CANADA-UNITED STATESThe Oblates leave Maniwaki
On May 31, with
Bishop Paul Lortie presiding, the Diocese of Mont-Laurier wished to show its
gratitude to the community of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate with a magnificent
celebration. Well before the creation of the diocese in 1913, in the 1840’s,
the Oblates were already navigating its rivers, the Gatineau and the Lièvre,
bringing the Good News to the region north of Ottawa. Amerindians and woodsmen,
and later on, colonizers and their families received the spiritual and
religious support of Christianity, thanks to the diligence and the generosity
of these Brothers and Fathers who confronted the swamp mosquitoes in order to
be near the people of Upper Gatineau, as well as the men and women who settled
on the Lièvre river.
The solemn entrance procession included a large delegation of priests from the diocese of Mont-Laurier and several Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, with their provincial, Father Luc TARDIF, who took their places in the church’s sanctuary.
At the beginning of the celebration, Fr. Christian DIONNE, a native of Maniwaki, presented to the assembly a beautiful historical summary of the 164 years of evangelization by the Oblate community in the Upper Gatineau and at Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts in the 1930’s.
continued with the beautiful singing of the choir (under the direction of Mrs.
Lucille Morin-Martel) around the biblical texts of the feast of the Holy
Trinity. As this Sunday coincided with the feast of the Visitation of Mary, an
important Marian feast in the liturgical calendar, the selected Gospel text was
that of Mary's visit to Elizabeth and her song of praise, the Magnificat.
Bishop Lortie gave the homily. During the offertory procession, some symbolic
objects were presented: the cross from the religious profession of Father Jean DÉLÉAGE;
a historic suitcase that the missionaries brought with them to celebrate Mass;
a Bible recalling the Word of God announced by the Oblates; and finally the
bread and wine needed for the Eucharistic celebration.
Bishop Lortie blessed the beautiful stained glass window to the left of the
transept, the work of Mr. Roger Filiatrault. He has succeeded in engraving in
the art glass the emblems of religious communities that followed one another in
Maniwaki and the coat of arms of the diocese of Mont-Laurier. At the top of the
window, under the cross, there is the silhouette of Bishop St. Eugene de
Mazenod, founder of the community of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in
Finally, as a sign of gratitude, an original sculpture by artist Donald Doirion, a Maniwaki resident, was given to the Provincial of the Oblates, Fr. Luc Tardif. The sculpture depicts a priest holding the Word of God, standing in a bark canoe in which we see the suitcase of the missionary. This sculpture of iron and brass sits on a white stone pedestal, and then on a base on which is inscribed: Gratitude of the diocese of Mont-Laurier to the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (1851-2015). (By Michel Lafontaine, http://www.dioceseml.com/)
The Filipino community is one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States. In 1989, when the Oblates celebrated 50 years of presence in the Philippines, the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, Belleville, Illinois, welcomed several thousand Filipino Catholics to commemorate the North American Oblates (Canada and USA) who first established an Oblate mission in that island nation. At that time, the late Cardinal Jaime Sin, then Archbishop of Manila was the guest of honor at the celebration. Also present were several Oblate bishops, all now deceased: Archbishop Gerard MONGEAU, Bishops Philip SMITH, George DION and Antonino NEPOMUCENO. The then President of the Philippines, Mrs. Corazon Aquino, sent a special video greeting on the occasion. She and her late husband had visited the OMI Shrine when they were in exile in the early 1980’s.
Ever since that 1989 celebration, hundreds of Filipino Catholics have come each year to pray at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, especially for the annual Flores de Mayo (Flowers of May) celebration in honor of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, a devotion which originated in Spain and which spread to the Philippines in the 18th century.
On May 23-24, 2015, the annual pilgrimage took on special meaning with the presence of Cardinal Orlando QUEVEDO, the current Archbishop of Cotobato. He came to help celebrate 75 years of Oblate presence in the Philippines and to dedicate a special chapel at the Shrine to honor the Santo Niño of Cebu (the Little Child of Cebu), another devotion which is very popular in the Philippines. In the 16th century, after the city of Cebu was destroyed by a devastating fire, a statue of the Christ Child was found virtually untouched under mounds of ash. News of the statue spread and devotion to the Santo Niño de Cebu was initiated. Today, the image of the Santo Niño appears in many homes and businesses in the Philippines.