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A thought from St. Eugene for the beginning of “this” year
Pastoral letter of the Bishop of Marseille
in favour of the families struck by the earthquake in MARTINIQUE (1839)
My very dear brothers,
There are calamities so large, misfortunes so deplorable, sufferings so excessive, that it is enough to make them known for any sensitive soul, and especially any Christian heart, to want to soften their bitterness.
It is with confidence that we come to you to ask your help for your compatriots, for your brothers whose fortunes were swallowed up and whose families were decimated or partly destroyed by the dreadful earthquake that recently brought so much devastation to Martinique.
You know already all the details of these disasters, which we will forego retelling, and undoubtedly each one of you was moved deeply. In the impatience of your charity, you waited for your first Pastor... to provide you the occasion to give proof... of your compassion and zeal that you know so well how to use to relieve misfortune.
We also, urged by the same charity which fills all the members of the same body, feeling, like Saint Paul, all the pains of those who suffer, we burned with the desire to help and comfort our brothers. The moment has thus come to show yourselves generous. We come before you to collect the offering of the poor and generosity of the rich, which will show our sympathy and our supernatural feelings for the afflicted whom we do not delay to help....”
Message of solidarity from Fr. General
Father Wilhelm Steckling, Superior General of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate sent a message of solidarity to the Major Superiors of the areas stricken by the tsunami in Asia.
We are by now recognizing the whole magnitude of the catastrophe that so many people have suffered in so many parts of Asia, but especially in Sri Lanka and India. In the name of the General Administration I want to express again to you, to your relatives and acquaintances, and to the people you serve our condolences, our prayer and our solidarity. We do not understand God's plans but we know that God asks us in such situations to show ourselves as neighbors. […]
Though I have not had a chance to consult the General Council (all are outside Rome at the moment), I want to assure you of our readiness to help in anything we can. I think many Oblates in the Congregation will be eager to do the same once they are asked. Please let us know of your needs and how we can be of assistance to you.
Let us keep united in prayer. I send you fraternal greetings in the name of the whole General Administration.
In Christ and Mary Immaculate,
Fr. Wilhelm Steckling, OMI
The catastrophe in Southeast Asia
We have received the following news from the areas struck by the Tsunami.
From Sri Lanka – Jaffna
The terrifying incident that hit Sri Lanka, especially the Northern and the Eastern coasts in the morning of Sunday the 26 th of December remains a nightmare. The death toll has risen already to nearly ten thousand in the North alone. The people in these costal areas were taken completely unaware. It was just a matter of a few seconds. Entire families, especially women, children and the aged are missing in hundreds. Thousands are injured being simply dragged and twisted by the waves. Now the hospitals are overflowing with the injured and almost all those in the costal areas have lost homes and properties. The worst is the trauma of looking for the missing, identifying the dead and taking care of the orphans left behind. The costal areas like Chakkoddai, Point-Pedro, Manalkadu, Chempeyampattu, Thalayady and Mullaithivu are predominantly Catholic fishing villages. There are also Hindu and Muslim villages in the Trinco and Batticaloa districts. The Holy Family Sisters and the priests and those residents who were just along the sea were miraculously saved as they were all attending the Sunday Mass in the Church. The Sri Lankan Forces stationed in the so called High Security Zone (along the costal belt) were all uprooted, some have died and many soldiers were also injured.
The volunteers, especially the youth in Jaffna, are in the forefront helping and giving assistance to the needy. The Oblate priests and the scholastics are doing their best in the Jaffna Peninsula. Most of the people are willing and do share what they have like food items, clothes, mats and pillows. Of course there is a shortage of medicine and hospital facilities. The Oblates also have joined the other volunteer forces in transporting goods and distributing help to the villages.
I have never heard or seen such a catastrophe that took place within a few minutes and has taken absolutely innocent lives of our people, who have gone through enormous hardships, pains and losses due to the past civil war. The sea has swallowed up the many lives and properties that we saved during the two years of ceasefire. The whole experience is shocking. The priests and nuns who were at the costal areas were saved miraculously but some have lost parents, brothers, sisters and relatives.
Why this has happened is an unanswered and a deeply frustrating question. Most certainly we Oblates will definitely get more involved in rebuilding these areas and healing the wounds of the affected, which will be our priority.
Fr. A. Jeevendra Paul OMI
Provincial – Jaffna Oblates
A good number of villages along the coastal belt are Catholic and so, in the southern most tip, the Kottar diocese, the villages of Fr. Thiyagu, Fr. Cyril, Fr. Vincent are affected. Luckily not many lives are lost but a heavy loss of property is reported.
The village of Paramankenni, – that Fr. Chinnappan Sandhappan pf the General House knows well – where the Sacerd Heart Sisters have a convent and primary school, is completely washed away.
In Chennai (Madras) city where we are, a lot of huts and houses along the beach are completely gone and hundreds of people have lost their lives. In India alone, over 6 thousand people might have died. One consolation is that no one of the families of our Oblates have suffered any loss of life.
Fr. Pathinathan, OMI
JAFFNA – SRI LANKA
OMI Provincial's Urgent Appeal!
Fr. Jeevendra Paul, Oblate Provincial of the Jaffna Province in Sri Lanka has expressed his gratitude for the many messages of solidarity and the financial assistance received in the wake of the tsunami that recently struck Sri Lanka. He reports an estimated one million refuges in the northern and eastern parts of the country. Nearly 48 thousand have taken shelter in churches, schools and public places. The Jaffna Oblates who have had much experience helping refugees during the 20-year civil war in that country have drawn up the following plan to help the victims of the present tragedy and they appeal for your financial aid.
Material Relief and Psycho-social programs
Jaffna District: Vadamarachchi & Thenmarachchi
Mullaitivu District; Kilinochchi District; Trincomalee district.
- Offering Co-coordinating Services and Manual Labour in running Refugee Camps with the Government and Local Organizations
- Mobilizing local people of good will to share food, cloths and other materials needed and distributing them in these camps
- Immediate and urgent relief work of distributing:
Food, clothes, children's food, other materials like mats, buckets, pillows etc.
- Psychological counseling: by qualified and counselors (Priests, Sisters and trained lay counsellors) from 3 Oblate Centers in Jaffna and Kilinochchi.
° Point Pedro General Hospital
° Jaffna Teaching Hospital
° Kilinochchi Civil Hospital
° Vavuniya General Hospital
° Trincomalee Hospital
Trained Chaplain and Scholastics together with lay volunteers are taking care of the physical, spiritual and social needs of the wounded.
Distribution of material help, medicine, transporting sick people and their relatives, donating of caskets and meeting funeral expenses etc.
This will be our long term plan. We hope to make an assessment of our present involvements and hopefully we will work on Five areas in the course of one year:
* Continue the psycho-social assistance to the affected through the Oblate Centers.
* Shelter program for at least 200 families.
* Income generating project covering minimum of 300 families.
* Care of 100 orphaned children.
* Scholarships for school age children.
Donations may be sent to:
Name of Bank : Commercial bank of Ceylon
Locality of the Bank : P.O.Box 856, 21 Bristol Street, Colombo 01, Sri Lanka
Name of Account : OBLATES OF MARY IMMACULATE, Jaffna Province
Number of Account : A/C 1610053401
Cheque payable to:Provincial Treasurer
SRI LANKA – COLOMBO
Provincial house shelters 2000
De Mazenod House, the Oblate Provincial house in Colombo, is providing shelter to about 2000 persons left homeless by the tidal wave that struck this island country on Sunday. “What are most needed now – says Fr. Oswald FIRTH, Assistant General, presently in Sri Lanka – are blankets for shelters, medicines, especially to treat the sick and prevent the spread of diseases, drinking water and books for children. We are trying to tap aid agencies known to us for this purpose.” Following are some excerpts from a message received here today.
[…] Most vulnerable among the victims were women and children who could not climb onto tall buildings or swim. A whole train with over one thousand passengers was simply swept off the rails and capsized. The rails were just a heap of twisted metal. Buses were floating as if they were plastic toys. Over 200 foreigners tourists were swept into the raging waves. Certain persons who were attending Sunday service in churches along the coastal belt were dragged into the foaming sea and disappeared. We have never had such a violently destructive natural disaster in the entire history of Sri Lanka.
On a personal note, over thirty of those persons who worked with us to reconstruct the East of Sri Lanka after the ceasefire have lost their lives. Those who are living have lost their domicile. They are on the streets or in refugee camps. I am still struggling to search for the meaning of "life" and "reconstructing life" through all this carnage. […]
CHENNAI - INDIA
The sea disappeared and then….
Each day brings more heartbreaking news of the devastation wreaked by the tsunami. Fr. J.E. Arul Raj, OMI, writing from Chennai (India) sums up the horror of the tragedy in one simple sentence: “In many families there is no one alive to cry for the others.”
He describes how people fascinated by the sea receding before their eyes were unaware of the tragedy about to befall them. “The people and the children were surprised that all of a sudden the sea was going back for more than 100 meters. The crabs on the rocks were running here and there in the dry land where it was sea before. Many fish were left struggling for breath because their living water had left them high and dry. Children and others wondered at the marvel of this new phenomenon. Some even went running to collect fish and crabs. Then came the disaster. All of a sudden the sea came forward at a lightening speed. People were swallowed into nowhere.”
It was like sweeping away the dust on the top of a table. “Nothing remained. No sign of the house, no people, no trace of any living thing.” Several members of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate (DMI) and the Missionaries of Mary Immaculate (MMI) are the only surviving members of their families.
The Sisters and Brothers of these two institutes founded by Fr. Arul Raj began relief work immediately in Chennai and Kanyakumari. Thousands of food packets were prepared and distributed in the villages along the coast. The brothers started digging the corpses from the debris. Working together with the Hindus and Muslims.
In Velankanni, notes Fr. Arul Raj, more than 1000 people are estimated to have died. There is fear of an outbreak of disease. With the help of his brother, who is a doctor, 50 doctors have been mobilized to set up emergency medical centers.
The Sisters and Brothers are going from street to street in Chennai (Madras) to collect aid. More than 50 MMI seminarians are working to clear the corpses in Kanyakumari.
He concludes his message: “Do pray for us. And if it is possible please help us to help others. The need is enormous to show the mercy of God to reach the unfortunate people.”
INDIA and SRI LANKA
Holy Family Sisters rush to aid victims
The Holy Family Sisters of Bordeaux are present in India and Sri Lanka in two of the areas severely stricken by the recent tidal waves. The Superiors of these missions share their view of the tragedy and their efforts to help the stricken.
From Sister Rose Mary in India
I write this letter with pain and with heavy heart to inform you about the sudden tragic situation of our country. […] In Pondicherry, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh people were destroyed by the giant waves or were left homeless. Their boats, fishing nets, vehicles and properties were washed away by the flood within 5 minutes. The mass media is not giving the correct news about the accident.
In Pattinapakkam, 3 islands were completely washed away by the tidal waves. Till now nobody knows what happened to the people who lived in these villages.
Especially in Tanjore and Nagapattinam, the areas near the Shrine of Our Lady of Veilankanni were badly affected. More than 50,000 were killed. Among them many were pilgrims. Since these people came from far places, their dead bodies couldn't keep many days for identification by their own family members. Hence thousands of dead bodies are buried together.
St. Thomas Cathedral, Santhome and the Besant Nagar – the Shrine of Our Lady of Veilankanni – have given refuge and accommodation to the people who were greatly affected. We, the Chennai Community live close to these areas.
On Sunday 26th December, after the Mass of Holy Family Feast we heard the painful and the pathetic situation of our people. Immediately, we as a Delegation prepared 1,000 food packets and rushed to the spot. We consoled the people and told the priest Rev. Fr. Lawrence who is in charge, that we are available for medical needs and for any other service of the people. […]
Near Pavunjur 3 villages are badly affected. […] There are no transport services, electricity, telephone and other communications. […] I have asked Sr. Fatima, the Superior of Pavunjur Community to go and meet the people. If she needs more Sisters I will send them to help those who are in need. Two Sisters from Madurai and Keela Uchani along with the Kaliakkavilai Community Sisters are going to help the people in Kanyakumari.
I have also asked our Sisters to collect clothes and vessels from our well-wishers and the parishioners in order to fulfil the basic needs of these poor and helpless people. [They] have lost everything and are left behind with fear, anxiety and confusion. […] We believe that the Lord of the Incarnation, the Powerful King will bring peace and new life to our people. Please pray for our people continuously.
From Sister Amales in Jaffna (Sri Lanka)
It is a miracle that we are safe. We were informed of the sudden increase of the water level in the different costal areas of our country and of the movement of the people on Sunday morning. We came to the beach to see if there was any sign of it. But there was nothing of that sort. But lots of people were along the railway line, like us they were also watching the sea. This was about 9 a.m.
At about 12 0 clock, we could see some big stones in the sea due to the decrease of the water level. Within a minute we noticed a sudden increase of water crossing the railway line and coming to us. We were on the balcony watching the scene. Because of the huge hotel beside us we were saved. The houses that were along the railway line were badly damaged and their belongings were washed away. The water came up to house No 17.We saw some cars floating in the water. Still we can see some boats in the next lane. We informed the sisters immediately and the sisters of Dehiwela and Lauries Road came to our help. We have shifted some important documents to Lauries Road and we stay at Dehiwela Convent in the nights. Now the sea is normal.
There are 180 families at St. Mary's School behind St. Mary's Church, Dehiwela. Our sisters visited them to see if we can help in any way. They are very well attended. There is an organised group with the help of the parish priest helping them. All are Sinhalese. […] Some sisters who were on home visits were with their dear ones when they lost their belongings. [There follows a list of the Sisters and members of their family.] Please hold them in your prayers.
Families of Oblates affected
While there are no reports of any Oblates having been killed or injured by the tsunami, some in India and Sri Lanka have lost members of their families. We share their sorrow and their loss. This list will be updated as news is received.
Sri Lanka :
Bro. Lianage Asanga: 1 uncle (dead), 1 aunt (missing), 4 members of his family (missing)
(Asanga is a scholastic at the International Scholasticate in Rome)
Fr. Vincent: 4 nephews (missing)
Fr. E.P. Pragsam: 1 aunt (dead), 1 uncle (dead)
An extraordinary testimony of unity
Fr. Domenico RODIGHIERO writes to us concerning the Tsunami that seriously devastated part of Thailand.
These past days, I have received several e-mails from people asking if I was well and what was the situation here. I am well, but Thailand is in shock. It is not yet easy to believe in the images which fill our screens, nor the stories of my Isan friends who emigrated to the south of the country and lost everything in a few seconds.
In the well-known bay of Pangnan, the fishing villages close to the sea were swept away with their inhabitants in an instant.
But this wave, which left a sea of pain, also created a great solidarity. Television here does not cease pointing out the names of those that send assistance and the sums sent. The needs are countless: people who lost their houses have no shelter; there are no materials for rebuilding; drinking water is lacking.
Everyone in Thailand is doing something to answer the immediate needs of the victims. The Episcopal Conference, various Protestant denominations, Moslem associations are united in a joint effort of solidarity. It is an extraordinary testimony of unity, surpassing all differences, tensions, or dissension.
A gift under the tree?
“Yes, here also in Loei in the northeast of Thailand – writes Fr Domenico RODIGHIERO – we will light the small light in the star on the bell-tower of our church. Perhaps not many people will understand the meaning of this coloured paper star. It is intended to be simply a sign of our need for light and our desire of warmth.... In our poverty, uncertainty, loneliness, daily tiredness, there is a light: somebody extends a hand to us.
Some time ago, I bought a small crib made by Fr Michel, a French Oblate who has been in Thailand for thirty years, since his expulsion from Laos. He now runs a workshop, where he makes small objects in wood to give work to a small group of young people. I often buy things at his place because I like his thinking: he creates work and makes people autonomous. He likes to say that the poor do not need pity, but dignity.
Who knows? Perhaps there will be also a gift for the poor under the Christmas tree. I am thinking especially of a girl who comes from the countryside, where people toil all day long in the rice paddies. This girl tried working in a factory, but she was laid off. The young people are so numerous here, that the owners do not hesitate to fire them, if they do not keep up. At present she lives with a foreigner. She knows that it is not for always, that he will not stay in Thailand all his life, but she is not worried too much: she is young and there are many Westerners who pass through. One can survive.
I like the crib. Every year I enjoy making one. It speaks to me about a simple world, full of joy and mutual respect. There is no violence in the crib, no sadness, no noise. There is nothing useless, nothing wasted. The crib is a world full of heat, a world for “children”, for people who can smile.
That reminds me of Me Pon, where I spent three quiet and happy days with my young people. Me Ponis close to Burma. After 200 km by car, we found ourselves in a lost corner in the middle of the forest. There were some houses here and there and an incredible number of children. They are called Tchao Kao, mountain people. A priest of the same ethnic group gathers them here to make them study and to give them a little Christian formation. We helped Fr Tchanciai for a few days. What simplicity in the faces of these children, how much light in their black eyes! They have to travel many kilometers in the forest to go to school and, if they do not go, it is because they are in the fields lending a hand. There is no luxury in this village with many mouths to feed three times a day! But there is plenty of life even around an old worn ball, their only toy... that has been repaired who knows how many times.
May the God hidden in our hearts help us to rediscover what is essential and again put a smile on our faces!”
A Christmas that is communion
“Christmas is an event very dear to the Senegalese – said Fr. Giuseppe GIORDANO, OMI, the National Director of the Pontifical Missionary Works in Senegal. Christmas night neither the church nor the square will suffice to accommodate the thousands of persons who will come for Mass. There will also be several Muslims among them. Some come because they are attracted by the rituals and the liturgy; others assist at the Mass out of an interreligious spirit, because for them Jesus is the greatest prophet, after Mohammed.... All the Senegalese, regardless of their faith, have a strong religious sense and of the presence of God in daily life: prayer is very intense. It is impressive to see thousands of persons on Christmas night participating with joy and emotion in the celebrations and then lingering for another two hours to exchange greetings.
Christmas is prepared with care. Yesterday, for example, together with15 other priests I passed the entire day confessing thousands of people. The Nativity is presented in the Manger, which was introduced by the missionaries, and through pantomimes. The Manger is still not very well known in Senegal. Generally speaking they are Mangers from foreign countries introduced by the missionaries. Recently one can find also Mangers constructed by local craftsmen.
The pantomimes are above all for the benefit of the children. I recall that we presented a text from the Pontifical Work of the Holy Childhood in which the poor children of today (the child soldiers, those exploited for work, etc.) come to the Grotto and receive a hug from Mary in order to forget all their suffering.” (Fides21/12/2004)
Canada – United States
U.S. Province treasurer dies suddenly
Fr. Robert Moosbrugger, Provincial Treasurer of the United States Province, died suddenly on Christmas Day, 2004, of a massive stroke. He had been spending Christmas with his sister in Clearwater, Florida, when he was stricken.
Father Moosbrugger, affectionately called “Moos” by his brother Oblates, was an important part of the team that saw the transition, in 1999, from the five former U.S. provinces to the new United States Province. As Provincial Treasurer, he, along with Fr. Rufus Whitley, OMI (now General Treasurer), worked with attorneys and accountants to maneuver through the complicated steps of setting up a new province corporation and merging the assets of the former provinces.
Born in St. Paul Minnesota in 1943, he pronounced his first vows as a member of the former Central Province in 1967. Ordained a priest in 1970, he completed his priestly formation at the International Scholasticate in Rome. He pursued further studies in Rome from 1971-73 and 1979-81, achieving a doctoral degree in Spiritual Theology. His research thesis was on the spirituality of the Oblate Founder, St. Eugene de Mazenod.
He served on the formation staff at the Oblate House of Studies in Omaha, Nebraska (1973-75) and at the West End Parish in Duluth, Minnesota (1975-79). From 1981-1985, he was Director of Planning for the Central Province. In 1985, he became the founding superior of the Oblate House of Theology in Chicago, Illinois, a scholasticate community, where he served until 1994. While in Chicago, he also taught Spiritual Theology at Catholic Theological Union.
In 1994, he became the Treasurer of the Central U.S. Province until the new province was founded in 1999, and has served the Province in that capacity until his untimely death. He was currently a member of the General Finance Committee and expected here in Rome next week for the committees semi-annual meeting.
Groundbreaking for new Oblate Residence in D.C.
Even though the building permits are still “in process” for the new Oblate residence in Washington, D.C., next to the provincial offices, the groundbreaking for the new structure took place on Sunday, December 5, 2005.
The Oblate Superior General, Fr. Wilhelm STECKLING, who had come from Rome to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, blessed the land. On hand to turn over the first shovels of dirt were a number of other Oblates pictured below.
It is still uncertain when the building will actually begin. The residence will be the home of the provincial administration and other Oblates who minister in D.C. There will also be 15 guest rooms for the many guests who have business with the provincial administration.
The new building will go up on the site of the former Oblate College, next to the provincial office building on Michigan Ave. N.E.
Young people want a leading role in evangelization
During his recent visit to the Oblate Province of Mexico, on December 13, 2004 a young person addressed the following greeting to Fr. Wilhelm Steckling, the Superior General.
It is a great joy for me to represent the young people of my parish and to speak in their name.
We young people of Cuajinicuilapa, live in a world with many pitfalls and enigmas, like alcohol, pornography, drugs, delinquency and vandalism, that end up leading us to prison or to diseases like AIDS.
This is why we need, and it is urgent, that someone shows us Jesus, but a Jesus who is alive, strong, decisive and at the same time understanding and merciful. I know that this is not easy for the representatives of our parish, because their concerns are many: They are concerned for us, as well as for the adults, the old people and the children.
But it is important that one takes us young people into account, because as John Paul II said: “Young people should not be regarded as an object of the Church's pastoral solicitude; they are in fact, and they must be, active subjects, protagonists of evangelization and artisans of social revival.”
In concluding, I take this occasion to thank the Oblates that work in Cuajinicuilapa, because they gave me a Christian formation and because they are more than priests: they are friends with whom I have shared my dreams and my concerns, and they make me feel important. That is why I say to them: “You have still much to do... but you already left a mark....”Thank you.
Fr. Joseph Baril, OMI
The Man of the Aurora Borealis
Father Joseph Baril arrived in the missions of northern Canada in 1952. He tells about the happy and full life he lived with the native people.
Some people have an air of eternal youth. And yet, they have not had plastic surgery. Its as if time had no effect on them despite the fact that they age as everyone does. This youth seems to have its source in a heart that is simple and overflowing with love. Is this to say that love is a sort of Fountain of Youth? That is what one tends to think when meeting Fr. Joseph Baril, OMI.
Fr. Baril is not a giant and he carries his 83 years very well. He is still alert and witty. He still criss-crosses the North four times a year to replace the missionaries or to visit the places that no longer have a priest. And he has just written a small book that contains a part of his memoirs as a missionary.
A native of Saint-Narcisse-de-Champlain, in Mauricie, the desire to be a missionary took root when Joseph Baril was still a child. It was after having read Apôtres inconnus(Unknown Apostles) that tells about the life of the Oblate Brothers in North that young Joseph, then ten years old, got the yearning for the missions among the Indians. He even had to go against the will of his mother who wanted him to go to the Franciscans' college, because she belonged to the Third Order of Saint Francis.
The son of a farmer, young Joseph Baril remembers what a sacrifice it was to leave his father's fields in order to continue his studies at the Seminary in Trois-Rivières. “I had grown up on this land and I can say that I liked the soil and farm work. The farm was a good school. Manual work did not tire me. I was ready to get up at four o'clock in summer to go mow. I was able develop, at that time, all kinds of abilities not uncommon to human life. I must say that a poet was lying dormant in me. I let myself be charmed by the sunrises and the sunsets. The trees of the forest seemed to dictate messages to me. Moreover, I always feel at ease in woods.”
A young enthusiastic missionary
It is at the Central Patricia mission, among the Ojibway of James Bay, that Joseph Baril was initiated into missionary life. It was in a summer that was neither hot nor cold, that the young missionary went to work on the construction of a small church and residence at Saint Joseph Lake. The missionaries of those times had to be ready to do all the manual duties related to evangelization. Joseph never tired. He remembers the long distances that he travelled by boat, on foot and on snowshoes in winter.
Some of these excursions could have cost him his life. One day, Joseph Baril had promised an Indian to go celebrate Mass at his camp about ten kilometers from the village. “I was ready to go early in the afternoon. The Brothers convinced me to wait until the train of tractors was ready. The preparations took a long time, so that the train left at 4 p.m. One hour later, I left them to go to the camp. Alas, it was already getting dark. I followed the instructions but this large river forms a delta at its mouth. It is very difficult to find one's way through all these islands. I wasn't sure where I was any more. I had to make some tea. I was surrounded by alders. This wood is not good for making a fire. I knew that the Brothers had felled some trees not very far away. I found the place and was able to boil some water. It was -35 degrees. I decided to return to the village and got back to the presbytery at midnight. Fr Alain welcomed me, saying that the Indian's son had told him that he would have been very surprised if I had found his father's camp, because he himself did not always manage to be find it. I will always remember this trip to nowhere, under the starlit night.”
Joseph Baril had not panicked. “I was sometimes bold. I am optimistic by nature and this character trait undoubtedly helped me on several occasions during my life.” Life with the Indians was good. “They accepted us with respect. It was almost a hundred years that we had been with them. These men did not have the same practices as us. That could be a cultural shock to surmount. I however remember them as men and women who lived a very convincing Christian life. It was not unusual to spend several hours in the confessional in a small village. They always distinguished the sins carefully. I believe they had received a Christian education marked by Jansenism.”
The cold never bothered Joseph Baril. He describes himself as a man well adjusted to the winter and the cold. The long winter nights in the North Country did not displease him. He saw them even as an advantage because the rhythm of activities was less intense.
A lot of water has run over the dam since then and relations with the autochthons have changed. The question of physical and sexual aggression in the Indian residential schools makes the headlines today. Joseph Baril lived in two of these schools and he says firmly and with conviction that he never saw such actions by his confreres. He says that he literally fell off his chair when he heard the news that fellow Oblates in the West had asked pardon for the aggressions made towards the Amerindians. “We discussed it heatedly at a meeting. Other members shared my opinion. I had the feeling of belonging to a group of scoundrels. It is really a difficult question. I do not know where the true answers are. I still meet Indians and I am very well received. Indians have the reputation of being faithful when contact is made. They come to see me on August 15 at Cap-de-la-Madeleine. At the right time, I believe it will be necessary to accept to make peace.”
A new kind of missionary
Joseph Baril now travels thousands of kilometers a year to replace missionaries and to visit villages where there are no longer priests. “I have become an itinerant missionary, a priest who is pastor of a Church without a church.” Rather curiously, Fr. Baril is a defender of ecumenism. He even uses Anglican churches to gather the Catholics in the villages he visits. He does not hesitate to say that he likes to pray with them when the opportunity arises.
Having now entered the last stage of his life, a stage that he hopes will be prolonged, Fr. Baril acknowledges that as he advances in age, his faith is more humble. “My contacts with members of other Christian Churches have made me discover that God is for everyone. Faith is a gift that one has to develop. The relations which I had with other believers strengthened my faith.”
Why did Joseph Baril entitle his book My Aurorae Boreales ? “It was my secret! I can now reveal it. One does not see the Northern Lights often. But it is an imposing spectacle when they appear in the northern sky. One does not tire of looking at them and would like that they always be there. They became for me the image of my meeting with God. He does not appear often and when that occurs, often unexpectedly, we would like it to last. I understood that the God that I loved was the God of Jesus Christ. I can pray to Him easily. I can also forget Him and turn back to Him because He awaits me. One day, God seemed to be very close to me. And His presence has never ceased. I thank Him.” At these words, tears came to his eyes.
Notre-Dame du Cap, November 2004, pp. 14-15
Anniversaries – March 2005
Anniversary of Vows
||Bro. Charles Thirion
||Fr. August Bös
||Fr. Anton Kohler
||Fr. Josef Metzler
60TH Anniversary of Ordination
||Pref. Apost. Acacio Valbuena
50TH Anniversary of Vows
||Fr. Anthony Colbert
||Bro. Camille Prud'homme
||Bro. Alphonse Schwartz
||Bro. Emile Louis
50TH Anniversary of Ordination
||Fr. Santiago Díez-Fontecha
||Fr. Adrien Gaillard
||Fr. Camilo González
||Fr. Luis Valbuena
25TH Anniversary of Ordination
||Fr. Raul Biasbas
||Fr. Leopoldo Yazar
Suffrages for our Deceased
Date of Birth
Place of Death
Date of Death
|Fr. Reinhold Porten
|Fr. Johann Haas
|Fr. François Pouliquen
|Fr. Czeslaw Szubert
|Fr. Julien Bernard
|Fr. Robert Moosbrugger
|Fr. Robert Soete
|Bro. Jean-Marie Tremblay
|Fr. Joseph Lyons
2005 (No. 1)
Date of Birth
Place of Death
Date of Death
|Fr. Paul-Emile Thériault
“We will keep alive the memory of our deceased and not fail to pray for them,
faithfully offering the suffrages prescribed on their behalf!" (Const. 43)
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