Live Jesus!


The General’s News XXV

September-October 2005




Well over a hundred years ago, in his new world of industrialization and growing capitalism, an English poet expressed this warning: “The world is too much with us. Buying and spending, we lay waste our lives.” He was lamenting the human spirit’s sad loss of transcendence in the midst of the busyness and commercialism of modern life.  How would he describe our world today, with it menacing terrorism and the tragic loss of its spiritual and moral compass?  What would he think of the hectic pace of daily life today and the almost total disappearance of the quiet centeredness of thought, contemplation and prayer? 


Yet, the world of today is our present moment. And it is to this troubled world that we Oblates are called to minister, doing so with the joyful optimism and quiet confidence in Province that so characterize the inviting spiritual teaching of St. Francis de Sales. We are to live and to preach the prophetic possibility of being a “gentle presence in a violent world.”


Today, more so than ever, we need for ourselves and for others the sentiments expressed so beautifully by St. Francis de Sales in his “Be at peace” prayer:  “Do not worry about what might happen tomorrow: the same loving Father who takes care of you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day.  Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it.  Be at peace, then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.”



In less than a year, the capitulants to the 18th General Chapter of the Congregation will convene in Fockenfeld, Germany.  To prepare for that Chapter, members of the Preparatory Commission met in Annecy, France, during the week of July 31-August 6, 2005.  The hospitality of our French confrères was warm and welcoming.  They did everything possible to insure the successful outcome of the important work of the Preparatory Commission and we are very grateful to them. 


The major work of the Preparatory Commission was twofold. First, each of the sixty-five proposals that were submitted by Oblates from around the world was seriously studied and discussed before a vote was taken to determine its placement on the agenda of the Chapter.  Secondly, much thought was given to the planning and logistics of the Chapter itself. 


The meeting of the Preparatory Commission was carefully prepared and wisely chaired by its President, Father Sebastian Leitner, who was ably assisted in this work by Father Thomas Mühlberger.  Soon Father Leitner will send a book of proposals to the members of the Preparatory Commission.  It will then be their responsibility to share the content of the Book of Proposals --along with their familiarity with the proceedings and discussions that took place during the meetings of the Preparatory Commission-- with the members of their provinces and regions.  This process of prayerful reflection and discussion over the months ahead will help to inform the delegates to the General Chapter of the sentiments of their confrères regarding the important issues to be acted upon by the Chapter.  Because of the ease of electronic mail and its availability to a majority of Oblates throughout the Congregation, Father Sebastian intends to make that information widely available. 


In this letter, I would like to highlight several elements that the members of the Preparatory Commission agreed upon in Annecy.  The first element is the central importance of a spiritual preparation for the next General Chapter.  For that purpose, a simple prayer has been composed and will be sent to all members of the Congregation.  I urge every Oblate and Oblate Community to pray that prayer each day and, in doing so, to call upon the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the vision and wisdom of the Founder.  Please pray that the work of the General Chapter will result in clear directions for the next six years, directions that will be in keeping with what God wills for us as a Congregation at this moment in our history. 


Based on the sixty-five proposals submitted to the Preparatory Commission, several themes emerged: formation, the missions, charism and Oblate life, internationalization and restructuring, apostolates, Constitutions and General Statutes.  Brief introductions to each of these themes will be included in the book of proposals that the Chapter delegates will receive.


On the final day of the Preparatory Commission, a tentative calendar for the Chapter was announced.  I include that calendar here with the understanding that it is subject to change or modification.  On Sunday, July 30, 2006 the capitulants will arrive in Fockenfeld.  The morning of Monday, July 31, will be dedicated to personal introductions by the capitulants and other business.  That afternoon the Superior General will give his presentation on the State of the Congregation as prescribed by Constitution 256.  Following that presentation, each member of the General Council will speak of his experience on the Council and of his understanding of the role of a General Councilor.  Beginning on the evening of July 31 and going through Tuesday, August 1, there will be a Day of Prayer and Recollection.  The business of the Chapter will then unfold in this fashion.  Each day will be dedicated to proposals that focus on a specific theme.  Thus, from Wednesday, August 2, through Friday, August 4, proposals that relate to the charism, restructuring and formation will be considered.  The election of the Superior General and three General Councilors will take place on Saturday, August 5.   The Centenary Celebration of the Austria-South German Province will take place on Sunday, August 6.  From Monday, August 7, through Wednesday, August 9, proposals that relate to the missions, apostolates, and Constitutions and General Statutes will be considered.  On Thursday and Friday, August 10 and 11, any unfinished work of the Chapter will be completed. Over the course of the proceedings of the Chapter, the Major Superiors will give reports, as will the General Treasurer, the General Mission Coordinator, the Archivist, and the Chairs of the ICSS and the mission committees. The capitulants will conduct their work in plenary sessions as well as in language groups. 


As you can see, the capitulants to the 2006 General Chapter will have much important work to accomplish. I ask you, therefore, to please include them in your prayers on behalf of the General Chapter in the months ahead.  Thank you.



Shortly after it was learned that World Youth Day would take place in Germany, Oblates from the German-speaking provinces agreed to host a gathering of young Oblate confrères from around the Oblate world at Haus Overbach, the closest Oblate community to Cologne.  The gathering would take place several days before the beginning of the activities of World Youth Day.  Several mission procurators generously offered to cover travel expenses for up to four young Oblates from each of the mission regions. This gathering was announced and attendance was encouraged in the General’s News. 


I am delighted that a number of young Oblates were able to participate in this gathering along with other young people from several Oblate apostolates in Europe.  Such gatherings lower walls that language, culture and other factors sometimes build.  They are important moments in fostering that fraternal union of heart, life and action that our Founder desired for all Oblates.  


Brother Markus Adelt, OSFS, is a member of the host community, Haus Overbach. He  not only participated in this gathering; he also provided a lively account of what took place.  I am happy to paraphrase his account of those special days here.


Twenty-five Oblates and a hundred and twenty young people from France, Brazil, India, South Africa, Namibia, Ghana, Austria and Germany gathered in Haus Overbach prior to the events of the 20th World Youth Day in Cologne.   In the spirit of Saint Francis de Sales the young people prayed together, enjoyed one another’s company, and spoke openly with one another of their Catholic faith.


During their first evening together, the confrères and young people introduced themselves to one another. The largest group, about a hundred young people, came from the Diocese of Annecy.  Among them were a number of students from St. Michel.  This group introduced itself in a variety of creative ways by making use of plays, puzzles and songs.

On Friday morning Father Michel Tournade, Provincial of the French Province, introduced the young people to the “Salesian Way.” Using quotations from the Introduction to the Devout Life as well as thought-provoking questions, he invited all the participants, individually and in small groups, to reflect on their faith in the light of Salesian Spirituality. That afternoon the participants worked on several projects. Some created a mosaic for the chapel while others decorated the T-shirts that they would wear in Cologne.  Others spontaneously formed a choir and sang spiritual songs.  A number rehearsed a multimedia play on St. Francis de Sales. There were also sporting events.  This beautiful first full day ended with a delicious barbecue and music provided by the “Junge Chor Haus Overbach” and by a group of young people from Ghana.  

Saturday was dedicated to getting to know the country and people of the surrounding areas.  There were three separate excursions that were both informative and relaxing.  The highlight of Saturday evening was a multi-media presentation, "Spectacle sur Saint François de Sales," under the direction of Father Tournade.  It dealt, in a poignant and compelling manner, with the famous crisis that the teenager Francis underwent while a student in Paris.  It was an excellent presentation and it spoke powerfully to all the young people present.  

On Sunday the entire group celebrated “Diocesan Day” in Aachen along with all the other groups of young people who were staying in the Diocese of Aachen.  Highlights of this day included a “star-pilgrimage,” with different groups leaving from five different starting points and converging at the Cathedral.  The Bishop of Aachen celebrated Mass with the young people in the city’s famous riding stadium.

On Monday morning the young confrères of the South American Region gave a most impressive presentation of Oblate life and ministry in their Region.  Then it was time to tidy up before leaving for Cologne.

This gathering of young Oblates and other young people in Overbach was truly a coming together in the spirit of the Saint Francis de Sales. All those present, inspired by his spirit, were deeply united with one another.  The effects among the participants will be long lasting and far-reaching.  The many positive results of this shared common experience flow, above all, from the participants’ celebration together of daily Mass and morning and evening prayers.  The various groups prepared these liturgical events and enriched them with songs and customs from their cultures.

When we look around our world today, we find so much that is violent, materialistic, and selfish, even among many young people.  But this is not the whole picture.  Recall the vibrant faith and simple pleasures of the million young people who gathered for a few brief days in Cologne for World Youth Day.  Those young people tell the story of the basic goodness, solid faith, and hopeful promise of today’s youth!  On behalf of the entire Congregation, I thank all those Oblates who, through careful planning and real hard work, made this “Haus Overbach Event” possible.  They provided many young Oblates and other young people with the experience of a lifetime!



Life is full of surprises.  When I visited Father Tom Hagan in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a year and a half ago, I anticipated many things: a horrible infrastructure, a very dangerous environment, and heart-breaking poverty.  What I did not anticipate was meeting a number of young men who were well educated, deeply involved with the ministries of Father Hagan, and thirsting for “Salesian bread” and membership in our Congregation.  I became convinced that God was sending us some potentially very promising candidates, but I was fully aware that there is no Oblate structure in Haiti beyond the Herculean efforts of Father Tom.  After much soul-searching, I asked the confrères of the South American Region to consider taking these promising young men as members of their Region.  My request met with a generous response.  The Regional Superior, Father Aldino Kiesel, accompanied by his Assistant, Father Michael Moore, visited Haiti and met several times with these young men.  Later, the master of novices spent several weeks with them.  As a result of those visits, seven of these young Haitians will go to Brazil in September as postulants.  There they will live with other Oblates in formation and study the Portuguese language.  If all goes well, they will enter the novitiate in February 2006 and be professed as members of the South American Region a year later.  After their profession, an Oblate formator will accompany them back to Haiti for their philosophy and theology.  There are already six other young men who have expressed interest in following the lead of these seven young postulants.  Please pray for these brave young Haitian men.  Pray too in gratitude for the generosity of the confrères of the South American Region.  Like the poor widow in the Gospel story, they have given all they had.  Such generosity will not go unrewarded.  



As I write this letter, I am preparing to leave for Rome.  In Albano, I will be present for the Provincial Chapter and the election of a new Provincial and Councilors.  The present Provincial, Father Germano Agostini, is recovering from surgery for cancer.  I will bring him the prayers and fraternal best wishes of the entire Congregation for his full and speedy recovery.


From Italy, I will go to South Africa for the canonical visitation of the Keimoes Region. While there, I will be eager to learn how plans are developing in preparation for the September 2006 merger of the two southern African Regions.  A very special moment of my visit to South Africa will be the ordination to the diaconate on September 10th of three Oblates from Bénin.  Their diaconate ordination follows the priestly ordination, on June 4, 2005, of Father Anatole Francis Mongadji.  The French community in Bénin is beginning to blossom, much to the joy of the French Province and the fraternal encouragement of the entire Congregation.


The untimely death of Father Anthony R. Ceresko on August 13, 2005 was a very sad development for the nascent Philippines foundation.  I am convinced that he continues to advocate before the Lord with persuasion and passion on behalf of this foundation that was so dear to his heart.


The Netherlands Province has purchased a property that will serve as the Provincial Residence and Salesian Center.  The projected date for its dedication is the 2006 feast of St. Francis de Sales.  Father Dirk Koster continues to work on his much-anticipated biography of Father Brisson.  His plan is to have this book available in all the languages of the Congregation by the centenary of the Founder’s death in 2008.


Another edition of the General Directory and Necrology will be published in the near future.  We would certainly like it to be as accurate as possible.  That can only happen if we receive current and timely information regarding changes in residences, addresses (including e-mail addresses), phone and fax numbers, and so forth.  The General Directory and Necrology is a cooperative venture between the laity and Oblates.  Its workplace, in cyberspace, covers the United States, Austria and India! Please send all current information and changes, as well as information regarding new members and novices, to Mr. Robert A. Carlston at his e-mail address:   Mr. Carlston keeps the data current.  Johann Angleitner maintains the webpage (, and Oblate Asia prints the final document. By the way, we are grateful for your suggestions regarding security.  Soon the first page of the webpage will include only names of Oblates and their street addresses.  A password, known only to Oblates, will gain access to all additional information about a particular Oblate.  Work is in progress on these changes.  For your part, please send correct and current information to Mr. Carlston as soon as possible.  Thank you!



Prayer in preparation for the 2006 General Chapter




God, our loving Father,

Father Brisson prayed unceasingly for the gift of fraternal union among all Oblates. For that reason, he strongly urged us never to act alone or in isolation from one another.


As we Oblates prepare for our 18th General Chapter in 2006 we ask you for the grace to put into practice the union of heart, life and action that our Founder so earnestly desired for his sons.


Give us the courage, we pray, to overcome any tendency among us towards harmful individualism and the corresponding grace to foster, ever more deeply, a warm fraternal union throughout the Congregation.


Finally, loving Father, in the spirit of our holy Founders, enable us to fulfill your holy will in each present moment of life and in all things, large and small.


We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.







Constitution 16 quotes from Father Brisson’s January 15, 1896 spiritual Chapter (The Tilburg edition, vol. III, pages 201-208).  The Prayer for the General Chapter takes a line from that same spiritual chapter as the theme for the General Chapter: “Always be united, in heart and action, with our entire Congregation.”


At the beginning of the spiritual chapter in question, Father Brisson reminds us of what he had said in an earlier chapter regarding the central importance of the Spiritual Directory both in shaping the personal spiritual lives of all Oblates as well as in providing the spiritual content for their sharing of the principles of Salesian spirituality with others, especially with the laity. 


In this spiritual chapter, he begins by repeating that familiar theme: “the practice of the Directory is absolutely necessary for us.”  But he will not deal extensively in this chapter with that central spiritual document.  Rather, he intends to deal with something “perhaps even more important.”  What could possibly be more important, more central, to us Oblates than the practice of the Spiritual Directory and the sharing of its key Salesian principles with others? 


As a background to that something “perhaps even more important,” he speaks of the tendency among some early Oblates to isolate themselves from community and confrère.  Apparently, some of them tended to be somewhat indifferent regarding the concerns and projects of the larger Congregation and its growth in the esteem of others.  These were good men, he tells them, very dedicated priests and brothers. But they tended to see themselves and their ministry somewhat apart from the community and its larger mission. Some of them tended to act –as we might say today—as “independent agents.”  He was the Founder and he did not like that tendency at all.  His intention in this Chapter is to vigorously address that tendency and to strongly foster another manner of acting.  Each Oblate, he repeats frequently, ought to continually remind himself that “I am an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales….[And] a good Oblate does not isolate himself or act individually,” that is, he does not act apart from the Congregation and its mission; nor does he isolate himself from the Community and its concerns.   


After giving this background, Father Brisson tells them that “We need to be more closely attached to the community and to love it ever more deeply.  We need to sustain and foster it and to promote its action and influence over souls. We need to accomplish this by sharing a common vision and by being united in life and action.”  He repeats this sentiment frequently throughout this chapter: “We have a very serious obligation in conscience to be wholeheartedly attached to the Congregation, to promote it and to help it to prosper.  We must work and sacrifice ourselves totally for [the Congregation].”  Several paragraphs later he utters the words that have been chosen as the theme for the 2006 General Chapter: “May Oblates never isolate themselves.  Rather, may they always be united, in heart and in action, with their entire Congregation!”  For convenience sake, I will call this heartfelt prayer and directive from the Founder the principle of unity in heart and action.


The choice of these words as theme for the prayerful preparation of the General Chapter has prompted me to reflect upon the importance of unity in heart and action among Oblates today.  When Father Brisson first spoke these words in January 1896, the “great dispersion” was still several years in the future.  Thus, Oblates were still largely clustered around the Founder in France. When he speaks of union, therefore, he is speaking principally of the fraternal union between individual Oblates and the other confrères of their particular communities in and around Troyes. And when he speaks of fostering and promoting the interests of the Institute, he is speaking of the first apostolic efforts in France and in the early missions. 


Almost a hundred and ten years have passed since the Founder first spoke those words and uttered that principle.  In the meantime, provinces and regions have sprung up around the world.  The Institute, which began as a small and tightly knit group that was physically clustered around its strong and charismatic Founder, has developed into an international Congregation.  And after the “great dispersion” and the death of its Founder, its structure of governance developed into a form of federalism.  In time, each Province became self-sufficient in terms of personnel and resources and the Founder’s successors exercised, in practice, a governance of moral suasion.  As Constitution 264 expresses it, the Superior General is to be “the heart and soul of the Congregation.” He is to animate, exhort, and encourage; he is to set an example of charity and zeal.  His role, in other words, is envisioned principally as one of gentle persuasion.


Great changes have taken place in the structure and governance of the Congregation since the 1896 spiritual chapter in which the Founder urged upon us the principle of unity in heart and action.  How is that principle to be understood and concretely realized today and going forward?  What role will it play, for example, in the proceedings of the General Chapter that will consider such topics as restructuring, joint efforts in apostolates and formation, internationalization, and the missions?  In short, how will that principle, first formulated in a small and intimate circle, be applied in issues that transcend individual provinces and regions and embrace the Congregation as a whole?   


In contrast to an individual, how does the Congregation as a whole resist any tendency among its several provinces and regions towards isolation or indifference?  More positively, how do individual provinces and regions become fully engaged in the overall mission of the Congregation?  How do they “work and sacrifice [themselves] entirely for the Congregation,” and actively foster and promote its well being and esteem among others?   Given the smaller numbers and aging membership of some of our provinces and regions today, where do we obtain the courage to look beyond our immediate and real concerns to the larger interests and concerns of the Congregation?  In short, how do we translate the spirit of the Founder’s principle of unity in heart and action into the present moment of today’s Congregation?


Perhaps we can look to our latest Salesian saint, St. Léonie Aviat, for guidance.  As a religious, she had but one desire: “to forget myself entirely.”  In the spirit of humility, forgetfulness of herself was the spiritual agenda of her entire life.  She had meditated upon the Lord’s teaching concerning those who lose themselves for his sake.  She came to realize that they are the ones who truly find themselves. Indeed, those who die to themselves and to their own preferences and projects for the sake of others are the very ones who become fully actualized human beings.  They are the ones who become saints. 


But she also knew that “forgetfulness of self” had to have a corporate dimension for religious.  This is why she urged her sisters  “to work for the happiness of others.”  The needs, concerns and aspirations of others were to become the needs, concerns and aspirations of the Congregation of the Oblate Sisters as well.  


St. Léonie Aviat knew how to translate one’s personal agenda for holiness –“to forget myself entirely”—into the mission and ministry of an entire Congregation: “Let us work for the happiness of others.”


Father Brisson has given us Oblates the principle of unity in heart and action.  May we learn from St. Léonie Aviat how to translate that principle from the spiritual project of individual Oblates to the mission of the entire Congregation.  As provinces and regions, may we learn how to forget ourselves entirely and work for the happiness and well being of the Congregation as a whole. Let us keep in mind what Jesus promised.  The one who loses himself is the very one who finds himself.  If that is true for an individual, it can be true for a Congregation as well.  The issues of the 2006 General Chapter will be a test as to how successful we are in translating the Founder’s principle of unity in heart and action from a spiritual principle for individual holiness to a principle that guides the mission and ministry of an entire Congregation.


No matter what issues arise at the General Chapter along these lines, we will not be without the Founder’s guidance.  His principle of unity in heart and action will, if heeded, provide us with the wisdom and courage to address new situations and to find solutions for those situations that are in keeping with our charism.  When difficult choices confront us and stretch us, we will pray for “the courage to overcome any tendency among us towards harmful individualism and the corresponding grace to foster, ever more deeply, a warm and fraternal union throughout the Congregation.” May the decisions of the General Chapter translate these beautiful words into concrete actions and directions, and may the grace of God guide us so that, in the spirit of our Patron and Founder, we will fulfill the divine will “in each present moment of life and in all things, large and small!”



As noted above, in September I will be in the Italian Province and in the Keimoes Region for canonical visitations.  At the end of October I will participate in the meeting of the Second Federation of the Visitation Order of America in Wheeling, West Virginia.  The General Council will meet in Rome from January 9-14, 2006.  The dedication of the new Provincial Residence and Salesian spirituality center of the Netherlands Province will take place around the feast of St. Francis de Sales.   I have advised the members of the General Council of the possibility of an Easter meeting if preparations for the General Chapter warrant one.  On May 27, 2006 the Austria-South German Province will celebrate its centenary of foundation in Vienna.  The 18th General Chapter will take place in Fockenfeld, Germany, from July 30 through August 11, 2006.


Yours very fraternally in our saintly Patron and holy Founders,




Lewis S. Fiorelli, OSFS

Superior General