The Oblate World Comes Together
More than 1,000 young people who are members of Missionary Oblate parishes will travel from around the world to attend World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, in August. In addition to celebrating the Universal Church, the Oblate youth will also take part in programs specifically designed to share in the charism of the Oblates and their founder, St. Eugene de Mazenod.
About 50 young people and their chaperones are expected to attend World Youth Day from Oblate parishes in the United States and the border ministry of Tijuana, Mexico. Most of the U.S. participants will be traveling from Oblate parishes in San Antonio, Texas, and Buffalo, New York.
For more than a year, these young people have been taking part in fundraising activities to cover much of their expenses, with benefactors generously contributing to cover remaining costs.
Banana bread, carrot cake, and oatmeal cookies have been the fuel used by Oblate pre-novices in Tijuana to cover the cost of their trip to World Youth Day. The pre-novices have been baking their delicacies and holding bake sales at the Oblate parish in Tijuana. In addition, bake sales are also being held at the Oblates’ Most Precious Blood Parish in Chula Vista, California, to supplement the pre-novices’ fundraising efforts.
For one of the pre-novices, World Youth Day will be a second coming. In 2016, Victor Izquierdo, a member of the Oblate parish in Tijuana, attended World Youth Day in Poland. It was the first time for him to travel outside of Mexico, and he said that during World Youth Day he felt the hand of God reaching out and blessing him. After returning to Tijuana, Victor entered the Oblate formation program and is taking philosophy classes in preparation for his novitiate year.
Karla Gonzales went to World Youth Day in Brazil in 2013 from the Oblate mission in Tijuana. She raised her funds by washing cars, selling tamales, and holding raffles.
Karla was just 17 when she went to World Youth Day and was uncertain about her future. A nun suggested she become a doctor which Karla thought was an unreasonable goal because she came from such an impoverished community.
But on returning home, Karla was able to receive a college scholarship through the Oblate parish and entered medical school.
So grateful for the opportunity to attend school, Karla began volunteering her medical services to parishioners, and soon the parish medical team was born. Today, the team provides medical care to thousands of people in the community every year.
“World Youth Day helps our young people realize that they are not alone in their journey as young Catholics as they witness the joy of living out their faith with responsibility and commitment,” says Fr. Jesse Esqueda, OMI, Superior for the Oblate mission in Tijuana. “World Youth Day helps our young leaders to continue seeking healthy relationships, to be role models for other youth, and to help develop programs for young men and women that promote commitment, self-discipline, and faith.”
For a few days prior to World Youth Day, young people from Oblate communities on six continents will gather for the Oblate Youth Encounter which is the biggest youth event in the congregation. It provides an opportunity for young people from different cultures and backgrounds to come together and share their common spirit as “Oblate Youth.”
The Oblate Youth Encounter is a great opportunity to exchange ideas, listen to the projects and activities of other Oblate youth groups, and be challenged by the call of St. Eugene de Mazenod to serve those in need.
“Words cannot fully express our gratitude to everyone who is making this trip possible,” said Fr. Jesse. “Please continue to pray for our youth so that they do not get discouraged, work hard, live with their focus on God, and realize their dream of attending World Youth Day.”
Later this summer, Fr. Joshua Nash, OMI, will lead a group of young people on a pilgrimage from Australia to World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal. Ten years earlier, it was a similar trip that led Fr. Joshua to the priesthood as a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate.
In 2013, Fr. Joshua attended World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro. At the conclusion of the celebration, Fr. Joshua knew he needed to take a different path in life.
“The World Youth Day experience came at an opportune time when I was questioning whether to return to a career in law, to move back to South Africa [where he was working at the time], or to work for the Church instead,” said Fr. Joshua. “God appeared in my messiness at World Youth Day and showed me the path to follow.”
Father Joshua was born and raised in Adelaide, Australia. He grew up in the Oblate parish of St. David where he was active in youth ministry.
“The Oblate priests we had were always so friendly and engaging,” said Fr. Joshua. “They came to our home to share dinner with us. They led us through all our sacraments.”
After finishing high school Fr. Joshua studied law and international studies, with his goal to “help those who were less fortunate than myself.” He spent time with the United Nations in South Africa working with refugees. Then came the World Youth Day experience in Brazil.
“That experience was life-changing, it was when the first thought of a vocation to religious life started,” said Fr. Joshua. “I felt like I truly came face to face with God in Brazil and that God was asking me to accept the challenge of a missionary religious life.”
Father Joshua then joined the Oblate pre-novitiate program in Australia. After his philosophy studies, he came to the United States for his novitiate year at the Oblate Novitiate in Godfrey, Illinois, where he made his First Vows as a Missionary Oblate.
Father Joshua returned to Australia for his theological coursework and was ordained in August 2022. His first assignment is at his boyhood parish of St. David.
Father Joshua has also taken on a leadership role with Oblate Youth Australia, a national community of young people who identify with the Oblates and come together in a spirit of fun and friendship to help build community by sharing their Catholic faith and life experiences.
In July, Fr. Joshua will help lead a group of young people from Australia on a once-ina-lifetime pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Portugal.
Father Joshua will lead young people to a deeper understanding of their faith at World Youth Day, just like the deeper faith he received from World Youth Day ten years earlier that lead him to become a Missionary Oblate priest.
A trip that I took when I was a young man changed my life forever.
I was selected to visit the Missionary Oblate missions in Guerrero, Mexico, for four weeks. It was an eye-opening experience in witnessing how the Oblates minister to the poor. But I learned much more from the people of the missions.
Although they were poor and didn’t have a lavish lifestyle, they were much happier than anyone I knew.
As I read through the articles in this newsletter, I said a prayer for the young people who will be traveling with the Oblates to World Youth Day this summer.
My prayer is that they, too, will take a trip that will be a life-changing experience for them.
Please know that through your prayers and support, you can help change the lives of young people in our Oblate missions. We are still in need of funds to help the Oblate youth attend World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal. Please contact your charitable gift advisor to see how you can help.
Your partnership with the Oblates truly changes lives. May God bless you for your compassion and generosity.
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The Missionary Oblates are grateful to our friends who have remembered us through a bequest or charitable gift annuity. Please join us in prayer for these benefactors who have been called to their eternal rest with the Lord.
Clifton J. Bolner
Edward J. Boyle
Justyna M. Carlson
Dolores L. Charles
Margaret A. Elliott
Diane M. Gribben
Irmgard C. Hatfield
Margaret M. Kirkessner
Veronica A. Pankratz
Lois C. Yakich
Herman S. Yassall