Ninth Superior General (1974-1986)
November 6, 2000, Fr. Fernand Jetté died in Ottawa. He was born near Montreal in 1921 and entered the Oblates in 1940. Ordained in 1947, he continued his studies and became a professor of spirituality and missiology in Ottawa, working in formation and as superior of the scholasticate. In 1965 he was appointed vice rector of Saint Paul University and in 1968 vicar of the Canadian Province of St. Joseph. At the General Chapter of 1972 he was elected Vicar General and in 1974 Superior General; elected to a second term at the next General Chapter he served in that position until 1986.
He was, as the title of his biography by Fr. Yvon Beaudoin states, “A Wise Guide in a Time of Crisis”, a point of reference not only for his Congregation, but also for many other religious men and women who had to face the renewal asked for by the Second Vatican Council. His spiritual teaching will remain a source of inspiration for present and future generations.
The night of his first election he wrote in his diary:
I was elected Superior General November 26, on the fifth ballot. I accepted out of love for the Congregation and fidelity to the Lord. Deep in myself, I long for tranquility and peace. But I feel that I no longer belong to myself and I will belong to myself less and less. Any attachment, any infidelity, however small, seems inconsistent with what God asks of me. I trust him and ask him to help me. I also count on the prayer and affection of my friends. (Journal 1973-1974, p. 306-307).
In a 1995 interview he shared the following about his election:
Father Deschâtelets wrote in his diary: “When I was elected General, I hardly slept all night. I felt like I was hanging between heaven and earth. […]” I did not feel anything like that! I said to myself, “If I am it, I am it, and I will try to be it my way. If I’m not, I will not be it.”
After his re-election, he thanked the members of the General Chapter saying:
We must go forward with confidence and unity, keeping our eyes well fixed on Jesus Christ and the poor of today to whom he sends us. In the Church, we are essentially missionaries and we are surrounded by “mission lands”: the working world is a mission land, the world of migrants is a mission land, the world of youth and the family itself have become mission lands. There are the “poor with their many faces whose condition cries out for a hope and salvation that only Christ can bring fully.” We have to go to all of these, never forgetting that other mission land which we call mission ad gentes, that brought us so many blessings in the past and that made us leave our country to go far away to witness to Jesus Christ and be witnesses and beneficiaries also of the human and religious values that too often we ourselves in our so-called Christian countries are lacking. (OMI Information, 168/1980, p. 5-8)
Fernand Jetté, o.m.i. (1921-2000), « Vie Oblate Life » 60 (2001), p. 281-472 ; Y. Beaudoin, Fernand Jetté. Un guide sage dans un temps de crise, Rome 2012 ; E. Lapointe, Fernand Jetté, OMI, Introduction à ses écrits spirituels inédits, « Oblatio » 2 (2013), p. 247-256.