Saint Eugene de Mazenod
Saint Eugene de Mazenod was born in 1782 in Aix-en-Provence, France, on the verge of the French Revolution. His father was of the nobility, his mother from a rich family. At age eight, the young Eugene had to flee in exile because the revolutionaries wanted to kill the children of the nobles. His exile lasted for eleven years. In Venice he was taken in by an exemplary family, the Zinelli’s. “It was there that I discovered my vocation to the priesthood.” In Palermo, at the court, he had his share of worldly riches. He wanted to restore the family fortunes by marrying a young rich woman. But he increasingly lost his taste for worldly pleasures.
It was on Good Friday, 1807, at the age of twenty-five, that Eugene encountered Christ and recognized him as his Saviour. “My soul aspired for its ultimate end, God, the unique Good the loss of whom I keenly felt.” At the age of twenty-six, Eugene entered the seminary at Saint-Sulpice in Paris. His aim was clear: “to be a servant and priest of the poor.” He was ordained a priest in 1811. The bishop asked himself what he was going to do with such a strong-minded and impetuous young aristocrat. He was relieved when de Mazenod asked him to let him work with the poor and abandoned. He also worked with prisoners and preached in rural areas in the common language of the people. In 1815, he felt the need to have companions who would share his apostolate, who would live in community with him, and who would commit themselves through religious vows. On January 25, 1816, Father de Mazenod and four other confreres consecrated their lives to God and went on to carry the Good News to the poor. In 1826, the Society took the name of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
Eugene de Mazenod became bishop of Marseilles, France in 1837 and his influence extended not only locally but throughout the world. At the time of his death in 1861, his religious congregation numbered 417 members. On Mission Sunday, October 19, 1975, Eugene de Mazenod was beatified by Paul VI.
On December 3, 1995, he was canonized by John Paul II and so is now a man of holiness recognized by the entire church. Saint Eugene de Mazenod was a witness in his times. Eugene, our founder, was an eloquent, principled, relentless, impulsive, generous, intuitive, and sensible man ahead of his times. On his death bed, he left to his Oblates throughout the world a humble spiritual testimony in these words: “Practice among yourselves charity, charity, charity, and zeal for the salvation of souls beyond.”
Key events in the life of St. Eugene de Mazenod
1782 – birth in Aix en Provence
1791 – forced into exile in Italy by the French Revolution
1802 – return to France
1808 – entered the Seminary of St. Sulpice, Paris, to study for the priesthood
1811 – ordained priest
1812 – returned to Aix and did not go into a parish but dedicated his ministry to those not being touched by the structures of the Church: the poor who spoke Provençal, youth, prisoners, neglected inhabitants of small villages
1816 – founded the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (initially Missionaries of Provence)
1823 – appointed Vicar General of Marseilles
1832 – ordained Bishop of Icosia, but with residence in Marseilles
1837 – appointed Bishop of Marseilles
1841 – sends first Oblate missionaries to Canada and Ireland and England
1861 – death on 21 May
1975 – beatified by Pope Paul VI as a missionary passionate for Jesus Christ and for the Church
1995 – canonized by Pope John Paul II
TODAY – his missionary spirit continues in some 4000 Missionary Oblates in
67 countries, thousands of laity in the Mazenodian family throughout
the world, and the members of some 44 institutes of consecrated life
connected to his charism. Many find in St Eugene an intercessor for
families in difficulties
For more information visit St. Eugene de Mazenod Speaks to Us.