Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 3, 2006
Oblate served 40 years in northern missions
Fr. Lou Menez
By CAMILLE PICHE, omi
Special to the WCR
Oblate Father Lou Menez died from a stroke March 25 at his home in Lyon, France. He was 83.
Menez received his first posting in 1949 to the Metis/Chipewyan at Rocher River/Fort Resolution N.W.T. in the Mackenzie Diocese.
In 1954 he was posted among the Inuit in the Central Arctic at Bathurst Inlet (Umingmaktuug). Then most of the people from Bathurst migrated elsewhere so in July 1964 Menez moved to Cambridge Bay.
In October 1966 he returned to Fort Resolution where he served till 1989, altogether serving 40 years in the North.
Suffering from acute asthma and needing a more favourable climate, he moved in 1989 to Lyon, France, joining the Oblate community of Chavril and sharing his missionary experience with young men interested in joining the Oblates.
Concerned about the marginalized in society such as the new immigrants to France fleeing misery, war and totalitarian regimes, he continued to work for social change.
He always believed it was possible to bring about a new and more just social order.
He introduced the Bathurst Inuit to carving and other self-help ventures. Arriving at his new posting in 1966 he supported the co-operative development officer Garld Malin and the local people in developing the Fort Resolution Co-op.
A heading in the Co-operative Consumer of Sept. 28, 1965 says "Sawmill brings hope to Fort Resolution" followed by a mission statement which says: "Since there are not enough local industries to provide jobs; let's build an industry of our own - a co-operative we will own together, work together, and where we will build a future together."
Menez also applied these same principles to the local parish church of St. Joseph encouraging the faithful to self-reliance, living fully their baptismal call.
Astute in social analysis and strongly believing that northerners working together could bring about a better social order, Menez supported the Dene in their efforts towards self-determination, taking an active part in the social transformation of the Northwest Territories in the 1970s and 1980s.
Possessed of a brilliant mind, Menez was a consummate reader, interested in history, geography, culture, linguistics, anthropology, ethnology, politics, theology and spirituality.
He was a delightful storyteller and would entertain on any of these or other matters. He was a man of his times, interested in all aspects of life.
Familiar with the teachings of Vatican II he especially took to heart the teachings of Gaudium and Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, which begins: "The joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the men and women of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well. Nothing that is genuinely human fails to find an echo in their hearts."
Many northerners will grieve a truly remarkable man and priest, a good friend and true northerner.