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.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Oblate “Caveman” Paul Wightman “Wows” La Vista!

By Sr. Maxine Pohlman, SSND, Director, La Vista Ecological Learning Center 

At our annual summer solstice celebration Paul Wightman, OMI, challenged our daystar the sun as the most significant star of the day.  A lifelong caver, Father Paul is revered among local cavers as one of the first to explore and map nine miles of the Fogelpole Cave system in Southern Illinois.  He was recently honored when a preservation group purchased the land above the cave and named it the Paul Wightman Subterranean Nature Preserve!
Father Paul with participant Debbie Newman, Natural Areas Preservation Specialist

In his delightful and informative presentation Paul took the audience on a pictorial tour of the cave and entertained us with stories about his underground experiences through the years. With a twinkle in his eyes and a charming grin, Paul showed us what it is like when a person is allured by a special part of our rare and precious planet and gets serious about enjoying it.

With a taste for adventure and dark spaces, Father Paul mapped the cave before the age of technological help.  Using his wits and ingenuity he even created special instruments to help him do a very accurate and professional mapping.  Taking pictures also required creativity and involved three people – two to go ahead and light up the cave with camera flashes, while Paul took the picture of the whole area from behind.  

Participants, including the Novitiate Community, were enthralled with his photos and stories. In the audience were a geologist and a biologist who deeply appreciated his work.  One woman reminded us that caves are one ecosystem where threatened and endangered species live, and so it is important that we preserve this hidden part of our planet. 
A younger Father Paul inside Fogelpole Cave

As Father Paul was preparing to leave the next morning, he mentioned another interest: wildflowers!  He has also pursued this passion energetically, even taking classes to learn how to classify plants.  Although he lives four hours away from La Vista where he pastor of five parishes and is eighty-seven years old, he agreed to prepare a presentation on wildflowers “in his spare time”.

Father Paul is a wonderful example of someone who loves “our common home” and passes on his enthusiasm graciously and generously. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Stand With The World's Refugees

By Fr. Antonio Ponce, OMI,  Oblates JPIC Director

June 20th was World Refugee Day. The world is facing the worst refugee crisis of all time, including millions of displaced people. A new report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees published on June 20 - World Refugees Day - says that one person in every 113 is a refugee, representing an incomprehensible number of people globally.

For Missionary Oblates, welcoming and ministering with refugees is part of the charisma. Oblates are inspired by the teachings of Jesus and also by their founder, Saint Eugene De Mazenod. In the gospel of Mathew Jesus tells us that those who feed, clothe, and welcome the stranger will inherit the kingdom of God (Matthew 25).

The De Mazenod family experienced the effects of war. When Saint Eugene was still a little boy he had to leave his homeland as a refugee, away from his relatives and friends. Archbishop Buti Tlhagale, OMI of Johannesburg recently spoke about the pastoral urgency to care for migrants and refugees in South Africa and around the world. The Archbishop spoke of refugees as “our brothers and sisters in search of a better life, far away from hunger, poverty, exploitation and the unjust distribution of the planet`s resources, which are meant to be equitably shared by all.”

World Refugee Day serves us as a reminder and invitation to be in solidarity with the millions of people who leave their homeland. Today for various reasons millions of people are being forced to leave their countries and become refugees or displaced persons.   

Pray with Saint Eugene De Mazenod to intercede for refugees and inspire and encourage one another to welcome refugees in your communities with fraternal hearts. 

Become involvedUnited Nations on World Refugees: We Stand #WithRefugees 2016 - Please Stand With US https://youtu.be/Jtv4LCXEGEU