Name and origin
The first members of this society, founded in 1816, were known as “Missionaries of Provence”. They received the title of “Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate” and approbation as a congregation under simple vows in a Brief of Leo XII dated 17 February, 1826. The founder, Charles Joseph Eugène de Mazenod (b. at Aix, 1 August, 1782), left France at an early age on account of the Revolution, and remained four years at Venice, one at Naples, and three at Palermo, before returning to Paris, where he entered Saint Sulpice in 1808. He was ordained priest at Amiens on 21 December, 1811. In 1818 he had gathered a small community around him, and made his religious profession at the church of the Mission, Aix, with MM. Mounier, Tempier, Mye, and Moreau as fellow-priests, and MM. Dupuy, Courtès, and Suzanne as scholastic students. He became Vicar-General of Marseilles in 1823, titular Bishop of Icosia and coadjutor in 1834, and Bishop of Marseilles in 1837. In 1856 he was named senator and member of the Legion of Honour by Napoleon III, and died in 1861, having been superior-general of his congregation from 1816 to that date.
Members and organization
The congregation consists of priests and lay-brothers, leading a common life. The latter act as temporal coadjutors, farm or workshop instructors in industrial and reformatory schools, and teachers and catechists on the foreign missions. The central and supreme authority of the society is two-fold:
(1) intermittent and extraordinary, as vested in the general chapter meeting once in six years, and composed of the general administrators, provincials, vicars of missions, and delegates from each province or vicariate;
(2) ordinary, as vested in the superior-general elected for life by the general chapter, and assisted by a council of four assistants and a bursar-general, named for a term of years, renewable by the same authority. The general administration was situated at Marseilles until 1861, when it was transferred to Paris; the persecutions of 1902 obliged its removal to Liège in 1903, whence it was transferred to Rome in 1905. The congregation is officially represented at the Holy See by a procurator-general named by the central administration; this authority also elects the chaplain-general of the Holy Family Sisters of Bordeaux, founded by Abbé de Noailles, and by him confided to the spiritual direction of the Oblate Fathers. Until 1851 all Oblate houses were directly dependent on the central administration. The general chapter held in that year divided its dependencies into provinces and missionary vicariates, each having its own provincial or vicar aided by a council of four consultors and a bursar. At the head of each regularly constituted house is placed a local superior aided by two assessors and a bursar, all named by the provincial administration. The educational establishments also possess a special council of professors and directors.
Recruiting is made by means of juniorates, novitiates, and scholasticates.
Juniorates or apostolic schools
The first establishment of this description was founded in 1841 by the Oblates of Notre Dame des Lumières near Avignon, and their example, soon followed by the Jesuit Fathers at Avignon, became widely adopted in France. The congregation has at present thirteen juniorates situated: at Ottawa, Buffalo, San Antonio (Texas), Saint Boniface (Manitoba) and Strathcona (Alberta) in the new world; Saint Charles (Holland), Waereghem (Belgium), Sancta Maria a Vico and Naples (Italy), Urmieta (Spain), and Belcamp Hall (Ireland) in Europe; Colombo and Jaffna in the Island of Ceylon.
Novitiates are fed from the juniorates, and also from colleges, seminaries, and gymnasia. They are at present thirteen in number and situated at Lachine (Canada), Tewksbury (Massachusetts), San Antonio (Texas), Saint Charles (Manitoba), Saint Gerlach, Hünfeld, and Maria Engelport (Germany), Niewenhove (Belgium), Le Bestin (Luxemburg), Saint Pierre d’Aoste (Italy), Urmieta (Spain), Stillorgan (Ireland), and Colombo (Ceylon).
Scholasticates receive novices who have been admitted to temporal vows at the end of a year’s probation. The first Scholasticate of the congregation was dedicated to the Sacred Heart at Montolivet, Marseilles, in 1857; it was transferred to Autun in 1861, to Dublin in 1880, to Saint Francis (Holland) in 1889, and to Liège in 1891. The ten establishments at present occupied are situated at Ottawa, Tewksbury, San Antonio, Rome, Liège, Hünfeld, Stillorgan, Turin, and Colombo (2).
Ends and means
The congregation was formed to repair the havoc caused by the French Revolution, and its very existence so soon afterwards was a sign of religious revival. Its multiple ends may thus be divided:
(1) To revive the spirit of faith among rural and industrial populations by means of missions and retreats, in which devotion to the Sacred Heart and to Mary Immaculate is recommended as a supernatural means of regeneration. “He hath sent me to preach the Gospel to the poor”, has been adopted as the device of the congregation. (2) Care of young men’s societies, Catholic clubs, etc. (3) Formation of clergy in seminaries.
Secondary or derived
To adapt itself to the different circumstances arising from its rapid development in new countries, the congregation has necessarily extended its sphere of action to parochial organization, to the direction of industrial or reformatory schools, of establishments of secondary education in its principal centres, and of higher institutions of learning, such as the University of Ottawa.
Prominent members, past and present
Mgr. de Mazenod (1816); Very Rev. J. Fabre (1861); L. Soullier (1893); C. Augier (1898) A. Lavillardière (1906); Mgr A. Dontenwill (1908).
(1) Deceased: de Mazenod, Bishop of Marseilles; Guibert (1802-86), Cardinal Archbishop of Paris; Semeria (1813-68), Vicar Apostolic of Jaffna; Guigues (1805-74), first Bishop of Ottawa; Allard (1806-89), first Vicar Apostolic of Natal; Faraud (1823-90), first Vicar Apostolic of Athabaska-Mackenzie; D’Herbomez (1822-90), first Vicar Apostolic of British Columbia; Bonjean (1823-92), first Archbishop of Colombo; Taché (1823-94), first Archbishop of Saint Boniface; Baläin (1828-1905), Archbishop of Auch; Mélizan (1844-1905), Archbishop of Colombo; Grandin (1829-1902), first Bishop of Saint Albert; Clut (1832-1903), Auxiliary Bishop of Athabaska-Mackenzie; Jolivet (1826-1903), Vicar Apostolic of Natal; Durieu (1830-99), first Bishop of New Westminster; Anthony Gaughren (1849-1901), Vicar Apostolic of Orange River Colony; (2) Living: Dontenwill, Augustin, titular Archbishop of Ptolemais, and actual superior general; Langevin, Archbishop of Saint Boniface (consecrated 1895); Coudert, Archbishop of Colombo (1898); Grouard, Vicar Apostolic of Athabaska (1891); Pascal, Bishop of Prince Albert (1891); Joulain, Bishop of Jaffna (1893); Legal, Bishop of Saint Albert (1897); Breynat, Vicar Apostolic of Mackenzie (1902); Matthew Gaughren, Vicar Apostolic of Orange River Colony (1902); Delalle, Vicar Apostolic of Natal (1904); Miller, Vicar Apostolic of Transvaal (1904); Joussard, Coadjutor of Athabaska (1909); Cenez, Vicar Apostolic of Basutoland (1909); Fallon, Bishop of London, Ontario (1910); Charlebois, first Vicar Apostolic of Keewatin, Canada (1910).
(1) In canonically constituted countries a parish church or public chapel is attached to each establishment of Oblates. The parishes are all provided with schools, while many have colleges or academies and a hospital. Several of the parochial residences (e.g., Buffalo, Montreal, Quebec, etc.) serve as centres for missionaries who assist the parochial clergy by giving retreats or missions and taking temporary charge of parishes. (2) In new or missionary countries, the posts are considered as fixed residences from which the missionaries radiate to surrounding fields of action (e.g., Edmonton Alberta). Each of these centres possesses fully equipped schools whilst many have convents, boarding schools, and hospitals. Instruction is given in English, French, or native tongues by religious communities or by the fathers and brothers themselves. Indigenous mission work is carried on by the periodical recurrence of missions or retreats, and the regular instructions of catechists. The printing press is much used, and the congregation has published complete dictionaries and other works in the native idioms among which it labours.
(1) Canada. — Until recent years the evangelization of the Canadian West and of British Columbia was the almost exclusive work of the Oblate Fathers, as that of the extreme north still is. Cathedrals, churches, and colleges were built by them, and often handed over to secular clergy or to other religious communities (as in the case of the Saint Boniface College, which is at present flourishing under the direction of the Society of Jesus). The Archiepiscopal See of Saint Boniface since 1853, and the episcopal Sees of Saint Albert, Prince Albert, with the Vicariates of Athabaska and Mackenzie since their foundation, have been, and are still occupied by Oblates. That of New Westminster ceased to be so in 1908. The Diocese of Ottawa had an Oblate as first bishop, and owes the foundation of most of its parishes and institutions to members of the congregation, who have also founded a number of the centres in the new Vicariates of Temiskaming and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, as well as in the Diocese of Chicoutimi. Among the recent labours of the Oblates in the West a special mention must be given to the religious organization of Germans, Poles, and Ruthenians. The new Vicariate of Keewatin (1910) is entrusted to an Oblate bishop, whose missionaries are devoted to the regeneration of nomadic Indian tribes. (2) South Africa. — The Oblates have founded and occupy the four vicariates Apostolic of Natal, Orange River, Basutoland and Transvaal, as also the Prefecture Apostolic of Cimbebasia. Its members served as military chaplains on both sides during the Boer war. (3) Asia. — The immense Dioceses of Colombo and Jaffna, with their flourishing colleges and missions, are the achievement of the enterprising zeal of Oblate Fathers under Mgr Bonjean, O.M.I. (4) Western Australia. A missionary vicariate was founded from the British Province in 1894, and is actively engaged in parochial and reformatory work.
Establishments of education and formation
For the congregation
(1) Scholasticates affording a course of two years in philosophy and social science (three years in Rome), and of four years in theology and sacred sciences according to the spirit and method of Saint Thomas. The Roman scholastics follow the programme of the Gregorian University and graduate in philosophy, theology, canon law, and Scripture. The scholastics at Ottawa graduate in philosophy and theology at the university, of which they form an integral part. (2) Novitiates giving religious formation with adapted studies. (3) Juniorates providing a complete classical course preparatory to the sacred sciences. The Ottawa juniorists make their course at the neighbouring university, and graduate in the Faculty of Arts.
(1) Concerning the Ottawa University see the special article. (2) Grand Seminaries. — Until the persecution of 1902 the congregation was in charge of these establishments at Marseilles, Fréjus, Ajaccio, and Romans. It is at present entrusted with those of Ajaccio, Ottawa (in connexion with the university), San Antonio, Colombo, and Jaffna. The two last-named are occupied in the formation of a native clergy and have already provided over forty priests.
(1) classical colleges with a course in English are provided at Buffalo, Saint Albert (Alberta), San Antonio, Saint Louis (British Columbia), Saint Charles (Natal). Two important institutions at Colombo are affiliated to the University of Cambridge; most of the professors have been in residence there, and prepare their pupils for the London matriculation and Cambridge Local examinations. (2) Preparatory seminaries are established at Saint Albert, San Antonio, Ceylon (2), and New Westminster. (3) Normal schools for lay teachers are conducted at Jaffna and Ceylon. (4) Industrial schools with full instruction in farming and craftsmanship by lay brothers and assistants in Manitoba (3), Alberta-Saskatchewan (3), British Columbia (3), and Australia (1). There are also about fifteen Indian boarding-schools in the Canadian West. (5) Reformatory schools at Glencree and Philipstown and Maggona in Ceylon.
Celebrated sanctuaries and pilgrimages
Of the Sacred Heart
(1) The Basilica of the National Vow at Paris, a world centre of adoration and reparation, was directed by Oblate Fathers from 1876 until the expulsions of 1902. (2) The construction of a similar basilica for Belgium was entrusted to them by Leopold II in Jan., 1903. (3) The parishes of Saint Sauveur, Quebec, and Saint Joseph’s, Lowell, are important centres of Sacred Heart devotion in the New World.
To the Blessed Virgin
Until the expulsions of 1902 the Oblates directed the ancient pilgrimage shrines of Notre Dame des Lumières, Avinon; N. D. de l’Osier, Grenoble; N. D. de Bon Secours, Viviers; N. D. de la Garde (Marseilles); N. D. de Talence and N. D. d’Arcachon, Bordeaux; N. D. de Sion, Nancy; and the national pilgrimage of N. D. de Pontmain near Laval, erected after the Franco-Prussian war. During several years they revived the ancient glories of N. D. du Laus, Gap; N. D. de Clery, Orléans; N. D. de la Rovère, Mentone. In England they have the restored pre-Reformation shrine of Our Lady of Grace at Tower Hill, London, and in Canada the shrines of Our Lady of the Rosary at Cap de la Madeleine, Quebec, and Our Lady of Lourdes at Ville Marie and Duck Lake, Saskatoon. In Ceylon they have the national pilgrimage to Our Lady of Madhu.
To various saints
The ancient sanctuary of Saint Martin of Tours was re-excavated and revived by Oblate Fathers under Cardinal Guibert in 1862 (see “Life of Léon Papin Dupont”, London, 1882). Ceylon possesses votive churches to Saint Anne at Colombo and Saint Anthony at Kochchikadai, and the Canadian West that of Saint Anne at Lake Saint Anne, which is largely frequented by Indians and half-breeds, 55 well as white people.
Foundation of religious communities
Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (Longeuil, 1843); Grey Nuns of Ottawa, separated from the Montreal community by Bishop Guigues in 1845; Oblate Sisters of the Sacred Heart and Mary Immaculate founded at Saint Boniface by Archbishop Langevin (1905); and a community of over 300 native sisters, and one of teaching brothers of Saint Joseph in Ceylon.
Apostolate of the press
Periodicals on the work of the congregation
“Missions des O.M.I.”, printed at Rome for the congregation only; “Petites annales des 0.M.I.” (Liège); “Maria Immaculata” (German), Hünfeld, New Brunswick; the “Missionary Record”, started in 1891, was discontinued in 1903.
General newspapers, etc.
The “North West Review” (Winnipeg), “Western Catholic” (Vancouver), “Patriote de l’Ouest” (Duck Lake, Saskatoon), “Ami du Foyer” (St. Boniface), “Die West Canada” (German), “Gazeta Katolika” (Polish), and a recently established Ruthenian journal (Winnipeg), “Kitchiwa Mateh Sacred Heart Review in Cris” (Sacred Heart P.O. Alta), “Cennad Llydewig, Messenger of the Catholic Church in Welsh-English” (Llaanrwst, North Wales); “Ceylon Catholic Messenger”, separate editions in English and Cingalese and the “Jaffna Guardian” in English-Tamil; Parochial Bulletins at Saint Joseph’s, Lowell, Mattawa (Ontario), and Saint Peter’s, Montreal.
In connexion with the table given on page 186, the following points may be mentioned: (1) the “houses” are parochial establishments or missionary centres, not mission posts; (2) the table is calculated according to the provinces or vicariates of the congregation, which are not always coterminous with ecclesiastical divisions; (3) the figures given for France represent the state of affairs before 1902. Since that date a large number of religious remain in France, though isolated. Several establishments have been transferred to Belgium, Italy, and Spain; (4) scholastics, novices, and juniorists are not included.
François Blanchin. “Oblates of Mary Immaculate”.
Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913
. Saints.SQPN.com. 13 April 2014. Web. 13 April 2014. <