In a parish one morning the attendance was reduced to eight people, and the Missionaries considered cancelling the Mission but at the same time the rest of the Community of priests at Aix “was fasting on bread and water, begging the Lord to have compassion on these people who have gone astray.” In another place the people and the parish priest himself begrudgingly accepted the preachers who had been imposed on them by the diocesan administration. Nothing had been prepared, not even living quarters. Another parish for the whole period of Mission reminded aloof. In some places, getting the mission properly started proved to be difficult. There was the parish where more than a week was needed to raise the people out of their “unbelievable apathy”. Once the mission had caught on, the eagerness of the people surprised the priests. On the contrary there were parishes where as we read in the letters of the missionaries “the almost unanimous eagerness became an enthusiasm.” In a parish the arrival of the missionaries was “truly a triumph for the Catholic Faith. An immense crowd of people, led by the parish priest, the mayor and prominent town people came out to meet them.” However what we learn about those first priests who were at the outset of the future Oblates is that neither failures discourage them nor successes made them big-headed. They drew their strength from Jesus Christ and they ministered because they wanted to be part of the ministry that was Jesus’. Looking at that period of time (1816 when the first group was formed in Aix and 1826 when the Pope approved them) we can see that they were not only doing pastoral ministry among the poor but they were laying foundations for the future Congregation of Oblates.
As we are still in Aix I would like to write about the mission preached here in 1820 by Frs de Mazenod, Tempier, Mie, Denilieu and Maunier. As we can see the original group of Missionaries of Provence grew a bit. During the mission in Aix they worked with another group of priests called Missionaries of France. Eugene and his companions preached mainly to the poor in the Provancal dialect while the other group preached in French focusing on the upper class of the city. The activities lasted from March 12 to April 24.
During those weeks Eugene and his missionaries worked in three churches: the church of mission which was purchased some years before by Eugene, St John the Baptist and the cathedral of the Holy Redeemer.