Oblates of Mary Immaculate meet in city
By Brent Mattson
The B.C. Catholic
VANCOUVER--The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) have a long and storied history in Western Canada. They even built Holy Rosary Cathedral at the turn of the last century under the direction of Father James McGuckin, OMI.
“They called it McGuckin’s Folley because there was nothing here at the time,” said Father Terry McNamara, OMI, administrator of St. Augustine’s Parish in Vancouver. He said the Oblates mortgaged their motherhouse in France to foot the bill.
“Vancouver was just lumber village in those years, so people said, ‘Why in God’s name would you build such a church there?’ But he was a man of vision,” added the St. Augustine’s pastor.
Father McGuckin’s gamble paid off, as the city grew around the new church.
“He built the cathedral and the city started to expand,” Father McNamara said. “There was nothing in the area but little shacks.”
As Canada’s Oblates gathered in Vancouver for their 2011 convocation, they hoped a little of Father McGuckin’s perspicacity would rub off as they planned their missions and ministries for the next several years.
On Nov. 17, more than 150 Oblates of the Lacombe (Canada) Province celebrated Mass at St. Augustine’s to wind down their convocation. The theme of the convocation was “Fanning the Flames: Discerning the Direction in Ministry.”
“It was a historic moment,” said Father McNamara. “It just happened to be in conjunction with our 100th anniversary. It was a very powerful week.”
“We were looking at (ourselves as) missionaries and how we serve the poor and outcast and abandoned people,” Father McNamara said. “We discussed our need to continue proclaiming the reign of God in our midst.”
More than 140 priests, three archbishops, two bishops, and 10 lay associates attended the event.
“Having that many Oblates together, it was an exceptional moment,” Father McNamara said. “Everyone was moved. The spirit was very much alive.
There were representatives from most of the provinces and territories, and from a Kenya district of Canadian Missionary Oblates.
Father McNamara said though the week had the feeling of a family reunion, many of the members were not close acquaintances at the beginning.
“We’re just getting to know one another,” he said. “It’s just in the last seven years that we amalgamated as one province. That’s one of the reasons we need to get together.”
St. Eugene de Mazenod founded the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in France in 1816, shortly after the revolution, with the goal of reviving a spirit of faith through missions and retreats.
During his homily at the Mass, Father Louis Lougen, OMI, the Oblates’ superior general, said St. Eugene’s zealous nature and love of Mary was inspiring from the beginning.
“He had that grace that this congregation would succeed,” he said. “This congregation will do important work for the people of God. We ask Mary to accompany us in the (Holy) Spirit.”
Their rich history of evangelization extended across the Atlantic not long after their founding.
“We founded all of the dioceses in western Canada, with the exception of two: Calgary and Victoria,” Father McNamara said.