hide You are viewing an archived web page collected at the request of University of Alberta using Archive-It. This page was captured on 20:42:32 Dec 08, 2010, and is part of the HCF Alberta Online Encyclopedia collection. The information on this web page may be out of date. See All versions of this archived page. Loading media information

Heritage Community Foundation Presents
Alberta Online Encyclopedia

This Site
The Encyclopedia

Church, Justice And The Works Of Mercy

David Ridley


David Ridley, “Church, Justice, and the Works of Mercy: The Missionary Oblates and Ministry for Justice”


1 (Back to Article). Vade mecum on Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation of the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, 14.

2 (Back to Article). There is certainly ample comment and range of critique on the Oblate role within the Oblate congregation itself, in what is regarded as "the classical missionary period".  Certainly Rene Fumoleau's writing engages this.  See also Jacques Johnson, omi "Kisemanito Centre Training Native Men for the Priesthood," Kerygma  15 (1981), 111-22, which is also extracted in Raymond Huel's Proclaiming the Gospel to the Indians and the Métis,(Edmonton, University of Alberta, 1996) 279.

3 (Back to Article). see Wayne A. Holst, "A Study of Missionary Marginalization:  The Oblates and the Dene Nation of Western and Northern Canada Since 1847" Missiology:  An International Review, Vol. XXVI, No. 1. January 1998, 37-53.  Holst's is very useful in that it provides an analysis of these broad stages of Oblate mission.  My concern is that "triumphalist missionary operation" implies an extremely narrow role and purpose for the missionary in the field, missing the depth of personal and familial relationship shared between the community and missionary.

4 (Back to Article). see Raymond Huel, "The Canonical Visit of Superior General T. Laboure:  The Precursor of A New Missionary Orientation" in Proclaiming the Gospel to the Indian and the Métis, University of Alberta Press, 1996, 223-268. After 90 years in mission in the Canadian North and West, many missionaries felt that their efforts had not resulted in "the desired generation of devout, practicing Christians" and the Oblates moved for a review of their evangelization work throughout Canada. Laboure's review emphasized the importance of missionary competency in and mastery of native languages, which had diminished as a result of schooling and the belief that English was now the common language.  He also pointed out the overattention given to residential schools and the diminished attention given to those on the reserves.  As well, Fr. Laboure insisted that missionaries working among First Nations people return to living amongst them and refrain from centralized residences which allowed a communal religious life but isolated both Oblates and native people from sharing and knowledge of the other.  Further, he reminded the Oblates that the formation of a good Christian did not mean assimilation or "de-Indianizing" of people and that religious instruction would be in the maternal tongue.

5 (Back to Article). ibid, 239.

6 (Back to Article). Baum, 1990.

7 (Back to Article). see the Preface to the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, 7 December 1965 in Vatican Council II:  The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, General editor Austin Flannery, O.P., Costello Publishing Company, 1975.

8 (Back to Article). For example, the 1976 Labour Day message, "We live in a world that oppresses at least half of the human race and this scandal threatens to get worse.  The present social and economic order fails to meet the human needs of the majority of people.... For Christians, the struggle for justice is not an optional activity.  It is integral to bringing the gospel to the world."  Also, the 1983 statement, "Ethical Reflections on the Economic Crisis".  For further description of this and its impact, see Baum, 1990, 51-69.

9 (Back to Article). Canadian Council of Catholic Bishops, Labour Day message, 1976

10 (Back to Article). see Rene Fumoleau, omi "Missionary Among the Dene,"  in Kerygma, 37, 1982. also published en francais in Interculture:  Revue du Centre Inter-culturel Monchanin around the same date.  For this sketch of Fr. Fumoleau's work I have principally drawn on this article and which he prefaces as his "personal testimony and opinions."

11 (Back to Article). In his account of the arrival of the "invaders" in Arctic Revolution:  Social Change in the Northwest Territories, 1935-1994 (1994), John David Hamilton writes "On 18 September 1967 two DC-7 aircraft landed at Yellowknife.  The first one carried seventy-four civil servants and their families;  the second thirty tons of files.  The capture of Yellowknife by Ottawa bureaucracy was thus accomplished without a shot being fired", 103.

12 (Back to Article). ibid.

13 (Back to Article). Beginning in September 1975, Project North was a coalition of the Roman Catholic, Anglican and United Churches in Canada.  One of several experiments of the day in ecumenical action,  Project North worked with aboriginal organizations on a wide range of concerns related to native self-determination and their status as equal participants in decisions being made on development projects in the Canadian North.  Foremost among these was the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Debate and the Berger Inquiry in which Project North worked closely with the Indian Brotherhood of the Northwest Territories, the Inuvialuit of the Western Arctic and the Council of Yukon Indians for a moratorium on the development.  The contemporary successor to Project North is the Inter-Church Aboriginal Rights Coalition, formed in 1989.  See Roger Hutchinson's Prophets, Pastors and Public Choices:  Canadian Churches and the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Debate (Canadian Corporation for Studies in Religion, 1992) for a study on the influences of the Canadian Churches in the debate.

14 (Back to Article). Fumoleau, 1982, 144.

15 (Back to Article). ibid, 156.

16 (Back to Article). ibid, 156.

17 (Back to Article). Conversation with Fr. Camille Piche, 1 January 1991, Provincial Museum of Alberta Folklife Collection AU.96.31.

18 (Back to Article). Hamilton, 1994, 126.  This still remains to be documented in this particular instance, but according to John David Hamilton's account in Arctic Revolution, the Ottawa territorial administration had tried to encourage co-ops and cottage industries for handicrafts as a solution to economic woes in indigenous communities.  Annual meetings were set at Fort Smith to bring chiefs together with the regional superintendent of Indian affairs.  While the meetings were boycotted when the native leaders found their advice ignored and demands unmet, they found them useful as a chance to come together and speak informally.  These gatherings provided the groundwork for the Thebacha Association, among others associations throughout the NWT, which promoted leadership and economic opportunity.  The formation of the Thebacha Association came through the alliance of organizations and the leaders associated with those organizations in their early stages:  the Métis Association, the Indian Brotherhood, among others, including the Company of Young Canadians (CYC) which had been established by Lester Pearson to send young community workers to receptive communities to assist in recruiting young First Nations and Métis to become community workers in their bands.  The CYC workers were regarded by some in the white community in the NWT as "radical interlopers, stirring up the natives." 

19 (Back to Article). Piche, 1991.

20 (Back to Article). The remaining schedule was supplied by the radio arm of the Aboriginal Multi-Media Society "CFWE: The Native Perspective" which provides scheduled slots for local programming.

21 (Back to Article). Conversation with Fr. Camille Piche, omi, 20 August 1998, Folklife Collection, Provincial Museum of Alberta.

22 (Back to Article).By speaking of civil society I do not mean "civilization", but a means of organizing relationships which is less personal and more specialized and professionalised in institutions which carry out societal functions and are repositories of knowledge and power.

23 (Back to Article). ibid, 141.

24 (Back to Article). The Antigonish Movement is a program of social reconstruction aimed at improving social and economic conditions in economically disadvantaged area, using the approaches of adult education and cooperative development.  The method involves "awakening" people to  a desire to better their condition and to do this with intensive study towards recognizing their needs and possibilities and using cooperatives an a means of group action.  The movement, developed in the Diocese of Antigonish in Nova Scotia, was initiated on the thinking of James Tompkins and brought about by the vision and organizing ability of Moses Coady, who were both faculty at St. Francis Xavier University.

25 (Back to Article). Piche, 1991.

26 (Back to Article). ibid. In contrast, Camille Piche's comment on his involvement in the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline debate, which resulted in a moratorium on the construction:  "I was proud that the church was walking in solidarity with the native peoples on that issue... it was highly controversial, all kinds of innuendoes made about church involvement, but basically the church took a strong stand and came out with the document 'Northern Development-- At What Cost?' spelling the implications of this out in philosophical, theological, economic and political terms... a strong, bold, prophetic stance."

27 (Back to Article). see Sister Agnes Sutherland, s.g.m. The Bishop Who Cared:  A Legacy of Leadership for her recount of Bishop Paul Piche's concerns about the Liberation Theology Movement, associated with organizations such as Project North, 154-155.

28 (Back to Article). ibid, 154.

29 (Back to Article). see Ron Graham "Broken Promises" Saturday Night, January 1986, 42.

30 (Back to Article). Gregory Baum, "Opposition to the Solidarity Movement" in Compassion and Solidarity:  The Church For Others (1987 Massey Lectures), CBC Enterprises, 1990.

31 (Back to Article). Huel, 1996, "The Oblates as 'Fathers, Guides and Protectors' of Aboriginal Communities" in Proclaiming the Gospel to the Indians and Métis, Edmonton:  University of Alberta, 1996, 199-222.  In this chapter, Huel chronicles the role of the Oblates as at times reticent and at times active intermediaries in conflicts between First Nations and Métis peoples and trading enterprises and government.  Huel's account does not suggest that Oblate bishops or missionaries did not choose sides for often they had a scathing critique of trading practice and failed treaty obligations, even as they worked for conversions to Christ, reflecting the 19th century orthodoxy of which they were part.

32 (Back to Article). "Catholic Action" is defined as the participation of the laity in the apostolate of the Church's hierarchy.  There is a range of understandings around this, ranging from any external action taken by Catholic laity inspired by faith to the action of lay groups which have been mandated by the bishop.

33 (Back to Article). According to P.E. Breton, omi and E.O. Drouin, omi in their short history entitled Hobbema:  Ongoing Indian Mission of Central Alberta (1968), the League formed after an "important" August 1950 "meeting of representatives from all Alberta Tribes who goal was to obtain amendments to the Indian Act.  But this being judged insufficient, the Catholics among them decided to found the Indian Catholic League as a pressure group to have guarantees as to their rights within the walls of their schools and the confines of their Reserves."  Hobbema would be the center of this organization, with 250 of the 361 Alberta members in 1958, 51.

34 (Back to Article). see "Minutes and Proceedings of the Catholic Indian League of Canada, Alberta Division, 1954-1965, Provincial Archives of Alberta/ copy in Oblate Collection, Folklife, Provincial Museum of Alberta.

35 (Back to Article). ibid, 27. In presenting that brief, President Maurice MacDougal and Vice-President Tommy Cardinal of the Alberta Catholic Indian League quoted an American education specialist saying
"No new personality and no new culture is built on the deliberate wrecking of another. Adjustment to another culture can be achieved only as the members of the minority group retain their self-respect, their pride in achievement, and their recognition of these elements in their culture which have enduring worth.... We only wish that more people in the Indian Affairs would understand words such as these, and abide by them in practice."

36 (Back to Article). Documents associated with these meetings as well as regional committees are among the Oblate Collection at the Provincial Museum of Alberta.

37 (Back to Article). Structural Transformation Through Solidarity, 19.

38 (Back to Article). ibid,28.

39 (Back to Article). The armed stand-off between police, the Canadian military and the Mohawk Oka warriors came about over a land dispute between an adjacent municipality and attempts to develop a golf course on ancestral Mohawk lands.

40 (Back to Article). Conversation with Fr. Camille Piche, AU.96.31

41 (Back to Article). I have drawn here from Herman Bianchi's wonderful study entitled Justice As Sanctuary:  Toward a New System of Crime Control (Indiana University Press, 1994).  As a criminologist, Bianchi's study is intended to address matters of criminal justice, but his writing on "The Idea of Justice", Chapter 1 of the aforementioned work is helpful. He begins that chapter by noting that "after the Age of Enlightenment, discussions of the idea of justice became, until recently, nearly extinct in the West."

42 (Back to Article). Bianchi's work is the subject of a CBC Radio Ideas documentary entitled Justice As Sanctuary, from which I have noted this phrase.

43 (Back to Article). I have drawn this account from Robert Ellsberg's excellent introduction to By Little and By Little:  The Selected Writings of Dorothy Day, New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1983.  Ellsberg was a managing editor of The Catholic Worker from 1976 to 1978.

44 (Back to Article). This was Peter Maurin's understanding of what sort of society the movement was advocating and building towards.


Albertasource.ca | Contact Us | Partnerships
            For more on Missionary Oblates in Western Canada, visit Peel’s Prairie Provinces.

Copyright © Heritage Community Foundation All Rights Reserved