Eugene de Mazenod was born on August 1st, 1782 at Aix-en-Provence, France, on the eve of the French Revolution. Coming from a family of wealth and nobility, young Eugene was forced to flee his native France at the tender age of 8, under the threat of execution by revolutionaries who were intent on destroying the last remnants of the aristocracy in the New Republic.
For eleven years, De Mazenod lived as a political refugee, moving throughout Italy, trying to keep up his education and planning for the day when he might return to restore the family fortunes. It was during these turbulent times that Eugene received the powerful faith influence of a family in Venice, the Zinelli's, to whom he later ascribed his vocation to be a priest. It was also a time of great temptation, where in places like Palermo, the young 20 year old got caught up in the luxury and fast lane lifestyle of the Nobles, Court.
Like many young adults, De Mazenod had some profound choices put before him. When he finally decided it was safe to return to Provence, he had decided to marry back into money and revive the family fortunes.Thus, he could play out his proper role in society as a powerful aristocrat.
But God had other plans!
Eugene felt a deep sense of dissatisfaction pursuing his worldly ambition—that restlessness that has led many, before and since, to the brink of a decision. For De Mazenod, it brought him on Good Friday, 1807, to the foot of a crucifix, where he was overwhelmed by Jesus' love and self-sacrifice.
The young Father De Mazenod, ordained to the priesthood in 1811, turned his efforts towards youth, founding an association of some 300 who were to share in his mission to the poor, which included an outreach to prisoners, casualties of the Napoleonic wars and a typhus plague.
All you poor of Jesus Christ, you afflicted, unfortunate, suffering, infirm, diseased, .. You are the children of God, the brothers of Jesus Christ, co-heirs of His Kingdom, .. You are a holy people, You are Kings, you ar e Priests, in a sense you are Gods, .. God alone is worthy of your Soul”.
By 1815, Eugene realised his overwhelming ambition to serve would not be accomplished, unless he drew others to his cause, to share a common life, and be united by religious vows. On January 26, 1816, Fr De Mazenod and four friends dedicated their lives to bringing the Good News to the Poor in this way. Eugene De Mazenod was destined to minister to the broader Church when in 1837, he was named Bishop of Marseilles.
The passage of many Bishops from the New World, through the port city of Marseilles, saw Mazenod hearing and responding to many requests for missionaries, opening the door to a new world mission.
At the time of his death in 1861, the Oblate Congregation numbered 417 men. When, on Mission Sunday 1975, Pope Paul V1 beatified Eugene De Mazenod, there were over 6000 Oblates, spreading the Gospel in nearly 60 countries across the globe. His sons, and the Churches they serve, continue to be the clearest sign of the continuing relevance of the Oblate Missionary call, to serve the poor and the most abandoned.
Eugene De Mazenod was canonized on December 3rd, 1995 in Rome.