I Will Never Give Up on My Brother Oblates

“Your destiny is to be apostles, and so tend within your hearts the sacred fire that the Holy Spirit lights there…”

St. Eugene de Mazenod, Founder Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate

Father Raymond Cook, OMI, took the slow track to becoming a Missionary Oblate priest. But since his ordination in 2012, he has been on the fast track to becoming a leader in the congregation, culminating with him being installed the Missionary Oblates’ United States Provincial in October.

“It was a slow process for me, it took years to decide on religious life,” said
Fr. Ray. “I never had a big conversion moment, it came gradually.”

Father Ray was born in 1968 in Connecticut. His life experiences include three years studying culinary arts in the 1980s and working in the local theater community – acting, stage managing and eventually directing a variety of plays and musicals. He then spent 15 years as an instructor and course developer for technology corporations including a time traveling the country as a Microsoft Authorized Instructor.

It was during this time of travel that he happened to visit the Missionary Oblates’ National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows located in Belleville, Illinois. He felt at home at the Shrine and the idea of a religious life began to form more deeply inside him.       

Father Ray joined the Missionary Oblates’ prenovitiate program in Buffalo, New York, and received his B.A. in philosophy from D’Youville University. After a year at the Missionary Oblate novitiate, he professed First Vows in 2007. He then moved to San Antonio, Texas, where he received his Master of Divinity degree from Oblate School of Theology and his Bachelor of Sacred Theology degree from St. Paul’s University in Ottawa, Canada. He also received his certificate in Spiritual Direction from the Mercy Center. Father Ray was ordained to the priesthood in 2012.

Father Ray’s first assignment after ordination was at King’s House Retreat and Renewal Center in Belleville, Illinois. He also helped out at area parishes and started a youth group in the impoverished city of East St. Louis, Illinois.

In 2014, Fr. Ray’s Missionary Oblate journey took him to a vastly different mission field, at one of the most prestigious universities in the country. He became Director of the Newman Center and the Chaplain and Administrator of St. Mary’s Chapel at Rice University in Houston.

Ministering to students at an acclaimed university may not seem at first to be missionary work. But Fr. Ray soon discovered that the students had many of the same struggles as other young people, and sometimes even additional difficulties. For most of their life the students had always been the best. Now at Rice, they were just average.

In January 2023, Fr. Ray took a position on staff at Oblate School of Theology where he taught courses related to the preaching ministry. A few months later he got a call from the Superior General of the Missionary Oblates in Rome, Fr. Luis Ignacio Rois Alonso, informing him that he was the new Provincial in the United States.

“I was very surprised and happy to get the call from Fr. Luis,” said Fr. Ray. “While at the same time a bit nervous and very humble.”

Like all Missionary Oblates, Fr. Ray has professed a fourth vow unique to the congregation – a vow of perseverance. As the new provincial, he knows that vow will be tested over the coming years, but he also knows that the vow will never be broken.

“Perseverance as a vow calls me to realize that I will never give up on my brother Oblates and they will never give up on me either,” said Fr. Ray. “They will help me and support me in times of trial, and I will do the same for them. It will be together, as a community, that we will grow in our fulfillment of our Baptism by upholding each other and continually looking at each other through the eyes of Christ.”

On February 17, the U.S. Province of the Missionary Oblates will be celebrating its 25th anniversary. Previously the Missionary Oblates had the United States divided into five provinces. In 1999, the five provinces were merged into one U.S. Province with the headquarters located in Washington, D.C.

Father Ray Cook, OMI, is the first U.S. Provincial who was not a member of one of the former five provinces. In addition to Fr. Ray, nearly all of the current Provincial Council members are also Missionary Oblates who have only been part of the one united province.