Frontier evangelism: The future and legacy of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate

Originally Published by The Archdiocese of Edmonton, CA

Appears in: Archdiocesan News

Missionary zeal and closeness to the poor remain as the burning heart of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the order of priests and brothers who founded the Archdiocese of Edmonton and were essential to the evangelization of the Canadian West.

Between May 13-17, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate Lacombe Canada gathered in St. Albert for their national convocation, which had the theme of “Dare We Hope? Pilgrims of Hope in Communion.” Oblates and associates from across Canada – and the world – gathered to talk about how the Oblate mission to proclaim the Gospel and serve the poor will be actualized in the years ahead. As of 2024, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate have approximately 600 seminarians, globally.

We asked people who attended Convocation to put into their own words how the Oblates of Mary Immaculate are proclaiming the Gospel and serving the poor – both in the past, and the future. Click below for each of the featured interviews. 

Fr. Marc Blom at the 2024 Convocation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in St. Albert.

Father Marc Blom, OMI

Father Blom is a priest for the Archdiocese of Edmonton and the associate pastor for Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples in Edmonton, the national parish for First Peoples in Canada

Why did you become an Oblate?

I started to feel this stirring of a vocation when I was 21-22 and I used to go to Mass at an Oblate house outside of the town of Battleford. And I went there because their Mass was earlier in the morning, and I had to be at work. The Oblates said “sure, you can come to our mass in the morning and then have a slice of toast with us.” So I did that.

I did not like these guys.

They felt like grumpy old men. And so I thought “I’m not joining these guys.” But then one of the Oblates gave me the “founders preface,” the opening chapters of the oblate rules and I read it and I was just caught on fire.

I remember thinking “Wow, I’m interested in this work, how can I join this? So that’s how I was caught by the charism of missionary work and serving the poor.”

Earlier in my life, I was struggling with the idea of priesthood and I went on a retreat. People in my parish had been saying, “Mark, you’re single, you go to church every day, why don’t you be a priest?” And I said “Oh no, I don’t want to be single.”

So I was wrestling with this, and I went on a retreat to a Benedictine monastery and I had good spiritual direction, but nothing was clicking. And I was having lunch in the cafeteria and there were some students there. I was just eating my lunch and listening to two guys at the next table, and one of them was just trash talking the Church. You know, he was running the Church down, saying that the Church is so behind, so confused.

I sort of said to myself, “yeah, you’re right, the Church is struggling. And then that night, when I was out for a walk, I said to God, “okay, I’ll do it. I’ll give it my best shot.”

And so what happened was my romantic streak was transferred from trying to find a lady to marry, to marrying the Church. So I sometimes tell young men that that longing for the intimacy and romance and relationship can be transferred to a romance for the Church. And so that’s what happened to me.

I gave my sacrificial gusto to be a missionary. I wanted to take the biggest treasures I could find and give them to the poor.

Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI

Father Rolheiser has been a priest with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate for over 50 years. He was ordained as a priest in 1972 and he served in the Archdiocese of Edmonton from 1972-1991. He currently resides in San Antonio, Texas at the Oblates School of Theology.

Is it accurate to say that the Oblates of Mary Immaculate founded the Archdiocese of Edmonton?

Yes, except I want to give you a different verb. The verb I like to use is that we “planted” the Church in this area.

Click here to see the rest of the article on the website of the Archdiocese of Edmonton