The Mazenodian Charismatic Family: An Expression of Synodality

Oblate Reflection on Synodality

Entire title:

The Mazenodian Charismatic Family: An Expression of Synodality in the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate

By Fr. David Muñoz, OMI, Director, Mazenodian Family

(Editor’s Note: The Synod on Synodality, initiated by Pope Francis in 2021, is a multiyear, worldwide undertaking during which Catholics were asked to submit feedback to their local dioceses on the question “What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our ‘journeying together?’”

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The Catholic Church’s massive synodal process will culminate in two global assemblies at the Vatican. The first took place Oct. 4–28, 2023 and the second will occur in October, 2024 to advise the pope on the topic “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission.”

Now that the synthesis report on the Synod on Synodality had been released, we invited some Oblates to share their opinions and thoughts on how this relates to their particular ministries. This submission comes from Oblate Father David Muñoz.)

In preparation for the Year of Consecrated Life, Pope Francis invited consecrated people in the Church to consider that “around each religious family, every Society of Apostolic Life and every Secular Institute, there is a larger family, a “charismatic family,” which includes a number of Institutes which identify with the same charism, and especially lay faithful who feel called, precisely as lay persons, to share in the same charismatic reality.” (cfr. Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter to All Consecrated People, III,1).

With the conclusion of the first session of the Church’s Synod on Synodality, the reality of the Mazenodian Charismatic family reveals how the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate already possess at the core of the charism a spirit of synodality.

Indeed, the recent Synod synthesis report, released at the end of the first session, recognizes and applauds the work done by Institutes of Consecrated Life in the Church’s tradition: “Many Congregations and Institutes practice conversation in the Spirit or similar forms of discernment in the conduct of provincial and general chapters, in order to renew structures, rethink lifestyles, and activate innovative forms of service and proximity to the poorest.”

The OMI Rule of Life, no. 73, reminds us: “All of us are co-responsible for the community’s life and apostolate. As a body, therefore, we discern the Spirit’s call and seek to achieve consensus in important matters, loyally supporting the decisions taken. Such shared decision-making can best take place in a collegial and trust-filled atmosphere.

This article of the Rule is largely based on St. Eugene’s understanding of Apostolic Community, which is not simply reduced to living in “community.” Rather, it is an expression of living as the apostles, in dialogue with Christ and each other: “By growing in unity of heart and mind, we

bear witness before the world that Jesus lives in our midst and unites us in order to send us out to proclaim God’s reign,” (C no. 37). For the Founder, missionary endeavors are effective because Oblates grow in unity of mind and heart within their communities. This interior expression of synodality is such a part of the Mazenodian charism that it also filters to the wider charismatic family.

Fr. David Muñoz, OMI

Synodality as described in the synthesis report, is already a very present reality in the Mazenodian family:

“The charism of Saint Eugene de Mazenod is a gift of the Spirit to the Church, and it radiates throughout the world. Lay people recognize that they are called to share in the charism according to their state of life, and to live it in ways that vary according to milieu and cultures. They share in the charism in a spirit of communion and reciprocity amongst themselves and with the Oblates,” (R. 37a).

Part II.10.c of the Synthesis Report states: “Lay associations, ecclesial, movements and new communities are a precious sign of the maturation of the co-responsibility of all the baptized. They hold particular value because of their experience in promoting communion among different vocations, the impetus with which they proclaim the Gospel, their proximity to those on the margins economically and socially and through their promotion of the common good. They are often models of synodal communion and of participation for mission.”

As the Mazenodian family, there is a certain pride we bear in knowing that the charism of St. Eugene already inspires the journey of synodality that the universal Church is implementing. We can continue to be a model of synodality and co-responsibility.

While the collaboration in the charism with the laity has been a reality since the First Oblate Lay Associates congress in 1996, efforts continued forward on the part of the General Administration to further solidify how the charism is shared by Oblates and the laity who encounter the spirituality and mission of St. Eugene.

The 2016 General Chapter was pivotal in revising the Directory of Oblate Lay Associations to be in tune with the Church and Pope Francis’ invitation to be mindful of the larger charismatic families.

In the United States Province, this reality was officially launched as the Mazenodian Family with the support of Fr. Lou Studer, OMI, who sought to promote not only vocations to the Missionary Oblates but also for the laity in the Mazenodian Family. The U.S. Province thus held the first-ever Mazenodian Family Vocations Congress in 2019.

Today, the U.S. Province has an Office of Mazenodian Family Activities and Planning, whose purpose is to continue promoting the collaboration between Missionary Oblates and the laity who in their diverse missions live the Mazenodian charism. The charism of St. Eugene inspires the Mazenodian Family. The missionary expression of each member of the Mazenodian family recognizes as well how that synodality is lived with the poor and most abandoned they serve:

“We will always be close to the people with whom we work, taking into account their values and aspirations” (C. no. 8).

R 8a.We will let our lives be enriched by the poor and the marginalized as we work with them, for they can make us hear in new ways the Gospel we proclaim, (R.8a).

The synthesis report of the first session of the Synod reveals how the Mazenodian Family is already in tune with how the Spirit is moving the Church to the synodal reality.