May 18, 2017 — For more than six decades, Canadian Jesuit Father Irénée Beaubien was one of the bright lights in the ecumenical movement. Forever searching for ways to bring Christian denominations closer together, Fr. Beaubien died this week at the age of 101.
His passion for ecumenism started during his formation as a Jesuit when, while making a 30-day retreat, he recalled relationships he had with Protestants from his early years and felt called to work with them. He worked to fulfill the desire of Jesus: “that they may be one.”
|Fr. Beaubien recevied the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (Pontifical Cross) for a lifetime commitment to the church in January 2012.|
The longtime head of the Canadian Center for Ecumenism, Fr. Beaubien served as a committee member at the World Conference on Faith and the Constitution at McGill University. The meeting was instrumental in creating a dialogue between Catholic and Protestant leaders in Montreal, who began meeting and praying together. When Montreal was selected to host the 1967 World’s Fair, Fr. Beaubien worked to persuade the Vatican to decline to have its own pavilion and instead unite with other Christian denominations in setting up a single pavilion. In 1984, after directing the Center for 21 years, he began a new ministry, Paths of Faith, dedicated to engaging Christians who had distanced themselves from the church.
Fr. Beaubien was born in Shawinigan in Quebec, Canada, in 1916, one of 11 children. When the 1929 financial crisis hit, he had to leave school and worked for 10 cents an hour as a lumberjack at a logging camp in the Mauritian Forest. He returned later to his studies and decided, in 1936, to go on a Jesuit retreat. He said the experience was “profound and gentle,” where Jesus asked, “I need collaborators and I propose that you give up everything for me.” His meditation that followed about the sufferings of the passion and the crucifixion confirmed his decision to follow Christ. He entered the Jesuits in September of 1936 and was ordained a priest in 1949.
According to the Jesuits of the French Canada Province, in January of 2016, as his 100th birthday approached, Fr. Beaubien “gave thanks to God for all that had been given to him. He acknowledged that he had received much from the Society of Jesus. He emphasized also that he kept a grateful memory of the men and of the women who accompanied him and helped him as collaborators, well-wishers and friends.”