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The biggest Oblate parish in the world

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작성일 : 07-09-07 21:45 조회수 : 6,076

The biggest Oblate parish in the world (04/09/2007 - France)


Every year, millions of pilgrims visit Lourdes. Undoubtedly, many come to venerate Mary. Others come to lend support to their sick friends. Others find self-fulfillment in putting themselves totally and gladly at the service of those who need help. The miracle-seekers are certainly a small minority.


What most pilgrims do not know is that the ministry at Lourdes has been entrusted to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Some French diocesan priests take care of their compatriots, while the international community of the Oblates has been available to foreigners, for several years now, every day from Easter until October. They live in the large Chaplains’ House.

Eight years ago, I was invited to accompany a group of forty elderly and sick persons from the Netherlands during their pilgrimage. After a bit of hesitation, I accepted. Since then, it has become an annual experience which gives me great satisfaction, not only because of the liturgy, but also because of the pastoral encounters. Each time, I come home from Lourdes filled with precious memories. For five days, a special bond is created among pilgrims and volunteers, old and young alike. Solidarity is probably the word which best describes this lived experience.

The stay in Lourdes is quite exhausting, especially because of the lack of sleep. Once the older pilgrims have gone to bed, the young volunteers love to talk about all that they have experienced during the day. Several of them have only very tenuous links with the Church. Nevertheless, they ask very important questions and that can last into the wee hours of the morning. But it’s really worth the effort.

For me, a special time during the pilgrimage is the visit to the Oblate community. Each time, I am struck by the fraternal welcome. Fr. Teotimo GONZALEZ always invites me to come and eat with them and each time, I am impressed by the involvement and the dedication of our Oblate community at Lourdes. One needs lots of energy and a constant motivation to stay involved for several months in this sort of ministry which again and again repeats the same rituals. I admire them greatly because they don’t show any trace of simply repeating the same old routine. The ten Oblates and their French colleagues each year plan a new pastoral theme for the liturgy. It’s a special team that lives well together in the largest Oblate parish in the world. (André van Kempen)

http://www.omiworld.org 
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