Eugene de Mazenod was born into a noble family of Aix-en-Provence in southern France in 1782. The family had to flee the French Revolution when Eugene was only eight years old, and for the next twelve years often in poverty and difficulties, they were refugees throughout Italy and Sicily. During that time, his parents separated and were never to live together again.
In 1802 Eugene returned from exile to France and heartily embraced a frivolous social life. However, on Good Friday 1807, before the crucifix in a church in Aix, the young man experienced a profound conversion that made him understand the spiritual and material plight of France and of the Church. He decided to do something about it. Within a year he entered the seminary and was ordained in 1811.
Father de Mazenod set about rebuilding a world of Christian values. From village to village he preached with passion, tirelessly bringing the Word of God and the sacraments to all, visiting prisoners, offering the poor a renewed sense of dignity. In 1816 other priests, inspired by his vision and energy, joined him. In 1826 a new religious family, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, was formally approved by Pope Leo XII.
Appointed Bishop of Marseille, De Mazenod set about renewing and uplifting the diocese. All the while he sent his growing corps of Oblates to mission in Canada, Sri Lanka, South Africa and in various parts of Europe. Rich in grace, Eugene de Mazenod died on May 21, 1861. The Church recognized his life of dedication and virtue when, on December 3, 1995, Pope John Paul II officially declared him a saint.