Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 21, 2003
Fresh air wafts through Oblates
Refounding process revitalizes 177-year-old order
By BYRON PRICE
"It is the end of one Oblate presence and the beginning of a new movement."
- Fr. Leo Engel
Oblate Father Rick Kelly, pastor of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Ottawa, agrees with the profound and positive implications of the process: "There is great hope for the future as a community of Oblates with our lay brothers and sisters. Even though there are decreases in the congregation, the Oblate charism continues to live within the Church.
"We will see lay people participating as completely as possible in a variety of ways, in Oblate community life, at the local, provincial levels and the corporate ministry of the province. It smells like Vatican II - a bit of fresh air."
Zimmer explains, "The meeting we are having in Calgary is the last step we are taking as a group as we move towards a new province. We will be approving our mission statement of the new province - OMI Lacombe Canada. We will also continue the discussion of involvement of the lay associates.
"We are in a process of discerning the quality and attributes for the core of central leadership for the new province. Our process is prayerful and discerning in understanding Church as people of God. The emphasis is on being available to the most marginalized in the Church and society.
"As Oblates, what is our prophetic voice today? There could be different forms of community life with a variety of callings - married, single, widowed. If we look at our goals and objectives seriously, we are consistent with Vatican II. I guess it boils down to: How do we as Oblates living in community interpret the vision of Church as people of God?"
Zimmer continues: "Don't get me wrong, this is not an easy process and we chose a very difficult model. We chose a prayer and discernment model to facilitate this process. We involved the grassroots to ensure that they have a part in this process and their part is respected and taken seriously.
"The model is based on consensus which truly gives people a chance in freedom to say what they hold dear and what we do not see eye to eye on.
"On Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, there will be a ceremony which will launch the new province, OMI Lacombe Canada. There will also be a celebration of the gifts of the five provinces and their historical presence in various parts of Canada. This celebration will say goodbye to the five historical provinces and welcome the new province into a rejuvenated Oblate family."
Boucher concludes: "This process has all the angst of change, but what I am seeing is a generation of new enthusiasm and hope that I have not seen in a long time. We feel strongly about working with the poor, sharing power, and most of all, living out the Oblate charism with those lay people who share the same spirit in community life.
"We will have to reconfigure our communities across the country. This process is not often attempted and is fraught with historical realities - cultural, ethnic, and language contingences. However, the spirit of peace is alive and well."
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