Friday, October 14, 2011

The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Canada #1

I was in Kelowna in the beautiful Okanagan Valley last weekend for the thanksgiving weekend. I did the BMO Okanagan Half Marathon. What was quite marked was the figure of Fr Pandosy, a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate. There is a street named after him, his original mission has been preserved locally and a bronze statue of the man is planned for the city (it was the 150th anniversary of white settlement in the Valley). This was a priest who set up a modern city and evangelised the Native population.

There is a neat history HERE. Fr Pandosy strikes me as a remarkable man of many parts, perhaps a little eccentric and at times irascible in a rather unpriestly way. His legacy is remarkable - he recognised the fruitfulness of the Okanagan Valley and planted the first vines and orchards. The Okanagan Valley is now the prime producer of soft fruit in Canada and now a significant producer of wines (some a bit variable in quality, some very good).

What strikes one is the sheer poverty of the early mission:

Although an ordination was a solemn event, the vicissitudes of daily life in a Territorial stockade required improvisation. Father Ronald Young describes the scene in his Ph.D. dissertation on the Missionary Oblates:

“While attempting to maintain all the solemnity that the occasion required, but lacking some of the vestments, Brother Chirouse had to use one of Mr. McBean’s long nightshirt as an alb. [An alb is a long white robe worn by a priest at Mass.] As there had been no time to build any churches, they were ordained in the temporary residence of the Bishop. It was the same room that served as his chapel, refectory, recreation room, meeting hall, and dormitory” (p.75).

Similary the poverty was more than just symbolic and took its toll:

The bearded Pandosy was close to starving, his cassock was in tatters and he had been abandoned by all the natives. Although he had plenty of food, it became apparent that he was unable to take care of himself” (p. 93). Pandosy’s relations with the Indians had deteriorated to the point where one Walla Walla Indian threatened him with a knife during an argument. Chirouse nursed Pandosy back to health and in September 1849 took him to the Holy Cross Mission in the Yakima Valley.

Do read some of the links. I'll come back to the OMI's and their history, especially in Western Canada as there are some remarkable figures.

The order has a personal link to me in that I grew up in an Oblate parish. I'll cover, too, my thoughts about where the Oblates have gone awry.


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