1. Bytown before the arrival of the Oblates
  2. The Oblates in Bytown
  3. Erection of the diocese of Bytown
  4. The diocese in 1848
  5. Oblate works in the diocese of Ottawa in 1861
  6. Conclusion

December 2, 1841 saw the arrival in Canada of four priests: Jean-Baptiste Honorat, superior, Adrien Telmon, Jean Fleury Baudrand and Lucien Lagier, and two Brothers: Basile Fastray and Louis Roux. They were Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and they had made a long maritime journey of five weeks that brought them from Le Havre to New York, followed by a six-day journey over land and water from New York to Montreal. It was the first foundation of the Congregation in the New World and it was in response to an urgent appeal made six months previously by Bishop Ignace Bourget of Montreal to Bishop Eugene de Mazenod of Marseille, Founder of the Oblates. “I hope that this little colony – the first Oblates to be sent to America – will be the grain of mustard seed which will become a great tree”, were the words of Bishop Bourget in his letter to Father Henri Tempier on August 19, 1841 (Account of the journey in Europe, 1841, p. 405).

The six missionaries carried with them all the hopes of the Founder. “I hope that they will do honour to our little, humble Congregation which, for the first time, is spreading its banner beyond the limits of its cradle and that the holiness of their efforts and their zeal will draw down the blessings of the Lord, not only on the work they undertake but on the whole Congregation in whose name they are setting out to do battle” (Diary, August 6, 1841). Saint Eugene entrusted the reputation and the future of the Congregation to them. “You have been made responsible for the implantation (of the faith) in these vast regions, because Montreal may well be the gateway leading to the conquest by our family of souls in many countries. We must establish ourselves well in the places to which we are called” (Letter to Father Honorat, October 9, 1841, Oblate writings I, p. 16).

On December 7, the Oblates went to take up residence in the parish of Saint-Hilaire-de-Rouville, on the Richelieu River. Soon they were involved in preaching parish missions in the surrounding area and even in the “townships” “East-end Cantons” which were developing in the southern part of the diocese of Montreal. In that area isolated communities, both French and English speaking, were living in the midst of a Protestant majority. One month later, in a letter to his confrere, Bruno Guigues, who was still in France, Father Honorat said that their “ministry to the good people of Canada produced miracles of grace to gladden the hearts of both the missionaries and the bishop of Montreal” (letter to Honorat, January 8, 1842, General Archives, Dossier Honorat).

Nevertheless, the Oblates decided shortly afterwards to come closer to the centre and to the bishop of the diocese. In August they changed from Saint-Hilaire to Longueuil. It was from there that they branched out to missions of the Ottawa River area, the Red River, the Saguenay and Saint-Maurice.

Bytown before the arrival of the Oblates
Bishop Bourget was concerned about the western part of his vast diocese that he had visited in October 1840. It covered the northern part of the Ottawa River. The “Great” river was known in contemporary English as the Ottawa River. Later it was to have the French name of the “Outaouais” in Lower Canada (later to become Quebec) while south of the river was known as Upper Canada (later Ontario). There were native peoples scattered throughout the territory as far as Temiscamingue and James Bay. It was now opening up to colonization and the timber industry.

Already in 1791 a Government commission had recommended the establishment of a town at the meeting of the Ottawa and Rideau Rivers, near the mouth of the Gatineau River. (See L. Breault, Ottawa, capitale du Canada de ses origines à nos jours, Ottawa, Éditions de l’Université d’Ottawa, 1942, pp. 56-57). In 1800 a little group of foresters came up from the United States and settled beside the Chaudière falls to form the village that would become Hull. In 1826 the Government asked colonel By to build a canal with locks connecting the Ottawa River with the Saint Lawrence River and to survey the land with a view to building a new city. We are told that Bytown quickly acquired an unenviable reputation. “The centre of the canal works, meeting place of wood cutters, this cosmopolitan place was soon the scene of disorder caused by race hatred and religious antagonism, the abuse of alcoholic drink and often the place where might became right” (Ibid. p. 64).

Beginning in 1827 and until 1842 about a dozen priests lived for brief periods in this rowdy milieu. Then, in 1842 and until the arrival of the Oblates the resident priest was Father Patrick Phelan, future coadjutor of Kingston. Besides the central parish there were about a dozen missions spread throughout the surrounding area. The success of the missionary ministry of the Oblates around Montreal inspired Bishop Bourget to entrust the care of this vast developing area to them. However, since Bytown was on the side of Kingston, he promptly communicated his views on the matter both to the Oblates and to Bishop Phelan.

This is what he wrote to Bishop de Mazenod on October 19, 1843: “It is a matter of finding an establishment for them in a newborn town in the diocese of Kingston, called Bytown… This town is at the centre of all the communications routes on the Great River known as the Ottawa. It is here that the thousands of men land who are engaged in the cutting down of the forests that grow along this beautiful and wonderful river. They are all worthy of the zeal of your children. From there the men will have to leave to go and evangelize what we call here the “chantiers” (loggers’ camps)… Besides, about 60 or 80 leagues from there are the hunting grounds of the native peoples… The missionaries who work for their conversion will need a central establishment from which to set out as they journey to these infidels and to which to return to work for the salvation of the whites… For the time being Bytown offers this precious advantage.” (Registre des lettres, Vol. 3, pp. 206-208, Archbishop’s House, Montreal).

He also wrote to Bishop Phelan to win him over: “We are of the opinion… that a residence of the Missionary Oblates should be established in this city to serve the Catholics residing there and to preach missions here and there either in the diocese of Kingston or in that of Montreal and especially to visit the loggers’ camps whose needs must surely appeal to your deepest concern” (Ibid. pp. 211-212). In fact Bishop Phelan was concerned about his successors in the growing town and he particularly wanted to have a school there. The possibility of the Oblates being able to realize that wish was an argument in their favour.

Once again, on December 15, Bishop Bourget petitioned Bishop de Mazenod: “We shall await your reply before making any definite decision on the plan in which your Fathers are particularly interested because it would open the door for them to the mission among the native peoples and put them within reach of helping our people in the work camps who are particularly in need of religious assistance. If there are sheep of the house of Israel, they are surely these poor people whose faith and feeling of their spiritual poverty is the only thing they have to share” (Ibid. p. 274).

When Father Honorat, superior of the Oblates in Canada, was informed of this plan, he gave it his full support. He explained his views to the Founder who answered him on January 4, 1844: “I praise God for what you have told me. Yes indeed, I willingly agree that our Congregation should take on the sanctification of the working camps and the conversion of the native peoples… The foundation in Bytown suits my ideas perfectly…” (Oblate Writings, I, pp.69-70).

There were, however, certain difficulties which delayed the realization of the plan: The limited number of Oblates who, at the same time were being called upon to make a foundation in the area of Saguenay in the diocese of Quebec and the lack of English-speaking priests for the needs of the Irish in Bytown. Besides, the clergy in Kingston were not in favour of the arrival of strangers, while other priests hoped to occupy this place of promise for the future. Finally, the Founder’s reply to Bishop Bourget was delayed and arrived only in February 1844. “It is with perfect peace of mind that I undertake what you suggest for the good of the diocese of Kingston and the sanctification of the workers’ camps and the conversion of the native peoples. I cannot express to you the consolation I experienced on receiving your letter” (Ibid. p. 79).

The Oblates in Bytown
However, the departure for Bytown had taken place before that reply. The Codex historicus of Longueuil notes that on January 28 Father Telmon had left for Bytown at the request of Bishop Phelan, administrator of the diocese of Kingston, with the intention of founding an Oblate establishment in that city.” On May 9 another entry notes “Father Dandurand went to Bytown to do the same ministry among the Irish as Father Telmon is doing among the French Canadians” (OMI Provincial Archives, Montreal, Codex historicus, pp. 26, 28).

The Founder was pleased that his sons had reached Bytown. On March 1, 1844 he wrote to Father Honorat: “What mission could be more beautiful! Ministry in the lumber camps, mission to the native peoples, an establishment in a city with high hopes for the future. It is indeed a wonderful dream coming true and which you could have let slip away! The very thought gives me the shivers. Take all your courage in your hands once more and establish yourselves there properly. Recommend to each one that he do his duty.” (Oblate Writings I, Vol. I, p. 79). Not feeling quite at ease with the state of affairs, Bishop de Mazenod wrote once again to Father Honorat on April 20: “Not only did I accept this mission but I give a thousand thanks to God for having chosen us to serve it. I am so convinced that it should be ours that I believe that we must overcome every difficulty. If any are opposed to it we must pay no attention to them. If the beginnings are painful we must not hesitate and we must offer to God all the privations and sufferings which may come our way. The whole point is that we must get established in Bytown!” (Ibid. p. 81).

On June 20, 1844, Bishop Phelan erected canonically the establishment of the Oblates in the diocese of Kingston (see letter of Bishop de Mazenod to Bishop Bourget, August 9, 1844, in Oblate writings I, p. 102). They could now have a house of the Congregation and were allowed to receive members into the Society with the consent of the Ordinary. Fathers Telmon and Dandurand can be considered the pioneers of the Oblate presence in Bytown. They were to be joined the following year by an authentic Irishman, Father John Molloy. He had come from France in September 1845, mainly to minister to the English speaking faithful and was destined to continue a varied and generous ministry in the city and in the region until 1890.

Erection of the diocese of Bytown
As soon as the Oblates had been installed in Bytown, which was destined to become a large town and an important centre of communications, Bishop Bourget began to plan to have it made a diocese with territory taken from the then dioceses of Montreal, Kingston, Toronto and the apostolic Vicariate of Red River.

In fact circumstances made it desirable that Bytown should be an autonomous diocese. The timber trade on the Ottawa River, which had been flourishing since the beginning, was starting to slow down. Half of the 35,000 men who had been employed there were now out of work. It was thought that the time had come to settle them gradually on the land and get them started in agriculture. Otherwise they were likely to go elsewhere. There was no shortage of fertile land in the area. The best way to hold on to or attract Catholic colonizers, especially “Canadians”, was to ensure that they had religious support and parish organization. Only a bishop and a well-planned organization could ensure that effectively. Bishop Bourget and Bishop Phelan together worked out a plan, beginning in 1846 and, with the support of other Canadian bishops, they travelled to Rome in 1847 to request pontifical authorization (see Kowalski, Nikolas, “L’érection du diocèse de Bytown selon les documents des Archives de la Propagande”, in Études oblates, 11 (1952) pp. 179-187).

The plan also included the proposal as bishop of Father Bruno Guigues, who had arrived in the country in 1844 with the title of Visitor of the Oblates in Canada. He was considered to be a man of superior quality, sound judgement, and his appointment would ensure a permanent commitment by the Oblates in the development of the diocese. While ministering to the needs of the Catholics living in Bytown and catering also for a floating population of several thousand – boatmen, messengers, forest workers – the missionaries could also cater for converts among the native peoples, evangelize those not already converted, work for the formation of a local clergy and set up educational establishments and works of charity.

However, in December 1846, a strong opposition in Canada to the idea of Father Guigues becoming bishop caused the Founder to hesitate. The correspondence between Montreal and Marseille made him feel uneasy. The superior general and his council were inclined to give a negative decision, fearing that the candidate could no longer continue effectively his responsibility as Visitor general of the Congregation in Canada. Nevertheless, when faced with the reassurance of Bishop Bourget who called on his way to Rome and told him that there was no danger, the Founder changed his opinion and wrote to Father Guigues. His message was that “seeing the benefits that would ensue for the church in America, seeing the facility that would result for our missionaries working in the different ministries according to their vocation, seeing the possibility you will have of fulfilling your duties as Visitor, and with the assurance of the Bishop of Montreal, I give my consent” (Oblate writings, I, Vol. 1, p. 141).

The decree erecting the diocese was issued on May 27, 1847 and the canonical brief signed on the following June 25. Father Guigues was appointed bishop of Bytown on July 9. One year later, on July 18, 1848, he was ordained bishop in the as yet unfinished cathedral by Bishop Rémi Gaulin of Kingston.

It has been rightly said that Bishop Bourget and Bishop de Mazenod are without doubt the “Fathers” of the new Church. “Although the former was responsible for initiating the vast planning for the renewal of the Ottawa valley, it was only with the trusting and generous cooperation of his friend that success was assured.” (E. Thivierge, “À la naissance du diocèse d’Ottawa”, in Revue de l’Université d’Ottawa, 7 (1937), p. 424). Writing to the coadjutor Bishop Phelan of Kingston, the bishop of Marseille said: “I take a lively interest in your dear mission of Bytown. I follow its progress anxiously. The difficulties do not frighten me because I am accustomed to encountering them in all works that are for the glory of God and the salvation of souls” (Letter of Bishop de Mazenod to Bishop Phelan, June 8, 1846, in Oblate writings I, tome 1, p. 132).

The diocese in 1848
Bytown had some Protestant places of worship and one imposing but unfinished Catholic Church. It had been built with the alms of the Propagation of the Faith and the contributions of the poor inhabitants. Personnel for the whole of the diocese consisted of six diocesan priests, apart from the Oblates, and the Grey Nuns who had just arrived from Montreal in 1845 and who had been assisted considerably by Father Telmon in establishing themselves in Bytown. There was as yet no bishop’s residence and the only Catholic school was that for girls directed by the Sisters. For the most part the majority of the children went to English Protestant schools.

Outside the city there were a few churches or chapels. Composed as it was by distant and undeveloped areas taken from other dioceses, Bytown was poor. The bishop was faced with the task of finding help for the forest workers camps and the native peoples, for new missions to be formed around the Episcopal city, for indispensable institutions to be set up. He appealed for priests and financial help in France and in Ireland.

Once the diocese had been established and the bishop in place the Oblates then had to define their role. Besides the parish ministry they had to provide chaplaincy for the Sisters, the service of the communities in the surrounding areas, the mission to the men working in the loggers’ camps and the native peoples. It did not take long for problems to arise between the bishop and the religious community. In the words of the Founder, writing to the Provincial in Canada: “since the Congregation has a past in Bytown and will presumably have a future, something must be settled in this two-fold relationship” (letter of November 1, 1848, in Oblate writings I, tome 1, p. 204). The question was largely how to determine the ownership of goods.

A canonical visitor was to come to Canada in 1851, in the person of Father Henry Tempier. The Founder wrote to him on July 19, 1851: “You will have to investigate whether it is suitable to set up an establishment that is stable and belongs to us in that place. It would always be better for us to have a few communities well provided for from which the members can go out and give missions rather than these places here and there, which must be left to secular priests since it is useless to flatter ourselves that the Congregation would ever be able to take over responsibility for the whole diocese of Bytown” (letter of July 19, 1851, Oblate writings I, Vol. 2, p. 20).

On September 21, 1851 a first agreement was entered into between Father Tempier and Bishop Guigues with regard to property and the administration of financial resources coming from the ministry, the Propagation of the Faith, the Oblate Congregation and the faithful.

An effort was then made to obtain an official and permanent residence for the Oblates so as to ensure greater independence for them. Bishop Guigues entered into difficult negotiations with Father Santoni, Provincial of Canada and he consulted Bishop Bourget before submitting his plans to the Founder in October 1854. The two basic problems were the quite considerable loan made by the Oblates for the building of the cathedral and especially a suitable pastoral arrangement for ministry to the two linguistic groups in the city: the “Canadians”, that is the French-speaking people and the “Irish” or English-speaking.

Besides the bishop and the Oblate provincial authority, the general administration entered in as a third participant in the discussion. The negotiators of the previous years reached a happy solution in 1856. The Founder kept trying to counteract the arguments of some Oblates against the bishop whom they considered not to be doing enough to protect the interests of the Congregation. Further consultations were held with two other bishops and with the provincial and, on April 8, 1856, the general council accepted the plan in its entirety entrusting to the Oblates the college, the seminary, the church of Saint Joseph, and the service of the cathedral. This agreement known as the Guigues-Mazenod convention was signed in Marseille on August 17, 1856, shortly after the General chapter (see the text in Études oblates, 15 (1956), pp. 360-364.

In 1860 the name of the diocese of Bytown was changed to that of Ottawa, the new name of the city that was to become the capital of United Canada and in 1867 of the Dominion of Canada.

Oblate works in the diocese of Ottawa in 1861

1. The service of the cathedral until 1874
When Bishop Guigues took over his diocese the population of Bytown was 7,760 of whom 4,798 were Catholics divided more or less equally between “Canadians” and “Irish”. They were mainly concentrated in the “Lower-Town” and were therefore parishioners of the cathedral where the Oblates were in charge of pastoral work. Father Damase Dandurand and his assistant Father Michael Molloy were the parish clergy. Later the diocesan priests were to take over and that was the position at the death of Bishop Guigues in 1874. The Oblates took up residence in the newly built bishop’s house in 1850. Besides the bishop and the parish clergy, there were the missionaries to the surrounding townships, the loggers’ camps and the native peoples, who stayed there between their pastoral journeys. The chaplain to the Grey Nuns also lodged there, as did also the Oblates assigned to the College until they left for the Côte-de-Sable in 1856. Other Oblate residences attached to the house in Bytown were South Gloucester (1848-1855), L’Orignal (1848-1855), and then those of Temiscamingue and Desert River (Maniwaki). It was therefore an important house.

The main concern of Father Telmon until 1848 and then of Father Dandurand, as pastors of the parish, was without doubt the building of the church that was to become the cathedral of the new diocese. The old church they had found there when they arrived in 1844 had been inaugurated in 1832 and had been badly maintained and was too small. The building of the new church was begun in 1841, the first stone having been laid by Bishop Charles de Forbin-Janson on October 25 of that year. Construction work had to be interrupted because of lack of funds. Work was recommenced on the arrival of the Oblates and the church was opened for worship on August 15, 1846 and dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. However, it was only twenty years later that the work was completed. It was consecrated on September 4, 1853 under the new title of The Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin, a dogma soon to be defined by Pope Pius IX.

The two spires were built in 1859 and the apse was added between 1862 and 1865. In 1859 a magnificent gilded wooden statue of the Virgin and Child was hoisted on to the pinnacle of the façade and was given the name of Our Lady of Travellers and paid for by the forest workers who were accustomed to invoke her help in the midst of the many dangers they experienced in their work in winter and as they came down the rivers on rafts in spring (see Missions OMI, 2 (1863), pp. 16-17). This statue of the Immaculate Conception will also be a reminder of the important contribution made by the Oblates to the foundation and organization of the diocese of Ottawa.

It had been agreed that the Oblates would leave bishop’s house in Ottawa and the pastoral care of the cathedral on the departure of Bishop Guigues. By way of compensation, the latter had arranged that they have a more permanent establishment in Hull, on the other side of the Ottawa River. They had already been working in that locality since the beginning. In 1870 he established the parish of Our Lady of Graces and entrusted it to the Oblates. The names of the first pastors have been engraved with gratitude and affection in the memories of several generations of the faithful: Fathers Louis Reboul, Hyacinthe Charpenay, Eugène Cauvin.

On June 8, 1886 a new ecclesiastical Province was constituted by Pope Leo XIII with Ottawa as the metropolitan see. From the original diocese of Ottawa, territories were taken to form, in part or in whole, the dioceses of Pembroke (1898), Sault-Sainte-Marie (1904), Mont-Laurier (1913), Hearst and Moosonee (1938), and Gatineau-Hull (1963).

On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the erection of the diocese a bronze statue of Bishop Guigues by the sculptor A. Verrebout was unveiled and placed in the forecourt of the cathedral.

2. Other missions in the diocese
There is hardly a parish in the diocese, at least among the older ones, that was not witness to Oblate devotedness. Setting out from the “mother-mission” of Bytown the Oblates made regular visits to communities situated 40 or 50 kilometres from the centre, both winter and summer. They travelled on water or on ice, or even through dense forest with no path to follow. In this way they served the communities of Hull, Point Gatineau and others which were beginning to the south of Ottawa and in the valleys of the Gatineau and Hare rivers or to the south of the Ottawa River. Quite often they built chapels or churches, they celebrated Sunday Mass as circumstances permitted, they visited the people and brought the sacraments to the sick. The registers preserve the memory of those Oblates who succeeded one another and were the apostolic workers in a diocese still in its infancy. Together with the names of Fathers Telmon, Dandurand and Molloy we have those of Fathers Pierre Aubert, Louis Babel, Médard Bourassa, Auguste Brunet, Thomas Hercule Clément, François Coopman, William Corbett, Régis Déléage, Richard Moloney, Antoine Paillier, Louis Reboul and Claude Saillaz.

3. The loggers’ camps (1845-1861)
The arrival of the Oblates in Bytown was about to open a completely new field of apostolate, ministry among hundreds of able and vigorous young men engaged in timber cutting for five or six months of the year in the immense forests of the surroundings or elsewhere in Lower Canada. Bishop Bourget succeeded in touching the heart of the Founder by telling him of the needs of these “scattered sheep” to be evangelized. The wandering missionaries created legends which have lasted: Fathers Joseph Andrieux, Médard Bourassa, Auguste Brunet, Eugene Cauvin, Hyacinthe Charpeney, Eusèbe Durocher, Antoine Paillier and Louis Reboul. The village of Hull, across the river from Ottawa, was central to the comings and goings to the camps and there a chapel was built for the pastoral ministry to the workers, “la chapelle des chantiers”. It was the ancestor of the parish of Notre-Dame, which was established in 1870.

4. The College of Bytown
On his arrival in Bytown, Bishop Guigues realized the need for secondary teaching. Primary education had scarcely been begun and it would have been beyond the means of parents, who were generally poor, to send their children elsewhere for studies. The bishop also considered the need to provide eventually for the formation of a local clergy. His dream, therefore, was to establish an institution where the teaching would be bilingual so as to satisfy the needs of children from both the nationalities of which he was the pastor. He wanted to “inaugurate his episcopate by doing something that would be appreciated by all” (L. Breault, op. cit. p. 251). Then in September 1848, he made the first move. In a modest timber building, near his cathedral, he opened a little college, which he entrusted to the Oblates. Bit by bit the house grew bigger, so that, in 1856, the college had to move from the Lower City to the Cote-de-Sable and the site where it still continues today. It became the victim f a disastrous fire on April 2, 1903 but the main building was soon restored and then, according to need, many new buildings were added.

The college was incorporated in 1848 under the name of Saint Joseph’s College of Bytown. When the town changed its name to Ottawa the college did likewise. On August 15, 1866, the legislature of Upper Canada granted it a university charter with the power to confer degrees that would be recognized throughout the country. On February 5, 1889. Leo XIII raised it to the rank of a Catholic University with all the privileges implied in that title.

If Bishop Guigues may be considered the founder of the College of Bytown, Father Henri Tabaret was the soul of the institution. Having arrived in Bytown in 1853 and having been assigned to the College, he continued to direct its development until his death in 1866. The University of Ottawa continues to be directed by the guidelines he set for it. His memory is preserved by a monument made by A. Verrehout that was unveiled on the occasion of the inauguration of the Catholic University of Ottawa on October 9, 1889 and placed near the central building of the institution.

From the time of its foundation the campus also included the diocesan major seminary, the Oblate scholasticate until the opening of Saint Joseph Scholasticate in 1885 and the Oblate juniorate of the Sacred Heart from 1876 to 1888.

During the years following the Second World War the progress of the University made considerable change necessary. On July 1, 1965, after difficult negotiations with the government of Ontario the institute which had previously been known as the “University of Ottawa” took the name “Saint Paul University” keeping the two charters, civil and ecclesiastical, which it already had, while the government created a new institution with the name “University of Ottawa”. The two universities became a federated unit, which, by mutual consent, shared the faculties. The Saint Paul University is the responsibility of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and it caters for the ecclesiastical and pastoral sciences.

5. The parish of Saint Joseph
In 1856 the population of the Côte-de-Sable area had become sufficiently large to need the erection of a new parish. The Guigues-Mazenod agreement entrusted it in perpetuity to the Oblates who had recently brought the College there. The pastor lived in the College community and found there extra help when needed. Bishop Guigues blessed the church on March 19, 1857 and dedicated it to Saint Joseph. This first church was replaced by a more spacious building in 1892 but that one was destroyed by a fire in 1930. The present church dates from 1932. Meantime, a parish dedicated to the Sacred Heart was erected in 1889 on the territory of Saint Joseph’s parish, but for French-speaking Catholics. On January 25, 1929, Saint Joseph’s, which until then had depended on Ottawa University, was canonically erected as an independent Oblate house with Father Dennis Finnegan as superior.

The first pastor of Saint Joseph’s parish was Father Alexandre Trudeau, from 1858 to 1859. His successors were: Fathers William Corbett (1859-1860), François Coopman (1860-1862), J.-M. Guillard (1862-1868), Antoine Paillier (1868-1894), Henri A. Constantineau (1894-1898), Michael Fallon (1898-1901), William Murphy (1901-1915), Edmond Cornell (1915-1929), Dennis Finnegan (1929-1935), Patrick Phelan (1935-1941), Joseph Birch (1941-1946), Paul Monahan (1946-1952), Louis Keighley (1952-1964), Lawrence Conlon (1964-1970), Gerald Cousineau (1970-1971), John Davis (1971-1975), Lorne J. MacDonald (1975-1978 and 2000-2002), Joseph MacNeil (1978-1980), Frederick Magee (1982-1989), Gerald Morris (1989-1994), Brian Primeau (1994-1996), Robert Smith (1996-2000), Richard Kelly (2002- ).

6. The Amerindian missions
Bytown was also the gateway to the Amerindian missions. Beginning in 1844, Bishop Bourget gave jurisdiction to the young Father Nicolas Laverlochère for missions among the Amerindians scattered over the territory from Bytown to Témiscamingue and Abitibi. On eight occasions, until 1851, accompanied in their turn by Fathers André-Marie Garin, Thomas Clément, Charles Arnaud, and Antoine Paillier, and persecuted by mosquitoes and with only the sky as a roof, they took the perilous journey up the Ottawa river every year to the northern trading posts where they found the Amerindians and the whites gathered in places where they gave their mission: prayers, baptisms, exhortations to temperance. From 1847 onwards Father Laverlochère went even as far as Moose Factory and James Bay and from there he headed on to Fort Albany in 1848. “That was enough to test the guts of a real missionary” is what the Founder wrote in 1845 (letter to Father Bermond, April 20, 1845 in Oblate writings 1, p. 123).

The annual visits of the missions in Temiscamingue and James Bay which had been begun by Father Laverlochère were continued by some of their successors as missionaries: Fathers André-Marie Garin (1852-1857), Régis Déléage (185501860), Jean-Marie Pian (1859-1866) and Jean-Marie Nédélec (1867-1892). That was the beginning of an Oblate presence in places where permanent establishments were not possible until later: Temiscamingue in 1863 and James Bay in 1892.

In the meantime, Fathers Eusèbe Durocher and Auguste Brunet undertook to visit the loggers’ camps and prepared the way for the establishment of missions along the Gatineau River. At the point where it meets the Desert River, today called Maniwaki (which means “Maryland”), at 120 kilometres from Bytown, a visit by Bishop Guigues in 1849 prepared the way for a foundation in the following year. Father Thomas Clément and Brother James Brady established a permanent Oblate mission dedicated to the Assumption. The chronicles of those early years also mention the names of Fathers Andrieux, Paillier, Reboul, Laverlochère, and Brothers Sweeney and Bowes. Besides helping the men in those camps to become settled colonizers in the new territories, they worked with the Algonquin Amerindians who had a reservation in that area. It must be mentioned that the sawmill and flourmill set up by the Oblate Brothers played a major role in the beginnings of these establishments.

“A town with a future” “perfectly in keeping with my taste” was the deion given by Saint Eugene when he considered the foundation in Bytown. The Oblate presence would continue to flourish after his death. The diocese of Ottawa and especially the episcopal city were to see a multiplicity of works of the Congregation develop throughout the following century: the scholasticates of Saint Joseph and Holy Rosary, the Sacred Heart juniorate, the diocesan major seminary, the Saint Paul University, the university seminary, Saint Patrick’s College, the parishes of Saint Joseph, Sacred Heart, Holy Family, Canadian Martyrs, the newspaper Le Droit, and in Hull: the parishes of Notre Dame and Sacred Heart, the house for enclosed retreats. Some of these works continue to prosper; others have been amalgamated or have been phased out. The fact remains that Ottawa has been and still remains one of the most active of Oblate centres, fulfilling the prophetic words of the Founder 150 years ago.

Alexandre Taché, o.m.i.