Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 21, 2008
Piche's ministry dedicated to working with the marginalized
By RAMON GONZALEZ
Involvement with the Dene "was my training ground in the work of justice and peace."
After two years, he moved to Fort Smith as director of catechetics but was really involved in community development, again to meet the crying needs of the Dene of Fort Smith.
From 1967 to mid-1971, Piche served as administrator of Breynat Hall, a student residence for more than 200 Dene youth from communities around Great Slave Lake.
He then served the Slavey/Dene communities in Hay River, NWT.
During the 1970s and 1980s, as developing countries shook off centuries of colonization, Piche took part in the Dene's struggle for self-determination and recognition of their rights.
"I felt very, very privileged to have been part of this movement," he said. "That was my training ground in the work of justice and peace."
During that time Piche also served on the Oblates' social justice committees for both his province and Canada as a whole.
One of the special moments of Piche's ministry in Fort Simpson was the visit of Pope John Paul II to the centre in 1987.
In 1988-89 Piche spent a sabbatical year in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, living in a l'Arche community and learning Spanish. Upon his return, the newly formed Grandin Province asked him to relocate in Chateh (Assumption) Alberta, with the Dene Tháh.
Recognizing the need for this group to reinforce its culture and of a critical lack of information, Piche helped form the Dene Tháh Communications Society and install local community CKCA-FM radio and television station.
With plans to build a pulp mill at Macheesis Lake, west of High Level, Piche became concerned about pollution of lakes and rivers as well as the deforestation of the boreal forests. He made a presentation at an inquiry on the pulp mill in Fort Chipewyan.
He also became concerned with the high number of young men from Chateh who were ending up in jail and took several initiatives to address the issue.
In 1995 Piche became provincial superior of Grandin Province, a function he exercised until December 2003. He also served as administrator of the province as it gradually evolved into OMI Lacombe, one province for all Oblates in English-speaking Canada.
The Indian residential school issue erupted and quickly became the number one social issue.
Piche and his order faced the issue head on, dealing with accusations, answering calls for justice and redress and working for an accord with aboriginal people, the government and involved Church institutions.
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