Born into a noble family in Aix (Provence), Eugene spent part of his childhood in Italy because of the French Revolution. Ordained a priest at Amiens in 1811, he soon organized missionaries to go to rural parts of Provence, instructing the people whose religious training had been disrupted for many years by the French Revolution and its aftermath.
Eugene began the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1816, obtaining papal approval for them 10 years later. From rural preaching, they soon moved into running seminaries to improve the quality of the clergy. Their first foreign mission was in Canada in 1841; soon they were in Africa, Asia, Australia and Latin America.
In 1851, Eugene followed his uncle as archbishop of Marseilles; Eugene died in that city 10 years later. He had focused his energies on Church renewal and reform while vigorously defending the Church’s right to spread the Good News.
His congregation has grown to become one of the largest in the Church, serving in over 50 countries, especially in northern and western Canada. Many of its members have become missionary bishops.
At Eugene’s canonization in 1998, Pope John Paul II praised his vision, perseverance and conformity to God’s will.
Eugene de Mazenod allowed the grace of God to bear rich fruit in his life. That required a certain amount of flexibility as well as courage to face the problems every growing group encounters. We look to saints like Eugene not to borrow their courage and zeal but, with God’s grace, to discover our own, always seeking first God’s kingdom (see Matthew 6:33).
“Holiness is the grace of God operating in and through human beings” (Kenneth Woodward, Making Saints).