Oblate Voices is a JPIC blog that follows stories of hope and is about how Oblates and associates live and experience mission work in the spirit of the Oblate founder, St Eugene De Mazenod of responding to the needs of poor and most abandoned around the world.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Catholic and Indigenous Leaders Unite to Save the Amazon Rainforest

A delegation of Pan-Amazonian Church Network, or REPAM led by Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes (Brazil) and Archbishop Barreto Jimeno of Huancayo, Peru and a delegation of Indigenous leaders from Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Brazil were recently in Washington DC to share stories, opportunities and challenges facing the people living in the Amazon forest. The delegation provided testimony before Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and also presented to diverse public audiences around Washington DC, sharing their encounter of discriminations and human rights abuses from some companies operating in the Amazon forest and lack of respect for indigenous rights by some national governments. 

Speaking a public forum at Catholic University on March 23, Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes described the Amazon as the “lungs of the planet” and interconnectedness of the environment, “water care for the forests, the forests care for the water.”  Pope Francis encyclical Laudato Si’ has energized many communities and given hope to leaders to speak about environmental justice in the Amazon. Staff from the Oblate JPIC participated in meetings organized by REPAM and indigenous leadership. The Oblate residence in DC offered hospitality to REPLAM leadership. 

Pictures courtesy: JCooke. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

“We are the Church”

(Originally published on OMIWORLD.org

by Fr. Ali Nnaemeka. OMI

The story of Oblates in Canada cannot be told without talking about our presence among the
First Nation communities. As a matter of fact, four years after the arrival of the Oblates in Canada in 1841, Fr Pierre FISET, visited Sept-Îles, in the Northern Coast of Quebec, to meet the Innu First Nations people. Five years later, in 1850, the Oblates were charged with all the First Nation missions of the Northern Coast of Quebec, from Tadoussac to Labrador.

This mission grew with time, drawing many Oblates, both Brothers and priests, to all the nooks and crannies of the vast territory of this North Shore. Though the mission had its glories and weaknesses, it remained a mission where the First Nation people and the missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate walked together in the vast field of evangelization.

The missionaries worked with the communities in the systematization of their language, in the recording of their ancient histories and traditions, in the translation of many important documents, etc. But after many years of glory, the number of missionaries started seriously to dwindle. Fortunately, the communities are already on their feet; they have their linguists and professional translators; their anthropologists and ethnographers; their own teachers and school directors, etc. The missionaries are thus relieved of their social pastoral programs.

But then the communities that had missionaries dwelling permanently among them started finding it difficult to have even a visiting missionary. And true to our love of the First Nation Mission and the First Nation people, the Oblate province of Notre-Dame-du-Cap made a missionary choice of assuring a qualitative pastoral presence among the Innu Nation of the Northern Shore of Quebec.

Today, we are four missionaries, from four different countries, in charge of seven communities. Our communities are not as they were a few years back. In most cases, the average age of those who come to our activities is above 70 years. And this reality affects our relationship with the younger generation.

But the community of Matimekush-Lac John has proven that they can transform the life of their Church. At the beginning of 2016, the community decided to reinvent its pastoral organization. Without a pastoral team, we gave ourselves two years to go through an unending list of youths who have not yet received their first Holy Communion. Once the challenge was launched, up to 13 members of our community decided to volunteer in teaching catechism. Recently, they proved their preparedness by presenting forty youths to receive Holy Communion. It was a community activity since the last time half of this number participated in such a celebration dates to 22 years ago.
During the celebration, the women expressed their desire to assure a continuous accompaniment of our youth in the preparation of sacraments and in showing other Innu communities how to be a Church in this era of laity empowerment. 

La Vista Community Supported Garden (CSA) Welcomes New Head Farmer

The CommunitySupported Garden at La Vista in Godfrey, IL, a program of the Oblate Ecological Initiative is pleased to announce that Phill Beile will be the new Head Farmer for the 2017 season.  Phill has been the assistant farmer to the previous farmers, Eric and Crystal Stevens for the past three years.  He is a very energetic young man and anxious to help continue the mission of La Vista of providing the community with fresh, healthy and locally grown produce. The Missionary Oblates offer sincere thanks to Eric and Crystal Stevens for their hard work and dedication to the Garden over the last seven seasons.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Honoring Women on International Women's Day

By Bayor Chantal Ngoltoingar
OMI JPIC 2016-17 Volunteer

International Women's Day (IWD), originally called International Working Women's Day is celebrated on March 8 every year. Different regions of the world mark the day in various ways but the general focus of celebrations is to show women respect, appreciation and love for their economic, political and social achievements.
     The former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon stressed that “violence against women and girls is a violation of human rights, a public health pandemic and a major obstacle to sustainable development. It imposes exorbitant costs upon families, communities and economies. The world can't afford to pay this price. The cost of violence would represent 5.2% of the world economy.”
     Women occupy a special place in the heart of Pope Francis. In a 2016 Twitter post he noted, “So many women are overwhelmed with the burdens of life and the drama of violence! The Lord wants them to be free and their dignity respected.” The pope has also condemned “the serious practice of female genital mutilation in some cultures, but also the inequality of access to dignified workplaces and the places where decisions are made.” The Pope denounces both “abuses in the family circle” but also “the various forms of slavery, which do not constitute a demonstration of masculine force but a cowardly degradation.” On the essential role of women in society and in the church he declared: “Woman is the most beautiful thing God has created.”
     Pope Francis has repeatedly stressed the “special abilities” of women and the way they look at the world. “They convey to us the ability to see beyond,” the Holy Father said, “to understand the world with different eyes, to hear, to see things with a more creative, patient, tender heart seeking to build a more humane and welcoming society.” The Pope also invites us to pray that “in all countries of the world women are honored and respected, and that their irreplaceable social contribution be valued.”
     In the book of Genesis 2:18, we read, “And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help mate. 21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; 22 And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man”.
     God therefore created woman for man so that they may love one another, and become one flesh, and to grow, multiply and fill the land with children.
     To create the first humans, He made them himself. To procreate God in his love and his sovereignty entrusted the unique role of child bearing to the woman.
     In Genesis 3, we see, sin entering the heart of woman and into the heart of man. Because of this, both have fallen into sin and into death. But the Lord is powerful in his ability to restore that which has been destroyed. The plan of salvation came through the Lord Jesus Christ who was born of a woman, a virgin, and born by the power of the Holy Spirit in the body of a woman. He was formed in the body of Mary in a supernatural way by the Holy Spirit, so that the posterity of the woman would crush the serpent's head. It was the woman Eve, who brought sin into the world, and it was through the woman, Mary, that the world received salvation through her Son the Lord Jesus Christ.

Bayor comes from Chad, Central Africa and is working on her Masters in social work at the Catholic University of America. She recently published a book about the practice of Female Genital Mutilation in Africa called ” L’obscurite sous le Soleil” translated as “Darkness under the sun.” The book is currently being translated into English.