Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 29, 2009
Duchesneau devoted to preaching God's love
After 60 years as a priest, his love of Scripture will not let him slow down
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
ST. ALBERT - At age 86, Oblate Father Ubald Duchesneau continues to do what he has done most of his life - teach Scripture to Catholics across Alberta and the Northwest Territories.
His home office reveals how busy he still is. Piles of documents and books lie on top of his desk. There is even a pile on top of the kitchen counter. But it's a clean, well-organized mess. He knows where everything is and quickly finds it.
Retirement is out of the question for this Oblate, who loves teaching and enjoys being around people.
A member of the Oblates Scripture Program, Duchesneau travels to different parts of the province teaching the Bible to people who want to learn without pursuing a degree. "Instead of people coming to us we go to them," he explained.
Born the second of seven children in a Catholic farming family in St. Paul, Duchesneau joined the Oblates in 1942 and was ordained a priest in Edmonton in 1949. He studied in Edmonton, Ottawa, Belgium and Paris and has taught for most of his life.
He taught philosophy for 12 years at College St. Jean, now Faculté St. Jean of the University of Alberta, and was senior teacher at the Hobbema reserve before he went to teach religion at St. Albert High for another 12 years. He has been teaching Scripture with the Oblates since 1992.
Duchesneau, who is currently marking his 60th anniversary as an Oblate priest, credits his grandmother with encouraging him to become a priest. She told the young lad God wanted priests and taught him that God was a fantastic God, full of love for him.
But that good image of God would later suffer at school and at Church where Duchesneau was taught that God would throw some people into hell.
At College St. Jean two saintly Oblates helped Duchesneau recover the beautiful image of God taught by his grandmother.
"Father (Georges) Levasseur really showed me who God was," Duchesneau recalled. "When I went to school I learned that God sent people into hell but Father Levasseur brought that faith back to me in God. In him I discovered the tenderness and compassion of God."
From his contact with Levasseur, Duchesneau learned that "God loved me no matter what, like Mary loved me with no strings attached."
At college, Father Valerien Gaudet, a Scripture scholar from the Morinville parish, also influenced Duchesneau.
In Grade 12, Gaudet would at times on Sunday evening invite his students for an hour of lectio divina on St. Paul's scripture message. That experience ignited Duchesneau's desire to study the Bible. "It has influenced me until today."
Convinced he wanted to be a priest, Duchesneau said he chose the Oblates because at the centre of the order's mission statement is the call to proclaim the Good News to the poor - "the good news that God loves them."
He doesn't see the priesthood having changed much throughout the years.
"What has changed and is still changing is the perspective from which we studied the mystery of salvation," he said. "Sixty years ago we lived our Christian faith from the perspective of sin: God sent Christ to pay for our sins, few went to heaven, God was a punishing God.
"Result? Most Christians had a great fear of God."
Today it is getting to be different. "We are called to Christian faith from the perspective that God is love (and as a result) more people start to trust and hope in God. More people are rejoicing being Christians."
GOD IS LOVE
Duchesneau says his greatest joy at the end of his life is to have discovered that new image Pope Benedict speaks about in his first encyclical: God is love and only love.
"Is there anything more beautiful for the world (and) for all of us?" he asks. "This even seems too good to be true. This new image of God is now my greatest joy. It is my faith. It is my hope. I thank God for having been so generous."
In a written statement, Duchesneau added: "I will soon meet the God who birthed me in tenderness many years ago, who comforted me saying, 'Even if a mother would forget her baby, I will never forget you.'
"As Pope Benedict said, 'When we die, we are sure that the Lord receives us in his paternal embrace.' Thus God, through his hug, transforms death into an Easter explosion of filial life in the risen Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.'"