The Bishop of Montreal’s diocese was enormous, leading him to the decision to ask for a part of it to be cut off to form a new diocese: the Diocese of Bytown (today Ottawa). To lead this new diocese he had suggested the name of Father Guigues, who had proved himself a capable superior of the Oblates in Canada. Initially, Eugene was against it because he relied so heavily on the leadership skills of Guigues to maintain unity of life and mission amongst the Oblates. Eventually Eugene saw the possibility of Guigues continuing to be the Oblate superior while being bishop. In this way the tradition of the Oblate bishop being the “provincial” superior of the Oblates began – a practice which was to last around a century.

The Oblates were unhappy about this course of events, as Eugene’s letter to Bishop Bourget shows:

Do you believe, Monseigneur, that I need not even the briefest letter from you after you have seen the storm which struck me as the aftermath of the resolution you had taken and which my confidence in you had induced me to second? I have had a very bad time because of the kind of vortex which seems to have had everybody’s head whirling. I shall not characterize the conduct of your clergy for to express what I thought of it would perhaps grieve you but I will tell you that all our missionaries without exception, seized by I know not what obsession, had lost their wits… The fact is that in the end I was obliged to write a most severe letter in order to put an end to all this turmoil.

Finally, Eugene reminds Bishop Bourget that he has a special role in the life of the Oblates and calls on him to reassure the Oblates that the appointment of Guigues as Bishop of Bytown would be a positive step and would not signal the destruction of the Oblate mission..

I need not remind you that more than ever you must be the Father of our Oblates of Mary. They feel weakened by the election of their superior to the See with which you have entrusted him. Help us as well as him to pacify them and reassure them as I have not ceased to do from this side.

Letter to Bishop Bourget of Montreal, 12 February 1848, EO I n 93


“When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.” (John F. Kennedy)

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Lay Oblate Associate says:

    The word liminal comes to mind, a word that is hard to describe and even here talking with God I am hard-pressed to describe it and can only think what it is like.

    It is like two circles overlapping each other creating a third space between them that is both. That third space is a part of each former two spaces, like chaos and order. It is like a space not bound by time or physicality. I am reminded of the Book of Genesis and the Gospel of John 1:1 “In the beginning…”

    I look at many of the divisions within the Church with one side trying to take over and control another. Darkness and Light. Boundaries which can limit or enhance our world, our beings. As humans we can choose one over the other or allow the communion within us to keep expanding as God invites.

    Here Eugene is looking at the both/and rather than just one side. He explores the fear as well as the calmness and confidence and agrees to choose the new space brought about and existing with both. This applies not only to priests and bishops, but it is also the foundations that we have all become imbued and nourished with along the way of our respective journeys.

    I realise I have used the word “communion” – not just for the beginning of time, but for the now, the present moment, where I am called to be, where we are all called to be… This is where the cross stands meeting the Glory of God, uniting in communion.

    Dare we continue to hope and trust…

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