Oblate Voices is a JPIC blog that follows stories of hope and is about how Oblates and associates live and experience mission work in the spirit of the Oblate founder, St Eugene De Mazenod of responding to the needs of poor and most abandoned around the world.

Friday, December 30, 2016

World Day of Peace - January 1, 2017

In celebrating World Day of Peace on January 1, 2017, Pope Francis is calling families, faith communities, government leaders, and the international community to practice non-violence and work to build justice and peace. 
January 1 is also a liturgical feast celebrating the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and Queen of Peace.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe - December 12

Day of Prayer and Solidarity with Families of Immigrants

Oblate Professors Interviewed about the Feast of Guadalupe

The U.S. Catholic bishops recently declared that the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12 will also be a National Day of Prayer and Solidarity with Families of Immigrants. The feast offers a good opportunity for solidarity with families of immigrants especially celebrating the gifts of refugees and migrants to the United States. In their statement, the Bishops speak about the environment of uncertainty that multitudes of immigrants and refugees and their families are currently facing, and the need for solidarity with migrant and refugee brothers and sisters. The Bishops are encouraging Catholics to pray for the protection and well being of this vulnerable population.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Hill - Oblates National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows - Belleville, Illinois
Two Oblate Professors interview with Catholic News Service about Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Father Bob Wright, OMI, professor of systematic theology, Father Fernando Velazquez, OMI, associate professor of missiology, joined by Dr. Renata Furst, associate professor of Scripture and spirituality at Oblate School of Theology recently gave an interview to Catholic News Service about the cultural and religious symbols surrounding the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Zambian Oblate Bishop: Advent Spirit and Care of the Environment

Bishop Evans C. Chinyemba, OMI's advent reflection examines the environmental challenges facing Zambia especially in the Western Province. The reflection appeared in the November 2016 Mongu diocese newsletter.

(From L to R): Fr. Antonio Ponce, Bishop Evans Chinyama Chinyemba, Fr. Jim Brobst and Fr. Barnabas Simatende on the Zambezi River, ZAMBIA

Banabahesu, our lives are connected to the cycle of our environment. From late October going through November, the communities in our region and other parts of the country take pride in catching caterpillars. In the Western region, caterpillar collectors use unorthodox ways of collecting caterpillars. They cut almost every tree that has caterpillars on them. This spirit of collecting caterpillars as if there is no tomorrow is bad for our environment. Some species of trees in the near future will not be found. When this happens, there will be no caterpillars. The same people cutting trees will turn and complain as to what has happened to caterpillars.

In the words of Pope Francis, it is said, ‘Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost forever. The great majority become extinct for reason related to human activity’( LS 33).  Another environmental issue in our locality is the annual fish ban which government imposes from December to March. In the midst of this fish ban we are surprised to ding fishermen continuing to catch fish. Not only do they continue fishing, but they employ weird ways of catching fish using mosquito nets. This is a very bad habit which should stop. What will happen to our future generations? In Laudato Si, we are told, ‘We are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us… Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations’ (Pope Francis, LS67).

Banabahesu, we begin Advent Season. The Church during this liturgical Season calls and invites us to be vigilant. Those who grew up in the previous republics will be familiar with what used to be called Vigilantes. This group of people was bent on being the eyes and mouths of government. They reported anyone who had a different voice in the community other than the voice of the ruling party. In some cases they even arrested those they suspected of being enemies of the community or the party. They were alert and vigilant to what was happening around them.  Well, this reflection is not a judgment about the bad or the good things the Vigilantes did in our communities.  It is about our vigilance as to what is around us during this Advent Season. A spirituality of vigilance leads us to be aware of who is to come, Emmanuel, God With Us. As we begin Advent, we ought to ask ourselves if we are vigilant in our dealing with the environment? Are we aware that the environment is ours to safeguard and responsibly manage; and not for us to abuse? During this Advent Season, and as we reflect on the themes of being alert, and of being vigilant what steps should each one of us take in order to be good stewards of our environment?

Indeed the spirit of Advent is that of vigilance. Our vigilance should lead us to a change of heart in doing what is good. In the Diocese of Mongu, Advent Season calls for a change of heart in the way we take deal with our environment. Is this not the time for our caterpillar collectors to change their hearts and find better ways of collecting and harvesting caterpillars? Speaking to on 27th September 2008, Pope Benedict XVI said, ‘The resources of creation are an immense gift of God to humanity. Humanity is duty-bound to protect this treasure and to counter the indiscriminate use of the earth’s goods.’ Is the protecting of the earth not our responsibility? Banabahesu, if we all take time to act on behalf of our environment, Advent

Season will be a good experience for all of us. A change of heart is also needed in the way our fishermen do their fish business. Our fishermen must adhere to mandatory fishing cycle at the same time using recommended fishing gears and methods. In fact the spirit of Advent is that of adhering to the Word as announced in our hearing. It is about preparing the way in order to receive the Word that is coming to us. Adhering to good environmental practices

Banabahesu, an attitude of spiritual vigilance and a change of heart will be evidence of Christ at work in our lives. When we do this we shall not only await and prepare for the Messiah who is to come for us, but we shall be taking measures to safeguard what God, the Father of the Messiah whom we await gave to humankind.

Banabahesu, may Mary accompany us in our Advent Season. Mary Our Mother was vigilant and alert to the Words of God as proclaimed by Angel Gabriel. By so doing she accepted to be part of the story of human salvation. Let each one of us emulate Mary in her vigilance and alertness to the Word of God. This is a blessing I wish each one of us during this Advent Season.

Rt. Rev. Evans Chinyama Chinyemba, OMI
Bishop of Mongu, Zambia

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Sr. Nathanael Lee Volunteers at Inner City Development in San Antonio, TX

Sr. Lee recently traveled to San Antonio, TX at the invitation of JPIC Committee board member Patti Radle. Patti, along with her husband, Rod Radle, run Inner City Development, a community-based organization in San Antonio, TX that has been operating in an economically poor area of the city since 1968. The organization provides educational, recreational and emergency support to the neighborhood.

While at Inner City Development Sr. Lee helped serve lunches to the homeless, assisted with their after-school reading program, and visited Haven for Hope (a transformation center for the homeless). She also toured the Oblate School of Theology and attended a public presentation on the bond and tax ratification election the local school district is trying to have passed in early November.  

For fun she played Rotengo (a hybrid of ping pong and tennis) at San Antonio Hemisfair Park on its one-year anniversary of redevelopment. The park is currently undergoing phases of renovation as part of a larger neighborhood redevelopment effort.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Fr. Seamus Finn, OMI Attends World Mining Congress in Brazil

Fr. Seamus Finn, OMI had the opportunity to present on the mission and message of the Church on ecology, development, and human rights at the World Mining Congress in Rio from October 18-21. The theme of the congress was Mining in a World of Innovation. The presentation was well received and generated lots of interest from the mining engineering professionals in attendance as well as the socially responsible investing community.
The session was designed to explore the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of the mining industry. Panelists included representatives from Anglo American Plc, The Nature Conservancy of Brazil, Agenda Publica, Oblate OIP Investment Trust, and Hatch.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Volunteers Enhance Biodiversity at Missionary Oblates’ Woods Nature Preserve.

Republished from OMIUSA.org 

by Sr. Maxine Pohlman, SSND,  www.lavistaelc.org

Sixteen acres of land at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Novitiate in Godfrey, Illinois were officially preserved in the Illinois Nature Preserve System in 1993. The first priority in preserving land is to protect biodiversity, which is necessary for the continuation of life in our common home.

Removing unwanted tree are: (L-R) Bill Zimmerman, Ken Pini, Debbie Newman
Biodiversity is threatened by habitat fragmentation, degradation and destruction; by pollution, by invasive species and by climate change. A well-managed, healthy preserve can help deter threats to biodiversity, thus contributing positively to the integrity of creation.

Nature Preserves also contribute to the integrity of creation because they help counter climate change in three ways:  holding seeds which are sources of plants and food for animals to re-populate other areas; providing linkages for climate change induced movement of species; and providing carbon sinks. This is especially important since the clearing of forests is considered to be the second biggest cause of climate change.

Why have these acres been preserved?  These woods include 16 acres of high quality forest.  They are habitat to threatened and endangered species like bald eagles, timber rattlesnakes and the great plains rattlesnake.  They are also part of a large forest block in combination with two neighboring preserves.
 (L-R) Virginia Woulfe-Beile, Mark Phipps
In order to maintain the integrity of the Preserve, the Nature Preserves Commission, in collaboration with La Vista Ecological Learning Center, hosts volunteer work days on the second Tuesday of each month.  Volunteers from southern Illinois travel here to spend time removing invasive species like bush honeysuckle, winter creeper and invasive trees.  The plan for the near future includes restoring the oak-hickory community through maple reduction and prescribed burning; as well as restoring woodland plant communities with seeding and planting.

Pictures here show our most recent work day on October 11th.  We were blessed by the presence of two biologists from the Illinois Nature Preserves System and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.  Afterword, in an e-mail one of the biologists commented, “The Oblate’s property along with the Nature Institute’s and other conservation minded neighbor’s parcels are a significant piece of the important conservation effort in the bluff lands of the larger Alton area that sustains a higher quality of life for us.  The leadership you are providing to facilitate stewardship activities is essential to further this cause.”

To thank these dedicated volunteers, we provided lunch in the lodge.  Everyone enjoyed the wonderful lodge ambience, the food, the great view, and a break from hours of hard work! 

Relaxing after a well-deserved lunch are: (L-R) Mike McCarrin, Debbie Newman, Mark Phipps, Bill Zimmerman, Bill Rathman, Ken Pini