The ministry of Reconciliation has been entrusted to us….

lacstanne.web The ministry of Reconciliation has been entrusted to us....This year’s theme at the Lac Ste. Anne pilgrimage was reconciliation. We used the daily lectionary readings which always lead us into reconciliation with God and our neighbour.

Fr. Gary Laboucane OMI asked me to preside and preach at the youth mass on Wednesday of the pilgrimage and I was favoured with the first reading which spoke of the complaining of the Israelites on their journey from slavery to freedom and reminiscing about the fleshpots of Egypt.

The Gospel was Matthew’s parable of the sower, the seeds and the four soils. In the Exodus the people are complaining and asking Moses to solve their problem.

In the parable Jesus is asking people to solve their own problem by becoming the good soil. As I reflected on these readings they seemed to address the challenges of young people today. They experience a world that promises satisfaction from consumption of cheap and empty food.

The Church calls youth to leave this enslaving culture but the road is to freedom is hard for those who are used to quick fixes and easy outs. Into this are thrown the seeds of the kingdom that look for a place to grow in us.

Read the full story on this youth ministry focusing on reconciliation.

Three Levels of Evangelization

Basing himself on Vatican II, Pope John Paul told us that there are three levels of evangelization.

  • At the first level we continue to work with practicing Catholics in our church structures.
  • At the second level we reach out to the people beyond those structures – to the fallen away, to the abandoned and to those in the shadows – people whom our church structures do not reach.  It means searching them out to witness anew to them, through their fellow-Catholic Christians and through us, the gospel message of God’s unconditional love.
  • The third level is ad Gentes – bearing witness to those who have not heard the Good News.

03 11 06 02 Three Levels of EvangelizationThe first two levels especially – to encourage practicing Catholics and rekindle the fire in the unchurched and in those in the shadows – form the very reason for having Oblate parish missions.  Our missions are meant to be a catalyst helping Christians to grow more aware of their God-given mission and to rekindle the Spirit’s fire in those who have lost it.

From the very beginning of our Congregation, Saint Eugene realized that parish missions were an effective and Spirit-filled way to re-evangelize the French countryside ravaged by the secularity of the French Revolution.  Indeed, those early missions met with outstanding success and lay historians in France today recognize the Founder’s unique contribution to re-evangelization, especially through visiting families in their homes and through the compassion his parish missions brought into a world dominated by stern Jansenism.

03 11 06 03 Three Levels of Evangelization Those unique parish missions, which touched the people as nothing else did, are a special heritage we have received from Saint Eugene.  Today we are not out to imitate the Founder and his little band of missionaries, but we still benefit from that heritage by updating its dynamics.  When we do that, we discover that those dynamics are as effective as in his day.

In Saint Eugene’s era his priests made all the parish visits.  In that respect, there is a marked innovation in our missions today.  It lies in the large number of lay partners who come onto our team to help us make pastoral home visits when we conduct a main mission.  They are persons who have personally experienced the fire of the Spirit in a mission and now seek to share it with others, especially through the contacts they make with people in their homes.

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Keyna Family Unity Found Practicing the Word of God

03 10 06 04 Keyna Family Unity Found Practicing the Word of GodKionyo Parish is in Meru Diocese located near the slopes of Mt. Kenya.  The landscape is very beautiful; the hills are always clad in green.  People around here are small-scale farmers and they are kind and welcoming people.   Tea and coffee are cash crops around this place.  People here are Christians and there are many denominations.

I am here for pastoral experience and it is very interesting.  We have home visits, young Christian students visits, small Christian communities visits and youth group meeting.  On Fridays, we have pastoral work with primary schools.  During this task we usually walk by foot up and down the steep hills.  We go out two by two like “the disciples of Jesus”.  I enjoy these journeys and learn a lot of new things everyday and meet different faces in need of different help.

Without labour, one cannot rest.  People around here are very hardworking; during home visits, we often find them picking tea, digging or irrigating their crops.  They are always ready to listen and promise to rectify where they have gone astray.  The way they listen makes me conclude that they know that faith comes by hearing and implementing the Word of God.

Young Christian students are always cheerful and open to share what they have and fill their eyes with what they do not have.  The same case applies to the youth.

Pastoral classes with the future leaders and good Christians are also a very joyful time.  These children are always attentive and thirsty to know more about Jesus Christ and his apostles.  Everybody in this class knows that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  They are innocent faces.

Experience is the best teacher and what am experiencing now is what I was expecting before I joined the Oblates – serving the poor and the most abandoned.

03 10 06 05 Keyna Family Unity Found Practicing the Word of God The work of the Oblates in this parish is very interesting, life giving and encouraging.  Many families are experiencing unity after hearing and practicing the Word of God.  I am very happy with serving these people and grateful to God for bringing me to the Oblates.  I pray that His will be done and may He continue blessing my expectations. 

When walking up and down, going for the apostolate, I learn new things daily, pray for strength and smile while walking. By offering labour to God, one becomes associated with redemptive work.  People are ready to change as long as somebody is walking along with them and encouraging them.  Through the grace of God, I believe that the seed which was planted by the founder, St. Eugene de Mazenod, will continue to produce more and more.  It is through the apostolate that some disappointments have been changed, by God’s grace, to great opportunities.  I am very happy working here and God bless the Oblates and their ministry. (Submitted by Joseph W. Mubia)

Keynan Oblate : Dionisius Mwandiki Ananua

Dionisius Mwandiki Ananua

03 04 06 01 Keynan Oblate : Dionisius Mwandiki AnanuaI was born in a Catholic family of six, including my father and mother, on December 20th, 1978. I hail from the Eastern part of Kenya under the foot of Mt. Kenya. In school I liked to do the things children like doing most, playing games and singing in groups, but above all, I liked my books. Then I joined high school for grades 9 to 12; as a boarder this meant a stay away from home. It was not long before I finished my grade 12 and it was in this setting that I first came into contact with the Oblates working in Kenya – in particular, Fr. Bill Stang OMI. Little then did I know that I would be one of them sharing in their works, spirituality and charism of Saint Eugene de Mazenod.

At home, after graduation from high school, I had engaged myself in coffee production; however, the wind blows where it will and it was while working in my coffee fields that the desire to respond to my vocation came back to me. I couldn’t resist!
To give you a bit of my vocation story… as I grew up, the seeds of participating in the mission of Christ grew in me and when I was old enough I looked for guidance in order to respond fully to this call. Christ says, “The harvest is rich but the workers are few”. In Isaiah we find the Lord asking, “Whom shall I send?” and the reply comes, “I said, ‘Send me Lord. I will go’”. In my heart I felt the strong desire to respond to the Lord’s invitation to participate in his ministry.

And why did I choose to join Oblates?

03 04 06 02 Keynan Oblate : Dionisius Mwandiki AnanuaIn my searching I found in the Oblates something I could identify with: their generosity, hospitality and love for the poor, “…the poor with their many faces;” as it is expressed in our Constitutions and Rules. Above all, I was drawn by our founder’s courage, and daring – his courage and daring to love and to be generous; “Leave nothing undared!” he emphasized to those whom he had gathered. This courage is remarkable and I find it an imperative, especially to us Oblates so popularly referred to as “The specialists in difficult missions”. To be one of those who participate in this Oblate mission is my desire.

03 04 06 03 Keynan Oblate : Dionisius Mwandiki AnanuaCurrently, I am doing my philosophical studies just outside of Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon and living in a Scholasticate with an international community of fifty-nine Oblates. Members are from eleven different countries, across and outside the continent. The Oblates have evangelised in Cameroon for sixty years and the province covers Cameroon, Nigeria and Chad. They are found in a number of parishes and in institutions of education.

Despite the difficulties, Oblates are committed and faithful to their mission of bringing Christians to a full awareness of their dignity in society and calling them to participate fully. They draw joy and happiness from those with whom they work and let themselves be enriched and touched by the warmth of the poor. In the words of Rule 8A, “…for they can make us hear in new ways the Gospel we proclaim.” I see Oblates reaching out to those who need them most.

What would I like to do in the future as an Oblate? I would like to work where there is the greatest need in the mission of the congregation … be it in the slums of Kenya or anywhere in the Oblate world.  

To end, I quote the words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread”. May we, as Oblates, always be attentive to the world’s hunger for love and appreciation!
(Submitted by Bro. Dionisius  Ananua, OMI)

Poem: An Oblate Is…

Dominique Kerbrat, OMI

An Oblate is someone capable of living in a world where exits uncertainity, coldness of heart, the wickedness of despair; but who brings promisesof hope, the warmth of a summer sun and coolness of a moist wind from the lake.

Poem: Have You Heard??

Brian Jayawardhana, OMI
Edmonton, October, 1995

Have you heard the thunder of a rainbow?
Have you heard the music of the moon?
Have you smelled the sweetness of the darkness
or the fragance of a tropical monsoon?

Have you sensed the weakness of a warrior?
Have you felt the power of a child?
Have you seen the beauty of a cripple?
Have you felt the mildness of the wild?

Have you known the secrets of the ocean?
Have you known the wisdom of the sky?
Have you heard the silver peal of morning
or the evening golden lullaby?

Have you heard the pleading of your neighbor?
Have you felt the yearning of your soul?
Have you sensed the majesty of mountains?
Or known the real meaning of your goal?

Once you’ve learned the mysteries of Nature
And noted all the blessings from above
you will know to really know your Maker
And cherish all the wonders of his love.

Life Within the Prison Walls

dennis%20alexander.web Life Within the Prison Walls

Dennis Alexander OMI

Dennis’s presentation about his ministry and time in the federal prison is somewhat disarming at first. He looks with hesitation at his audience and confesses, “I am not used to reflecting on this ministry” and then he adds, “It is difficult to measure what you do.” From there on he held everyone’s attention with life within the prison walls.

A very unique type of personality can function in a federal penitentiary of three hundred and fifty inmates. Dennis was first exposed to prison ministry while in Peru. It was Danny LeBlanc, OMI, who brought him along to the prison. In Puerto Rica he spent four years as prison chaplain and has worked in the prison system since returning to Canada.

The work of a prison chaplain is to establish a presence, a presence of faith, toward prisoners and the staff. Each group has a different set of needs. It is from their presence that the chaplain can then build relationships with the prisoners and staff. From here there can be built a dialogue an anger, relationships, guilt, grief, frustrations and hope or the sense of hopelessness.

What It’s Like Inside the Cement Walls

In a very simple way, Dennis used slides of a prison. This is a building the cement and steel, but it is what happens within the physical structures of the prison that matter. He imaged a cell, a cement room, but there is no privacy, you can smell all unpleasant odors of others, you hear all the shouting and insults that are hurled at other prisoners. The atmosphere does not promote dignified human living. How do the prisoners get along with all the others in the prison setting? How can and will they relate to each other in a world that is meant to separate and to isolate the prisoners from each other?

There is a very distinct culture behind prison bars. Anyone on the outside has difficulty understanding the loss, the loneliness and the violence (i.e., stabbings, beatings and verbal abuse) that prisoners suffer while in jail.

The role of the chaplain cannot be outlined in a business chart fashion. Often, the chaplain must be one of the first responders when there is a crisis within the prison. The chaplain needs to be of assistance when there are moments of critical trauma. Dennis framed the work of the chaplain as “one who safeguards the rights of the prisoners within the system” and the “ethical voice for the interactions within the prison.”  There are times when the chaplain must challenge certain behaviors and negative events.

Restorative Justice

Today there is a very strong emphasis on restorative justice. What do we have to do to reintegrate these prisoners into a healthy and contributing part of the larger society?  How can we give a vision to the prison that there can be a new future? How can they reinterpret their own reality and embrace a lifestyle that is healthy and life-giving?

A strong position of his work with the prisoners is to “look to tomorrow, not so much as what happened yesterday.” The prisoner must grow to believe in himself to become a better person who can and will make a contribution to the society at large.

The person in front of you is “a different face, a different person, with his own unique needs and life experiences. He is different from anything you have ever known.”  Dennis continued to describe that there are times when a dangerous prisoner is brought to him, shackled by his feet and hands (correct procedure to move a dangerous prisoner within the prison building). Then the shackles are removed and “I am alone with the prisoner. Here is where you trust in God and God’s presence with you. The behavior of this man could flip and you could be in danger.”  There was a pause in the sentence. “You spend a lot of time in prayer.”

Faith in the Prison

The ministry of the Catholic / Protestant chaplain is not limited to their own faith community. They are mean to provide spiritual services, counseling and support to the prisoners of all other faith traditions and those of no religious connection. There are dietary considerations to be recognized and religious materials in the library that other faiths can consult and use. Of the thirty-eight volunteers that are walking with the prisoners, there are volunteers from many different faith traditions. This is a very adaptive and accommodating way of working. “This ministry takes time and takes patience. The prisoners do not necessarily want your spiritual stuff. There is a very strong reluctance to get involved in institutional religion.”

Difficulty of Prisoner Upon Release

Dennis pointed out to us the difficulties of the prisoner upon release from prison. Who does he use as a reference when applying for a job? How welcoming is the larger community, i.e, renting a place to live, social reintegration, to the former prisoner?  This is often a time of extreme alienation and loneliness.  Many times the family has disassociated themselves from the prisoner. He has suffered much loss in his family relationships. Where do you go to rebuild? There are situation where the prisoner has only a hundred dollars in his pocket upon release. “How do you start a new life when you do not know where the welfare office is?”  

Dennis shared the painting of Christ behind bars that is hung in the chapel. He asked his listeners as he asks the prisoners: “Is Christ the visitor or is Christ the inmate?”  This painting identifies the prisoners with Christ who is with them in all this brutality and hurtful language of the prisoners and guards.

Dennis, what keeps you going in such a rough and dangerous atmosphere? He straighten up. “Prayer is extremely important. It is the hope that is connected through prayer.” 

“The strong supportive chaplains and social staff that ensures that this is not done in isolation. This is a peer-to-peer system that keeps us going.” Without stopping for a break, he finished the sentence. “Without prayer you could not do this work.”

“If I saw that I had to be responsible for change in the prisoner’s life, I would be a failure. I can only point the way. I am only the agent for change. No one can take responsibility for the life of other people. Sometimes the prisoner does not want to change their life.” And that is the limitation of this ministry.

Lockdown in Prison

There are regular lockdowns within the prison. This is in response to an incident within the prison when there has been a breakdown in security. In a prison there can be many tensions: gang fights, stabbings, arguments and brutal forms of prejudice and exclusion. In the lockdown no one can move. The prisoners are locked in their cells for very long periods of time. During a lockdown, Dennis will visit from cell to cell and speak with the prisoners. This is also an effort to hold the level of frustration down.

The work of the chaplain is not only for the prisoners. There is a strong outreach to the guards and support staff of the prison. Many times the outside population is not even aware of the serious difficulties the guards have in their work and the crisis situations that they have to work through. There is counseling and support that is given to the guards and support staff.
Are you ever afraid?

Dennis responded immediately. “Often it is only after the crisis is over that I experience fear and anxiety. At the moment, I do what has to be done. Just go ahead into the crisis.”

This ministry is to bring emotional reorganization within the life of the prisoner. Instead of feeling pain all the time, they can learn to once again be happy again. He then clicked to another slide which is used to encourage the prisoners to see that the “best preparation for tomorrow is to do your best today.”

What does this do to your faith?

After a reflective moment, Dennis answered: “This has called me to a more authentic Christian lifestyle. This call is to a life that is more than I can give. This ministry is directly connected with our Oblate Founder. He had a relationship with those who were incarcerated.”

While not neglecting to take full cognizance of the seriousness of the crime Dennis summed up his ministry and work with these men who are incarcerated for many years: “Always, you must look at what can be rather than what is.”

Desire to Serve Among the Poor

legare.photo.web Desire to Serve Among the PoorLouis has come to the Oblates out of a desire to serve among the poor.  He was born in Quebec City, the youngest of six children and received almost all of his early education in Quebec City with the Brothers of the Sacred Heart. He had studied for the diocesan priesthood but experienced a call to religious life and entered the Oblate Novitiate, in 1980, in Quebec City.  

He had already completed his theological studies and was routed in a path that prepared him for ministry within the Oblate community by working two years at the Retreat House in the Gaspe, PQ, followed by one year of ministry at Pelly Bay with Fr Meeuse, OMI. He finished his studies by obtaining a MA in Mission Studies from St. Paul’s University. He was ordained a priest in 1984.

Throughout his missionary career he has worked for sixteen years in the different missions of the Hudson Bay Diocese. This was followed by seven years of work and ministry in the countries of Bolivia, Guatemala and China. The two years in China were first spent teaching English in China as he could not function as a Christian missionary in China. During the second year he studied Mandarin Chinese.

When asked how well he has mastered Mandarin Chinese, Louis smiles: “I’m still a beginner.”  He acknowledges that he is limited in his vocabulary. He concedes that he can understand the TV news in Chinese from Toronto. There are some things that he misses  while watching the evening news.  He chuckled when reminded that ‘he was the only Oblate in Canada that understands Mandarin Chinese.’

His interest to become involved with peoples from different cultures first lead him to the Inuit in Northern Canada. Languages were always an interest and challenge for Louis. “I like working with the poor. I like being with the people.”  There was a pause as he outlined what drew him to the Northern peoples. “I would not like a job in administration.”

His experiences in the various cultures developed an appreciation of how enriching these experiences have been for his life. “The Chinese people were very open to foreigners and were very friendly. These people want to learn English. In fact, if they see a white face they want English. They are very polite and the children well behaved, especially when I worked in the schools.”

The Mayan  peoples in Guatamala are a very religious people. They are very poor but they live with a strong sense of the sacred and their faith is strong. After the Sunday Mass it was not uncommon “for people to fall on their knees and thank God for the Mass they have just had.”

Now two years in Beauval, Saskatchewan, with four surrounding missions, Louis is among a Cree and Metis culture. “I find many similarities with the Inuit. These peoples are dealing with the same problems: their youth, there are a lot of addictions and there is the pain of suicide.

“These people have strong community values. I am always amazed how they help each other when someone in a family dies. They all collect money to help pay for the expenses.

“I like the peoples’ thirst for spirituality. There are quite a few people who attend daily mass and take part in the devotions. “

Ministry in North Western Saskatchewan entails a lot of driving, at times, on some very difficult roads. There is some degree of danger driving on some of these roads to the outlying communities. Louis reports that he has had two accidents. The serious accident entailed “a roll over when I hit a patch of ice and gravel.” The second accident was a minor one. Both accidents happened while he was driving to the funerals of people who had died of violence.

“I find death in violence  always very difficult to deal with.” It is all the more difficult to handle when young peole have been tragically killed. Suicide, whether a young person or an older adult,  is always painful for Louis. His face stiffened when he related about the tragic death of a man he knew well. The man had been killed in a robbery that netted only a pittance of money.

Although not directly involved in the Twelve Step programs he encourages people to join the AA groups, to seek help through the mutual support of the self-help groups.

Throughout his life there has been the attraction towards the contemplative life. Today, part of that same need is fulfilled through taking part in retreats. But that is part of the Oblate charism. “We are rooted in spirituality and prayer and we are out on the road with the people.”

There is a note of sadness brought on by the isolation from Oblate Community. “I miss community life.” He honestly admits that within himself there is a tension between the “attraction to the mission and the pull towards community.”

Concern About Changes To Our Prison System

On behalf of OMI Lacombe Canada,
Fr. John M. Malazdrewich, OMI Provincial – OMI Lacombe Canada
February 29, 2012

This was a Letter to the Editor sent to many newspapers throughout Canada,
175 Main Street ● 175, rue Main OTTAWA ON K1S 1C3 TEL: 613-230-2225 ● FAX/TELEC: 613-230-2948

jail.web Concern About Changes To Our Prison SystemBill C-10, the “Omnibus Crime Bill”, is now before Parliament. If passed without further amendment, we fear that those who will be punished most by the new law will be not criminals, but law-abiding Canadians.

Much has been made of the enormous financial penalty that Canadians will have to pay for this misguided legislation: up to $3 billion per year. We wonder how many classrooms, hospital beds and programs designed to keep young people out of crime will be axed to pay for the new prison beds the bill would require.

Less has been said about other long term consequences. Our government seems to have forgotten that those who are incarcerated must eventually be released and re-integrated into society. The bill makes no provision for expanding the rehabilitation of offenders. It ignores the fact that most of those who are incarcerated live with serious handicaps: many are functionally illiterate or live with a serious learning disability; many were victims of child abuse or have a mental illness. An overcrowded prison with a minimum of programs for education, mental health and rehabilitation does little to prepare an inmate to live “on the outside”. In fact, longer periods of incarceration where an inmate becomes accustomed to living an institutionalized life, often makes it more difficult for an inmate to live a normal life back on the outside.

If an offender emerges from prison determined to get a job and live as a responsible citizen, changes to the system of pardons will make it nearly impossible, without a lot of personal wealth, to receive a “record suspension”, even after many years of living a law-abiding life. When applying for a job, they will be passed over in favour of those with no criminal record; their dream of living a productive life and contributing to his community will be denied again and again.

As for victims of crime, many victims lament that they receive little satisfaction or healing from the court system as is. More effective have been programs where the offender comes to understand the damage, loss and deep pain that the offence has caused and then makes concrete amends for the offence. This can happen through mediation, community sentencing circles and other means that promote accountability, respect and reparation. However, no provision is made in this legislation to expand and better support such programs; in fact, it is possible that resources will have to be diverted from these programs to pay for new prisons.

Since our arrival in Canada in 1841, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate have worked with prisoners and victims of crime. We encourage the members of Parliament to consider well the testimony they have heard from those who have long experience working with criminals and their victims. We urge them to propose amendments that would re- orient the legislation toward rehabilitation, toward addressing the real needs of victims, and toward helping vulnerable young people find healthy alternatives to crime and the revolving door of a short-sighted penal system.