From the Sahara Desert to Rome: New Superior General OMI
The Oblates of Mary Immaculate must bear witness to Christ in community and in hope, always remaining close to the poor, according to Fr. Luis Ignacio Rois Alonso, the newly elected Superior General.
By Devin Watkins
Prof. Luis Ignacio Rois Alonso, OMI, was in Western Sahara on September 29, when he was elected 14e Superior General of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI).
The 58-year-old Spanish-born priest had spent the previous 6 years in mission territory on the northwest coast of the African continent.
Then the call came, and within days he was back in Rome, taking over as head of the 206-year-old OMI Congregation, which has nearly 3,500 professed priests and brothers.
Prof. Chicho, as his Oblate brothers call him, is now catching up to understand what the 78 delegates discussed at the 37e General Chapter, until October 14 at Nemi, near Rome.
But this isn’t P. Chicho’s first time in the Eternal City. He was General Councilor for Europe from 2004 to 2016 and was often resident at the General House of the Oblates in Rome.
Missionaries of Hope
Speaking to Vatican News after his election, Fr. Chicho said he believed his new mission was one of “animation.”
His new job will therefore be to act as a “missionary of hope”, with the new management team, known as the General Counsel, who have been elected for a 6-year term.
“We have to become friends ourselves,” the father said. Chicho. “And then to live the Gospel as good missionaries for the poor, and in communion together.”
close to the poor
Chapter delegates met with Pope Francis on Monday and received encouragement in their mission to preach the Gospel of hope and peace to the poor, even on the margins of society.
The mission to the peripheries is a mission with which Fr. Chicho easily identifies after his last mission in Western Sahara.
“Our community is in an area where 100% of the population is Muslim,” he noted. “So how can the Church bring hope in this situation?
The 3 or 4 Oblates who serve there are unable to preach the Gospel with words, since proselytism is forbidden, so they must preach it with their lives.
An important part of his ministry, Fr. Chicho added, was learning from his Muslim neighbors, such as how they pray, their faith and how they help each other. Many of those her community serves are poor migrants.
“They have something of the gospel in their tradition, and I can learn from that,” he said. “They have a special gift of the Holy Spirit. So we can apply the same to any other context where we work as missionaries.
Aspiring to holiness
When asked if he had a special message as he takes over the leadership of the OMI Congregation, Fr. Chicho urged Oblates to be “faithful to the inspiration of St.e century French Saint who founded the order in Aix-en-Provence.