150+ Canadians Day 36: Bob Ogle

Father Bob Ogle (1929 – 1998) contributed to peace by seeking to uncover the injustices of our world and doing something about them.

Father Bob Ogle was a prominent figure in Saskatchewan. He was born and raised in a devout Catholic family on a poor farm in Rosetown, SK during the Great Depression.  Bob was educated at St. Peter’s Seminary in Ontario, and ordained in 1953.

He served as an energetic parish priest in Saskatoon, SK until 1964, when he went on a mission to Brazil. There, Bob engaged in pastoral work, organized literary activities, farming cooperatives and health centres.  He wanted to make a difference.  In 1969 he coordinated a relief operation and housing building program following the disastrous floods in the area.

When he returned to Canada he was restless so he traveled the world investigating international development programs.  He wrote a book about it called When the Snake Bites the Sun.

Although he had never belonged to a political party in 1970 and in 1977 he was asked to run for Parliament for the New Democratic Party in Saskatoon East. He campaigned on his bicycle and was elected in 1979, and served until 1984 when he received notice from the Vatican that he could not run again.

In the ensuing  years in spite of ill health he wrote three books, initiated a project called Broadcasting for International Understanding, and hosted a retreat series on television. He always had at least one Project Roberto to keep him (and his friends) going, and he never completely lost his sense of humour. He held a doctorate in canon law and was awarded the Saskatchewan Award of merit. In 1989, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada for “his tireless efforts to foster Canada’s understanding of her role in global progress”.

Ogle had wrestled with many issues and situations, from the decision to run for the party to the daily wrestling with suffering and inequality in the world. Like Jacob, of the Jewish Scriptures, Ogle carried the injury from the struggle for the rest of his life.

Former MP. Rev. Bill Blaikie told of his experiences with Ogle — both funny and poignant — to illustrate a larger point about morality and the need to connect the conflicts and inequalities they saw in the world to their Christian duty to do something about it. One particularly striking story was how, on Christmas Eve 1973, Rev. Ben Smillie, a United Church minister, entreated Ogle to speak in his Christmas Day homily about the bombing of Hanoi, which was ongoing. Ogle did so.  Imagine, on Christmas!  No day is too sacred for the truth.

Ogle passed away in 1998 after a long battle with cancer.

At his funeral, Saskatchewan Premier, Roy Romanow, said, “He was truly a citizen of the world.  He was a man who lived the word of God – a man of peace and caring and compassion.  I’ve tried to emulate him as much as I could.”

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