Parish History 1895 - 1959

Pastors and Rectors of the Cathedral Parish
 Rev. Joseph Adéodat Thérien  omi  1896 - 1905, 1907 - 1918
 Rev. Gustave Simonin  omi  1906 - 1907
 Rev. Joseph Edouard Tessier  omi  1918 - 1926
 Rev. Ludovic Larose  omi  1926 - 1936
 Rev. Henri Routhier  omi  1936 - 1938
Rev. Ozias Fournier omi  1938 - 1942 
 Rev. Ovila Meunier  omi 1942 - 1945 
 Rev. Jean Panhaleux  omi 1945 - 1947 
 Rev. Guy Michaud  omi  1947 - 1951
 Msgr. Sébastien Loranger  V.G. 1951 - 1954 
 The Diocese of St. Paul was established
(the Parish Church became a Cathedral)
  August 7, 1948
 Rev. Georges Tardif 1954 - 1958 
 Rev. Albert Langevin  1958 - 1962
Rev. Fernand Croteau  V.G.  1962 - 1968 
 Rev. Rosaire Morin 1968 - 1969 
 Rev. Louis Viel  1969 - 1970
 Rev. J.M. Martineau 1970 - 1973 
 Rev. Robert Poulin 1973 - 1978 
 Rev. Rolland Bissonnette 1978 - 1983 
Rev. Hervé Tanguay   1983 - 89
 Rev. Armand Beaupré  1989
 Most Rev. Bishop Raymond Roy 1990 - 1992 
 Rev. Réal Levasseur  1992 - 1998
 Rev. Roger Sicotte  1998 - 2007
 Rev. Paul Moses Chakkalackal  cmi  2007 - 2010
 Rev. Vitus Ikeme  smmm 2010 - 2012 
 Rev. Gérard Gauthier  2012 -

The following "History of the Parish Until 1959" is copied from a document prepared by Fr. Drouin in 1959.  With the exception of some minor editing, the Document is faithful to the original document.



(1895 - 1959)

Fr. Emeric Drouin O.M.I.,    October 14, 1959

So few pages are allowed me to cover sixty-four years of St. Paul’s religious history, that I must be satisfied with a Bird’s-eye-view.

July 1896 to December 1905

Fr. Adéodat Thérien, O.M.I.

January 1906 to April 1907

Fr. Gustave Simonin, O.M.I.

May 1907 to April 1918

Fr. Adéodat Thérien, O.M.I.

No one, in our whole wide west, knew the First Nations and Métis as well as did Fr. Albert Lacombe O.M.I..  Since the early eighteen hundred fifties, he had devoted his multifarious talents to christianizing and civilizing them.  Love between them was mutual and deepset.  He had often experienced the spirit of service and the gratitude of the Métis in particular, and then, at the close of the century, he saw the plight of his friends.   Pariahs they had become on the outskirts of cities and towns, despised and demoralized through their contact with non-too-scrupulous White colonists.  He had to make a last-ditch effort to extirpate them from this earthly hell.

Egged on by a young missionary, Fr. Joseph Adéodat Thérien O.M.I., Pastor of Métis along the CPR right-of-way in Southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, Fr. Lacombe, even in 1891, devised means and ways.  The derelicts would at all costs, would have  to be shepherded into a track of land remote from the immigrants, where they would have the use of land, but not the title to it;  where whiskey would be tabooed;  where educational and religious opportunities would benefit these nomads.

An attempt to secure land around Buffalo Lake, near the present Bashaw, failed because of the white settlers’ protest.  In 1895, Fr. Thérien, the Principal of Onion Lake Indian School, Fr. Morin, founder of Morinville, Fr. Cyprien Boulenc O.M.I., visited the prairie bounded by the Saskatchewan River on the south and west.  Guided by Pierre Desjarlais (Orkanes), they discovered rotten pegs driven into the ground during the rudimentary survey, dating back to 1885, worked their way from what was St-Paul-des-Cris, now Brousseau.  In two days they marked off four townships of fertile land, rich in lakes, pleasant hills and commercial lumber stands.  Their report to Fr. Lacombe, enthusiastic as it was, incited him to proceed with his plans.

In March 1985, he was in Ottawa making friends with the Prime Minister, Sir Bowell, with the Governor General and several Cabinet Ministers.  On the 28th of December, the Governor General signed an Order in Council, renting for $2 per annum and for a renewable twenty-one-year period, the use of 128.75 sections of land to the Syndicate formed to administer the Métis colony.  A grant for seed grain and farm implements was added.  Most documents mention four townships. but if you eliminate the part of the Saddle Lake Reserve which jutted into those townships, and the half-section reserved for the use of the Wesleyan Mission, which then had a school and many followers on the Reserve, the number of sections mentioned above is the correct one.

Now, although not a member of the Syndicate, Fr. Thérien O.M.I. is chosen as the local manager of the enterprise.  Upon his shoulders are heaped all responsibilities, although Fr. Lacombe remains accountable for the monetary angle.

The latter writes a long circular letter in English, French and Cree to all the Métis of Western Canada and the United States, prO.M.I.sing them a new Eden and inviting them to flock to St-Paul-des-Métis on the shores of Manawan or Egg Lakes.  He is, by far, too optimistic.   He too much, convinced that he is, that Fr. Thérien can accomplish miracles with flimsy means.  Fr. Lacombe becomes impatient with the Manager who does his utmost to inspire more wisdom, because, after all, the purpose of the Colony is to pick up the derelicts from the slums and show them how to become self-sufficient farmers.  They are not to be spoiled from the inception of the venture and his personnel.  How could them put up all the buildings, especially a large boarding school, establish a prosperous farm and help the Métis settle down, on a miserly $2,500 grant?  There existed no hope of obtaining more from Ottawa, as the Liberals, having won the 1896 election, continuously snubbed Fr. Lacombe;  neither could anything be expected from Prime Minster Haultain’s fanatical NWT’s Government in Regina.  The latter pretended that the law did not allow him to disperse anything for a school and a district where parents did not pay taxes.  This, the citizens of he Colony did not have to do, as they did not own the land they lived on.  Yet, Haultain did give grants to Matheson, a Protestant Métis Minister with a day-school in Onion Lake, whose pupils were mostly from Catholic families dispersed all over Alberta.

I have heard some claim that an oral gentleman’s agreement between Catholic and non-Catholic missionaries existed in the last century.  Each was to avoid penetrating within a territory first evangelized by the other.  However, the case just mentioned and so many others of the kind are proofs to the contrary.

Regina finally consented to a $350 grant for the school in 1904.  It proved to be the first and the last one.

A two-year begging campaign (1901-02) in Quebec, nets slightly more than $10,000 for the St. Paul Colony, half as a gift from Senator Forget of Montreal for the construction of the church opened on Christmas Day of 1904.

Faced with possible bankruptcy between 1896 and 1905, Fr. Thérien does his utmost for the Métis, he too cherished  By the latter date, hopes are running much higher: the $25,000 Boarding School is in use, the church is completely paid for, the farm is starting to furnish appreciable products, some men are good farmers;  others as a group, earn between $12,000 and $15,000 yearly with Mr. Hopkins, the government surveyor.

Alas!  on January 15, 1905, disaster strikes a death blow to material prosperity just expected around the corner, but especially to the morale of all concerned.  The uninsured school, a victim of arson at the hands of boys belonging to one of he best families, crashes down into the flames.  Fr. Thérien, who had often doubted the wisdom of the whole scheme, although he continually gave it his all, sees, in this turn of events, the manifestation of God’s will.  Fr. Lacombe, Fr. Thérien and Brother Nemoz, the carpenter-architect of the building program, are dumfounded by the catastrophe.  All three become ill, and the Brother dies of a broken heart, a few months later.

Too many of the eighty families on the Reserve have not sufficiently taken root;  the school has been annihilated through ingratitude, finances are in a rout, the Oblates cannot replace the aging Brothers, the Sisters want to leave the place, and a number of Métis are drifting away to resume their nondescript existence in other locations.  Fr. Thérien, after his six-month recuperating rest in San Antonio, Texas, has no choice left to him .... the Reserve must revert to the Federal Government and be thrown open to white settlers.

In the circumstances, the Syndicate admits it wold be the best policy.  Fr. Lacombe, most adamant, holds out until the summer of 1908.  What would his “children”, as he dubbed the Métis, do?

For a nO.M.I.nal sum of two dollars, the lease of the townships reverts to the Crown;  Fr. Thérien makes a deal with the Honorable Frank Oliver, Minister of the Interior;  the Oblates get two sections south of the present Main Street and the Diocese of St. Albert an equal share on the north side as a reward for moneys and energies expended;  the rights of the Métis are respected as to their eighty-acre plots, plus an extra one within the Reserve a full homestead without;  official announcement of the opening will be published in but a few newspapers;  the date will be set for April 10, 1909.

Fr. Thérien wants a temporary Lands Title Office in St. Paul, so he can make all registrations himself, but Mr. Oliver, fearing political repercussions unfavourable to the Liberals, refuses, although such a privilege has been granted in the past for the settlers of Lloydminster and Barrhead.

As a substitute measure, Father has all the forewarned homesteaders come West some days previous to the official opening.  To each he distributes a slip of paper bearing the exact number of his individual homestead.  By Tuesday of the faticidical week, a motley caravan  wends its way towards Vegreville, the closest railway station.  On Wednesday, all are billeted in the Immigration Hall or in hotels in the Capital City.  Friday morning, at five o’clock, Fr., Thérien who has rushed over from St. Joachim’s Parish, rouses them and orders them on the double to the Lands Title Office on Victoria Avenue.  Why such alarm?  News has come that a trainload of unwanted adventurers, bent upon outdoing the previous group, are nearing Edmonton.  When they rush towards the Office and around the last street corner, lo! some hundred and fifty men stand in an orderly but determined line.  The first victory is won.

Throughout Saturday and Monday, April 10 and 12 registration proceeds apace.  Tuesday and Wednesday mark the return of happy colonists through a  tempest of wind and snow. Little do they care since each has acquired a new home.

For years to come, life is an heroic effort.  Rich they are in courage and generosity, but poor in species and means.  Yet, lucky are they, from the fact that they are members of a well organized parish.  No debt on the church, on the convent and on the two school buildings exist;  only current expenses are to be worried about;  their parish priest, intent on being a “Father” to each and ever one, makes the Rectory a source of intense charity, wisdom and encouragement.  Fr. Thérien has their interests at heart, just as he has had since 1904 when he became the inspirer of a planned colonization scheme covering all the territory from the Saskatchewan River near Brosseau, to Cold Lake, taking in the intermediary points now known as Lafond, Cork, St. Vincent, St. Edouard, St. Lina, Thérien, Mallaig, Bonnyville and Fort Kent.  Unobtrusively but with determination, he had enticed settlers, directed them according to a well-defined pattern and obtained for them a number of secular Parish Priests.

From then on, Fr. Thérien in a mainstay for Bishop Legal and his Oblate Superiors, for whom he remains a weighty counselor until his demise in 1936.

Between 1909 and 1911, Fr. Thérien liquidates the Mission Farm, to rid himself of material preoccupations and concentrate upon spiritual ministrations. Village lots are surveyed by Mr. H Montambeault and Mr. Laudas Joly, so that St. Paul cam pounce upon the opportunity of the religious and econO.M.I.c heart of the whole region.

The 1913 boom and crash, the war years, the hotly contested 1917 election and the thorny railroad problem are the human highlights of the remainder of Fr. Therien’s stewardship.  Educationally speaking, the record is enviable: when, at one time, the Sisters of Assumption, unplussed, wish to retire from the parish;  Father they will have the first High School in North-East Alberta.  This becomes a reality in 1915, with the erection of a third school, comprising three rooms.  The latter and the former two make way for the brick building in 1930-31.  Further, Father is directly responsible for the fact that we Catholics of Alberta possess High Schools of our own;  otherwise, our situation would be identical to that of our Saskatchewan coreligionists.  Officially speaking, perhaps Bishop Legal and Fr. Leduc, his Vicar General, might be credited with the victory, but Fr. Thérien discovered the potent arguments, laid down the ground work and made the political contacts.

Intensification of spiritual life among his parishioners is the Pastor’s primary goal since 1909, as it had been previous to that date.  In 1904, the school had been consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and 1914 witnessed the foundation of the League of the Sacred Heart for the men;  almost yearly he arranges for a “Mission”;  religious and priestly vocations are encouraged constantly, the first ones to respond being four young Métis girls;  he organizes a parochial scholarship to lead a young man through to priesthood.  That vocation movement has gathered momentum yearly since then, so that, today, St. Paul with its 92 men and women in the priesthood and religious life ranks second but to one parish in the West, that of Saint Pierre-Jolys, Manitoba. which boasts 105 vocations, although its total population numbers only 1425.

Depressed by ever-recurring asthma, by malicious criticism form the vanquished Conservatives of the 1917 election and by a general unrest caused by the delay in obtaining the railroad, Fr. Thérien must leave in March 1918 for a protracted rest in Pincher Creek.

His curates were the following:  Fathers C. Charlebois (1900-02), Cyprien Boulenc (1905-07), J-M. LeClainche (1907, 1909-15), J-M. Dupé (1909), L. Balter (1915-16), and Fr. J. LeChevalier who was interim Parish Priest from January to July 1914, while Fr. Thérien was in Ottawa on official business for his Bishop.  All priests in St. Paul from 1896 to January 15, 1951, are Oblates of Mary Immaculate, with the exception of Fr. Van Wetten, a Premonstratensian form the Abbey of Grimbergen, Belgium, who had come in 1901 to case the situation to see if his Order could take over from the Oblates.

November 18, 1918 to August 23, 1926

Fr. Joseph Edouard Tessier O.M.I.

This highly intelligent man came to us from Duck Lake, Saskatchewan.  His arrival could not be underlined with a cheerful welcome, as the Spanish Influenza had just struck.  The curate, Fr. Fernand Degenais, who had been sole priest for some months, had just been laid low by the fearsome malady.  Within a week he is dead!  Fr. Tessier is left alone to carry on all the work in the parish, to encourage the bereaved and the sick.

No sooner has the dread disease vanished, that another trial shakes the morals of our population.  The 1919 crop is a total failure.  The Hard Winter of 1919-20 bankrupts so many farmers that discouragement sets in, yet, Fathers Tessier, LeClainche and Louis Simard who replaces Fr. LeClainche in St. Paul from 1920 to 1923, visit families and schools regularly to revive Faith and prod people into renewed efforts.

Good News!  The railroad reaches St. Paul in 1920!  This is the result of a “house arrest” of a railroad officer and of free labour on the part of our men.

In 1921, a sub-council of the Knights of Columbus is founded.  In March of the following year, they revive the idea of a hospital, which Fr. Thérien had had at one time.  In January 1923, Fr. Tessier establishes the first Parochial Council, proposing to it the construction of the Parish Hall and the Hospital problem.  The first is built between November 18, 1923 and January 24, 1924, at a $3,000 cost, while the latter is shelved for two years.  The Congregation of the Ladies of St. Anne, a group still active, comes into existence on August 26, 1923.  February 1925 sees the opening of a Parish Library in the Parish Hall.  Subsequently moved to the Rectory, its contents, in 1930, are handed over to the Public Library.  From March 20, 1925, to the end of June, Fr. Tessier lobbies in Ottawa and obtains an option for the St. Paul Citizens Association upon sixty-one quarter sections on the east portion of Saddle Lake Reserve, thrown open to setters when Fr. McDonnelll and he Scottish Immigrants Association endeavored to lay hands upon the whole country side.  During his absence, a group of people opens the “Charlebois Hospital” in mid-town.  Emotions run high among the majority because of the rumour that some want a religiously neutral institution.

Again, during his stay in Ottawa, our Parish Priest works in two other directions: he tries to persuade the Government to revive the defunct Immigration Bureau, so Canadians who wished to emigrate West could obtain at least equal opportunities as those offered to Europeans;  he also attempts to convince both the Federal Ministers and the C.N.R. authorities that the railroad junction for the line to Bonnyville should be in St. Paul.  In both instances, results did not fulfill his desires.  On the first count, Ottawa snubs him;  on the second, he is double-crossed by the Bonnyville delegates who want Ashmont as the jumping off location for their spur.  To avoid taking sides,  the C.N.R. places the junction where gophers roam and strawberries grow!

Fr. Tessier, as his predecessor had done, encourages the formation of rural school districts.  Besides, the church now being too small, a building fund is started in 1926, with Archbishop O’Leary’s blessing.

However, our parish Priest is denied the pleasure of seeing the new Temple  go up.  His health gives out.  He must leave.

From August 22, 1926 to July 6, 1936

Fr. Ludoic Larose O.M.I.

Fr. Larose, having acquired the reputation of a builder and a wonderful administrator, arrives in our village on August 22, 1936.  So many things must receive immediate attention!

Within a week, he gets an urgent message from the Chancery Office in Edmonton:  “Act promptly!  Duclos from Bonnyville intends to open up a Protestant hospital in St, Paul,”  A full-scale parish meeting, the next Sunday, votes in favour of immediate construction;  the Oblates donate the land;  the Grey Nuns, contacted once more — they already had consented to a foundation back in December 1922 — accept;  the Sisters take over at the Charlebois Hospital on September 20th;  a fund-raising campaign starts;  Mr. Gordon from Vegreville begins the construction work on October 27, and the Grey Nuns move in on August 16, 1927.  In  1930 the building is doubled in size and a Nurses’ Home is added.  The first effort costs a total of $16,000, not counting the electrical installations donated by Fr. W. Pepin.  The Sisters contribute $5,000;  a collection adds $1,360;  a bazaar nets $3,225;  the Parish covers the balance.  By February of 1928, the debt is whittled down to $1,500.

Between 1927 and 1958, our hospital has catered to 44,609 patients.  Evidently, it now has become too small.  A new building, for at least one hundred beds, is imperative.

1926: Foundation of the Children of Mary Congregation.

1927: The Altar Society comes into existence.

1928: The French-Canadian Association takes root in our Parish.

1929: First Ordination of a priest, Fr. L. Bussière, in St. Paul, although the first local boy, Alphonsus Girard, had already been raised to priesthood in 1925 in Montreal.  The cemetery is extended in a westerly direction to the street.

1930: The Brick School is built;  the magnificent church, now become our Cathedral, is dedicated on December 8, with Fr. Thérien celebrating Mass.  Total cost of the House of God is $54,035.  The old church is transformed into a gymnasium in 1931.  Fr. Larose is instrumental in having the Federal Government locate the Blue Quills Indian School within the Parish limits.

1932: Silver Jubilee of Priesthood of Fr. Larose.

1933: A memorable Eucharistic Congress underlines the Jubilee Year commemorating Our Lord’s Crucifixion.

The Economic Depression, lasting into 1935, prevents our Parish Priest from wiping out the rest of the overall debt, amounting to $16,000 on the date of his departure on July 6, 1936.

Fr. Larose has left a reputation of an intent man whose only ambition was  the betterment of St. Paul, of a man perhaps feared by a few but admired by the great majority for his many and diversified good qualities.

He leaves St. Paul to assume the responsibilities of Provincial Bursar for the Alberta-Saskatchewan Oblates.

July 6, 1936 to June 5, 1938

Fr. Henri Routhier O.M.I.

Fr. Routhier, Superior of St. John’s Juniorate, Edmonton, now replaces Fr. Larose.  Gentle and lovable, he is remembered for the encouragement given Catholic Action Movements and to agricultural courses.  Fr. G. Levasseur O.M.I., his curate, admirably seconds his efforts.

The Scout Troup, founded the day before Fr. Larose left, is organized under Mr. S. Pitre as Scout Master;  and ACJC, or Youth Group dating back to 1933, is transformed into a Catholic Action Group in October 1936;  the JEC (Youth Movement for Students) takes root at the school in the same month.  The gymnasium in the old church is reopened.  The Sacred Heart League receives a shot in the arm in 1937;  a Parochial Mission is preached by Fr. Louise Gagnon O.M.I.;  the St. John the Baptist Feast is celebrated yearly;  Archbishop MacDonald confirms one hundred and eighty children on July 25;  a regional congress of the French-Canadian Association is held on November 7;  and the stage in the Parish Hall is spruced up in December.

On January 28, 1938, l’Avante-Carde, the junior section of the French-Canadian Association of Alberta, holds a public demonstration, and, on March 15, Agricultural and Home EconO.M.I.cs courses become a reality.

Fifteen days before, Fr. Levasseur is transferred;  Fr. Gérard Ménard O.M.I. comes as replacement, while a few weeks later, our Parish Priest becomes Provincial Superior for the Oblates.  [He is later to become Coadjutor Bishop of Grouard, 1945 to 1953;  Apostolic Vicar of Grouard, 1953 to 1967;  and First Archbishop of Grouard-McLennan, 1967 to 1972.]

From June 24, 1938 to April 10, 1942

Fr. Ozias Fournier O.M.I.

Most welcome is Fr. Routhier when he returns within a few days of his departure to install Fr. O. Fournier O.M.I..  The Parish Priest, youngish as he is, feels the weight of responsibilities placed upon his shoulders.  Some parishioners will ever remain miserly in their confidence towards him.  His avowed task is to maintain existing organizations, to participate in all activities which might influence the parish, and to create a peaceful atmosphere.

Agriculture and Home EconO.M.I.cs courses proceed satisfactorily;  a musical and vocal festival is held on November 25;  the Trustees have a stroke of genius when, on the 17th, they reject a proposal to bury our School amidst the bureaucratic setup of the Large School Division.  In May, college boys from St. John’s in Edmonton enhance our esthetic tastes through a pleasing concert.

Fr. Fournier will best be remembered in St. Paul as founder, in 1938-1939, of the Credit Union, to which he gave lasting impetus.  The 1,000 members of this “peoples’ bank” now have $400,000 at their disposal, and, over the years, one and a half million dollars have been loaned out among themselves.  You should expect to dee a new block going up quite soon.

From the date of the ordination of the author of these lines, on June 29, 1939, the number of young men priests multiplies rapidly.

Fr. Ménard is replaced by Fr. Lavoie O.M.I. during the summer.

The pipe organ fund grows to $585;  Fr. LeClainche is finally relieved of the janitor and stocker work on the church — how much he as saved the Parish since 1907!  June 16, 1940 witnesses Fr. Drouin’s First Mass in St. Paul;  Confirmations by his Grace Archbishop MacDonald, and the ordination of the first secular Priest, Hudson Delisle.

Fr. Fournier will also ever be recalled for the institution of closed retreats: between 1940 and 1942 he preaches seven.

The Sisters of the Assumption open their $40,000 convent on January 11, 1940;  Fr. Adrian Charron O.M.I. and Fr. Nestor Therrien are ordained during the summers of 1940 and 1941 respectively;  the “Rosary Hour” is introduced in October;  Fr. Maurice Lafrance O.M.I. is made a priest in 1941;  the parochial debt is lowered and reparations are made in the Rectory.

St. Paul is struck with awe in 1942!  Could it be possible that Fr. LeClainche will be more be seen trotting around from house to house to visit the shut-ins, visiting the schools for catechism, confessing and preaching in church?  Too true, alas!    Doctors have condemned him to absolute rest in the hospital.  However, as soon a he is able, he takes over the chaplancy of the institution, until death claims him in 1952.

Fr. Fournier, his health seriously undermined, is relieved of his responsibilities on June 10, 1942.

From April 10, 1942 to July 26, 1945

Fr. Oliva Meunier O.M.I.

Much activity marks this period, but the only visible foundation which has enjoyed permanency is the St. Vincent de Paul Society, existing since 1942 for the advantage of the destitute.

Boys Town, had it succeeded, might be a source of glory for the then Parish Priest.   However, notwithstanding the $6,000 loan from the Oblates, the $2,000 gift from the  Calgary Knights of Columbus, the $1,134 revenues from a bingo, and the generosity of many individuals, Fr. R. Yott and Fr. E. Forestier cannot cope with the burden of an institution harbouring some thirty boys, but having no set revenues.  A farm, some distance from town, would have been the ideal location for Boys Town.  By 1947, nothing but a gaping hole remains.  Everything, including the lumber from what was the old church, is sold to cover debts and loans.

Preoccupied with the salvation of all souls within the parish territory. Fr. Meunier and his curate, Fr. Gérard Leduc O.M.I. offer Sunday Mass in a school south of the lake, for a group of people, organize a weekly High Mass for the Métis in the Winter Chapel, and lend the latter to our Ukrainian fellow-citizens till they open their own worshipping place in 1948.  A Mission is preached by two Redemptorist Fathers in 1944;  Agriculture and Home EconO.M.I.cs courses are still given;  and Fr. Leduc erects a stone wall in front of the church, before leaving for Maillardville, near Vancouver, to give a helping hand to Fr. Meunier, who leaves us on July 16, 1945 to become Parish Priest at Our Lady of Fatima.

From July 27, 1945 to September 10, 1947

Fr. Jean Panhaleux O.M.I.

Pincher Creek and the Calgary Diocese are unhappy to see Fr. Panhaleux move north.  He comes to us with a different attitude, because of his age and the intensity of the work to be accomplished.  His is a period of calm following up the heels of a whirlwind!

We have the pleasure of tendering a warm welcome to Bishop Routhier between November 9th and 11th.

The ad hoc $4,100 reserve in the bank, permits the parish to purchase the $6,800 organ in 1946.  Mrs. Olsen and Fr. Green from Edmonton come down in September to inaugurate it.  Lucky are we, as the price soars to $11,000 in that year, but Mr. Pepin of Edmonton and the Casavant Company honour their signatures.

Financial problems are now less burdensome: the overall debt is down to $3,300, and a bingo-tom bola erases the balance due on the organ.

Again, the St. Paul tax payers have to reject efforts made to force our school into the Large School Division setup.  Compliments to them for having thus avoided a form of slavery!

Now for a rapid summary of other activities:  many concerts by local talent are offered;  Archbishop MacDonald presides, in August, at the profession of ten Assumption  Novices;  picture shows in the Hall are a failure;  $325 must be expended to repair the heating system in the Parish Hall;  on October first, Fr. Pastek directs a bingo for the Ukrainian Church in our Hall;  the School is consecrated to the Sacred Heart on the 27th, just as Fr. Thérien had dome in 1904;  by May 16 the Hall is completely stuccoed, the Financial Campaign  for the Archdiocese of Edmonton takes place in May 1947;  parochial and closed retreats for young people are preached;  Fr. Yott, after teaching for five years in our School, leaves St. Paul, and seven Postulants enter the Assumption Convent in September.

Fr. Panhaleux, feeling that a younger man could accomplish more than he can, begs to be relieved of his parish.  On September 7, 1947, he is sent to Cold Lake.

From September 17, 1947 to January 15, 1951

Fr. Guy Michaud O.M.I.

It is a sincere pleasure for us to see Fr. Michaud, once a curate here, return to St. Paul.

The Children of Mary Association prospers under his care;  a bazaar in October almost wipes out the remnants of our debt;  in February and March of 1948, because of a strike among coal miners, all parish buildings are switched to gas heating;  talk of erecting a Recreation Centre is heard, but it will always be for naught, till His Grace Bishop Lussier makes a deal with the school authorities for the use of the new school gymnasium.

One of Fr. Thérien’s prophesies suddenly comes true on August 12, 1948, when Rome announces the formation of the St. Paul Diocese, with Bishop Maurice  Baudoux as its first Pastor. His consecration take place in our Cathedral, at the hands of the Apostolic Delegate, His Excellency Ildebrando Antonniutti.  A question immediately comes up in the mind of all of us:  “Will the Oblate Fathers now have to leave, after fifty two yeas of devoted service?”  Yes, is the answer.  It is normal that a Bishop’s Cathedral be administered by the diocesan clergy.  However, as Bishop Baudoux knows his secular priests are not numerous enough, he begs the Oblates to remain for an indefinite period of time.

Another problem now arises: the rectory is too small to house those serving the Parish and the personnel of the bishopric.  A new building must go up.  A deal is made with the Parish Council to share the costs and ownership.

On May 24, 1949, two hundred children from St. Paul and Bonnyville hypnotize us with their musical festival.  On June 4th and 5th, the Alumni of the School and the parishioners compliment the Assumption Sisters on their Golden Jubilee as teachers in or midst.  The bronze tabernacle upon the Convent’s Altar is a gift offered them on that occasion.  On the 12th of June, Bishop Baudoux ordains Fr. Ubald Duchesneau O.M.I. in St. John’s College, and on the 19th, Fr. Maurice McMahon O.M.I. in St. Paul.  The pious Crusade of the Rosary Rallies, along with two Missions, are the highlights of September and October.

Of the numerous events taking place in 1950, only the following are here recalled: foundation of a local branch of the MAMI (Missionary Association of Mary Immaculate);  a vocation retreat for the oldest boys and girls in School;  occupancy of the Palace-Rectory;  the scintillating visit of our Lady of the Cape throughout the Diocese, and in St. Paul particularly;  a special program in the Cathedral to underline the definition of the Assumption Dogma;  Msgr. Loranger is vested with the Domestic Prelate Insignia and title;  Mr. W. Beaudry receives the “Bene Merenti” Papal Medal;  fifty-five new Knights of Columbus join the Society;  His Excellency Bishop Baudoux gives Minor Orders to Mr. Fernand Croteau, Seminarian.  Beside him, ten others, Alumni of St. John’s College in Edmonton, serve in our Diocese.

On December 24, 1951, choking with emotion, Fr. Michaud announces the immanent departure of the Oblate Fathers from our parish.

A magnificent tribute of gratitude is paid the Oblates on January 7th, 1951.  The Parish Hall is too small to hold all those who would be present.  All local organizations, both religious and civic, outdo each other in expressing thankfulness.

In the presence of His Excellency, on January 14, Fr. Michaud, ministered by his Curates, Fr. A Tetrault O.M.I. and Fr. G Lassonde O.M.I., offers up his ultimate Mass in the Cathedral.  The end has come!  The Parish Priest and Fr. Lassonde depart on Monday, while Fr. Tetrault leaves on the 17th.  The Parochial Diary or Codex Historicus concludes the era with these words: “With him, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate have disappeared from this Catholic center founded by them fifty-five years previously.  Innumerable sacrifices, generosities, joys and difficulties have marked this period of their apostolate.  The Church forges ahead, and the Missionaries, as usual, must sacrifice themselves!”

From January 15, 1951 to September 23, 1954

Rectorship of Msgr. Sébastien Loranger,

Domestic Prelate

No better choice could have been made to replace an Oblate Parish Priest!  After all, is not Msg. Loranger officially an “Honourary Oblate”?

What of the accomplishments of these years?  Briefly they are:  Action Rurale (Catholic Action Groups to underline the mystic of agriculture) launched in December 1951;  His Excellency Bishop Baudoux leaves us in March 1952 to assume his new post as Coadjutor Archbishop of St. Boniface, Manitoba, while we welcome His Excellency Philippe Lussier C.Ss.R., his successor, on September 9th;  the Scout movement, in its four ramifications, is rekindled in 1951 and 1952;  the unused rectory, at a cost of $15,000, is renovated to serve as a Catholic Center;  our “holy” Fr. LeClainche O.M.I., after years of effective but humble work, passes on to his eternal reward in October 1952;  the Precious Blood Monastery stands a prayerful watch over the Parish and the Diocese since July 1952.  Two young ladies, in 1953 and 1957, joined the foundress in the Convent, as the new “spiritual lightning rods”.  The Monastery being inadequate, land has been purchased south of the Hospital, with the purpose of erecting another one.

Bishop Baudoux left St. Paul too soon to actuate a plan for the benefit of our Métis.  He desired to build a relief chapel for their use, south of the cemetery.  In the past, Fr. Fournier had founded two or three Study Clubs among them as adjuvants to their faith, their social and econO.M.I.c life, but, apparently, they have passed out of existence.

Msgr. Loranger, his health quite impaired, must bid adieu to us.  His new parish is that of St. Lina.  Sent to Picardville next, and to Morinville afterwards, he now is retired a Lac La Biche.

From September 23, 1954 to September 3, 1958

Rectorship of Fr. Georges Tardif

Born in Vegreville, raised in St. Paul and St. Vincent, this young priest, almost too shy for an extensive parish, is well liked by his collaborators.  Notwithstanding his self-diffidence, Fr. Tardif spurs things along.

Most organizations proceed successfully, although some, unfortunately, drop out of existence.  This causes an extensive section of the  adult population to remain aloof from direct parochial collaboration.  Playground activities find their inception in 1955, and keep from 80 to 150 youngsters busy during six weeks of Summer Holidays; the previous year, a skating rink is put in on the south side of the rectory; His Excellency Bishop Lussier ordains Fr. Dollard Demarais O.M.I. on September 11th.

Also fruitful in 1956: a Help Committee for the Precious Blood Monastery comes into existence on January 18; a Public Speech Club is founded; the bilingual teachers of the district inaugurate a local AEBA “Father LeClainche Circle” (Alberta Bilingual Education Association”); special closed retreats for youths who are out of school are preached; the annual blessing of cars and a visit to the Highway Calvary west of town gathers a crowd; ordination of Fr. Maurice Joly O.M.I. in Lebret Saskatchewan, takes place; Fr. C. Campbell returns from the Quebec Seminary, where Adolph Terre replaces him.  The year ends with a Parochial Mission in English and a bazaar.

What of 1957?  The MAMI holds its annual do in favour of the Diocesan Indian Missions;  Fr. Campbell initiates ten English-speaking Study Clubs, which, to the detriment of all concerned, will fall into oblivion when Father is transferred to St. John’s College, Edmonton, in September 1958; opposition to the Alberta County Act, a most detrimental set-up for Catholic Schools, is voiced in a general meeting; His Holiness Pope Pius XII visits us on September 29, in the person of his Excellency Bishop Panico, His Apostolic Delegate to Canada; follow a mission for French-speaking parishioners; a highly successful bazaar which nets $4,011.78 in December; a of school grants by the Alberta Government for the huge building which is to occupy the land across  the street from the Cathedral and the Palace.  The parish Hall will have to be torn down to make way for it.  Parochial activities will henceforth be held in the gymnasium that new school.

Nineteen Hundred and Fifty Eight:  Fr. C. Campbell, in February, enlightens young men and women through courses preparatory to marriage.  Fr. MacDonald C.Ss.R. from Edmonton, in March, boosts spiritual life in a English Retreat; St. John’s Glee Club entertains a hall-ful; on principle, our School decides to accept First Nations students in the proportion of 20% compared to our total school population, or a maximum of 200 individuals.  Terrence Pearson and Alfred Perniak follow the example of many others in the past and are received into the Church; one of our boys, Paul Chamberlain, because of his bilingual dexterity, is chosen by the Federal Government as a guide during the Brussels World Fair, for the Canadian Pavilion; a temporary swap of parishes between Msgr. Loranger, Vicar General, and Fr. Tardif during His Excellency Bishop Lussier’s absence in Europe occurs; twenty two graduate from our School — the highest number ever for one year; St. Paul hosts the Regional Conference on North-E astern Alberta Hospitals; the tenth anniversary of the Eucharistic Crusade is celebrated; Patricia McMahon pronounces her Perpetual Vows at the Good Shepherd Convent in Edmonton, while Francis, her brother, studies in Rome with the Oblates.

Thus ends Fr. Tardif’s administrative record, when he is transferred to Lafond, on September 3, 1958.

From September 3, 1958 …  …  …  …

Fr. Albert Langevin as Rector of the Cathedral

His family hails from St. Vincent.  Like the former Pastor, Fr. Langevin studied in the defunct Jesuit College and in St. Joseph’s Seminary in Edmonton.

An extrovert, an energetic administrator and a most sociable person, he easily establishes contacts.  He is well-liked, especially by the youth.  The foundation of the C.W.L. takes place in the spring of 1959.

A rapid summary covering the last year’s endeavors:  all existing organizations are in full swing; direction of scholastic affairs are now under the vigilant eye of a local Superintendent whose efforts are bolstered by two Principals, one a Sister, for Grades 1 to 6, and the other, Mr. J.A. Beauregard, for the higher divisions; sacerdotal ordination of Fr. Joseph Joly O.M.I., and his cousin Agathe’s joining the Missionary Dominican Sisters add to St. Paul’s glory; Perpetual Vows are pronounced by Francis McMahon in Rome on September 8, 1959.

Nineteen Hundred and Fifty Nine will remain a gold-lettered year in all memories, as we celebrate the half-century of St. Paul under the guise of a white parish.  Initial celebrations, on April 10, are bathed in a spiritual atmosphere.  His Excellency Bishop Lussier offers a Pontifical Mass that evening and convincingly orates upon the deep meaning of a Golden Jubilee.  A coordination committee, composed of civic and religious representatives, engineers the divers phases of the program stretching into 1960.

Future events are not within the scope of my ken as an historian.  I must therefore desit, offering each and everyone my best wishes for this Jubilee Year and for all ensuing decades.

Fr. Emeric O. Drouin, O.M.I.

11 October 1959