US priest chosen as superior general of international Oblates order

Fr. Wilhelm Steckling / Fr. Louis Lougen, OMI
Fr. Wilhelm Steckling / Fr. Louis Lougen, OMI


A 58-year old Buffalo, New York native will soon be in charge of the 4,000 brothers of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Accepting the responsibility with "fear and trembling" but aware of brotherly support and God's assistance, the superior general-elect donned the cross of the congregation's founding saint to carry on the missionary service that began nearly 200 years ago.

On the twenty-first day of a month-long general chapter in Rome, Fr. Louis Lougen, OMI, was chosen in the first round of voting by the majority of the other 88 brothers present to lead the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. He will step into the position from his role as provincial superior of the religious congregation's U.S. province.

Founded in 1816 by St. Eugene de Mazenod to re-evangelize the villages of France's Provence region, the Oblates soon branched out to other nations throughout the world. Today, they are actively present in 66 countries.

Asked by the current superior general, Fr. Wilhelm Steckling, if he was ready to lead the 4,000-member congregation, Fr. Lougen answered in the affirmative, saying, "Yes, I am ready, with fear and trembling and the support of my brothers and the help of God.”

Fr. Lougen has a wealth of experience in leadership. After making his perpetual vows in 1976, the Buffalo-native was ordained to the priesthood three years later. He worked extensively as a parish priest, formator and novice master in the Oblates' Sao Paolo Province in Brazil, also serving on the provincial council for nine of the 17 years he spent there.

Returning to Buffalo in 1996, he was appointed as the assistant director of the pre-novitiate program and pastor of Holy Angels Parish. In 2002, he was made novice master at the congregation's Godfrey, Illinois location and, in 2005, he became the U.S. provincial. As provincial superior, he put emphasis on encouraging his brothers to foster new Oblate vocations.

Speaking to Vatican Radio about the current pastoral challenges of the Oblates, he pointed to four in particular. He aims to address the mission of relaunching dialogue, especially that with other religions, in the midst of a violent and secularized world; promoting "communion" in society; forming young adults for "what is really important" and forming Oblates to leadership in service of others.

Following his election last week, he made his Profession of Faith and received the Oblate cross of St. Eugene de Mazenod from Fr. Steckling, thus beginning the transition into the position which he will take on fully at his installation sometime in the next three months. Fr. Lougen is the 12th successor of the congregation's founding saint and succeeds Fr. Steckling, who has served in the position for the last 12 years.