Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 20, 2003
Oblates search for new life
New province not a merger, says outgoing head
By BILL GLEN
"We started off here with just a few men so we are going back to our roots."
- Fr. Camille Piche
The leadership structure is a team of five, consisting of a provincial superior, three vicar provincials and a council. The superior of each local community is a member of the provincial council.
There are seven local communities, including Alberta/NWT (called "Brother Anthony community" named after Brother Anthony Kowalczyk) and Foyer Grandin, a retirement community in St. Albert for elderly Oblates.
Father Andre Boyer, former director of planning and communication for Grandin Province, has been selected as provincial superior for Lacombe Canada.
Father John Malazdrewich is the superior of the local community.
"The thrust for the new province for the Oblates is to have more happenings at the local community level," Piche said. "Basically, it's been good. There is a certain downsizing. Many of our members are aging. There is a diminishment of our forces.
"In that sense, we started off here with just a few men so we are going back to our roots."
St. Albert was the beginning of the Church in Alberta, Piche said. It was also the beginning of the work of the Oblate missionaries.
"St. Albert is a place with a lot of meaning for us, filled with tradition and tremendous heritage. There are priests - maybe 250 or 300 Oblates - who are buried in the cemetery in St. Albert. Bishop Grandin is buried in the cemetery. And Brother Kowalczyk. He was a humble Oblate brother.
"They go back to the very beginnings of the missions, who served and administered in the NWT, northern Alberta, Saskatchewan - all over the place. Practically every place you go in Alberta you see a church that was founded by an Oblate."
Piche said while the formation of the new province is occurring in pre-planned stages, transferring the elderly Oblates has been unsettling.
"It has been necessary to do the changes. There are now great possibilities for new life. The Oblates have experienced a sense of grieving, where you leave the people you know - the parishes you were involved with for many years," Piche said.
"And the elderly Oblates really like their new home (Foyer Grandin) and in a sense it has created a stronger community because they can now visit and care for one another. The new facility is a beautiful building - very functional. There is a beautiful view of the valley full of fresh air."
Involving lay people in many important aspects of the Lacombe Province is vital for its success, Piche said. "As baptized people, we are all called to leadership and involvement in the Church. It's time to look at new ways. The future of the Church is with lay people."
Locally, the new community has several lay people in key positions. There is a lay person on the council. There is a core group on the parish mission team. In the biblical theology program, Piche estimated that 15 or 20 lay people are teaching the Bible. There is also a dynamic youth ministry team while the retained administration staff are lay people.
Piche will be retained to work with the administration team to manage the assets of the old province. He will continue to be involved in native ministry, something he has done his entire priestly life. A lot of hospital visiting and returning to the North for Christmas and New Year's will keep him busy.
"As long as there is one Oblate alive, we are there," he said. "It's part of my life experience so I will continue to do it."
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