The Oblates of the Virgin Mary (www.omvusa.org) are a small, but growing community. The order was founded by Venerable Bruno Lanteri (1759-1830) in Northern Italy in 1826, and today has 200 members in nine countries, including the United States. The Oblates today are engaged in a variety of apostolates, including teaching, offering parish missions and retreats, and spiritual support of diocesan clergy. The Oblates are also known for their orthodoxy and fidelity to the Holy Father and teaching authority of the Church.
The Oblates also have a community for women, the Oblate Sisters of the Virgin Mary of Fatima, which is located outside the United States.
Fr. Jeremy Paulin joined Oblates in 1998, and was ordained a priest in 2006. Today, he serves as vocations director. He recently spoke to CWR.
CWR: Please tell us about your founder, Father Lanteri.
Fr. Jeremy Paulin: From his youth, Father Lanteri had a great love for Our Lord and Our Lady. He also had a great love for the Church, the papacy and the Magisterium.
He entered the Carthusians, but found it wasn’t for him. So, he became a diocesan priest. He met a Jesuit priest [Fr. Nicolas Joseph Albert von Diessbach], who taught him the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. He discovered that doing the Spiritual Exercises is a way for a person to quickly become a great saint.
Father Lanteri was placed under house-arrest by Napoleon for three years—he was charged with smuggling documents to the Pope—and it gave him the opportunity to advance in prayer.
Father Lanteri led retreats and parish missions, and provided spiritual direction. He had a great love for the mercy of God, and had a desire to make it available to all through the Sacrament of Confession. This was during a period of the late 1700s and early 1800s, when the sacrament was not being celebrated as often as it should.
Other priests who shared his interest in the Spiritual Exercises and providing regular access to the sacrament of confession joined him. He founded the Oblates of the Virgin Mary.
CWR: What is an Oblate?
Fr. Paulin: Oblate comes from oblation, an offering of your sacrifice. In our community, we offer ourselves to Jesus through Mary and with Mary. We make a gift of our lives to Our Lord.
CWR: What kind of man would be a good fit for your community today?
Fr. Paulin: We look for men who love the Church. We want people who are prayerful, generous, humble, hard workers and who are not afraid to grow and share. We want those in prayer discerning their vocation, and not afraid to ask Our Lord, “How do you want me to serve?”
We want men who are faithful to the teaching of the Church. They need to be able to understand it, accept it and teach it to others.
We find that our vocations come through our apostolates, or perhaps they read the works of one of our members, such as Fr. Timothy Gallagher. We currently have 25 men in formation in the United States and Philippines, which are in the same province. In February, we had four novices who started at our house outside of Boston. We have another 27 in formation in Nigeria. In all, we have about 75 in formation.
These young men have been attracted to our charism, which is hopeful. Anyone can attain holiness and find the purpose in life which comes from that. The world needs holy people; the Oblate priest and religious can make a difference in today’s world. I am optimistic about our vocations picture. Once a young man can experience our charism for himself, it can lead to a discovery of his own vocation.
CWR: Both the Philippines and Nigeria have seen a rise in Islam and violence against Christians related to it. Has this affected your seminarians in those countries?
Fr. Jeremy Paulin: In the Philippines, no, because the dangers are further away in the southern part of the country. In Nigeria, however, it has been a problem. We had to move our seminary to a safer part of the country to get our men out of harm’s way. In fact, one bombing of a Catholic Church in Nigeria killed 30 worshipping inside. A week earlier, some of our deacons had been ordained in that same church. Fortunately, none were there when the bombing occurred.
CWR: What needs does your community have?
Fr. Jeremy Paulin: We’re experiencing strong growth both here and in the Philippines. We have a need to purchase a second property in the Philippines for our community. The people there are poor, so we have to find funding from other sources. That’s a big challenge.
Archbishop Chaput invited us into his archdiocese in Denver 12 years ago. We’re looking to expand there as well.
Anyone who is interested in news in our community can follow our Facebook page, which I update regularly. Our website is also a good source of information.
CWR: Do you receive many requests from bishops to come to their dioceses?
Fr. Jeremy Paulin: Yes. We get many requests, and we’re always well-received, wherever we go. In fact, people flock to us from all over.
CWR: Why do you think religious life in the United States has undergone such a decline in the past 50 years?
Fr. Jeremy Paulin: I’m almost 50, old enough to have seen how the world has changed over the years. The world has its attractions—instant information and communication, immediate gratification—that takes our focus off of what is more valuable and enduring. It makes it more difficult for people to look at the supernatural.
The media is a channel to the human mind and heart, and bad habits and addictions can be the result.
People think, “What need do I have of God when I have these more immediate things that can satisfy me?”
CWR: What made you decide to become an Oblate?
Fr. Jeremy Paulin: I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts, the eighth of 10 children. My parents are sacrificial and generous people, and cultivated in us a life of faith and sacrifice. They themselves sacrificed a lot for us children. They taught us values, such as how to get a job, how to keep a job, how to save money, how to share and how to sacrifice.
I knew many wonderful diocesan and religious priests. I was an altar boy.
In 1980, my parents were concerned about what was being taught in the public schools, and sacrificed again and had us put into Catholic schools. I was in 9th grade at the time, and I didn’t want to leave the friends I had and go.
My parents kept a Catholic environment in the home. I remember my dad, for example, getting rid of our TV because he was concerned about some of the shows.
I attended Thomas More College in New Hampshire, which gave me the opportunity to deepen my faith and live it in a healthy context. I had considered a religious vocation in college, but I thought, “Why me? I’m not worthy.”
When I left school, I ran a pilgrimage business in New York. I met many wonderful priests, and wondered if God was asking me to do more with my life. When I was 30, I was visiting a shrine and a woman tugged on my sleeve. She asked, “Have you thought about becoming a priest?” A lot of things were pointing me in that direction.
Something was also going on when I attended Sunday Mass. I’d hear the priest say, “Father, all-powerful and ever-living God …” and I’d think, “I’m not grateful enough. I should be thankful for my faith, family, work and friends.”
But, over time, it seemed as God was saying back to me, “Jeremy, I don’t just want you to be more grateful, but to be a priest and say those words yourself.” He was inviting me to become a priest. It frightened me.
By 1997, I had to act on it. I broke up with my girlfriend, told my business partner what I was thinking and got a spiritual director. I told him I thought God might be calling me to the priesthood. It was good to have a spiritual director, because this can be a difficult topic to talk to people about.
In 1974, in response to the Roe v. Wade decision, my father began making a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre outside of Quebec. It grew, and by 1997, he had two buses of people going. It was not a political thing; they were praying for conversions of heart.
I joined the pilgrimage, going to the shrine to pray about my vocation. While there, a Canadian woman walked over to me and told me I was going to be a priest. We had been singing, and I guess she thought I sang well, so she saw it as a sign that I’d be a priest!
I was praying for a sign. On the way home from Quebec the buses stopped at a McDonald’s restaurant in Vermont. Inside, I saw a man dressed as a priest. I went over and shook his hand. He told me that he was not a priest, but a seminarian with the Oblates of the Virgin Mary. I had encountered the Oblates before, so I was familiar with them.
The seminarian told me his name and gave me a holy card, then we both left. Three weeks later, I visited the Oblates; I was there for five days. I knew it was for me. There was a peace in my heart. Without hearing words, I heard the Lord saying, “Jeremy, this is where I want you to come.”
I applied, and began with the community in 1998. I was ordained a priest at St. Peter Chanel Church in Hawaiian Gardens, California [staffed by Oblate priests] in 2006.
CWR: Your community is known for its talented preachers. What things were you taught about proclaiming the Word of God in seminary?
Fr. Jeremy Paulin: For one, be attentive to the attention span of your people. It’s easy to lose it. Also, tell stories that illustrate a point. Coming from a large family, I have many stories to draw on. In fact, I was working at a parish in Colorado when my parents came to visit. The parish had heard so many stories about my family, that they came up to my parents and said, “We feel like we know you.”
And, don’t be afraid to proclaim the truth.
CWR: Now that you’re hearing confessions rather than just making them, what have you learned?
Fr. Jeremy Paulin: I’ve been inspired by it. It’s humbling to hear someone’s confession. You also learn a lot about sanctity. You may hear a confession and think “I wish I could be as holy as this person,” or “I’m sitting before a saint.”
Also, as a priest, you see not so much the sinfulness of the penitent, but the mercy of God. It is God who has been drawing him to this moment of healing, of reconciliation. It’s a marvel to behold.
Father Lanteri told his priests that when a person asked them for confession, to convey to the penitent that he was doing the priest a favor by allowing him to hear his confession. He wanted his priests to live in such a way so that people would not be afraid to go to confession.
CWR: What advice do you give people about going to confession?
Fr. Jeremy Paulin: Go regularly, at least once a month, not in a haphazard manner. Some people, for example, go on First Fridays. And, when you go, show reverence and devotion to the sacrament.
Prepare yourself by seeing how your life has conformed to the 10 Commandments. If you’re unfamiliar with the Commandments, you can pick up the Catechism and review them. They can help us understand what sin is; sin doesn’t only mean that you’ve murdered someone.
You can also examine your relationship with God and other people. You can ask: how have I loved this person? Have I been generous, have I sacrificed? There are many other resources people can use. There is even a smartphone app for confession.
And finally, no one should be afraid to go to confession, regardless of what they’ve done. Jesus said he had come “to proclaim liberty to the captives,” those held captive to sin. It’s a beautiful sacrament, and people shouldn’t be afraid to ask for it. I myself still go regularly.
One of our founder’s favorite Latin phrases and teachings was Nunc Coepi, “Now I begin.” He had such a trust in the mercy of God that he would tell people in the midst of desolation or discouragement to begin again. Father Lanteri said, “Even if I were to fall a thousand times a day, each time I will calmly pray ‘now I begin,’ and go forward in confidence in God’s great mercy.”
It’s a simple yet great trust we should have in God’s mercy.
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To learn more about the Oblates of the Virgin Mary and their founder, Fr. Paulin recommends a new book by Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV, Begin Again: The Life and Spiritual Legacy of Bruno Lanteri (visit www.frtimothygallagher.org, click on the “Books” tab). Fr. Paulin remarked, “We’re all excited about it. Father Lanteri is really a man for our times, as is our charism and work.”