A View from Crewe of OLAC 2022 A retrospective on the Oblate Lay Association Congress from Wistaston Hall
25 years on from the first meeting, the second Oblate Lay Associations Congress (OLAC) recently took place, from 27-29 May 2022. In a remarkable feat, regions from around the world came together, united by their Oblate charism, for an event that was years in the making. After two and a half years of preparation, we finally had ‘lift off’.
With participants from Africa, Asia, Oceania, Europe and North and South America, the three-day congress garnered the thoughts and participation of Oblate communities that demonstrated the richness of the Oblate family. There were five main world hubs – San Antonio, Santiago de Chile, Kokotek, Dakar & Johannesburg and Manila – as well as smaller groups in places like Crewe, London, Kenya, Zambia, Namibia and Argentina.
For the UK & Ireland province, a delegation was sent to Kokotek, Poland, for the main European event. At home, there was participation at the retreat centres in Crewe and London, with the Congress being live-streamed to both groups. The provincial hub at Wistaston Hall, Crewe, was a smaller affair than in some places, but very worthwhile. 20 members from all areas of the province, and some daily guests, gathered in Crewe on 27 May.
One of the key organisers of the event in Crewe was Mary Tyrrell. She worked under the direction of the Internal Mission Committee. Fr Peter Stoll, who acted as the liaison with the General Administration, is the Councillor with the portfolio of Lay Associations. The team consisted of five priests and two lay people: Mary and Stefano Dominici, Frs. Fabio Ciardi, David Lopez, David Munoz, Shanil Jayawardena. They met 40 times during the preparation period to discuss the logistics and details of the Congress. They were joined for some meetings by the local contact persons to disseminate information and to be aware of the preparations in the hubs.
Pauline Thomas (from Anglesey) was the contact person for Europe and was also one of the facilitators at the Congress.
The presentations from Rome were varied and were designed to add something to the title of the Congress, ‘Living as Oblate People’. All the talks are available on YouTube and are published in Oblatio issue 2022/02.
The work of the Central Working Team (CWT) is ongoing and the information has been collated and analysed with regards to the answers to the questions asked on the third day, concerning Formation, Mission and Communion.
Despite the pandemic, the panic about numbers attendance and the worry of having to cancel the event, it was good to gather.
It is our hope that it was a fun but informative weekend for the participants, many for whom this was the first time of visiting Crewe.
The mornings were busy preparing for the afternoon sessions and centred on the key themes of the Main Congress – Celebrate, Connect and Commission. The global livestreams took place each day from 1-4pm.
Friday – Celebrate
With the theme of ‘Celebrate’ for the first day, the congress celebrated the togetherness, charism and history of Oblate family.
We celebrated the joy of being part of the unique Mazenodian family. Our worldwide lay family seeks to live out the Oblate charism in so many ways. We saw so many variations of the charism in practice throughout the world. It is certainly true that wherever you find Oblates there you will find Oblate people, as the Oblate motto states, “always close to the people”.
Something that was noticeable to many in Crewe was how much younger the lay people and priests were in the presentations for the other countries, particularly in places like the Philippines.
In this regard, one of the highlights was the ‘Liturgy of Thanksgiving’, led by Oblates from the Philippines. Included in this presentation was the official song of OLAC 2022, called ‘Give Christ to the World’:
Saturday – Connect
The theme of the second day was ‘Connect’, asking the question of how we are being enriched by living as Oblate people in contact with other members of the Oblate family?
We connected with other members of the Province and Lay Associations. As in all families, people, both young and old, can be expected to work, learn and experience the charism in their own way. This was an opportunity to enjoy hearing about how the Oblate charism is being lived out and how the charism enriches the lives of people in the Province and the world today. We heard stories of collaboration between Oblates priests and Oblate people.
We shared our own stories and our community stories too.
Sunday – Commission
The theme for the third and final day of the lay congress was ‘Commission’, asking how we can commit ourselves to living as Oblate people into the future?
We were commissioned as Oblate people at our Mass to continue to live the Oblate charism. We were empowered to live the charism in our lives in new and imaginative ways and were encouraged to take active participation in the Oblate mission locally, in our local parishes, nationally and in the world.
It was a very busy weekend indeed, but very worthwhile. New friendships were forged, and new ideas shared. Many of the participants really heard the story of the St Eugene for the first time and thus appreciated the privilege we enjoy in sharing the charism of St Eugene with professed Oblates. The message is spreading, and more people are beginning to understand what it means to be an Oblate person.
Sincere thanks to the staff of Wistaston Hall who accommodated our different mealtimes and served all our meals with smiles and great food.
Thanks to Sr Anne for all her technical skill and her friendship.
Huge thanks to our Partners in Mission colleagues, to Fr Brian Maher for his support, to Dawn who kept us organised as befits her role as our own ‘Tempier’ and to Veronica who came out of retirement just for this event and as usual was a source of wisdom, good sense and humour. Finally, thanks to Fr Oliver Barry and the Provincial council for sponsoring the event.
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Tags: Lay Congress
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