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The Missionary

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He has sent me to preach the Good News to the Poor.

- Oblate Motto              

Founded in France in 1826 by Eugène de Mazenod, the Missionary Oblates dedicated their efforts to re-evangelize the peasants of post-revolutionary France. The Oblates have dedicated themselves to "preaching the word of God to the poor and most abandoned." Following the example of their founder they do so "not in loftiness of speech, but in the showing of the Spirit." Consequently, wherever the Oblates have gone, their first task has been to learn the language of the people.

Eugene de MazenodThe first Oblate missionaries in Canada were European immigrants themselves. With the rise of poverty in their homelands, they were taught that helping the needy was their duty as a Christian and as a servant of God. In doing so, there was also an obligation to spread God's word, helping others to encounter the riches that nurtured their own being and experience.

When the request for missionaries in Canada's West was made to Bishop Provencher of Red River, he invited the Oblates and the first mission in the West was established in Fort Chipweyan in 1851, followed in 1852 by Lac La Biche and in 1854 at Lac Ste. Anne, when Father Albert Lacombe entered the Oblate order.

The Missionary Oblates travelled-often alone-for hours on end, praying for safe passage and protection under the watch of their patron, the Virgin Mary. For many Oblates, a devotion to Mary sustained them in adverse conditions and as they attended to the sick and those facing difficulty. At new missions they planted trees and gardens, built churches, established schools and farming operations and generally attempted to create a sense of community through their personal presence and in the institutions they built with local people.

GardenIn these institutions the men and women missionaries practiced and taught new skills necessary for changing times-sewing woven fabric to replace scarce animal hide, growing gardens to replace disappearing game and wild plants and running livestock and farming operations to create industry. In offering housing and schooling to children, they sought to introduce skills and understandings necessary to face change. In general, their practices were thorough, efficient and consistent with the common educational practices of the day. Later, as the darker side of this institutionalization became apparent, they continued to work with the local communities they served, maintaining friendships and community activities in spite of the larger political issues related to residential schools and Aboriginal self-determination.

As the recognition of harm done was articulated, Missionary Oblates continued to serve Aboriginal communities. Besides serving as pastors of the Roman Catholic faith, they continued such initiatives as developing co-operative business ventures, supporting community organizations and establishing inner-city missions to minister to urban Aboriginal peoples.

Lac Ste. Anne Notably, 50 percent of Aboriginal people in Canada describe themselves as adherents to Roman Catholic practice and tradition. The Missionary Oblates have continued to work with Aboriginal people in the practices and expressions of Christian faith. The annual Lac Ste. Anne pilgrimage is an example of this collaboration-in 2000, the Missionary Oblates turned over the organization of this event to Aboriginal committees and communities. The Oblates are still present as pastors and overseers in the religious services at the pilgrimage. The event draws upwards of 30,000 Aboriginal people annually from Canada and the United States. 

Today Missionary Oblates work in 68 countries around the world seeking out the most abandoned. During the past decades their work has shifted in many places from the countryside to the city streets.

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