February 28, Third Sunday of Lent (2)

Théodore Leon Labouré: Sixth Superior General

He was born in France and was attracted to the Oblates by an uncle who was already a missionary in Ceylon. At the end of his novitiate he was sent to the International Scholasticate in Rome, where he studied at the Gregorian University. He taught dogma in San Antonio, and after some time in parish work he became the provincial of the Second Province of the United States. The General Chapter of 1932 chose him to succeed Bishop Augustin Dontenwill as Superior General. Under his leadership the Congregation continued to expand its fields of apostolate: Laos, Philippines, Haiti, Brazil, Labrador, Cameroon, Congo, British Columbia, Yukon….


The last years of his administration were deeply troubled by the events of the World War of 1939-1945. In l943, Father Labouré, who was in need of complete rest, returned to France and left the general administration in the care of Father Hilaire Balmes, whom he appointed vicar general. He died in Paris on February 28, 1944. He wrote 19 circular letters (nn. 152-170).

After the first moment of surprise, emotion and natural anxiety at my election [as Superior General], I remembered that I no longer belonged to myself, that on the day of my Oblation I gave myself entirely to the service of Our Lord and His Divine Mother, and that the only important thing for me to do is the holy will of God. (…)

At the beginning of my term as General, there is no need to speak of an action program; it is clear in our Holy Rules and our Traditions “Evangelizare pauperibus misit me,” and on my last day when I will give account to God of my management, I hope to be able to say as my venerable predecessors did, “Pauperes evangelizantur “. (…)

The Oblate spirit is reflected not only in the external union of our efforts and wills in the apostolate; it is also reflected in the need that is felt to know each other better and to stay closely united by the bonds of the same charity. (…)

In the past as in the present, our family has been composed of men “ex omni tribu, lingua, et populo, et natione”; and yet the work of evangelization was always successful because it was done “more Oblatorum”. We were not concerned then to channel our efforts based on our nationality: an Oblate went wherever obedience called him, and he gave himself entirely to the work of God and the Church, to the evangelization of the poor, without asking whether or not his companions were from the same country as himself. They were Oblates: that was enough, and the union of hearts created the union of forces. (…)

That is the glorious tradition of our religious family; it is there, in each one’s dedication to the common work that we must seek the true good that will unite us all. (Circular 152, December 3, 1932, vol. 4, p. 236, 238-239)

A. Desnoyers, Le T.R.P. Théodore Labouré, o.m.i., « Études Oblates » 3 (1944), p. 69-73.


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