The founder of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, Venerable Bruno Lanteri, was born in 1759 in northern Italy. His home life had a strong atmosphere of faith, but was also touched by deep sorrow. Losing his mother when he was only four, Bruno developed a strong love for Mary. His attraction to what he would later call “silence and seclusion” prompted Bruno to enter the Carthusians at the age of seventeen. His monastic life lasted only a week. After this experience, Bruno realized it was his vocation to become a diocesan priest.
While studying in Turin as a seminarian, Bruno met Fr. Nicholas von Diessbach, SJ. Under Diessbach’s spiritual guidance, Lanteri developed a great love for the Holy Father and faithfulness to Church teaching. In 1781, at the age of twenty-two, Lanteri was ordained to the diaconate. The next year he received priestly ordination at the chapel of the Immaculate Conception of Mary in Turin.
For the next thirty years, Lanteri worked intensely in the following apostolates: the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, the distribution of good books, the formation of young priests, confessions and spiritual direction.
Imbued with faith and love, assisted by a select group of priests and lay people formed and directed by him, Lanteri did all he could for the relief of the poor, the sick, the prisoners, chimney-sweepers; he also catered particularly for the military and university students. He awoke among the laity authentic champions of faith and love.
With his genial associations, which he called “Friendship” (“Amicizie”), he organized the Catholic laity for the defense of the principles and rights of the Church. Thus, Pope Pius XI called him “the Precursor of the present-day Catholic Action”; he strengthened, in the bond of friendship, the young clergy and the elderly (more experienced) priests in two distinct “Friendships”.
He provided huge sum of money for the apostolate of Good Books, spreading flyers and some books of devotion and apologetics – both his own (in hundreds) and those of the best authors.
He gave origin to the idea, prepared with tenacity and finally founded in Turin, together with the theologian Luigi Guala, his collaborator, the famous Ecclesiastical College that gave to the Church famous holy and zealous priests such as St. Joseph Cafasso and St. John Bosco.
In 1814, Lanteri met three priests who were starting an apostolic work in Carignano. Very intent on reviving a Church that had been badly damaged by Napoleon, the three, nevertheless, needed some guidance. They looked to Lanteri for help. Lanteri shared with them his own apostolic and spiritual experience. Thus, the Oblates of Mary Most Holy began in 1816 as a diocesan congregation.
This small group was soon disbanded, but Lanteri continued his priestly work for many years. While on retreat, Lanteri received an inspiration from the Holy Spirit to reestablish the Congregation of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, which is the heir of his zeal and spirit. The Congregation received Papal approval in 1826. Fr. Lanteri died on August 5, 1830. In life and after death he enjoyed the fame of sanctity and to his intercession are attributed many graces and favours.
The Congregation of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary came to Nigeria in 1998. It first established a Formation House, named the Seminary of Oblate of the Virgin Mary at Suleja, in the Catholic Diocese of Minna, Niger state. It embraced all the three phases of initial Formation. However, in September, 2012, the Postulancy and the Theologate were transferred to Ibadan, southwest Nigeria: This Formation House is called Lanteri Oblate Seminary. The Novitiate program remains at Suleja. Today, we have formation and apostolic Communities in various cities and dioceses of Nigeria.