By: Andrew Sensenig, OMI
I am writing this reflection on the anniversary of my First Vows with the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. It was 25 years ago, when six other eager men and myself promised… Chastity, Poverty, Obedience and Perseverance in a parish in Alton, Illinois near our novitiate. Now after 25 years, there are only two, Fr. Timothy Paulsen OMI and I, left living out those vows, which we took on that day.
25 years is a milestone, but when you are living with Fr. Peter Gorges, who will be celebrating his 50 years in the priesthood this coming summer, you are still a “kid.” Yet, I would like to share with you some of the little wisdom that I learned over the last 25 years.
As I looked at my journal on that day, when I took my first vows, I dreamed of being a foreign missionary, especially one of those Missionary Oblates of Mary, who went to the Arctic Circle to serve the people there, or at the very least to be able to serve in a very difficult and dangerous part of the world, where I would have the privilege of giving my life to helping those in need.
Those were my naïve, romantic dreams, dreams of hardship, sacrifice and yes, even martyrdom. Yet, I am closer to living out some of those dreams now, serving in Sitka, Alaska. That is a lot closer to the Arctic Circle than I was in Alton, Illinois. Sitka is challenging and yet it is safe enough, as long as you avoid our neighborly brown bears, while hiking outside. Yet, heroic actions are not what St. Eugene de Mazenod, our Founder wanted from his men. St. Eugene wrote in his rule in 1826 that he only wanted men, whose “obedience in our Institute will be prompt, humble, complete.” That is the highest quality of being a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate, simple obedience and not some “dream assignment.”
Now, mind you, obedience is the toughest sell in our day and age, which glamourizes the disobedient as heroic rebels. “Prompt” in obedience means that you must be ready each day to work not for your self-aggrandizement, but for Jesus Christ and no one else. “Humble” means that all missions are good, if they serve Jesus Christ and so nothing is beneath you. “Complete” means you give your all and hold nothing back. You are called to spend yourself in the service of Jesus Christ and His Church.
As I renewed my vows before Chad Zielinski (the Bishop of Fairbanks), who is visiting for some fishing, and the parishioners who regularly attend daily mass in our chapel, the hope of being prompt, humble, complete in living out my life as a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate is my dream and hope for now on. Just live the vows with love and hope that at the end of my life, I will have the privilege of being called a son of St. Eugene and a brother to those Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, who have given their all for Our Master, Jesus Christ. Now that is a life worth living.