Superior General’s Newsletter – 4 – March 2008

2008: The Year dedicated to our Founder

The celebrations on the occasion of the centenary of the death of our Founder began in Troyes in early February this year. They were special days, significantly important for all who participated, both Oblates and the Oblates Sisters. The fact of placing one’s feet in the places where Father Brisson and the first Oblates began the history of our congregation was in itself an invitation to return to the origins of our charisma and our spirituality, and hence to renew our efforts in continuing today our mission as Oblates.

The Celebrations - Our days in Troyes had a special celebrative character. On Saturday, February 2, we went to Plancy, to be present at the same place and time where, 100 years earlier, at 10:34 AM, our Founder was called back to the Father's House. We gathered in the church where he had been baptized, received the light of his vocation, made his First Communion, and in which he celebrated his First Mass. We celebrated the memory of our founder, placing "French croteus" (first blooming flowers at the end of winter) before the portrait of Father Brisson. These flowers were a consolation for him as he remembered the death of his own beloved mother. In a prayerful spirit, each one lit a candle and placed it before the altar. In the afternoon in the same chapel and, with the added presence of various religious from the diocese, the bishop of Troyes, Rt. Rev. Marc Stenger, presided at the Eucharist. The Bishop also presided at other celebrations during the days that followed: in the Cathedral of Troyes, in the chapel of the Visitation Monastery and at St. Bernard's High School.

Significant Moments - It was exciting these days setting foot on the various special places of the “holy land": Plancy, our Founder's birthplace and death place; the seminary where he, as seminarian, had spent many years, the Visitation Monastery (with the tomb of the Good Mother; the place of the Our Lord's apparition, the chapel; the ill-fated canal), the crypt at the Oblate Sister's Mother House, where the remains of Santa Leonie Aviat and Father Brisson are buried; the oblate museum; the magnificent cathedral of Troyes, where Jean-Marie Simon was consecrated the first Oblate bishop in 1898; the so-called "Tuilerie" (a former pottery factory, which Father Brisson acquired as a place of rest and retreat for both the Oblates and Oblate Sisters). It was very good to hear the presentations that our confreres had prepared with so much love and dedication: Father Roger Balducelli on our Founder's spiritual itinerary from his priestly vocation to his religious vocation; Father Lewis Fiorelli on the Spiritual Directory today; Father Michel Tournade on Human Relationships in our salesian and brissonian tradition.

I heard many expressions of joy because of the fact that we, as daughters and sons of Father Louis Brisson, had gathered to celebrate, to live and to share. I was touched by the desire expressed by several confreres and also by the Oblate Sisters that we promote other common events between our two salesian families.

New Biography of Father Brisson - A particularly striking moment was when, on Sunday morning, February 3, our confrere of the Dutch Province, Father Dirk Koster, presented his book containing a new biography of Father Brisson. He wrote this biography especially for this occasion at the request of my predecessor, Father Lewis Fiorelli. It is a well illustrated work with beautiful and historic photos related to the life and historical times of our founder. Certainly this work will motivate us to look again, with renewed interest, at the life of our founder. It will also be a source that we can take advantage of in our initial formation. I personally urge that it used as a resource in formation. In addition, we can offer this fine work to the good lay people connected to us by the ties of our spirituality.

The year dedicated to our Founder - The celebrations in Troyes offered me the opportunity to announce the "Year of Father Brisson". I intend it to be a call for all of us to follow this year united to our founder, to pray for his beatification and canonization, and to deepen our knowledge of his teachings and to renew ourselves in our vocation and mission as Oblates. Certainly, by this time all have begun the novena suggestion for each first Friday of the month until November. All material is available on the Web at

I wish to take this opportunity to express my gratitude on behalf of all Oblates to Father Thomas Dailey, who had the initial idea of the "Year of the Father Brisson", and to Father Herbert Winklehner, who put all the material on the Web site. I am also grateful to all those who will be offering their reflections during the monthly novenas.

General Government News

Last January, the Wilmington / Philadélphia province selected new leadership. Father James Greenfield was elected the new Provincial Superior, and Fathers Mark Mealey, James Dalton, Donald Heet and Robert Bazzoli were elected members of the Provincial Council. The General Council ratified these choices, and also the appointment of Father Mark Mealey as Assistant Provincial. I congratulate  Father Greenfield and members of his Council. We pray that this government be a blessing for all the confreres of the Wilmington-Philadelphia province. May the lights of the Holy Spirit and the principles of salesian government guide them in this important service that has been entrusted to them.

With his election as Provincial Councilor, Father Mark Mealey resigned as General Councilor. However, he is continuing as General Procurator of the Congregation. On behalf of all our confreres, I wish to whole-heartedly thank Father Mealey for his 14 years of self-less service on the General Council. According Constitutions 276, the General Council chose Father James Cryan, of the Toledo-Detroit Province, as the new General Councilor. I am grateful, as well, to Fr. Cryan for his readiness to accept this new role. I ask the prayers of all for him.

Father Shaju Kanjiramparayil of India - elected member of the General Council last December to replace the Father Sebastian Leitner - is now living here in the Generalate in Rome. He is now the secretary of the General Council and will be continuing his studies in the field of psychology. I am grateful for his willingness to accept this service.

Fund Mission Chablais: some adjustments

In order to facilitate the operation of the two committees of the Chablais Fund and help in their effectiveness, the General Council has made some adjustments. In regard to the distribution of funds, the basic idea is now that those who are the beneficiaries of the annual aid should also be responsible for its distribution. Thus, the Commission responsible for the distribution of funds will have as members the General Mission Coordinator and those who are entitled to receive part of the annual distribution. Therefore, the membership of the Commission is now made up of: Father Josef Költringer (Chairman), Father Joseph Ovis  Father Fransiskus Swartbooi (superiors of the two African regions), Father Michel Tournade and Father Michael Moore (Superiors of Provinces that have missions recognized by the Congregation - Benin and Haiti) and Father Mathew Mukkath (Delegate of Superior General of our mission in India).

Experience has shown us that, in practice, there are two structures for our fund raising: the Mission Procurators and the current Commission of the Chablais Fund which is responsible for collecting funds and administering the fund. But ultimately the goal of each is the same. So the General Council wished that the missions Procurators  also  be involved with the Chablais Fund more directly. We are still in the process of restructuring this committee of the Chablais Fund, and also of clarifying how better to coordinate  the efforts of both groups. As soon as it is possible, we will give more precise information about the Committees of the Chablais Fund.

I would like to take this opportunity to warmly thank Father James O'Neill, who served as Executive Director since the establishment of the Chablais Fund, for his dedication. He has now resigned from this office. Certainly one of the main achievements of Father O'Neill was the recognition of the legal status of the Chablais Fund ("By-Laws of the Chablais Mission Fund Incorporated"), which will bring us many future benefits. Again, thank you Father O'Neill. May God bless you always!

General Directory and Necrology: new edition

The latest edition of our General Directory and Necrology dates from the year 2006. In these last two years there have been many changes, making much of its information inconsistent with our current reality: new Oblates have entered, ordinations, changes of addresses, deaths, etc.. The General Council believes it is appropriate to have a new, updated edition of this book.

A few days ago I sent a letter to the Major Superiors asking them that any updated information be sent to Mr Hans Angleitner (e-mail: He is responsible for gathering this information and preparing all the material to be edited. We are still discerning whether it is preferable to publish two volumes separately (one, the Directory, and the other the General Necrology), or a single volume, similar to the current one. We ask that the information be sent to Mr. Angleitner before March 31, 2008 by the latest. This will be the reference date for the information. In other words, we ask that the information sent, be valid as of this date.

Jubilee Celebrations in South Africa

At the end of last year, I had the pleasure of participating in the celebrations of 125 years of our presence on African soil, and the 75 years of the death of Bishop Jean-Marie Simon. I witnessed the true spirit of joy and gratitude that marked the celebrations both in the cathedral of Pella and in the sports stadium in Upington. It was beautiful to see the confreres of both Regions - Keimoes-Upington and Keetmanshoop - and as well as the Oblates Sisters, along with a large audience, united in prayer and songs of thanksgiving. The Apostolic Nuncio, Bishop James Green, who presided at the celebration, highlighted the heroism the priest, and later bishop, Fr. Simon, who evangelized this area in adverse times and situations.

These two jubilee celebrations were preceded by two days of meetings of sharing and community living  by our two families, the Oblate Sisters and the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. Much sharing was done about our mission today and also discernment about our future activity, considering the many challenges that the Church faces today in the region. A special moment was the perpetual profession of the scholastic, Benjemin van Schalkwyk.

A special emphasis was given to missionaries who over these 125 years spent their best years in service to the poor people of that region. All the heroic dedication of so many Oblate missionaries was well remembered by the presence of several representatives of the Provincials or the Provinces that have sent missionaries to South Africa and Namíbia. We continue to build our history, supported by the missionary shoulders of these giants.

As already announced, on November 21, 2008, the missions of our Regions, Keimoes-Upington and Keetmanshoop, will officially be joined, forming a single region. In September, there will be the election of new leadership - a new Superior Regional and members of the Regional Council - for the future united Region.

I urge you all to remember in your prayers the confreres of these two regions who are at a historical moment so important for them and for our presence as Oblates in Africa. May the Holy Spirit, present since our arrival in these African lands, continue to enlighten and guide them on the mission of living and disseminating our spirit as Oblates.


As I announced earlier, the General Council decided formally to suspend our presence in the Philippines. Due to lack of personnel, it was not possible to continue our presence in this part of the world. This does not mean that, at some future time, it may not be possible to discern again about a foundation in the Philippines.

On behalf of the Congregation I would like to express my deep gratitude and recognition to the efforts made our confreres who dedicated themselves as Oblates serving in the Philippines for some time. I wish to extend my gratitude to the Toledo-Detroit Province for the testimony and dedication of Father Antony R. Ceresko, who left for his eternal rest in 2005. Our sincere and very cordial gratitude to Father Josef Költringer, who served several years in the Philippines together with the Father Ceresko and a few years by himself, for dedicating himself to various ministries and discerning alternatives for our presence there. I also wish to express my gratitude to the young Oblate, Father Abraham Vettukallamkuzhyil of India, who was willing to serve in the mission in the Philippines, remaining there until last January. They have given us an example of confreres with vision and missionary spirit.

Salesian Pilgrimage for youth

As I had already announced, from 15 to June 20,2008, a salesian youth pilgrimage will be held in Annecy. Students from various Oblate schools or schools where there are Oblates, will be present. Around 60 participants are anticipated, coming from France, the United States, South America and Monaco. This week certainly will be special for these young people who will participate. It is, also, a very concrete way to touch the hearts of young people with the richness of our spirituality. Let us pray for the success of this pilgrimage.

Religious Life: Prophecy in today's cultures?

The assembly of the General Superiors Union, held in May 2007, focused on the theme: "Religious Life: Prophecy in today's cultures?". The mere fact that the theme of prophecy was chosen indicates that there may be a doubt whether our presence as Religious is being prophetic today. The question implies a belief that the prophetic dimension makes up part of our presence and mission within our cultures. About this there is no doubt. The question is: whether our presence as consecrated persons is being, or not being, a prophetic presence today.

As a result of this meeting, a book containing the lectures, that were presented, was published. This work is a valuable source for us as we look at our presence and the role of the Oblates from a prophetic viewpoint.  I want to present, in future editions of the General's Letter, some points that seem important to us and that are closely connected with our salesian spirituality. Here I shall confine myself to make two introductory remarks.

1. The use of prophecy in our language - For some people talk of "prophecy" in religious life raises some fear, because they have the impression that what is called "prophecy" favors a the idea of a parallel Church. They do admit that there are among us prophetic persons, with prophetic actions and stances. But they consider these realities partial and fragmentary. It does not appear to them that we ought to feel called to be "prophets" by our dedication to the Lord and our service to His people.

However, the prophetic dimension of consecrated life has been stressed in official documents of the church (as we will see later). Clearly, prophecy is not the monopoly of consecrated life, but it does possess a conter-cultural character. The consecrated life "enhances the prophetic wing of the Church" (JMR Tillard) and today it seeks to discover its prophetic potential in the midst of a shared prophecy with many people and communities, within and without the church.

We must keep in mind some theological givens in order to help us to properly look at the subject of prophetic ministry. The starting point of any reflection is that the church is ministerial, and this truth is manifested in its "ministries": orders, social action, pastoral care, government, etc..  Prophetic ministry is not to be confused with or identified with any of these particular ministries. The prophetic ministry, however, in the light of faith, proposes radical changes in society, religion, and politics. Moreover, prophets are chosen and sent by God. They are aware of receiving a special gift. They do not worry about being revolutionary or conservative, but want to be passionate witnesses of the living God in the midst of the people. Their presence both causes and sustains an alternative awareness and perception of reality. It gives birth to an alternative community, which anticipates the newness of God's Kingdom in the midst of us. They let themselves be guided by the presence and strength of the Spirit that blows where it wills.

2. Focusing on the issue of prophecy - We need to define what we are talking about. The risk exists that in speaking of prophecy one falls into using stereotypes and ideology. "Prophetic ministry has always been born from a deep communion with both God and with the situation of the people," says Joseph M. Abella, CMF. Being "Minister" requires an intimate union with the One from whom we have received our ministry. The primacy of God is the interpretative key in understanding the life of the true prophet. Without a sincere and total surrender of his life to God, there is a risk of focusing in on the more apparent characteristics of a prophetic life, thereby loosing its essence. One can only offer crystal-clear and fresh water to the thirsty when one remains close to the source of living and eternal water.

From a life given completely to God emanates a spirit of freedom that accompanies the prophet's response to reality. At the same time, experiences of doubt, uncertainty and tension that are part of any faith journey, are never lacking. They constitute elements of purification and maturation of any authentically prophetic ministry.

Prophecy must deal with the great issues of mankind: peace, justice, reconciliation, integral development, the ecology. Prophetic ministry encourages and leads one to offer a faith response.

For we Oblates, and for any Institute, reference to the founder as the source of our prophetic response must always be maintained. His prophecy invites us to return to the charismatic origin of the Institute. This does not mean simply repeating models, but translating, as faithfully as possible, the impression of charisma that was envisioned by the founder and by the first members of the Institute.


Soon after Easter I will visit the North German Province. This province is already in the process of discernment and selection of a new provincial, because the mandate of the current government will end late next June. Soon after, in April, along with Father Konrad Esser, I will visit the confreres of the Dutch Province. This province will also select a new provincial government, since the third term of Father Kees Jongeneelen as Provincial Superior will expire in August.

From June 15 to 20, I will take part in the salesian youth pilgrimage in Annecy.

From August 4 to 8, I will be here in Rome at a meeting of the General Council.

In September, I will participate in the week-long retreat of the two African regions, Keimoes-Upington and Keetmanshoop. During this week the government of the unified Region will be selected.

Thanks for your prayers. I need them very much. And I know I can continue to count on them.  I am very grateful to all for them.

Blessed Easter!

"Let us see what should be resurrected in us or, to the contrary, what must die in us, in our life, in our inclinations, in our costumes" (Father Brisson on April 7, 1897).

To all of you, confreres in the Dead and Risen Lord, I wish you a happy celebration of the Resurrection!

Fr. Aldino José Kiesel, osfs
Superior General