Donald W. Meyers: It Happened Here: Charles Pandosy establishes Catholic missions in Washington, Canada

Oblate Pioneers

By Donald W. Meyers, Originally Published by the Yakima Herald-Republic, Wash. (TNS)

Aug. 21—While the Rev. Charles Pandosy is best known for his work among the Yakama, his influence was felt throughout both Washington and British Columbia.

Fr. Charles Pandosy, OMI

A Catholic missionary, Pandosy established missions in Washington and Canada, developed a friendship with Yakama leader Kamiakin and created a dictionary translating the Yakama language.

Pandosy, whose baptismal name was Jean-Charles-Jean Baptiste-Félix, was born Nov. 22, 1824, in Marseilles, France, to Esprit-Étienne-Charles-Henri Pandosy, a sea captain, and Marguerite-Josephine-Marie Dallest.

He attended Bourbon College in Arles, and then began his studies for the priesthood at the Oblates of Mary Immaculate’s Juniorate at Notre-Dame de Lumières near Avignon. The order, which was founded in 1807, had the mission of preaching Christianity to the poor and working to relieve their suffering.

Pandosy became a novice on Aug. 14, 1844, at Notre-Dame de l’Osier and took his vows on Aug. 15, 1845.

But his ordination as a priest would have to wait.

He was assigned to head to what was then the Oregon Territory to labor there and establish missions. Their journey from Le Havre to New York and then overland to Fort Walla Walla took almost eight months. During the wagon trip to the Pacific Northwest, Pandosy and fellow missionary Casimir Chirouse entertained their fellow travelers by singing and playing the accordion.

Their wagon trains regarded the missionaries’ presence as protection from attacks by Native people.

It was at the fort that Pandosy and Chirouse made Washington history. On Jan. 2, 1848, Bishop Augustin Magliore Alexandre Blanchet ordained the men to the priesthood.

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