Remembering Father Brian Ballard, O.M.I.: 1950-2001
The late Oblate missionary Father Brian Ballard,* who was posted in Smithers, British Columbia, during his ministry, stirs fond memories in Eileen Bouvier, former president of the Prince George diocesan Catholic Women's League. The 70-year-old retiree believes that the small town that prides itself as "a place for all seasons" has been blessed with "a missionary for all seasons."
Catholic Missions In Canada donor Eileen Bouvier, in photo with friend Elaine Elliott, has been a charter member of the Catholic Women’s League in Fort Nelson, British Columbia, since 1957.
"We knew him very well. He loved my home-made jellies, especially raspberry.
He did so many extra things for me when I was CWL president."
During a diocesan CWL convention, she recalls, Fr. Ballard volunteered to print the booklet for the delegates and, with the help of his pastoral assistant Elaine Farrell,** sorted and bound them a day before the event.
"They also helped us in a big way during a British Columbia Winter Games event. It was a busy time. We were feeding about 800 people at St. Joseph Catholic School. They were there with their mops and brooms helping us clean up every night."
What she remembers most, however, were the reflection sessions they held for the CWL members. "Father Brian introduced us to the history of our faith as well as to the significance of some of the native
symbols and rites, and how these symbols and rites could be included into the practice of our faith."
In the late 1990s, Fr. Ballard used to fly into the isolated mission at Fort Ware which could only be reached by truck in the summer. "Before he went, I would prepare about 100 to 150 apple ‘leathers' or dried apples on a string from fruit harvested from neighbours' backyards. Father would bring them to this fly-in mission, and as his plane landed, children would run and meet him, asking for ‘the stuff.' The apple leathers would probably be the only apples they would taste during those long, harsh winters."
Bouvier also describes how Fr. Ballard was so well loved by his people that they buried him in a place of honour, on top of the highest hill in Fort Babine, where he had served the longest. "The native people there say it would be harder now to misbehave because they feel it in their hearts that Father would be watching over them," says Bouvier.
*Oblate Father Brian Ballard from the Diocese of Prince George died when his plane crashed in the Hugh Allan Basin area in British Columbia on August 20, 2001. Fr. Ballard and another Oblate, Father Ivan McCormack, vicar general of the diocese, were killed while on their way to an Oblate conference at the University of Calgary in Alberta.
**Elaine Farrell is now pastoral life director at St. Theresa's Missions in the Diocese of Prince George, in northern British Columbia. She received the St. Joseph Award for outstanding missionary work in 1996.