Oblate presence: 1891-1970. Geographic Location: Canada’s Capital.
For the Oblates, a juniorate was an institution where young people who were preparing to join the Congregation and become Oblate of Mary Immaculate priests were given a course in classical studies. A juniorate was therefore, like the novitiate, a house intended to recruit vocations, with the difference that the novitiate only admits subjects already prepared for philosophical or theological studies, while the juniorate’s purpose is to prepare future missionaries for these same studies and thus to lead them to the novitiate.
It was in France, under the watchful eye of their Founder and near the cradle of their religious family, that the Oblates inaugurated their first juniorate in 1840. Some years ago, each Oblate province had its own juniorate. Canada could not remain without this house of formation for long. The missionary needs for the various ministries entrusted to the Congregation demanded it.
The Sacred Heart Juniorate had humble beginnings and had to go through a long series of trials. The Canadian juniorate began at the novitiate of Notre-Dame des Anges (Lachine) in 1871, while Father Vandenberghe was provincial and Father Lebret was novice master. Until 1876, when it was transferred to the college in Ottawa, the juniorate produced, despite its small apparent importance and short duration, twelve professed Oblates.
The time for trials came for good in 1888. Reduced to a small number, the juniorists left the premises they had occupied for twelve years at the college; they ceased to have their own rules and were fully mixed with the students of the college. The need for change became urgent. Also, while waiting for a better situation, the juniorate was practically abolished in 1888.
Nevertheless, there was still a desire and hope that a house where young Oblate aspirants could prepare for the novitiate would emerge on a solid foundation. To this end, in 1889, the foundations were laid on the shores of Lac Saint-Jean, at the Pointe-Bleue residence, for an establishment large enough to accommodate 50 juniorists.
An unexpected obstacle, from the local Ordinary, caused the house to receive no aspirants. It was necessary to think of another way. The authorities, together with Father Martinet, a canonical visitor, decided to make available to the juniorists a relatively big house that the Congregation had near the University and St. Joseph’s Church. Father Martinet himself did the official opening on September 3, 1891. Under this new regime, the juniorists had to follow university courses until the 5th form and only mix with college students during classes. It was a success. And the number of juniorists doubling from one year to the next, the provincial decided in September 1893 to build a new juniorate. Finally, on January 4, 1895, all were settled in the new building and Bishop Duhamel of Ottawa blessed it on the 16th of the same month.
The following statement appeared in the Nouvelles Oblates [Oblate News] on March 25, 1970: “On March 17, the University of Ottawa signed the deed by which it purchased the land and building of the Sacred Heart Residence in Ottawa. The Sacred Heart Juniorate, the name under which the Institution was long known, dates back to 1891. In 1893-1895, the old part of the current building was built and in 1937, the more recent part was built. The founder of the Sacred Heart Juniorate was Father Maxime Harnois, superior from 1891 to 1902. The Oblate de Mazenod Seminary, founded in 1960, received the students of the first three years of the program. Two student residences, which opened in 1966 and 1968, housed the students who were remaining in the old institution. The deed of sale to the University of Ottawa allows the Sacred Heart Residence community to remain in its current location for another year.”
Eugène Lapointe OMI