Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate

The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) is a missionary religious congregation in the Catholic Church. It was founded on January 25, 1816, by Eugène de Mazenod, a French priest born in Aix-en-Provence in the south of France on August 1, 1782, who was to be recognized later as a Catholic saint. The congregation was given recognition by Pope Leo XII on February 17, 1826. As of January 2020, the congregation was composed of 3,631 priests and lay brothers usually living in community.[3] Oblate means a person dedicated to God or God's service. Their traditional salutation is Laudetur Iesus Christus ("Praised be Jesus Christ"), to which the response is Et Maria Immaculata ("And Mary Immaculate"). Members use the post-nominal letters, "OMI".

Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate
Missionariorum Oblatorum Beatae Mariae Virginis Immaculatae[1]
Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate logo.svg
AbbreviationPost-nominal letters OMI
Established25 January 1816; 206 years ago (25 January 1816)[1]
FounderSaint Charles Joseph Eugène de Mazenod
Founded atAix-en-Provence, France
TypeClerical Religious Congregation of Pontifical Right (for Men)[1]
HeadquartersGeneral House, Via Aurelia 290 Rome, Italy[2]
Region served
Worldwide 2020
Membership (2020)
3,786 (2,741 priests)[1]
Superior General
Rev. Fr. Louis Lougen, OMI
Motto
Latin:
Evangelizare pauperibus misit me. Pauperes evangelizantur

English:
He has sent me to bring the Good News to the poor. The poor have received the Good News.
Mission
To bring the Good News of Christ to the Poor
Ministry
Parochial, Foreign mission, educational work
AffiliationsRoman Catholic Church
WebsiteOMI
Formerly called
Missionaries of Provence

As part of its mission to evangelize the "abandoned poor",[4] OMI are known for their mission among the Indigenous peoples of Canada, and their historic administration of at least 57 schools within the Canadian Indian residential school system.[5][6] Those oblate schools have been associated with many cases of both sexual abuse and missing and dead children.[7]

FoundationEdit

 
St. Eugène de Mazenod

The "Society of Missionaries of Provence" was founded on January 25, 1816, in Aix-en-Provence when Eugene de Mazenod and four companions came together to preach, first with missions in the Provençal dialect, speaking the everyday language of the community.

Born into French nobility in 1782, Eugene de Mazenod fled the French Revolution with his family in 1789. While a child he experienced years of instability, his parents' separation, poverty, and danger. Financial problems resulted in stays at Turin, Venice, and Naples, where they were joined by his uncle, the future Bishop Fortuné de Mazenod [fr] in 1798. Access to nobility persisted, as the family lived with wealthy contacts, including in Palermo, and de Mazenod acquired an education. Returning to France in 1802, he entered the Seminary of St. Sulpice and was ordained in 1811.[8]

The character of de Mazenod's experience during the French Revolution formed his society's goals. Initially established to renew the Roman Catholic Church in France, the society opposed Napoleon's view of the Church, and focused its mission on the masses, believed to have abandoned the Church.[9]

The Church, that glorious inheritance purchased by Christ the Saviour at the cost of his own blood, has in our days been cruelly ravaged...we would hardly be able to recognize the religion of Christ from the few remaining traces of its past glory that lie scattered about.[10]

— Eugene de Mazenod, Constitutions and Rules of the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate

Travelling to Rome in November 1825, de Mazenod sought direct papal approval for his society and was granted two audiences with Pope Leo XII. Bartolomeo Pacca, Cardinal of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy formed a committee of three Cardinals, who voted to approve the institute, rules, and constitutions of the congregation.[11] On February 17, 1826, Pope Leo XII granted approbation of pontifical right to the congregation of the "Missionary Oblates of the Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin Mary" via papal brief.[12][8][13] Returning to France in May 1826, de Mazenod stopped first in Turin and began the work of recruitment to his congregation.[11]

CharismEdit

Missionaries first, OMI's decree, confirmed in 1982, is that they are "devoted principally to the evangelization of the poor", and their charism specifically aimed at people "whose condition cries out for salvation".[10]

Rule and constitutionEdit

Eugene de Mazenod's initial text of the congregation's rule and constitution as approved by the Vatican has been modified both by himself, and subsequent meetings of the General Chapter.

We must lead men to act like human beings, first of all, and then like Christians, and, finally, we must help them to become saints.[14][10]

— Eugene de Mazenod, Rule of 1818

Whoever wishes to become one of us must have an ardent desire for his own perfection, and be enflamed with the love for Our Lord Jesus Christ and his Church and a burning zeal for the salvation of souls.[15][10]

— Eugene de Mazenod, Rule of 1853

Religious formationEdit

Initially, those interested in joining the congregation have several meetings with an OMI priest, usually with visits to an Oblate community. Men aged 18 and over meet regularly to share their experiences of God and what God may be calling them to become, and the congregation shares what it is like to be a member. Potential members are encouraged to regularly attend Mass, read the Bible - especially the Gospel, and pray to discern their vocation.

VowsEdit

As members of a religious congregation, Oblates embrace the evangelical counsels, taking three traditional religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Poverty means that all possessions are held in common and that no member may accumulate wealth. Chastity, abstaining from sexual activity, is intended to make the religious totally available for religious service. Additionally, Oblates vow "perseverance until death" as a sign of their commitment to the OMI mission of evangelism.[10]

Postulancy/pre-novitiateEdit

This is a 1-2-year experience of living in an OMI community, sharing in many aspects of the life of the congregation. During this time, the postulants participate in the prayer life of a community, share more deeply with others, and become involved in one or more of the congregation's apostolates. Essentially, it is an extended period of discernment for the postulants and an opportunity for the congregation to assess the strengths of the candidates and possible areas requiring growth. For those straight out of high school it is possible, in some provinces, to begin working on an undergraduate degree.[16]

NovitiateEdit

Next follows the novitiate which is the time for preparing to take the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The novices are given the opportunity for longer periods of prayer and spiritual reading as well as silence in order to reflect on the vocation God is offering and nature of their response. The spiritual development of the novice is of particular focus, especially through spiritual direction. During the novitiate, the history and Constitutions of the Congregation are studied in depth. A simple profession is made at the end of the novitiate and the person officially becomes a member of the Congregation.

Post-novitiate/scholasticateEdit

After the novitiate, the new members of the congregation continue their studies. In the Philippines this normally involves a 4-year theology degree, followed by a missionary year abroad, although a student may make a request to study at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.[16] The theologate in the United States is takes place in San Antonio, Texas, at Oblate School of Theology. In Canada, studies are undertaken at Saint Paul University in Ottawa, Ontario. Scholastics from four provinces in Southern Africa (Central, Lesotho, Natal, and Northern) study at the congregation's scholasticate in the small town of Hilton in KwaZulu-Natal or at the international scholasticate in Rome.[17]

Vows are renewed annually; after three years a member may request final vows. According to canon law, temporary vows may be renewed for a longer period but not exceeding nine years.[18]

The General ChapterEdit

OMI conducts a General Chapter, or assembly, of its membership every six years. The assembly may take a month. Held in Rome, the assembly is the highest governing body of the OMI outside of the Holy See, and includes capitular fathers and representatives from OMI provinces worldwide. Called by the Superior General, the assembly determines mission strategy, policies and rules, organizational change, consults on emerging topics, and conducts elections of their administration. Crucially, the assembly also discusses spiritual concerns of their religious formation, community, identity, sets contemplative goals, and affirms its charism. 2021 marks the XXXVII (37th) General Chapter.[19]

36th General ChapterEdit

In October 2016, the General Chapter celebrated OMI's 200th year. The assembly focused on its mission and their motto: "Evangelizare pauperibus misit me. Pauperes evangelizantur—He has sent me to bring the Good News to the poor. The poor have received the Good News." Incumbent Superior General, Louie Lougen was re-elected to his post, as was incumbent Vicar General Paolo Archiati.[20]

MissionsEdit

Pope Pius XI (1857-1939) was so impressed by the courage of the Oblates that he referred to them as "specialists in the most difficult missions of the Church."[21] The Oblates declare:

We fulfil our task in healing the world by understanding its evolutionary character, by critically engaging its contemporary spirit, and by meeting its new needs in new ways.

We seek out and immerse ourselves in the lives of the most abandoned in their many faces and voices, and struggle with those most affected by conflicts.

With Gospel values we dialogue with peoples of different cultures, faiths, and religions, in the search for an integral transformation of society; we work with others to safeguard human dignity, nurture family, foster harmony, promote a culture of peace, and respond to the calls of justice and integrity of creation.[22]

The Oblates work in parishes, Catholic schools, retreat centres, and among Indigenous peoples, emphasizing issues of justice and peace. The Oblates are active worldwide. They maintain a presence at a number of shrines to the Virgin Mary including Lourdes, Our Lady of Snows, in Belleville, Illinois, Notre-Dame de Pontmain, France, and in Loreto, Italy.

In the UK and Ireland, the Oblates work through parishes and Centres of Mission in London, Edinburgh, Anglesey and Dublin.[23]

Marian shrinesEdit

The ancient sanctuary of St. Martin of Tours was re-excavated and revived by Oblate Fathers under Cardinal Joseph-Hippolyte Guibert in 1862.[12]

Canadian missionEdit

OMI's Canadian presence is currently administered in three geographic "provinces": Notre-Dame-du-Cap (French), housed at Notre-Dame-du-Cap Basilica in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, Lacombe (English), with offices in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and Dominican University College in Ottawa, Ontario, and Assumption (Polish), based in Toronto, Ontario. Lacombe also administers OMI's missions to Kenya. As of July 2019, there were 282 Oblate priests working in Canada.[24]

Establishment and early growth (1841-1883)Edit

In 1841, at the request of Bishop Ignace Bourget, OMI sent its first missionaries to Canada. Arriving first at St-Hilaire in Montérégie, the Oblates then settled in Montreal and Bytown (Ottawa). The Oblates began in parish missions and later, moved to parishes in poor areas. The Oblates expanded to Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Moose Factory, and Fort Albany in James Bay. In 1845, at the request of the Bishop of Saint Boniface, Norbert Provencher, the Oblates went to Red River Colony, Manitoba. This was the beginning of their missions of Western and Northern Canada.

Alexandre-Antonin TachéEdit

Arriving at the Métis Red River Colony in a birch bark canoe in 1845, Oblate Alexandre-Antonin Taché (1823-1894) was ordained by Bishop Provencher. Taché was elevated to Bishop of Saint Boniface in 1854, a year after Provencher's death. In 1857, Taché selected 13-year-old Louis Riel as a candidate for the priesthood and sent him to study at College de Montreal.[25] After Riel returned in 1857, he became increasingly involved in Métis leadership and led the Red River Rebellion. Taché acted as intermediary between Riel's provisional government and Canadian Prime Minister John A. Macdonald's Cabinet and then worked to establish the terms of the Manitoba Act of 1870, which would join the colony to Canada. After the failure of rebellion, Taché unsuccessfully advocated for Riel's amnesty.[26]

The Indian ActEdit

In 1876, Canada established the Indian Act. To fulfill various treaty obligations to provide education to Indigenous peoples, the Act provided for Indigenous education at day schools built on reserves.[27]

Oblate Vital-Justin Grandin, Bishop of St. Albert advocated for Indigenous children "to become civilized" through residential schools.[28] In 1880, he wrote to Public Works Minister Hector-Louis Langevin, explaining that boarding schools were best to make Indigenous children "forget the customs, habits & language of their ancestors".[28]

Residential school administration (1884-1990)Edit

In 1884, the Indian Act was amended to allow the Governor in Council to "make regulations [committing] children of Indian blood under the age of sixteen years, to such industrial school or boarding school, there to be kept, cared for and educated [until age] eighteen". The Act was further amended via The Indian Advancement Act, 1884, establishing that the denomination of teachers at reserve schools was determined by the dominant religion already present, but with provision for minority denominations to have a separate school with permission of the Governor in Council.[27] This allowed for churches to establish schools, not based on existing denominational presence, but to fulfil missionary work.[28]

A primary operator of Canadian Indian residential schools, the OMI maintained at least 57 (41%) of 139 total [5][6] schools funded by the Government of Canada, including Atlantic Canada's only residential school, the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School.[6]

In 1887, missionary physician, Nicolas Coccola, arrived at the site of the Mission jésuite Saint-Eugène auprès des indiens Kootenai [fr] Jesuit mission to the Kootenay of British Columbia and established a residential school (1890) and silver mine (1895).

To facilitate their mission, after his installation as Titular bishop of Ibora in 1890, and ordination as Bishop of Athabaska in 1891, Émile Grouard instructed Oblates to construct of a fleet of steamboats. The Western Canadian steamships of the Oblate Order of Mary Immaculate consisted of at least four boats, including St. Alphonse[29] (built in 1894) and St. Charles (built in 1903). The boats also carried supplies for the North-West Mounted Police and Hudson's Bay Company.[30]

In 1920, the Indian Act was again amended, making it mandatory for all Indigenous children between age seven and sixteen to attend an Indian Residential School.[27] In 1933, principals of residential schools were conferred legal guardianship of the children attending the school via the Act.[27]

Treaty 11Edit

In order to receive funding from the Canadian Government for the OMI mission to "civilize and Christianize" the Dene people, the area they served needed to be under treaty.[31] From 1909 to 1921, Oblate Gabriel-Joseph-Elie Breynat, Vicar Apostolic of Mackenzie and titular Bishop,[32] lobbied and negotiated so that the Dene would have such a treaty but reception from the Canadian government was lukewarm.[33][31] This changed in 1921 when, driven primarily by desire for rights to newly discovered oil,[33] Duncan Campbell Scott, Superintendent of Indian Affairs approached Breynat for his support to "insure the success" of treaty negotiations with the Dene.[33] Known for being part of the negotiations for Treaty 8,[31] Breynat accompanied treaty commissioner, Henry Anthony Conroy, through the negotiations, and witnessed Treaty 11, signing at eight out of nine commission visits across the territory. Conroy noted, "I was very glad to be accompanied by His Lordship Bishop Breynat, O.M.I., who has considerable influence with the Indians in the North, and would like here to express my appreciation of the help and hospitality accorded to me and my party in his missions..."[34] Meanwhile, Breynat noted, "I may say that I am responsible for the treaty having been signed at several places, especially at Fort Simpson."[33] The last of the Numbered Treaties, Treaty 11 bound the Slavey, Tłı̨chǫ (Dogrib), Gwichʼin, Sahtu (Hare), and other peoples in the vast 950,000 km2 (370,000 sq mi) area, which would become part of the Northwest Territories and Yukon under the Government of Canada's jurisdiction.

"Flying school buses"Edit

On November 27, 1930, Breynat was a Commercial Airways passenger with the Mother Provincial of the Sisters of Charity (The Grey Nuns) traveling from Fort McMurray to Fort Chipewyan. On landing, the plane struck gasoline cans on the runway and collided into a group of children.[29] Four were killed, five injured, and the RCMP gave aid. As a result of the following RCMP inquest, the runway was re-made.[35] In 1937, Breynat purchased a Waco biplane (CF-BDY) to be flown by Louis Bisson CM, OBE.[29]

In 1938, "The Flying Priest", Oblate Paul Schulte (1896-1975) conducted a medical evacuation from Arctic Bay, transporting Oblate Julien Cochard to Chesterfield Inlet in a Stinson Reliant floatplane.[36][37]

Jean-Antoine Trocellier [fr], Vicar Apostolic of Mackenzie purchased a Noorduyn Norseman bush plane (CF-GTM) in February 1952 and based it in Fort Smith.[38] In 1954, the OMI began taking children to schools from their communities by the "Artic Wings" airplane, which resulted in a reduction in police escort records from that period.[6] Oblate William A. Leising shuttled the children to residential schools, calling his plane the "flying school bus", picking them up from their communities and landing at Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut, Aklavik, Northwest Territories, and Churchill, Manitoba.[39]

The Norseman aircraft operated until 1957 when it was sold and replaced by a de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver (CF-OMI).[38]

Revelations, reconciliation, and the contemporary ministry since 1991Edit

On March 15, 1991, after its National Meeting on Indian Residential Schools, the Catholic Church recognized that the "negative experiences in the Residential Schools cannot be considered in isolation from the root causes of the indignities and injustices suffered by aboriginal peoples."[40] This was followed by a statement from Oblate Conference of Canada President Douglas Crosby, on July 24, 1991, stating an apology on "certain aspects" of its ministry. Noting that the Oblate was soon to celebrate its 150th anniversary of ministering to Native peoples of Canada, Crosby wrote that the OMI recognized that they were a "key player" in the "implementation of cultural, ethnic, linguistic, and religious imperialism" that "threatened the cultural, linguistic, and religious traditions of native peoples". Crosby also noted that sexual and physical abuse had occurred at the residential schools, and that the instances were "inexcusable, intolerable, and a betrayal of trust." Further, Crosby noted that the OMI renewed its commitment to work with Native peoples in a renewed relationship seeking to "move past mistakes to a new level of respect and mutuality."[41]

Hubert O'ConnorEdit

In 1991, Oblate Hubert O'Connor (1928-2007),[42] Bishop of Prince George was charged with sex crimes and resigned his see. Initially convicted in 1996 of rape and indecent assault on two Indigenous women, O'Connor was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison. By affidavit, O'Connor admitted only to consensual relationships with the women, and that he had fathered a child that was placed for adoption. On appeal of the conviction, O'Connor's charges were dismissed. He retained his titles and honours in the church.[43]

St. Anne's Indian Residential SchoolEdit

St. Anne's Indian Residential School was run by the OMI and the Grey Nuns of the Cross through Canadian Government funding from 1902 to 1976. Investigations into allegations of abuse at St. Anne's Residential School began in November 1992. Over seven years, Ontario Provincial Police interviewed approximately 700 survivors and witnesses, collecting approximately 900 statements about abuses at the school from 1941 to 1972.[44][45]

Request for government financial helpEdit

In July 2000, OMI Superior, Jean-Paul Isabelle requested government financial help with approximately 2,000 lawsuits related to its residential schools. Noting that Saskatchewan alone had 900 claims, with two settling for $100,000 CDN each, Isabelle feared that the order would go bankrupt in Canada.[46] In 2006, the Oblates were among the Catholic entities that promised a combined contribution of $25 million to a residential school survivors' compensation fund, of which only $3.9 million was paid before the government of Canada released the Church from its financial obligation in 2015. The Oblates stated that their portion of the settlement, which was not publicly disclosed, was paid in full. As of 2021, the organization was divided into multiple corporations, which hold assets totaling at least $200 million; a 2007 bulletin stated that one advantage of creating new such entities was protection of church assets from financial liabilities associated with lawsuits.[47]

Order of Canada protestEdit

In December 2008, representatives of Assumption OMI returned two Order of Canada medals to the office of the Governor General of Canada in protest over the honour being bestowed to Henry Morgentaler, noted Canadian abortion rights advocate. While the medals themselves were returned, the honours, given in 1979 to Oblate Michael J. Smith (1911-2002) for "his success in integrating war refugees into new surroundings and of his deep concern for the Polish community at large"[48] and in 1971 to Oblate Anthony Sylla, for his "dedicated services for over sixty years as an Oblate missionary to immigrant settlers in Western Canada", are still valid.[49][50]

Alexis JoveneauEdit

Beginning November 2017, specific accusations of physical, sexual, psychological, and financial abuse were levied against Alexis_Joveneau [fr], a missionary of the order stationed at Unamenshipit and in remote Innu communities of Quebec along the St. Lawrence River shore from the 1950s until his death in 1992, were revealed as part of the Canada's National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG). Survivors, many children at the time of the events, noted their fear of speaking out against Joveneau, with one saying, "I could not talk about it; he was like a god." Joveneau was also noted for his part in the forced displacement of families from Pakuashipi to Unamenshipit in the 1960s, and deliberate removal of benefits for those that returned.[51]

In March 2018, in a statement in response to the testimonies, Oblate Fathers noted they were "deeply concerned" following the testimonies and "fiercely hoped" that the members of the community would find peace.[51] In March 2018 the order opened a hotline for abuse victims.[52]

A participant in five National Film Board of Canada (NFB) documentaries from 1960 to 1985, including three by Québécois director Pierre Perrault, Joveneau was a public face of the OMI mission in Canada. The synopsis of the NFB films, including Attiuk (1960), featuring Joveneau have been edited to include note of his alleged abuse.[53]

Sexual abuse lawsuitEdit

A class-action lawsuit had been launched against the OMI in March 2018.[54] Despite the OMI initially seeking a settlement,[55] as of 2021, the lawsuit had grown to include 190 Indigenous and non-Indigenous persons from Quebec. Allegations include Oblate attempts to "silence repeated sexual assaults it was well aware of" [56] and include reference to Oblate Alexis Joveneau, Oblate Raynald Coture, and others.

In October 2018, a Radio Canada Enquête investigative report by Quebec journalist Anne Panasuk,[57] unveiled accusations against ten additional Oblate missionaries, including Oblate Raynald Couture, who had served in Wemotaci, an Atikamekw community from 1981 to 1991. After sexual abuse accusations surfaced in the 1980s, Couture was relocated to France by the OMI, and in 2000, after eight Atikamekws filed a formal complaint of sexual assault, Couture was convicted in 2004 and sentenced to 15 months in prison. Couture now admits his crimes, saying that he sought help from the church, but none came.[55] The report included accusations that Oblate Archbishop of Labrador City-Schefferville Peter Sutton was aware of the accusations in 1974.[58] In response to the Enquête report, Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec City thanked Anne Panasuk, stating "The Church must never again be silent."[55]

Missing and dead childrenEdit

In May 2021, 215 previously undocumented graves were discovered at Kamloops Indian Residential School.[59] The revelation prompted international news coverage, and spurred a Canada-wide search at other residential school sites for similar graves.[59] Highlighted in Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, missing Indigenous children and undocumented deaths were an aspect of the residential school system.[60] Prior to the discovery of the 215 unmarked graves, the issue of missing and dead children as part of the Canadian Indian residential school system did not have wide public knowledge.[59] As administrator of at least 57[5][6] schools, OMI's refusal to allow access to its historical documents during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was noted as an obstruction in the search for further lost children.[61] On June 23, 2021, the OMI-operated Marieval Indian Residential School was found to have 751 unmarked graves near its grounds, further escalating public awareness of children's deaths under the residential school system.[59][62][63][64]

Kamloops Indian Residential SchoolEdit

Starting in 1893 (three years after its inception) until 1977, the Canadian government charged the Oblates of Mary Immaculate with running the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia on the traditional territory of the Secwépemcúl'ecw (Secwepemc).[65] Hundreds of Secwépemcúl'ecw children attended the school, many forcibly removed from their homes following the promulgation of mandatory attendance laws in the 1920s. Peaking at 500 students the 1950s, it became Canada's largest residential school.[65] As a matter of policy, the administration forbade children who attended the school from speaking their native Secwepemctsin language or practicing their traditional spirituality.[66]

In May 2021, with the assistance of a ground-penetrating radar specialist, Indigenous investigators discovered the buried remains of 215 children on the site of the school.[66][67] Tk’emlups te Secwépemcúl'ecw First Nation Chief Rosanne Casimir said that the deaths were believed to be undocumented, and that work was underway to determine if the Royal British Columbia Museum holds related records.[66] Because the scanning task is ongoing, she said she expects more discoveries to be made.[68]

In a statement released by the First Nations Health Authority, CEO Richard Jock said, "That this situation exists is sadly not a surprise and illustrates the damaging and lasting impacts that the residential school system continues to have on First Nations people, their families and communities."[67] Premier of British Columbia John Horgan said he was "horrified and heartbroken" at the discovery, and that he supported further efforts to bring to "light the full extent of this loss."[68] Federal Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller also offered his support.[67] Highlighting the national importance of the discovery, flags were lowered in communities across Canada. In Halifax, Mayor Mike Savage noted the flag lowering was "to honour the children found in Kamloops and all others who lost their lives to the residential schools system."[69]

On May 30, 2021, Ken Thorson of Lacombe OMI issued a media release acknowledging discovery of the children's remains:[70]

On behalf of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, I wish to express my heartfelt sadness and sincere regret for the deep pain and distress the discovery of the remains of children buried on the grounds of Kamloops Indian Residential School brings to the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, and other affected Indigenous communities, especially family members of the deceased. I appreciate the sensitive and respectful way in which this difficult work is being carried out. This heart‐breaking discovery brings the tragedy of the residential school system into the light once again and demands that we continue to confront its legacy.

The Missionary Oblates were administrators and teachers at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Through our own ongoing reflection, and the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we are growing into a deepening awareness of the damage caused to Indigenous peoples, the enduring harm caused by colonization and the part our religious order played in it through the residential school system.

This growing awareness leads us to an increased desire to listen deeply and learn from Indigenous communities where Oblates continue to live and minister. The Oblates remain committed to humbly participating in ongoing efforts towards reconciliation and healing for our role in this painful part of our shared history.[70]

— Father Ken Thorson, Provincial, OMI Lacombe Canada

On May 31, 2021, The University of British Columbia indicated that it would review the honorary degree it had granted to Oblate John Fergus O'Grady (1908-1998), Bishop of Prince George, in 1986. O'Grady had been Principal of St. Mary's Indian Residential School in Mission, BC from 1936 to 1939, Kamloops Indian Residential School from 1938 to 1952, and Cariboo Indian Residential School, Williams Lake, BC in 1952.[71]

Records of the deadEdit

The Canadian Press reported on June 3, 2021, that the OMI refused to release records that might help identify the remains found at residential schools sites, especially as the discovery of 215 potential remains is contrary to existing reports of 51 children known to have died at the facility. The director of the Residential School History and Dialogue Centre of the University of British Columbia noted that the Government of Canada and churches had been fighting over document access for twenty years.[61] J. Michael Miller, Archbishop of Vancouver, called on all Catholic organizations to be transparent with their archives and noted that the Diocese of Vancouver (distinct from the OMI) provided records to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and they continued to be "available for review".[72][73] On June 4, 2021, Chief Rosanne Casimir of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation also noted that the OMI had yet to release any records about the school. Ken Thorson, Provincial of OMI Lacombe Canada, cited his apology of May 30, saying "an apology is easy" but that follow-up was hard. He said that the OMI considered releasing records for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (begun 2007, with submissions closed in 2015),[60] but acknowledged that "rather than taking a listening stance," the congregation "came together in a defensive posture."[74]

751 unmarked graves at MarievalEdit

On June 24, 2021, Chief Cadmus Delorme of Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan, announced that searchers using ground-penetrating radar had discovered 751 unmarked graves near the former OMI-run Marieval Indian Residential School (also known as Greyson or Lac Croche / Crooked Lake) site on the Cowessess 73 reserve.[62][63][64] The significant find made international headlines, with The Washington Post calling the discovery part of Canada's "devastating legacy of one of the darkest chapters of its history."[75] Donald Bolen, Archbishop of Regina, noted that the discovery "brings us face to face with the brutal legacy of the Indian Residential School system".[75][76]

The findings in Marieval and Kamloops are part of a larger tragedy. They are a shameful reminder of the systemic racism, discrimination, and injustice that Indigenous peoples have faced – and continue to face – in this country. And together, we must acknowledge this truth, learn from our past, and walk the shared path of reconciliation, so we can build a better future.

— Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, [77]

In 2018, Chief Cadmus Delorme wrote to the Donald Bolen, Archbishop of Regina, asking for funding to restore the Cowessess cemetery.[78] Less than six months later, the adjoining church was destroyed by fire.[79] Work to recover graves began in 2019, when the Cowessess First Nation received $70,000 for the work via part of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Regina's insurance settlement after the fire[79][80] and it was agreed that the church would not be rebuilt and the land would return to the Cowessess.[78] Work on the cemetery was delayed for over a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in March 2021, Chief Cadmus Delorme announced that the community had begun radar scanning to find remains at the site, and that the end goal was to "identify, to mark, and to build a monument in honouring and recognizing the bodies."[81] From June 2–23, their efforts found the 751 unmarked graves and they marked each with a flag.[82]

The pain is real, the pain is there and the pain hasn't gone away. As we heal, every Cowessess citizen has a family member in that gravesite. To know there's some unmarked, it continues the pain.

— Chief Cadmus Delorme, [81]

Noting that the unmarked graves likely included adults,[83] the gravesite had long been said to contain unmarked graves from the local community including some, Chief Cadmus Delorme asserted, where markers were destroyed by church leadership.[84] Donald Bolen, Archbishop of Regina affirmed the community's pain regarding the destruction, illustrating one story where an Oblate priest had destroyed headstones "in a way that was reprehensible",[76] echoing RéAnne Letourneau, a Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, who wrote in the 2019 Archdiocese of Regina Annual Report that the diocese had heard reports of a pastor who bulldozed parts of the cemetery 50 years prior because of a conflict with Cowessess leadership.[78] Other accounts cited the 1970 handover, when the Cowessess First Nation took over the cemetery from the church, saying graves were plowed under or destroyed.[82]

Marieval Indian Residential SchoolEdit

Established in 1874, after Treaty 4 at Fort Qu'Appelle was signed and Cowessess 73 reserve formed, OMI's Crooked Lake Mission in the Qu’Appelle Valley began. Led by Oblate Jules Decorby, followed by Oblate Agapit Page, it operated within the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Saint Boniface under Oblate Archbishop Alexandre-Antonin Taché. A log building day school for Cowessess children opened in 1885 with Page as principal. Students transferred to the newly built Qu'Appelle Indian Residential School in 1884 and the log building was torn down. Oblate missionaries continued to visit the area from Lebret.[85]

Thirteen years later, OMI presence was a constant in the community, with eleven brothers and 39 priests serving the mission from 1897 to 1967.[85] In 1898, four Sisters of Notre Dame des Missions de Lyon arrived from France to begin a boarding school at Cowessess called the Holy Heart of Mary, however friction with the Oblates resulted in their departure.[86] In 1900 they were replaced first by lay teachers, then the Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Hyacinthe in July 1901.[85] The first principal of the school was Oblate Théophile Campeau (1897-1900). When the school was granted federal government funding as a residential school for 40 children in 1901, Oblate Siméon Perreault (1900-1912) was principal.

In 1903, Oblate Perreault requested 40 acres of land from the Cowessess for a school and mission and received verbal permission. As formal paperwork was done, Perrault increased the request to 350 acres. The surrender of land was signed in November 1908 under condition that if it ceased use for a school or mission, it would revert to the band.[87]

In 1908 the establishment of a post office under the name of "Marieval" set the area's official name, and Perreault became its first postmaster - administering Cowessess access to mail. With the exception of Principal Jean-Baptiste Beys (1912-1918), for over 60 years Oblates served as parish priest, principal, and postmaster for the community, including: Gustave Fafard (1918-1920), Joseph Carrière (1920-1933), Placide Châtelain (1933-1938), Vincent de Varennes (1938-1944), Jean Lemire (1944-1952), Regalis (Royal) Carrière (1952-1961), and Gaston (Garry) Gélinas (1961-1964). After Gélinas' resignation in 1964, the postmaster role was filled by the community.[88] Oblates Gérard Nogue (1964-1971) and Adéodat Ruest (1971-1972) were the last Oblate principals at Marieval, as its administration shifted to the government.[89][90][91]

Fort Alexander Indian Residential SchoolEdit

Oblate Arthur Masse was arrested on June 16, 2022, charged with indecent assault of a student at OMI-administered Fort Alexander Residential School. The crime was alleged to have been committed between 1968 and 1970 when the student was 10 years old - she has since passed away. The arrest of Masse, at 92-years-old, was the culmination of a decade-long RCMP criminal investigation that included over 80 agents, who conducted over 700 interviews and analyzed thousands of historical documents, resulting in 75 statements from witnesses and victims of abuse at the school. Masse was released pending trial on July 20,2022.[92][93]

Sri Lankan MissionEdit

Arriving in 1847, Oblates landed in Colombo, British Ceylon. OMI's Sri Lankan mission is currently administered as Colombo Province and Jaffna Province.[94] As of June 2021, there were 106 Oblates attached to Colombo's seven districts.[95] Colombo also administers OMI's delegations to Japan, Korea, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.

Australian MissionEdit

Begun in 1894, OMI's Australian presence is currently administered in one geographic province based in Camberwell, Victoria and includes nine parishes and four schools. As of 2017, there were 42 Oblate priests working in Australia. Australia also administers OMI's delegation to China and Hong Kong.[96]

Notable oblatesEdit

Superiors GeneralEdit

Superiors General were elected for life until 1972, and are currently elected in 6 year terms.[97]

  1. 1816-1861 (died): Eugène de Mazenod (1782-1861), France. Founder, first Superior General, and Saint
  2. 1861-1892 (died): Joseph Fabre (1824-1892), France
  3. 1893-1897 (died): Louis Soullier (1826-1897), France
  4. 1898-1906 (resigned): Cassien Augier (1846-1927), France
  5. 1908-1931 (died): Augustin Dontenwill (1857-1931), Canada
  6. 1932-1944 (died): Théodore Labouré [fr] (1883-1944), France
  7. 1947-1972 (resigned): Léo Deschâtelets (1899-1974), Canada
  8. 1972-1974 (resigned): Richard Hanley (1931-?), USA
  9. 1974-1986 (resigned): Fernand Jetté (1921-2000), Canada
  10. 1986-1998 (resigned): Marcello Zago (1932-2001), Italy
  11. 1998-2010 (resigned): Heinz Wilhelm Steckling (born 1947), Germany
  12. 2010-Present: Louis Lougen (born 1952), USA

Candidates for sainthoodEdit

BeatifiedEdit

VenerableEdit

Servant of GodEdit

CardinalsEdit

ArchbishopsEdit

BishopsEdit

VicarsEdit

Priests and religiousEdit

  • Carl Kabat (born 1933), American priest and peace activist
  • Albert Lacombe (1827–1916), French-Canadian missionary during the formation of Canada, broker of peace between the Cree and Blackfoot tribes
  • Lucien-Antoine Lagier (1814-1874), Canadian priest.
  • Adrien-Gabriel Morice (1859–1938), linguist, cartographer, and ethnologist
  • Émile Petitot (1838–1916), French cartographer and ethnologist
  • Alexis Joveneau [fr] (1926-1992), Belgian missionary priest, participant in five National Film Board of Canada documentaries on the Innu, accused of abuse of Innu congregants during his tenure in Northern Quebec.
  • Guy Mary-Rousselière (1913–1994) French-Canadian missionary priest, anthropologist and photographer, whose career was spent mostly in the Canadian Arctic.
  • Ronald Rolheiser (born 1947), Canadian-born author of several spiritual books
  • Larry Rosebaugh (1935–2009), American priest and activist
  • Constantine Scollen (1841–1902), Irish-born missionary priest among the Blackfoot, Cree and Métis peoples of Canada and US.

InstitutionsEdit

AmericasEdit

Canadian Indian residential schoolsEdit

As part of its mission in Canada, the OMI ran at least 57[5][7][6] residential schools with locations in seven provinces and territories.

British ColumbiaEdit

OMI residential schools in British Columbia included locations in Cranbrook, Kakawis (Meares Island), Kamloops, North Vancouver, and Williams Lake.[6][104]

  • St. Mary's Indian Residential School, Mission (1863-1984). Its aim was to bring Indigenous Sto:lo people – to a Catholic and agrarian lifestyle. Later, the school became a federally mandated residential school named St. Mary's. Closed in 1984, it was the last residential school in British Columbia. It is now a cultural centre operated by the Sto:lo people.[105] There an operating OMI cemetery on site with graves of priests and nuns dating back to at least 1880.[106]
  • Kamloops Indian Residential School, Kamloops (1890-1969). Subject of widespread outrage beginning May 26, 2021, after 215 officially undocumented unmarked graves were discovered on the property via ground-penetrating radar, resulting in lowering of flags across the country, a call to examine all former residential school grounds across Canada, and plans to honour the deceased and reunite them with their relatives.[107]
  • Kootenay Indian Residential School, Cranbrook (1912-1970)
  • Lejac Residential School, Fort St. James (1874-1976)
  • St. Paul's Indian Residential School, North Vancouver (1899-1958)
  • Lower Post
  • Alexis Creek
  • Christie School, Kakawis
  • Sechelt
AlbertaEdit

OMI residential schools in Alberta included locations in Brocket, Cardston, Cluny, Wabasca (Desmarais), Dunbow (High River), Fort Vermilion, Maskwacis (Hobbema), Joussard, St. Albert, and St. Paul.[6]

  • Lac La Biche Residential School, Lac La Biche (1893-1898)[108]
  • Ermineskin School, Maskwacis
  • Crowfoot School
SaskatchewanEdit

OMI residential schools in Saskatchewan included locations in Beauval, Delmas, Duck Lake, Lebret, Marieval, Sturgeon Landing, and Onion Lake Cree Nation.[6]

ManitobaEdit

OMI residential schools in Manitoba included locations in Cross Lake, Sagkeeng First Nation (Fort Alexander), Pine Creek First Nation, The Pas, Sandy Bay, and Winnipeg.[6]

  • Pine Creek School, Camperville
  • Cross Lake
OntarioEdit

OMI residential schools in Ontario included locations in Fort Albany First Nation, Fort Frances, McIntosh and Spanish.[6]

QuebecEdit

OMI residential schools in Quebec included locations in Amos, Mashteuiatsh (Pointe-Bleue), and Sept-Îles.[6]

Nova ScotiaEdit
Northwest TerritoriesEdit

OMI residential schools in the Northwest Territories included locations in Chesterfield Inlet, Fort Chipewyan, and Fort Resolution.[6]

  • Aklavik

AustraliaEdit

PhilippinesEdit

Hong KongEdit

  • Notre Dame College, Kowloon
  • Primary School, Kowloon
  • St Eugene de Mazenod Oblate Primary School, Kowloon
  • Po Yan Oblate Primary School, Kowloon

Democratic Republic of the CongoEdit

  • Université De Mazenod, Kinshasa

NigeriaEdit

  • College De Mazenod Kihang, Bassa - Jos

South AfricaEdit

  • St. Joseph's Theological Institute, Cedara

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

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  2. ^ "Oblates of Mary Immaculate (Institute of Consecrated Life - Men) [Catholic-Hierarchy]".
  3. ^ "Statistics of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate – 2020". OMI Lacombe Canada. 27 February 2020. Retrieved 9 June 2021.
  4. ^ "What we do: We are Missionaries". OMI Lacombe. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d Babych, Art; Gonzalez, Ramon (12 June 2000). "Oblates face bankruptcy". Western Catholic Reporter. Retrieved May 31, 2021.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Eugène LeBeuf, Marcel (2011). The Role of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police During the Indian Residential School System.
  7. ^ a b Canada's Residential Schools: the History, Part 2, 1939 To 2000 : The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Volume I. McGill-Queen's University Press. 2015.
  8. ^ a b Morice, Adrian. (1911). "Charles Joseph Eugene de Mazenod". The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 10. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 1 July 2021.
  9. ^ "St. Eugene de Mazenod". OMI World. 8 August 2017. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  10. ^ a b c d e Constitutions and Rules of the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
  11. ^ a b Eugene de Mazenod (2001). Rome Diary (1825-1826, 1845, 1854) (PDF). Rome: Oblate General Archives. Retrieved 1 July 2021.
  12. ^ a b   One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainBlanchin, François (1911). "Oblates of Mary Immaculate". In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
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ReferencesEdit

Coordinates: 38°33′39.5″N 90°4′56.36″W / 38.560972°N 90.0823222°W / 38.560972; -90.0823222

  • Carrière, Gaston (1957), Histoire documentaire de la congrégation des Missionnaires Oblats de Marie-Immaculée dans l'Est du Canada. Vol. 1., Ottawa, Ontario: Éditions de l’Université d’Ottawa
  • Carrière, Gaston (1957), Dictionnaire biographique des Oblats de Marie-Immaculée au Canada. Vol. 1-3., Ottawa, Ontario: Éditions de l’Université d’Ottawa

External linksEdit