Oblate presence: 1897-1921. Geographic location: northwestern Quebec
1) As an introduction to this historical notice, it is interesting to read the first account of missionaries in Temiskaming [old spelling of the name]. It is entitled: Historical facts about the arrival of the first missionaries in the district and the Fort of Temiskaming (no date, no year, but probably in 1839, according to the text below). The text is in English.
In 1836, Bishop Lartigue was appointed Bishop of Montreal. During his pastoral visit to Longueuil, he asked Rev. Chs. de Bellefeuille, of the Sulpicians Order, and Rev. Mr. J. B. Dupuy, secular priest of Saint-Jacques parish in Montreal, to leave on June 20 for the Temiskaming district.
They made the steamboat trip from Montreal to Bytown, then from there to Fort Temiskaming by birch bark canoe (with difficulty, the text says). They arrived in Temiskaming on July 14. The two missionaries were pleased with the generous hospitality offered upon their arrival by the Hudson’s Bay Company officers.
There were no Amerindians at the Fort, other than those who accompanied the missionaries. All those who had previously camped there fled into the woods when they learned that the men of prayer had taken possession of the Hudson Bay post to punish the sinners. Only one Indian had the courage to stay close, and he was probably one of the greatest sinners since he had three wives who were all sisters. In a short time, he abandoned two of them.
On July 15, 1836, the first Mass was celebrated. The construction of a cross was started and put up as soon as it was finished. The sick were visited, and preparations were made to prepare the lumber for the construction of a new church 32 feet long by 22 feet wide.
It was not long before the Indians learned of the missionaries’ good will, and soon canoes loaded with men, women and children began to arrive at the Fort. They were eager to receive instructions from Rev. M. de Bellefeuille and Dupuy.Their instructions sometimes lasted until 11 p.m.
On July 19, with everything ready – it was a Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. – the two Missionaries assembled the Amerindians. They gave them a short instruction about the virtues of the Cross and explained to them why it was erected and how they should venerate it.
When the instruction was finished, they formed a procession, the Cross carried by Indians was first, the two Missionaries next, the Indians following in silence – the men first, then the women and children.
Once they had all reached the place where the Cross was to be raised, Rev. M. de Bellefeuille sang the litanies of the Cross in Indian, the two young Amerindians they had brought with them responded. Then came the ceremony of the blessing of the Cross and they sang: “O Crux Ave: Hail, O Cross, Our Hope.”
At the Fort, the missionaries found a good old man named Cartier, from St-Ours, P.Q. He was a 96-year-old traveler but still fresh and alert. The Hudson’s Bay Company took care of him. He had long desired to regularize the state of his conscience and, when he saw the Cross and the Missionaries, he was filled with joy.
On July 27, lacking provisions, the missionaries left the Fort. The Hudson’s Bay Company officers and the Amerindians accompanied them to the shore of the lake to wish them a safe journey home and implore them to return soon.
The return to Montreal took until August 16, 1836.
2) As for the official establishment of the North Temiscamingue House, it seems that for all practical purposes the canonical visit of Father Aimé Martinet (report of October 4, 1891), considers this Oblate house as established. It has the same status as Mattawa (Matawan). And the two houses together are responsible for Abitibi and Hudson Bay. According to the Father’s own expression: “The houses of Matawan and Temiscamingue provide alternately or simultaneously the missionaries for Abitibi and Hudson Bay.”
The visitor continues: “It is reasonable that the resources for these missions should be consolidated by the provincial administration, and that it should distribute them itself and keep the remainder as a reserve fund. But it is always through the intermediary of the superior that this movement of money will take place and that the accounts will be reported. The subject reports to his superior, the superior to the provincial and the provincial to the bishop if necessary. It is not easy to see why a subject would change superiors by the very fact that he is going to mission in Hudson Bay. This region is no more foreign to Matawan than to Temiskaming. If a subject from either house is sent to a mission, he will report to his superior, he will receive the amount allocated, and he will report to his superior.”
3) Arrival of the Oblates. In a letter dated December 14, 1898, Father G. Beaudry wrote to the provincial that he and Father Péreault had taken possession of their house, even if it was far from finished. Here is the text: “We have arrived in our house, with weapons and luggage, this evening after supper. There’s nothing more pressing than to tell you. Don’t think it’s all over! The kitchen is about the only room that is a little finished. You may tell me that we are not moving fast. We have been delayed by work outside. Fr. Péreault probably told you that we had put the famous aqueduct with two hooks aside and that we had installed a pump. This pump cost us, but, Deo Gracias, it works well. Our quite primitive furnace also required a lot of work. Instead of buying two or three stoves, I bought a large construction stove for 11 dollars and we placed it in the cellar, then covered it with rock and clay. It is more than enough to heat the whole house, and we don’t have a stove to embarrass our small rooms. I have no idea if we will have finished our work when Father Duvic’s term has expired. The brothers are doing their best and we are doing what we can, but the time is flying and Christmas is coming. If Bro. Cadieu stayed with us…. Would it be too much to ask you to try to help the scholasticate by sending them a good brother so as not to disturb them too much? With Bro. Cadieu here, it is almost perfect. He is serious, reserved with strangers, careful, and very pious; at the same time, he doesn’t seem too displeased. I asked our Rev. Father General for him. In the spring, we will have to build a barn; as for money, it is certain that we are not capable of it. If you could get it from Rev. Father Duvic, you would do us a great service.”
4) Handing over the parish to the bishop. As the new provincial of Eastern Canada, Father G. É. Villeneuve, provincial, wrote to Bishop Latulipe of Haileyburry on March 23, 1921. He told him: “It is with sorrow, Bishop, that I feel obliged, in this first letter that I have the honour to address to you, to tell you about the relinquishment of North Temiscamingue. The negotiations about this, took place between Your Grace and Rev. Father Charlebois. But as required, the matter was submitted to our General Council in Rome. I have just received a communication announcing that, on February 18, the Very Reverend Father and his Council approved our departure from North Temiscamingue. I hereby officially ask you to accept the retrocession of the parish of North Temiscamingue that we are making to Your Grace. I would like to repeat to you, as did Rev. Fr. Charlebois, that because of our perfect freedom in abandoning this mission to you, that our Fathers will remember their stay in North Temiscamingue with gratitude; moreover, they offer their best wishes to the new pastor and his people. We will continue to provide our care and dedication to the dear people that Your Grace will be pleased to entrust to us.”
Eugène Lapointe OMI