Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 10, 2002
Bishop Grandin honoured 100 years after his death
Early Alberta bishop said 'God chooses the weak'
By RENATO GANDIA
WCR Staff Writer
As St. Peter is to Rome, the Venerable Vital Grandin is to Edmonton, said Archbishop Thomas Collins while walking to the crypt, where the remains of the diocese's first bishop lay.
After Collins presided in a concelebrated Mass for the centennial of Grandin's death, he spent some time before the tomb of his predecessor to pray June 3.
"He was truly a holy man," Collins told close to 300 people who attended the celebration at St. Albert Church.
Grandin teaches us by means of his examples, said the archbishop. Grandin's life exemplified his motto as a bishop: God chooses the weak.
Grandin spoke with difficulty because of a speech impediment. Not a natural born leader he underwent many hardships.
"He lived his life with the people, who were suffering as he himself suffered physically. His humility was genuine."
For Collins, Grandin's life shows that "our own experience of the need for God allows us to be fitting instruments of God's grace."
Six years ago when Collins was appointed bishop of St. Paul, he came to say a prayer at the tomb of Grandin. He read the lives of Grandin and Father Albert Lacombe during his retreat before he was ordained a bishop.
As pioneers of the Church in Western Canada, he implored Lacombe's and Grandin's intercession to guide him in his ministry as a bishop.
A students' choir from Vital Grandin School in St. Albert served as music ministers during the Mass. Prior to the celebration, students at the school researched and studied his life.
Various religious congregations of sisters joined the Oblates and the archdiocese in the celebration.
Grey Nun Sister Rose-Anne Gauvin and Oblate Brother Leo L'Heureux wore their respective habits during the celebration. They represented their congregations as the two foremost arms of Grandin in ministry.
Vital Grandin, who was born in northern France, and later became first bishop of St. Albert, died on June 3, 1902.
After he was ordained a priest, he was sent to a Metis settlement at St. Boniface, Man., where after one year he was sent to the vicariate's northernmost mission.
In 1871, when the St. Albert Diocese, which later became the Edmonton Archdiocese, was created, Pope Pius IX appointed Grandin its first bishop.
Installed as bishop of St. Albert in 1872, Grandin was not only the spiritual leader of the people in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Northwest Territories, but also an advocate of peace and social justice.
Together with nine Oblate priests and a few brothers, Grandin ministered to about 12,000 aboriginal people, 5,000 Metis and a few hundred white people.
Grandin faced many challenges as a bishop. He mediated to end a major Metis rebellion when the federal government failed to keep its promise of land.
He pleaded with Prime Minister John A. MacDonald for help when the Metis livelihood was compromised and European settlers started coming to occupy land offered by the federal government.
He gained from the federal government several other concessions in support of the Metis and Indian people.
Grandin's name is commemorated in different parts of Alberta as name of buildings, halls, streets, schools among others.
His cause for beatification was introduced in Rome on Feb. 23, 1937 and he was declared venerable in 1966.