her…Something similar takes place in many of the holy, devout faithful who receive the divine sacrament which contains the dew of all heavenly blessings…[The Eucharistic Lord] attracts them to himself by the gentle power whereby he...draws their hearts [to himself].”[ii] 

Just as Mary centered prayerfully and lovingly on the babe within her at the moment of her conception, let us at the moment of receiving the Eucharist draw close the Lord.  He, in turn, will draw our hearts into his heart by the “gentle power” of his great and tender love for us.  Just as Mary belongs completely to her child within her, we belong totally to the Christ within us.  At the moment of the reception of the Eucharist, let the Lord say to us and we to the him, tenui nec dimittam: I have you and I will never let you go!  This is, par excellence, the Eucharistic attitude that the late Holy Father so desired that each of us might have during this year of the Eucharist.  If we wish to honor his memory, let us imitate his great love for both Mary and the Eucharist.  As they were for him and, before him, for St. Francis de Sales, let them be the two pillars of our spiritual life.



Within the Congregation one joint committee on merger already exists, that between the Regions of Keimoes-Upinton and Keetmanshoop.  Soon there will be a second one, this one between the German and the Austria-South German Provinces.


In my last Newsletter (September-October 2004) I mentioned that I would be making a canonical visitation of the Region of Keetmanshoop in September 2004.  That visitation took place within the context of their annual joint retreat with the Oblates from the Region of Keimoes-Upington.  During the course of the retreat and after a process of discussion, discernment and prayer, the members of both Regions, in separate and secret ballots, voted overwhelmingly to enter into a process that will lead to a union of the two Regions as early as September 2006.  To achieve this goal, a joint committee on merger was established which consists of four Oblates, two from each Region.  Its task will be to work out the details and the steps necessary to realize a union within the agreed upon timeframe.  In addition to much hard work, good will and compromise on both sides, prayer is very much needed for the happy conclusion of this effort. 


Recently, the Provincials and Councils of the German and the Austria-South German Provinces decided to appoint a small group of four Oblates, two from each province, who will, in the course of the year ahead, establish the necessary steps that, if implemented, may very well lead to union in the not too distant future. Both provinces look forward to any impulses or directions that the General Chapter might give regarding restructuring efforts of this sort.  They are aware that they are only at the beginning of a process that may be a long one and one that may, in the end, not lead to union at all.


The brave confrères of these Regions and Provinces have set off on a road whose end is  largely hidden from view at present.  Still, they are confident that God will show them each next step.  With courage and hard work, they are determined to follow His lead every step of the way.  I know that you will accompany them with your own prayers and best wishes. 





Instead of a meeting of major superiors this year, the preparatory commission for the 2006 General Chapter will meet in Annecy from July 31 to August 5, 2005.  The membership and responsibilities of this commission are outlined in General Statutes 8-10.  One of the principal tasks of the Preparatory Commission is to “draw up an agenda of concrete proposals” based on “the matters presented by the General Council and the Provinces.” (GS # 9)  Any Oblate or group of Oblates may submit proposals and their rationale to Father Sebastian Leitner, President of the Preparatory Commission.  I encourage you, the members of the Congregation, to do so and, in that way, to share with the Congregation the wisdom that you have gained through long years of practical experience as Oblates.


In addition to drawing up an agenda of proposals that will then be circulated throughout the Congregation prior to the General Chapter, I have asked the Commission to give some serious consideration to the actual format of how the proposals will be considered and acted upon during the course of the General Chapter.  It has been my experience that as the Chapter nears the end of its agenda, there is often an increasing pressure by the membership to hurry through the remainder of the agenda.  This has sometimes led to decisions that are taken without providing adequate direction to the Superior General and the General Council for their implementation or without adequate consideration as to how the decisions that are taken are to be funded or staffed. My hope is that, with careful planning, we can structure the working sessions of the Chapter in such a manner as to allow adequate time for discussion and discernment that lead to decisions that provide helpful direction to the Superior General and the General Council and, when appropriate, to the Major Superiors, regarding implementation, funding and staffing. 




With the recent generous donation of over two hundred thousand euros from the Netherlands Province, the Congregation has to date contributed nearly two million dollars to the Chablais Mission Fund, nearly 1/5 of the amount of the desired initial funding of ten million dollars.  All Provinces and Regions, as their means permit, have agreed to provide funds over the years ahead.  I know that I speak in your name in thanking all Oblate Provinces, Regions, communities and individuals who have contributed so generously over these past several years to the Chablais Mission Fund.  Their generosity shows the great love that we Oblates have for the missions and the great pride that we take in the efforts that our missionary confrères have extended from the very beginning of the Congregation.


Efforts are now underway by the Executive Director of the Chablais Mission Committee to solicit funds from different ecclesial and charitable organizations, including the laity, for the Chablais Mission Fund.  This is a long-term effort, one that requires much hard work and the careful and sustained cultivation of potential donors.  It also requires transparency and accountability on our part regarding the solicitation and use of funds for specific efforts on behalf of our missionaries and their needs.


During the January meeting of the General Council in India, the members of the General Council, joined by the General Mission Coordinator, worked very hard over several days to formulate concrete proposals and policies for consideration by the Preparatory Commission and, later, by the members of the General Chapter, regarding the future structures and responsibilities of the present Chablais Mission Committee.  The members of the Chablais Mission Committee have subsequently also formulated proposals that cover similar areas.  It is hoped that during the course of the months ahead and perhaps during the meeting of the preparatory commission itself, agreement will be reached on the particulars of these proposals for submission to the General Chapter.




Recently, at my request, the Regional Superior of the South American Region, accompanied by one of his councilors, visited Father Tom Hagan, OSFS in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  The principal purpose of their visit was to meet the seven young Haitian men associated with Father Hagan’s ministry there who are interested in becoming Oblates.  Subsequent to their visit, the Regional Council voted to accept these young men into the novitiate beginning in February 2006.  A program of spiritual, Salesian and language formation will continue in Haiti between now and September 2005 when they will go to Brazil to begin their postulancy.   Those who make their first profession at the conclusion of the novitiate will be professed as members of the South American Region.  After their profession, they will return to Haiti with a formator from the South American Region who will accompany them through their years of formation and study.


By every standard, this is a very generous act on the part of the Oblates of the South American Region.  I was very impressed, as I am certain you will be as well, with the principle reason that Father Aldino Keisel, Regional Superior, gave for accepting these young men: “Part of the rationale behind this decision lies, first of all, in the fact that if today we exist as a Region, we exist because, in the past, Provinces of the Congregation have sent confrères to us, and they have given (and continue to give us) financial support.  Having received so much help, why should we not serve the Congregation now by doing what is possible for us to do?”  


Recently, a young Ukrainian seminarian began a three-month period of discernment with the Eichstätt Community. He is the first tentative fruition of the ministry of Father William Gore in Ukraine and the willingness of the Austria-South German Province to accept as members of their Province those Ukrainian men who are interested in becoming Oblates.


For several years now the South American Region has welcomed a young man from the Yucatan to live in an Oblate formation community while pursuing philosophical studies and discerning a vocation to the Oblates.  It is likely that a second young man from the Yucatan will soon join him in Manta, Ecuador.  These young men came into contact with us Oblates through Father William Auth who has ministered for many years among the Mayan people of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.  What Province or Region these young men will ultimately join will be determined before they begin their novitiate.


As you can see, vocations are coming to us Oblates from places and circumstances far different from what we have been accustomed to.  In addition to being receptive and welcoming of the Spirit’s movements, may we also be proactive in the pursuit of vocations in new places and under different circumstances.




For the most part, the agenda for the January 2005 meeting of the General Council concerned the routine business of the Congregation.  The setting, however, was anything but routine.  For the first time ever the General Council met in India.  While there, we celebrated the feast of St. Francis de Sales at our community of Samarpanaram in Bangalore and at our community of Salespuram in Kerela.  It was a joy to be with so many young Oblates and those preparing to become Oblates.  During our visit in Samarpanarm, Father Shaju J. Kanjiramparyil was installed as Superior and on January 24th, Scholastic Balaswamy Dande made his perpetual profession. That same night the community said goodbye to Father Josef Költringer who is now in the Philippines.  A few weeks later, the community said goodbye to Father John Dolan who, after five years in India, has now returned to the United States.  The Congregation is very grateful to both of these confrères for their years of generous service in India.  Increasingly, Indian Oblates are assuming positions of leadership, a sure sign that the Congregation is being solidly implanted in Oblate Asia!


For some time now the Oblates in India have been discerning future apostolic works in education, parochial ministry, and in other ministries.  Likely, the very first corporate apostolate will be a hostel for young men that will soon be established on the property of Samarpanaram.  Inspired by the new Oblate ministry in Wilmington, Delaware, “The Nativity Preparatory School,” the hostel will provide intellectually qualified young men with the opportunity to obtain a solid education and, with it, a hopeful future.  Such an opportunity would probably not otherwise be available to them because of their economic situations.  Special consideration will be given to the young victims and orphans of the recent tsunami.  It is a brave adventure for such a young foundation.  Please keep it in your prayers.


Before leaving the subject of India, I invite you to pray for Father Franz Aregger.  Upon his return to Switzerland after being with us for several weeks in India in January, Father underwent multiple by-pass heart surgery and is now recuperating.  




During the canonical visitation of the Keetmanshoop Region last September, Father Fransiskus Xavier Swartbooi was chosen as Regional Superior.  Following the recent canonical visitation, Father Konrad Haußner was appointed to a third term of the Austria-South German Province.  In your name, I offer congratulations to these confrères and a sincere thank you to both of them for assuming leadership positions in the Congregation. 


The Austria-South German Province will celebrate its centenary in 2006.  We congratulate them in advance!


Five Oblate confrères have died since the last General’s News. In the spirit of General Statute 6, I commend to your fraternal prayers Fathers Otto Heißig, John Gavin, Giuseppe Chiminello, Paul G. Gillespie and Deacon Eric Laudeman.


On a happy note, there have been eight first professions, six final professions and two priestly ordinations, with another priestly ordination to take place on May 28, 2005, that of Luciano Marcos Demarco Rossetto of the South American Region.





From July 31 (day of arrival) to August 5, 2005 (with departures on August 6, 2005), the Preparatory Commission will meet in Annecy, France.  The canonical visitation of the Italian Province and the Keimoes-Upington Region will take place in September 2005.  I will take part in the Federation Meeting of the Second Federation of the American Visitation Sisters from October 21-25, 2005.  The General Council will meet in Rome in January 2006.


By the time that you receive this letter in translation the Church will no doubt have a new Pontiff.  Even now I can see the newspaper reports and hear the commentaries reflecting on the political considerations that led to his election.  We believers trust that, through all such considerations and often despite them, the choice is really that of the Holy Spirit.  It is for that reason that we commit ourselves in faith and wholeheartedly to this present successor of St. Peter.  And in doing so, we follow the lead of both our Patron and our Founder.  May God grant the new Holy Father health, holiness and wisdom!  Above all, may He give him the heart of a pastor!


Yours very fraternally in our saintly Patron and holy Founders,



Lewis S. Fiorelli, OSFS

Superior General



[i]  The reflections I give here are largely taken from one of the talks that I gave at our parish retreat at the beginning of Lent this year.

[ii] Treatise on the Love of God, Book 6, chapter 7.