Chula Vista Associates Hold Annual Day of Retreat

Oblate Associates

From an Interview with Fr. Frank Santucci, OMI, Kusenberger Chair for Oblate Studies at OST and Provincial Chair of the Mazenodian Family Committee.

Additional material by Hermie Alignay, Coordinator, Oblate Associates of Precious Blood Church, Chula Vista, CA.

The entire group of Associates from Chula Vista, San Fernando and their guests pose with Fr. Santucci

Geri Furmanek

After almost eight months of planning under the guidance and support of Geri Furmanek, National Director of Mission Enrichment and Oblate Associates, The Oblate Associates of Most Precious Blood Church in Chula Vista, California held their annual Retreat on March 10, 2018.

Fr. Frank Santucci, OMI

Seventeen Associates from Most Precious Blood were in attendance, along with four visiting Associates from San Fernando, California and nine guests. The annual retreat was led by Fr. Frank Santucci, OMI. Fr. Santucci holds the Kusenberger Chair of Oblate Studies at Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas. He is also the Provincial Chairman of the Mazenodian Family Committee.

According to Geri Furmanek, the retreats are the culmination of the on-going work of the local coordinators, like Chula Vista’s Hermie Alignay and Cecelia Barragan, coordinator of one of the San Fernando, CA Associate groups.  “There are now a number of areas in the USA where Oblates no longer minister, but Associate groups continue living the charism of St. Eugene.  The leadership of those Associate coordinators is vital to that success!”

The theme of the Day of Recollection was: “My vocation as an Oblate Associate is a gift from the God who calls, who transforms, and who sends me with St. Eugene de Mazenod as the companion to his journey.”

Reached by telephone, Fr. Santucci reflected on the retreat: “The focus of my presentation was to help the Associates understand more deeply what it means to be an Associate. Their purpose in not that of helping the Oblates in their mission, but that of having a vocation to share in the charism and spirituality of St Eugene de Mazenod. It was an invitation to enter more deeply into their Mazenodian identity by deepening their roots in the charism, spirituality and mission given to us by Saint Eugene.” 

“I took them to St. Eugene’s Good Friday experience, the moment of understanding when he saw himself through the eyes of the crucified Savior. He was then able to open his own eyes, look around and see people through those same eyes. And I always speak about the open arms of Jesus on the Cross, St. Eugene tried to bring the open arms of Christ to people who did not realize that they were loved and were called to the fullness of salvation. That’s what the Oblates and the Oblate Associates have tried to do in the last two hundred years.”

How does one put that into practice in the 21st Century?

“So today, we ask ourselves who are the categories of people today who don’t know the love of Jesus? And how do we extend that love to them? We see people in whom Jesus’ Passion and suffering is continuing, and we want to lead them to the experience of the Resurrection. Our call is to recognize the greatest need and to respond to it. 

Our charism is not focused on finding poor people and alleviating their suffering – we’re all called to do that as Christians. Our specific focus is about the Gospel and those who are least touched by the Church’s ministry, it’s about salvation, it’s about bringing people to Jesus Christ.

The highpoint of the day was when seventeen Associates from Precious Blood in Chula Vista, and three from San Fernando, California renewed their commitment for one more year.  Christina Solis from San Fernando made her first commitment as an Oblate Associate.”

Hermie Alignay

At the conclusion of the day, all attended the 5:00 pm Mass in the church celebrated by Rev. Silverio Espenilla, Pastor of Most Precious Blood Church, and concelebrated by Fr. Frank Santucci.

Hermie Alignay, Coordinator of the Chula Vista Oblate Associates said, “Our Oblate Associates are proud members of the Mazenodian family and we’re grateful to Fr. Frank Santucci for sharing with us the charism of St. Eugene de Mazenod.”

Asked about plans for future Oblate Associate retreats, Fr. Santucci said, “In a couple of weeks Geri Furmanek and I will be meeting in Belleville to work together on themes and animation material for the ongoing formation of the Associates.”

In addition to their annual retreat and monthly meetings, the Oblate Associates at Precious Blood participate in outreaches supporting the Oblate Mission in Tijuana, Mexico, and another in the Philippines that provides food and support to help educate the children of the indigenous Dulangan Manobo people.

Said Fr. Santucci, “They’re really committed and very much in love with what they are doing. They were vibrant and alive from the moment I got there. They’ve got a very fine family spirit among them. A very real family bond.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and felt very much a part of it.”