125th Anniversary Reflection - Part 4

Reflection

The Oblates of Mary Immaculate are celebrating 125 years of serving the Church in Australia.  It is an opportunity to give thanks for the past, to acknowledge the many blessings in our Province today and to prepare for another 125 years of service in Australia. The De Mazenod Family Gathering is an opportunity to build and strengthen connections between the Oblate ministries and explore structures for a Lay Association.  Please keep the De Mazenod Family Gathering (14-18th August) in your prayers and continue praying for Vocations to the Priesthood and Religious life.

The following reflection is part of this journey, a series of reflections on our history written by Fr Austin Cooper OMI.   

Continuing “Fremantle and the Oblates”:

Some local autonomy, and an expanding mission, gave the Oblates renewed confidence. The first section of the new Church was opened in June 1900.  On Sundays some 1,960 people attended Mass and a total of 692 at four other centres: the Convent, Prison, North Fremantle and Cottesloe.

From 1910 Frs Smyth and Neville lived at North Fremantle. But these apparently prosperous years gave way to challenging times: in the 1919 influenza epidemic an Oblate served in Quarantine leaving only two serving the large scattered parish. Glendalough was soon to close and North Fremantle to be taken over by the Archdiocese thus reducing the Oblate Vicariate to one house. This led to some soul searching among Oblates. Did they have a viable future in Australia? The Vicariate Superior, Fr. Eugene Callan hoped a move to the East would help. The opening of Sorrento (Victoria) in 1926 did not prove an instant solution. Sorrento was not the holiday mecca of today but a quiet, remote village. Depression and the Second World War were further challenges. It is a great credit to the Fremantle Oblates that despite a contracted mission they battled on: they did not surrender, displaying the Oblate commitment to the virtue of Perseverance. Meanwhile local vocations were few: Andrew McCusker, (a Scottish migrant educated in WA) was the first to enter the Oblates in Australia and he had to travel to Ireland for his novitiate and seminary training. In the 1930s and 1940s the new novitiate at Lovely Banks, Geelong,  also saw four local novices survive. Three of these were Fremantle contacts: Frank Thornton, Henry McFall and Joseph McCann.

The war years saw further pressures on the Oblates. Two members of the Australian group served as chaplains – Frs. William Byrne and Thomas Purcell, while hostilities prevented obtaining further personnel from the Anglo-Irish Province. However peace brought swift changes. There had long been Italians in the parish, but post-war migration saw their numbers escalate. Fr. Pietro Abrano was the first of a succession of Italian chaplains, the long serving Fr. Gaetano Nanni being the last. Some nine other Italian Oblates served here between 1960 and 1987: an enrichment which an international religious group can provide. At one time there were 1,450 Italians in the Fremantle area.  

With the migrants came new styles of devotion such as the high profile annual blessing of the fishing fleet from 1948 and the devotion to the ‘Black Madonna’ (Our Lady of Tindari). Being a port city, seamen were a pastoral care and in 1947 Fr Dan Breslin began specific pastoral care for seamen which evolved into Stella Maris of which Mgr. O’Shea became chaplain in 1962.

Fr. James Sullivan was the parish priest responsible for constructing the new sanctuary of the church in a style dominated more by utility than a sense of beauty, thus fuelling a simmering tension with those who preferred the original plan. But Fremantle was a-changing: many people were moving out to new residential areas. Over time St. Patrick’s would need to re-invent itself.   


Inter-Chapter 2019 - POLAND

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Rule 128e of our Constitutions and Rules directs that, “Between Chapters, the Superior General in Council, in plenary session, will call at least one meeting of the Provincials with the Central Government. After consulting the Provincials, he will determine the details of the convocation and the agenda of the meeting”.

In keeping with this rule and the practice, on March 1, 2018, Fr. Superior General convoked an “Inter-Chapter” meeting of the Provincials and the Central Government of the Congregation. The Superiors of Delegations and the Superiors of Missions in the Region of Europe were likewise requested to attend this gathering.

The Oblate Scholasticate of the Province of Poland, in Obra, is now ready to host the OMI Inter-Chapter 2019 from July 1-13. It will be an important time for the leaders of our Congregation,

to evaluate the extent to which decisions taken in Chapter have been carried out,

to encourage further implementation of such decisions,

to provide for the remote preparation of the next Chapter” (R 128e).

The preparation for the meeting had begun almost a year ago, as the Provincials, Superiors of Delegations and Missions, their respective Councils as well as the Regional Conferences, responded to a questionnaire sent to them by the Ad hoc Committee for the meeting.

The Inter-Chapter will certainly be a great opportunity for the Congregation in order to achieve greater effectiveness in responding to the directions set by the last General Chapter.

125th Anniversary Reflection - Part 3

Reflection

The Oblates of Mary Immaculate are celebrating 125 years of serving the Church in Australia.  It is an opportunity to give thanks for the past, to acknowledge the many blessings in our Province today and to prepare for another 125 years of service in Australia. The De Mazenod Family Gathering is an opportunity to build and strengthen connections between the Oblate ministries and explore structures for a Lay Association.  Please keep the De Mazenod Family Gathering (14-18th August) in your prayers and continue praying for Vocations to the Priesthood and Religious life.

The following reflection is part of this journey, a series of reflections on our history written by Fr Austin Cooper OMI.   

Continuing Fremantle and the Oblates:

The original agreement with the Bishop involved undertaking an ‘Industrial School’ for delinquent boys, a ministry in which Oblates were involved in Ireland.  The demands of Fremantle and personnel restraints left the Oblates less than enthusiastic about this aspect of the plan, but Bishop Gibney was insistent. He reminded the Oblates that ‘I offered 300 acres at Subiaco for this purpose with leave to collect throughout the Diocese to defray expenses . . . . The Government will give an allowance of one shilling per diem for children admitted by their officers.’  

The ensuing tension was to throw the Oblate presence in Fremantle into jeopardy.  The Council of the British Province was not sure that the proposed industrial school was a binding part of the agreement. While from Fremantle, Fr. Roger Hennessy reported that ‘our position here is anything but agreeable. The subscriptions to our new Church have come to a standstill. The people are displeased by the report of our leaving, and we, on our part, have no encouragement to continue. . . I sincerely hope that we shall not have to abandon Fremantle.’ Obviously, the Oblates had understandable concerns about the availability of personnel and the Bishop had a strong point in his reading of the original agreement. But in the dust of debate clarity of vision was impaired.

Fortunately help was at hand. Two Irish Oblates, Frs Stephen Nicoll and Patrick Brady were visiting WA to preach Missions and were asked to make a submission to the Oblate General Council then resident in Paris.  Fr. Nicoll made a very balanced submission: the choice was between abandoning the mission and returning home or maintaining an Oblate presence in the Australian Church which necessitated accepting the industrial school. He was very much in favour of the latter as he saw the Oblate presence as ‘full of hope for the future.’  His wisdom saved the day. The contract was signed in 26th December 1896 and the foundation stone laid on the following March 17th, Fr. Daniel O’Ryan from Fremantle was appointed Superior and he was joined by three Oblate Brothers experienced in this ministry in Ireland: George Nolan (aged 26), Daniel Howard (aged 38) and Michael Boland (aged 39). Conditions were tough. Added to this was a paucity of numbers: in 1911 there were only 10 boys committed by government agencies and another 21 sent by parents (and for these there was no government subsidy). By the time the venture closed in 1921 some 219 boys had been sent from courts and 22 as private boarders.                                                                                

One encouraging by-product of the establishment of Glendalough was the decision to give a measure of ‘self-government’ to the Oblate mission: the Oblate Vicariate of WA was established with two houses: six priests at Fremantle and one priest and five brothers at Glendalough. This appeared an encouraging sign, yet with the small population in WA there was little hope for future local recruitment. The Oblate presence was still (and long remained) very dependent on personnel from afar.


125th Anniversary Reflection - Part 2

Reflection

The Oblates of Mary Immaculate are celebrating 125 years of serving the Church in Australia.  It is an opportunity to give thanks for the past, to acknowledge the many blessings in our Province today and to prepare for another 125 years of service in Australia. The De Mazenod Family Gathering is an opportunity to build and strengthen connections between the Oblate ministries and explore structures for a Lay Association.  Please keep the De Mazenod Family Gathering (14-18th August) in your prayers and continue praying for Vocations to the Priesthood and Religious life.

The following reflection is part of this journey, a series of reflections on our history written by Fr Austin Cooper OMI.   

The Fremantle Story:    

From 1850 until 1867 the Benedictines provided pastoral care for Fremantle Catholics. They were then replaced by diocesan clergy. The local Baptismal Register from 1852 indicates that sacraments were administered in ‘St. Patrick’s Church’, evidently a make-shift edifice.   It was not until 1860 that the Catholics, now numbering about 250, erected a lime-stone Church dedicated to St. Patrick. By this time, they had also built a presbytery and in 1855 welcomed the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition.

In 1893 Fr William Ring OMI, a friend of Bishop Mathew Gibney of Perth, arranged for the Oblates to come to Western Australia and in 1894, the Provincial of the British Province, Matthew Gaughren accompanied two younger priests, Roger Hennessy and Daniel O’Ryan, both aged 27, to Fremantle. The Provincial remained as Parish Priest of Fremantle for the first year, a clear indication of the Oblate commitment

Daniel O’Ryan’s surviving letters offer glimpses of the scene: Catholics were ‘for the most part poor working people’ and their Church was ‘liable to be blown away during any storm’. He pictures small scattered clusters of Catholics in Coogee, Hope Valley and Rottnest Island. Closer to the centre, North Fremantle and Beaconsfield needed Churches.

The mission was challenging enough for the three Oblates, yet it also had its limitations: it was described in the Founder’s Journal as being to ‘attend to the spiritual wants of the Catholics between Fremantle and Claremont.’ There was no mention of evangelization of the whole colony or any outreach to the Aborigines. It was to remain a distant appendage to the home province and for many a 19th century Oblate it did not seem especially ‘missionary’ like their brothers labouring among Eskimos or Zulus.   

Yet every pastoral care has a ‘missionary’ quality about it. Fremantle was no exception. Not only was the church in a sad state, but their (apparently handsome) residence needed urgent repairs and was barely furnished. We are fortunate to have a long letter from a parishioner, Mrs J. Townsend, giving a warm appreciation of the three Oblates: they were ‘young men – all Irishmen – good preachers – strong active men – who have made things boom here.. …..Fr Gaughren delivered a course of sermons on Catholic Doctrine. I had a summary made of these and had them published in the Daily Times.’ These Oblates were certainly not lacking in missionary zeal.

When the Provincial returned home his place was taken by Fr Thomas Ryan, then aged 37. Fr Ryan is to be credited with the vision and energy to commence the present Church, though circumstances prevented its completion. Designed by Michael Cavanagh, it is a fine local example of the revival of gothic architecture so popular in the nineteenth century. The beauty of a Church and its furnishings has always been a means of imparting a sense of the beauty of the Catholic faith and the beauty of the unseen God.     


125th Anniversary Reflection - Part 1

Reflection

The Oblates of Mary Immaculate are celebrating 125 years of serving the Church in Australia.  It is an opportunity to give thanks for the past, to acknowledge the many blessings in our Province today and to prepare for another 125 years of service in Australia. The De Mazenod Family Gathering is an opportunity to build and strengthen connections between the Oblate ministries and explore structures for a Lay Association.  Please keep the De Mazenod Family Gathering (14-18th August) in your prayers and continue praying for Vocations to the Priesthood and Religious life.

The following reflection is part of this journey, a series of reflections on our history written by Fr Austin Cooper OMI.   

Charles Joseph Eugene De Mazenod, who founded the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, OMI, was born in 1782 in Southern France.  Although his family was wealthy, they were forced to flee France during the French revolution, leaving all their possessions behind.  It was 1790 and Eugene was just 8 years old.

Eugene’s father had been a politician but was forced to become a tradesman in Italy, making it difficult for Eugene to have a good education other than that provided by a Priest in Venice.  

Eugene returned to France in 1802 when he was 20 and saw that the Catholic Church in his native country had suffered a great deal during the Revolution. The education he had received in Italy had included religious instruction and Eugene was drawn to the beauty of the religious life he had witnessed in Venice.

Assisted by a mystical experience, he entered a Seminary in Paris and was ordained a Priest in 1811, aged 29.   Rather than work in a Parish, Eugene worked among the poor and vulnerable and in 1826 received approval from Pope Leo XII to found a new religious Order.  Thus, was born the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate OMI.


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