Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 23, 2006
Sask. pilgrimage recalls priests' exit from Red Deer
Parish centennial includes thanksgiving for French order
By JULIETTE CHAMPAGNE
- Photo by Jeanne Davis
The Alberta pilgrims presented a plaque remembering the Tinchebray Fathers that will be erected on this crucifix.
In 1904, they established themselves in Trochu on a ranch owned by French homesteaders, and planned to open schools in Western Canada. There was a great need for pastors in central Alberta, and Bishop Émile Legal set them to work as missionaries among the settlers.
By 1914 they were ministering to more than 45 rural communities and mining towns, having learned English and several other languages in the process.
They not only established parishes, but were instrumental in bringing women's orders such as the Sisters of Charity of Notre-Dame d'Evron and the Daughters of Wisdom from France, and who, with the fathers, founded schools and hospitals in the area.
The fathers also had a newsletter (in English) to subscribers in the region to keep them informed of upcoming Church activities. By 1924, it had been published for 11 years. Only the last letter remains.
At the time, conflicts between the English and French Catholics and power struggles within the Church hierarchy existed in Canada, and, in spite of their good works, the Tinchebray Fathers were eventually caught in the pinch after H. J. O'Leary was appointed archbishop of Edmonton in 1920.
O'Leary invoked their "monastic rule" as set out by the Vatican, and ordered the Fathers of Ste-Marie to leave their parishes and resume the communal life mandated to their order.
They were now more than a dozen priests and there was no way the sparsely populated regions of central Alberta could support a monastery. So it was that the fathers left suddenly at the end of 1924.
The Diocese of Prince Albert had no qualms about welcoming them. Tisdale became their headquarters and they served for another 30 years in eastern Saskatchewan.
In Alberta, anglophone clergy, many from Nova Scotia, replaced the Fathers of Ste-Marie, a move that struck a hard blow to the French-speaking population of the region's parishes, which in some places, such as Castor, was at the time quite plentiful.
At a memorial Mass on Oct. 11, Sacred Heart Parish presented a plaque commemorating the Tinchebray Fathers to Immaculate Conception Parish in Tisdale. The plaque will be mounted on the cemetery cross dedicated to Father Henri Voisin, founder of the two parishes.
The pilgrimage included visits to related historical sites. Of particular interest was the Tinchebray Fathers' former rectory. Built in Red Deer in 1905, upon their departure, they had it dismantled and the bricks were shipped by train to Tisdale where their residences was rebuilt.
Also visited was the grave of Voisin and other Tinchebray priests, the former site of St. ThérŐse Hospital which was established by the Sisters of Charity of Notre-Dame d'Evron in Tisdale, St. ThérŐse Church in Wakaw, Our Lady of the Rosary Hospital and Theresetta School in Castor.
Several of the pilgrims who took part were descended from the original French settlers in central Alberta, names such as FrŐre, Dumas, Gendre, Hermary, Chalut, among others, and French accents from Brittany and Savoie were heard.
The CWL councils in Castor and Tisdale served lunch to the pilgrims for the three days. It was a time of prayer, meditation and fellowship, and the pilgrims returned home tired but renewed.
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