Among the outstanding Oblate missionaries who left their mark in British Columbia, we must include Father Léon Fouquet. This man from France, an excellent theologian, was the first priest to celebrate Mass in Vancouver, in 1860. He dedicated fifty-three years of his life to the service of the Amerindians in that part of Canada. Forceful, and gentle, along with a touch of originality, he was able to bring about respect for the requirements of Catholic morality.

United for life
His greatest problem was to make these indigenous tribes accept the indissolubility of marriage. It happened once that he was able to devise a scheme to prevent a divorce. A similar method would hardly be effective today, but Father Fouquet could allow himself to do this. After trying for several years to help these Amerindians understand that they must remain faithful to one woman after a legitimate marriage, the missionary at last found some consolation in blessing the union of an elderly couple. They seemed , at least, to show serious signs of perseverance in the bonds of matrimony. The newlyweds were overjoyed at being able to receive the Eucharist, now that their union had been approved by Father Fouquet. The Oblate rejoiced as well, saying to his confreres with pride: “This first marriage is only the beginning. Example leads… others will follow” Alas! The good Father overlooked the fact that what’s bred in the bone will come out in the flesh.

Is it too hard?
As early as the following Spring, when the geese returned, the couple hastened to the mission. “Father” said the old man as he shook hands with the missionary, “the Winter has been hard, you know… Hard and long! The woman that you gave me has become unbearable. It’s impossible to stay with her any longer. You must un-marry us right now!” The woman added: “Un-marry us at once… I can’t stand any more!” The two began to unwind a long litany of complaints and futile reasons.

Father Fouquet, who had time to reflect during these lamentations, responded gravely: “My poor children! I can really try to un-marry you … but it will be long … and hard.” “Not as hard as continuing to live together!” shouted the two seniors, “Hurry up and un-marry us!” “Very well,” continued the priest, “if you insist, go right to the chapel, I will join you there.” A few minutes later, he came to them. He had taken the time to arm himself with his breviary and a holy water sprinkler. The two elderly were kneeling before the altar. Father Fouquet sat in a chair facing them, made a large sign of the cross and began reading the psalms. After each psalm he took the sprinkler, dipped it in the font and lightly tapped the man on the head, doing the same on the head of the woman. Fifteen psalms … fifteen taps on each! From time to time a hand rose instinctively to where the water had landed, but, there was no remark or question. There were no signs of change in the dispositions of the married couple.

It’s only reasonable
“Wait for me a few moments.” then said the priest, “don’t leave… I will return and continue to un-marry you…!” After enjoying a good pipe-full of tobacco, he returned, this time with a book. The moment he reached for the sprinkler, the old man grabbed the priest’s arm and said in dismay: “Is it going to take much longer to un-marry us?” “It all depends on the resistance of your head, and that of your wife. You see, marriage can only be dissolved by the death of one or the o