The Oblates of Mary

The term "Oblates" is used by various religious congregations and communities within the Catholic Church, each with its own specific charism and dedication to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. In a religious context, an oblate is someone who has committed themselves to a religious order or congregation but who is not ordained as a priest or sister. Oblates typically live in the world rather than in a convent or monastery and follow the spirituality and rules of their chosen religious community as closely as possible in their daily lives.

Overall, the term "oblate" carries connotations of dedication, offering, and commitment, whether in a religious or secular context.

Some well-known Oblate communities with a dedication to Mary include:

  • Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI)
  • Oblates of St. Frances of Rome (OSFR)
  • Oblates of the Virgin Mary (OVM)

Determining the absolute oldest Oblate congregation can be challenging due to the various religious communities using the term "Oblates" and the evolution of religious life over the centuries.

Oblates of Mary

The Oblates of Mary (also known as the Oblates of St. Frances of Rome) is a religious congregation founded by Saint Frances of Rome in the 15th century. The congregation was established in Rome, Italy, in 1425 by Saint Frances to provide a structured community for women who wished to dedicate themselves to a life of prayer, service, and spiritual growth without taking formal religious vows.

The Oblates of Mary follow the Rule of St. Benedict and live a monastic lifestyle centered on prayer, simplicity, and service to the poor. They do not take vows like traditional religious sisters but make a promise of obedience to their superior and commitment to live according to the congregation's rule and charism.

The primary focus of the Oblates of Mary is on living out their spirituality in the midst of the world, rather than in a cloistered setting. They engage in various works of charity and service, including caring for the sick, visiting the imprisoned, and assisting the poor.

The congregation continues to exist today, with communities around the world dedicated to following the charism and example of Saint Frances of Rome. They are known for their commitment to prayer, simplicity, and compassionate service in the spirit of their foundress.

Saint Frances of Rome

Saint Frances of Rome, also known as Saint Francesca Romana, was an Italian mystic and saint of the Catholic Church. She was born in Rome in 1384 into a noble family and was married at a young age to Lorenzo Ponziani, a wealthy aristocrat. Despite her marriage, Frances maintained a strong commitment to her faith and lived a life of prayer, penance, and service to the poor.

Frances dedicated herself to charitable works, caring for the sick and needy in Rome. She founded a community of women called the Oblates of Mary, who devoted themselves to prayer and serving the poor. Frances also experienced mystical visions and ecstasies throughout her life, which deepened her spiritual life and led her to a closer union with God.

After her husband's death, Frances became a nun in the Benedictine Order, although she continued to live with her Oblate community. She devoted herself to a life of prayer, fasting, and service until her death in 1440.

Saint Frances of Rome is remembered for her holiness, humility, and devotion to God. She was canonized as a saint by Pope Paul V in 1608, and her feast day is celebrated on March 9th. 

Oblates of the Virgin Mary

The Oblates of the Virgin Mary (OMV) is a religious congregation within the Catholic Church. It was founded in 1816 by Venerable Bruno Lanteri in Turin, Italy. The congregation is dedicated to the spiritual formation of priests and laypeople, emphasizing a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Oblates of the Virgin Mary are known for their commitment to preaching missions, retreats, and spiritual direction, as well as their focus on helping individuals deepen their prayer life and grow in holiness. They follow the spiritual teachings of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, and the spiritual practices of St. Francis de Sales.

The congregation has communities and ministries in various countries around the world, including the United States, Canada, Italy, the Philippines, and Brazil, among others. They engage in pastoral work, retreat ministry, formation programs, and other apostolic activities, all aimed at fostering spiritual growth and promoting devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate

One of the oldest and most well-known Oblate congregations is the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), founded by Saint Eugene de Mazenod in 1816 in Aix-en-Provence, France.

The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) is a Roman Catholic religious congregation of priests and brothers. The congregation is dedicated to evangelization and serving the poor and marginalized, particularly in areas where the Church is in need of support.

The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and they commit themselves to living in community and serving the needs of the Church and the world. They are known for their missionary work, both in established parishes and in more challenging areas such as rural communities, inner cities, and foreign missions.

OMI priests and brothers engage in various ministries, including parish work, education, retreats, social justice initiatives, and serving the spiritual and material needs of the poor. The congregation operates missions in over 60 countries worldwide, working to spread the Gospel and alleviate suffering among those they serve.

The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate have made significant contributions to the Church's mission, particularly in areas of evangelization and social justice, and they continue to be active in serving the needs of people around the globe.

While the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) is widely recognized as one of the oldest and most prominent Oblate congregations, there may be other older Oblate communities with a different historical trajectory or focus. However, the OMI is often considered the benchmark for Oblate congregations due to its size, influence, and global presence.