Who Are We?
The word ‘Oblate’ comes from the Latin word ‘Oblatus’- an offering, something offered up- and therefore dedicated to, set aside for. The Oblates of Mary Immaculate (O.M.I.) who staff Immaculata Retreat House are a religious congregation of priests and brothers in the Catholic Church under the patronage of Our Lady, founded by Saint Eugene de Mazenod. This French priest from Marseilles and his companions began their religious life on January 25, 1816 and were officially recognized by Pope Leo XII on February 17, 1826. We are 3,800 Oblates in all – young men, old men, Oblates in formation, priests, Brothers! Of this total, 525 are in formation, having already made their first commitment. For the highest number in formation, the prize goes to Africa, with 222 young men in training. We are in the five continents. The branch planted in Aix-en-Provence thrived well: more than 830 in Africa, 980 in Europe, 770 in Asia, 450 in Latin America, 720 in Canada and the United States. (as of January 20th 2015)
Missionaries to the Poor and Most Abandoned
Originally established to revive the Church after the French Revolution, the order now serves in over 64 countries around the world. Later as Bishop of Marseilles St. Eugene chose for himself and his Oblates the motto “He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor” from St. Luke’s Gospel chapter 4 verse 18. Though they originally focused on working with the poor of Southern France by preaching parish missions, their endeavors spread rapidly and in 1938, Pope Pius XI called them “specialists in difficult missions”. Their traditional salutation is “Praised be Jesus Christ”, to which the response is “And Mary Immaculate”.
Missions & Parishes in Canada and the United States
The Oblates played a major role in Catholic missionary activity in Western Canada and the United States in the late 19th Century. Some of the Oblate missionaries to the native peoples of Northwestern Canada include Venerable Vital Grandin, Father Albert Lacombe, and Servant of God, Brother Anthony Kowalczyk. In Canada, the Oblates administer the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Cape and the University of St. Paul in Ottawa. The first Oblate foundation in the U.S. was made in Brownsville, TX in 1849. Later a more permanent foundation was made in Buffalo, NY (1851), Plattsburgh, NY (1853) and Lowell, MA (1868). Oblates in the United States administer the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois, as well as several Retreat Centers and parishes in U.S. and a mission in Zambia. The Oblates also administer Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas. In the U.S. Oblate Brothers and Priests are gathered into one Province headquartered in Washington, DC. They are led by a Provincial Superior and council elected for a three-year term, renewable once.
Oblates Around the World
The Oblates are the largest congregation of Catholic Male Religious in Southern Africa working in Kenya, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Zambia. Oblate Father Joseph Gerard, now Blessed Joseph Gerard, the “Apostle of the Basotho” is considered founder of the Church in South Africa.