Oblates of the Virgin Mary and seminarians at St Joseph's Retreat House, Milton, MA.
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.
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.
Fr. Jeremy Paulin, OMV (photo: Todd Wollam)
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
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
Father Lanteri was placed under house-arrest by Napoleon
for three yearshe was charged with smuggling documents to the Popeand
it gave him the opportunity to advance in prayer.
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
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.
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.
the Philippines and Nigeria have seen a rise in Islam and violence
against Christians related to it. Has this affected your seminarians in
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?
Left: "Begin Again: The Life and Spiritual Legacy of Bruno Lanteri" by Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV; right: Venerable Father Bruno Lanteri, Founder of the OMV
Fr. Jeremy Paulin: I’m
almost 50, old enough to have seen how the world has changed over the
years. The world has its attractionsinstant information and
communication, immediate gratificationthat 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
* * * * * * * * * * *
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.”