This day of Mary’s Assumption has been also treasured by the OMIs. The first and the most important thing is that as missionaries offered (oblate) to the Immaculate we are always touched when our Dear Mother and Patroness is praised and loved. The Solemnity has also been part of our Oblate Story dating back to the early days of the Congregation. Six years after Eugene de Mazenod established the first community of missionaries, who were known as Missionaries of Provence, the small group of his companions was going through many trials. In the midst of all these problems St Eugene held a special celebration for the Assumption of Mary. It was August 15, 1822. As one can realize it was a long time before the dogma was promulgated by Pius XII in 1950. It simply means that even before the dogma was defined, the Christian People held fast to the belief of Mary’s Assumption. That Assumption Day in 1822 in the Church of Mission in Aix, St Eugene blessed a new statue of Mary Immaculate. After the magnificent celebration, the crowds went out for a procession through the streets of the town while St Eugene reminded in the church praying before the newly blessed statue. It was then, as he recalled it later, a grace was given to him. He was so overwhelmed that he wrote letter to his first companion and close friend Fr Henry Tempier: “I believe I owe to her also a special experience that I felt today. I cannot describe it too well because it comprised several things but all related, however, to a single object, our dear Society. It seemed to me that what I saw, what I could put my finger on, was that within her lies hidden the germ of very great virtues, and that she can achieve infinite good; I found her worthy, everything pleased me about her, I cherished her rules, her statutes; her ministry seemed sublime to me, as it is indeed. I found in her bosom sure means of salvation, even infallible, such is how they looked to me.”
St Eugene believed that that day Our Lady granted him a special fervor to assure him how pleased God was with this new Congregation of Missionaries. Despite many conflicts and problems the Missionaries were facing, St Eugene was given a spiritual moment of appreciation and support from heaven.
Later St Eugene would come back to the statue to pray many times. In fact the statue of the Immaculate Virgin which channeled that momentous grace has become a precious relict to the Oblates. For some time it was preserved in the Church of Mission in Aix and after the expulsion of the religious from France, the Oblates took the statue with them. Eventually it found home in the Oblate General House in Rome where it is venerated in the chapel there. As St Eugene prayed before her as his successor, Fr Louis Lougen OMI, our Superior General, prays before the statue every day asking for guidance in his leadership position. Today, we Oblates, ask our Immaculate Mother, to grow in our love for the Congregation which has her as the Patroness.