VANDERSTEENE, Rogier, was born on June 15th, 1918 in Marcke, Belgium the son of Adolf Joris [Georges] Vandersteene and Julia Kerhove. He died at Slave Lake, Alberta, on August 7th, 1976.
After his studies at the Episcopal college of Courtai (1930-33) and the juniorat of Waregem (1933-37), Rogier entered the novitiate of Korbeek-Loo on September 28th, 1937. He made his profession on September 29th, 1938 continuing his studies at the scolasticats of Velaines (1938-40) and Waregem (1940-44) where he made perpetual vows on June 29th, 1941. He was ordained a priest on July 11th, 1943 by Mgr Armand Clabaut, o.m.i., titular bishop of Troas and senior apostolic vicar of Hudson Bay.
Fr Vendersteene worked at first at the Diocesan College of Waregem (1944-45), afterwards being ordered to go to the Vicariate Apostolic of Grouard. He studied the Cree language at Grouard, Alberta (1946-47) and at Atikameg (1947). He was subsequently sent to Wabasca (1949-53), to Fort Vermilion and, then, charged with Red River (1949-53) before returning to Wabasca (1953-56).
After a trip to Belgium (1956-57), he went to Trout Lake (1957-68), then, to Joussard (1968-69), Grouard (1969-70) and, finally, to Fox Lake, John d’Or and Garden Creek (1973-76). He was also equally responsible for the evangelization of Aboriginal Peoples (1968-73). A lake in Alberta bears his name. He was buried in the Oblat cemetery in Girouxville.1
1. Jean MARSAN, o.m.i., Père Rogier Vandersteene au «Rendez-vous de tous les vivants », in La Voix [McLennan], 35 (1976), p. 128-132; Jean MARSAN, o.m.i., Le Père R. Vandesteene, o.m.i., (1918·1976). in Pôle et Tropiques [Lyon], janvier 1977, p. 19-23; Jean-Paul VANTROYS, o.m.i., Un ami· un frère, in La Voix, 35 (1976), p. 133·136; Jean-Paul VANTROYS, o.m.i., Un Ami... un frère!, in Pôle et Tropiques, janvier 1977, p. 23-26; Roger Van der Steene, o.m.i., Sorcier... pour la gloire de Dieu, in Pôle et Tropiques, janvier 1977, p. 26-30.
Reprinted with the permission of Les Archives Deschâtelets and the publisher from Gaston Carriere, o.m.i., Dictionnaire de Marie Immaculée au Canada, tome III (Ottawa: Éditions de l’Université d’Ottawa, 1979), pp 340-41.
Earle H. Waugh - Dissonant Worlds, Roger Vandersteene Among the Cree
Waugh traces the remarkable career of Roger Vandersteene: his life as an Oblate missionary among the Cree, his intensive study of the Cree language and folkways, his status as a Cree medicine man, and the evolution of his views on the relationship between aboriginal traditions and Roman Catholicism. Above all, the author traces Vandersteene’s quest to build a new religious reality: a strong, spiritually powerful Cree church, a magnificent Cree formation of Christian life.
When he arrived in the wilderness of northern Canada in 1946, Vandersteene found an aboriginal spirituality that inspired his own poetic and artistic nature and encouraged him to pursue a religious vision that united Cree tradition and Catholicism. Until his death in 1976, Vandersteene attempted, through his paintings, poetry and liturgical modifications, to ground Christian ideas in Cree imagery and spirituality.
He was just a great person and I felt very comfortable with him. I think, in a global sense, he was very much in touch with what was going on, although he might have seemed out of tune for some people…
Indian people are respectful of the ideals of other communities, and they put their own in a larger context. I think that is what we are trying to do, and I think that is what Father Vandersteene was doing. Try to bring that knowledge of the buffalo back so people can relate to it. It has been underground for too long…
Cree Leader and Traditions Practitioner
Waugh, Earle H. Dissonant Worlds: Roger Vandersteene Among the Cree. Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 1996. ISBN: 0-88920-259-1
This section of the Oblates in the West Website showcases an exhibit curated by David J. Goa as part of the Oblate Research Project that he developed in partnership with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Grandin Province, from 1996, when he was curator of Folk Life at the Provincial Museum of Alberta (now the Royal Alberta Museum).
The exhibit, like the Research Project, explores, in the words of Goa, “the childhood formations; the evangelical vision that led them to the Oblates and a life of service; the shape their lives took in the communities where they lived, including their relationship to the local culture, and what I came to call the civil vision of Catholicism during the mission period.” Artifacts and images in the exhibit are part of the collections of the Oblates, Grandin Province.
For the Life of the World - The Missionary Oblates
Many Thresholds:The Life and Work of Father Rogier Vandersteene -
One of three virtual exhibits
This project has been supported in part by the Canada-Alberta Agreement on French-language Services; the opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the Governments of Canada or Alberta.
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Institut pour le Patrimoine, Campus Saint-Jean, University of Alberta
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