L’abbé Arsène Hébert

Ottawa and Countryside

Reverend Hébert was an important figure in the history and the development of the UCFO, of which he was the seventh chaplain. After the secretary-general, Antonin Lalonde, left office in 1948, Hébert took over the job until a new one was hired, in 1954. He attended all the meetings of the UCFO and accompanied the new secretary and field man of the time, Jean-François Séguin. Together, they went on extensive tours in northern Ontario, as far as Hearst, to teach the social doctrine of the Church, promote the UCFO and found farmers’ clubs. A tireless worker, he was the chaplain general of many organizations, namely the Union catholique des fermières de l’Ontario, the Jeanne-Le-Ber circles and the Catholic Agricultural Youth.

Reverend Hébert always believed in farming and co-operative organizations. Between 1956 and 1959, he reassured, influenced and persuaded farmers that agriculture remained an important part of rural development. When the St-Albert cheese factory, which is thriving today, was on the verge of bankruptcy, he devoted all his energy and provided financial support to it. “This cheese factory is going to run out of milk one day,” he said, affixing an Immaculate Conception medal to the wall of the establishment. The medal, which is still there today, is a reminder of past difficulties. As a chaplain of the UCFO, Hébert willingly lent money to the organization during financial hardship. “Had God not called me to be a priest, I would have been a farmer,” he said, showing how attached he was to the farming community. A huge celebration was organized by the Franco-Ontarian community in the region for his 25th priesthood anniversary and his silver jubilee.