Centre Oblat – A Voice for Justice
Last Friday February 15th, some thirty-five persons were present at St. Paul’s University to attend the Blessing Ceremony for “Centre Oblat – A voice for justice” at Guigues Pavilion, Room GIG 021. We welcomed our new executive director Mr. Joe Gunn, who had already claimed his new office. We gave thanks to Bro. Leonardo Rego OMI for helping this new initiative to be realized in collaboration with the University and for the great foundation he established for OMI Justice work these past five years. Our hope is that “Centre Oblate” will broaden the impact of the previous JPIC office in SPU and build on the very successful “Snack and Chats”, and various Symposia held both in St. Paul’s as well as across the country in the past years. We hope that Joe Gunn will be able to visit Oblate Community Days this coming year and offer some ongoing formation to Oblates and our Associates, in all parts of Canada. He will be attentive to issues of injustice that districts raise in discussion.
We are grateful to St. Paul’s University who have offered us an excellent office space that is very accessible to the student body as they roam the corridors. Ms. Chantel Beauvais, the Rector, welcomed the guests for this important launch. As this is funded by and a new collaborative work of the three Canadian Provinces, Fr. Ken Forster OMI, Provincial of Lacombe Province also joined in a welcome of those who attended and gave a special word of thank to Bro. Len, for his energetic and generous leadership of JPIC these past five years.
Len’s special assistants, Ms. Sarah Allalou and Richard Wink were recognized for their service. Just yesterday Lacombe Office received a message from Sarah Allalou, Administrative Assistant.
She stated; “I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed my time there, and how much I appreciate having had the opportunity to work at JPIC. I really want to thank all of you for your kindness and guidance and wish you all the best with OMI Lacombe Canada and “Centre Oblat – A Voice for Justice”. I really want to thank Bro. Len for his constant support and kindness. Thanks to him I’ve learnt so much and will always be grateful for that.”
Centre Oblat- A voice for Justice, will advocate and raise awareness about issues affecting Indigenous People, Mining Industry, human rights and ecology. Having its office in St. Paul’s University with will enable it to more easily promote the Six Calls of the Last General Chapter, beginning with its multicultural population of youth.
Fr. Luc Tardif OMI, Provincial of Notre Dame du Cap, blessed the new office space and moved us to a new hopeful future. All were touched by the poem that follows composed by Suzanne, the wife of Joe Gunn, that speaks of two young men who met years ago with the fire in their belly to change our world for good. Today two older men continue to collaborate but still with the same passion.
Fr. Marcin Serwin OMI, Councillor Assumption Province, ended our blessed time together with a toast as we engaged in our wine and cheese.
Blessing of Flowers and Light
For Leonardo and Pepe, February 15, 2019,
Blessing for the Centre Oblate: A Voice for Justice
He went there as a young man
to the southern cone of the Americas:
land of the Inca, the Quechua and Aymara.
Like Oblates before him, he went to minister to the poor
but soon found they ministered to him:
the generosity of those with the least who share the most,
the rising of the people with the rising of the host,
women in their collective kitchens like the woman at the well.
Courage like that of Mary – unafraid to proclaim
the Magnificat, stand at the base of the cross,
approach the tomb to witness the rising:
demand for water, electricity and human rights.
He washed their feet as they washed his.
He walked the dusty streets with them for 40 years.
Some would say he wandered in the wilderness –
relentless poverty and desperation – but it was there in the desert,
he witnessed the most exquisite of flowers bloom.
In his leaving, he was given them –
silken petals of orange, red and yellow to hold in his heart,
gathered up in his cloak, he travelled north.
There was another young man
who too heard the call of the poor and
traveled to the waistline of the Americas:
land of the Maya, the Aztec and mestizo.
There, he would set out to monitor refugee camps,
send the news back.
Some too would call this a desert: stories of massacres
scribbled on scraps of paper, pressed in his hand,
as military helicopters flew overhead.
But it was there, in make-shift shacks
between wooden slats that light seeped in:
bare feet on dirt floors, songs of hope sung as
weathered hands strum handmade instruments.
Small fingers weaving, believing that the scripture
they read must be true: the poor will be heard,
land for those who work it,
good food to eat, the right to read… dignity.
Revolutions were stirring, inspired by a Jesus
who walked with the poor
and that young man walked on with them.
Should it be any wonder
that these two disciples of Christ –
one coming in the door
where the other has been standing –
would be here today, with all of us,
on the land of the Anishinaabe,
on the patchworked sacred earth of Turtle Island.
Both of these witnesses, like all of us
when our eyes are opened, seek to live
what the people – el pueblo – have taught them,
translated into action, in the world of today:
dismantle the docked ships of colonialism,
justice for people, the earth and all of creation.
As with Juan Diego, after having been visited
by the Virgin of Guadelupe, the cloak is opened
and the flowers given –
silken petals of orange, red and yellow fall here
as their seeds settle in amongst us,
blessing this space.
Just as a young woman, at this moment,
sits in a make-shift shack, weaving, believing –
light seeps in between wooden slats and
into this Centre Oblat: A Voice for Justice.
So that with the work that is done here, as with
the threads that all of us weave and the seeped-in
light that awakens the seeds of fallen flowers
on all the land, wherever we stand;
we will proclaim liberty to the captives,
set free the oppressed and, together,
announce the year of the Lord’s favour.
With these flowers, this light, all is blessed.