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Arrival in Canada

Bishop Ignace Bourget of Montreal saw a great need to attract a religious order to his diocese to provide religious leadership to neglected Roman Catholics of the Eastern townships and the men engaged in the lumbering and mining industries and lived in isolated camps. He also saw the need to bring missionaries to convert the Aboriginal communities in his diocese, and to open schools and colleges. Before the Oblates of Mary Immaculate arrived in Canada, there were a few active missionaries, sent by their bishop and usually working alone. Some ministered to the Aboriginal Peoples in Eastern Canada or in the North-West, at Red River, for example, but in all of these cases, the work was sporadic and tended to lack continuity. There was a dire need for missionaries, but it was essential that they have unified method and plan such as could only be achieved through the teamwork provided by a religious order whose mandate was solely evangelization.

With this goal in mind, Mgr Bourget left for France on the 6th of May, 1841. In Paris, he appealed to various missionary orders, including the Jesuits, who had already done missionary work in Canada (the order had died out after the Conquest), but all rejected his request. However, he was directed towards the Bishop of Marseille, Mgr Eugène de Mazenod, founder of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. The Oblates wanted to expand their apostolic territory, particularly into foreign missions, and after consulting with his congregation, Mazenod agreed on the 16th of July, 1841 to the request for missionaries. In his diary, he noted that their entry in the diocese of Montreal could open a door for the Oblates in their mission to conquer souls in many other countries: “Montréal n’est peut-être que la porte qui introduira la famille à la conquête des âmes dans plusieurs pays.” [Montreal is perhaps the door that leads the family to the conquest of souls in many countries.]1

Eugène de Mazenod sent six Oblate priests to Montreal – Fathers Jean-Baptiste Honorat, Adrien Telmon, Jean Baudrand, Lucien Lagier - and two Lay-brothers, Basile Fastray and Louis Roux. They arrived in Montreal on December 2nd 1841. The Oblates were given the Parish of Saint-Hilaire at Rouville as their first residence, although the next year they moved to Longueuil. At Longueuil, they planned their missions and began recruiting Canadian priests to join their order.

Resources

(1) Aimé Roche, Eugène de Mazenod, Lyon, Éditions du Chalet, 1960, p. 56.


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