Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 1, 2006
St. Isidore tills Plamondon souls
French roots flourish in parish's rich History
St. Isidore – May 15
- Photo by Ted Fitzgerald
A life-size sculpture of a youthful Isidore behind his plow stands on Saint Isidore Church grounds with the old district museum behind.
By TED FITZGERALD
Special to the WCR
Anyone who's driven on Road 858 north from Highway 55 to Plamondon will never forget the spectacular view along the undulating approach to the unique village, dominated by its church tower three kms away.
More than 300 years ago, one of many immigrant groups left their European homeland to begin a life in New France. Those settlers of the family Plamondon flourished in present-day Quebec until around 1874 when some of their descendents sought new land in Michigan State.
This move failed to satisfy the clan's wanderlust and desire for larger acreages so that the year 1908 found brothers Joseph and Evangeliste Plamondon relocating with family members to homesteads in the new province of Alberta.
There, in the valley of a creek that would bear their name, they again began to wrest a living from the soil. The settlement just off the west end of Lac La Biche not far from the historic Oblate mission, greeted a succession of new arrivals over the next few years - neighbours from Michigan and groups from Brittany in France.
A strongly religious group, the first arrivals were anxious to have a church at the new settlement. Although a tiny chapel was ready by 1911, Mass was celebrated only once monthly, with major feast days requiring a trip to the mission.
The first resident priest arrived in 1915 when the parish was formally established under the name of an early Spanish saint and to honour Joseph's eldest son Isidore who, while working on a farm at Lacombe before 1908, had encouraged his family to move to Alberta.
Isidore was also a most appropriate name for a parish that had such a long history of attachment to the land. The saint, usually bearing the appellation of "the farmer" or "the husbandman," was a 12th century resident of Madrid who spend his entire life working as a hired hand on a nearby estate.
He was noted for his deep faith, his daily attendance at Mass and his generosity to those with even less than he.
Angels were said to have been seen assisting him with ploughing and bags of grain were miraculously replenished when he shared their contents with winter birds.
He was considered to be the model of a caretaker of the earth, patron of farmers, ranchers, crops and his native city. In 1969, he was declared patron saint of labourers by the Vatican.
It follows then that what makes today's Plamondon church unique and arrests the attention of all who enter the main doorway, is the realistic, life-size sculpture of a youthful Isidore behind his plough.
Inside, the focal point of the sanctuary is a large ceramic and wood crucifix crafted locally.
Despite the simplicity of the recently renovated nave, visitors can almost sense the aura of a succession of respected and devoted pastors that have served here for almost 100 years.
Elsewhere, the religious heritage of Plamondon is much in evidence today as shown by the 10-metre-high concrete cross on the Hill of the Cross south of town and the church-like former and present district museums, the latter displaying artefacts relating to the settlement's early years.
Since the first Mass was celebrated at Plamondon by Father V. LeGoff, Saint Isidore's has been an unusually active parish. The Eucharist is celebrated at 11 a.m. on Sundays and most weekday mornings.
At other times, if visitors are unable to locate busy pastor Father Hong K. Nguyen, who also serves churches at Atmore and Breynat, they should be able to find a Plamondon who will tour them through their unique church.