Saskatchewan Roman Catholic Churches ~ Online Parish Registers ~ History
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has recently released online Saskatchewan Catholic Church Records which include baptisms, confirmations, marriages, burials, and other records between 1846-1957. The following account is a brief history of the Roman Catholic churches, parishes, missions and their congregations in the localities which have released their pioneering church registers.
- If priests could be formed, afire with zeal for men’s salvation, solidly grounded in virtue – in a word, apostolic men deeply conscious of the need to reform themselves, who would labor with all the resources at their command to convert others – then there would be ample reason to believe that in a short while people who had gone astray might be brought back to the long neglected duties of religion. We pledge ourselves to all the works of zeal that priestly charity can inspire… We must spare no effort to extend the Savior’s Empire and destroy the dominion of hell.– Saint Eugene de Mazenod (August 1, 1782 – May 21, 1861) founded the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
The Red River Settlement was the first western community establishing Christian missions and churches in western Canada (known as Rupert’s Land between May 6, 1670 and July 15, 1870). Two Roman Catholic priests, Father Joseph-Norbert Provencher (1787-1853) and Father Sévère-Joseph-Nicolas Dumoulin (1793-1853), arrived in 1818 at Red River and undertook missionary training. It wasn’t until 1840 that the Roman Catholic Church began expanding westward across the prairies to Fort Pitt, Fort Edmonton and to other Hudson Bay Company Forts in the plains under early missionary priests such as Father Jean-Baptiste Thibault (1810-1879) and Father Jean-Édouard Darveau (1816-1844).
Three main factors served the expansion of the Roman Catholic church. The “persons who eagerly left France to seek hardship of life in Canada were zealous priests and nuns who came to convert the Indians to Christianity.”~ Dorland p49 The French government was eager for an expansion of the fur trade, and the conversion and friendship of the Indians was deemed necessary. Father Le Caron began missionary work in Quebec as early as 1615. In 1818, a permanent mission arose in the Red River Settlement under Father Provencher. The Cathedral of St. Boniface was erected in 1844 by Bishop Provencher to serve the Apostolic Vicariate of North-West (established from the Archdiocese of Québec). From here, missionaries began traveling west, and Fathers Lafleche and Taché established the mission at Île-à-la-Crosse, Rupert’s Land in 1846 as a base for the Northern posts. The Diocese of St. Boniface was created in 1847 serving all of the northwestern areas of Canada. The pioneering works of early missionaries in Canada was published overseas, and these “Relations” were widely read, encouraging others in the church to serve as missionaries.
1867 marks the year when Canada formed as a nation, referred to as the Canadian confederation year. On March 20, 1869, Rupert’s Land was sold by The Hudson’s Bay Company to Canada. This great expanse of land became known as the North West Territories (NWT) (les Territoires du Nord-Ouest, TNO). By 1871, the Suffragan Sees of St. Boniface, St. Albert and British Columbia were formed.
The Dominion Lands Act of 1872 made homesteads available for a $10 filing fee. On December 16, 1878, Patrick Gammie Laurie of the Saskatchewan Herald the North West Territories first newspaper, wrote, “Within the last five years…the buffalo-hunter is rapidly giving way to the farmer, and the Indian trader to the merchant.”~Hardy pp300 In 1882 the NWT was divided into districts ~ Assiniboia, Alberta, Keewatin, Athabaska and Saskatchewan. In the late 1800s, L’abbé Jean Gaire, l’abbé Louis Pierre-Gravel, and l’abbé Moise Blais all had designation of “missionnaire-colonisateur” for the Diocese of Saint-Boniface, recruiting, colonizing and acting as land agents as well as missionaries for the diocese and its several missions. In 1890, the Vicariate-Apostolic body of the Saskatchewan was created The railway reached Regina in 1883, both Saskatoon, Yorkton, and Prince Albert in 1890 and Willow Bunch in 1926. Along the iron tracks, frontier towns, villages and communities were springing up.
John Archer, summarizes the second factor, as, “The church contributed to the spiritual and educational life of pioneer communities, bringing hope, comfort and social contacts to the lonely and frequently disheartened homesteading families”~Archer 78. By the end of the 1800s church work shifted from mission work with the First Nations to also establishing parishes in the early pioneer agricultural communities. European Catholics joined the French Catholic immigrants, soon priests were not only trained in English and First Nation languages, but also learned the language of their community. The work of the sisters creating convents, hospitals, and schools complemented the spiritual services of the Roman Catholic church. Religious bloc settlements even immigrated with their missionary priest such as the German Catholic settlers in St. Peter’s, St. Joseph’s (Josephtal) and St. Joseph’s Colonies. Early settlements would remain faithful, with services held in pioneer homes, tents, school houses, hotel dining rooms, railway stations or even barn haylofts until the congregation constructed a church.
Western Canada began with mission churches serving ethnic bloc communities. “The Catholics had missions for the Métis at St. Laurent near Fort Carlton, and at St. Labert, Lac la Biche and Lac St. Anne.” ~Hardy p300 Wauchope, Bellegarde, Wolseley, Lebret, Willow Bunch and Montmartre were all listed as French centres in the Archdiocese of Regina. Whereas, Balgonie, Mariahilf (Grayson), Regina, Holdfast and Claybank served German congregations. Cedoux, Candiac and Ituna were predominantly Polish Roman Catholic parishioners. Moose Jaw, Weyburn, Swift Current were diverse Roman Catholic churches listed in the Archdiocese of Regina.
The third factor which affected the expansion of the Roman Catholic church in Canada occured when the government in France passed the 1905 French law on the Separation of the Churches and State (Loi du 9 décembre 1905 concernant la séparation des Églises et de l’État) caused an upheaval. No longer could religion be taught in public schools funded by the government of France. “As the clergy,” in France, “were in the main monarchist in their political sympathies this was a reason for fearing their influence on the educational system” said Alfred Cobban, Professor of French history. The teaching brothers and sisters were driven away by the government in France. The newspaper “La Croix” advertised teaching opportunities and freedoms of religion in Canada. Missionaries were needed by the Roman Catholic church in Western Canada for the rapidly growing population and villages which sprung up like wild fires along the rails. It was on September 1, of this same year, 1905, that the province of Saskatchewan formed from lands taken from the Districts of Athabaska, Assiniboia, and Saskatchewan North West Territories.
The early priest was often a homesteading farmer as well as postmaster, and school teacher. Appointments in the country side were met with long drives, and the missionary fathers “went their rounds by horse and buggy, on horseback, and sometimes on foot.” ~ MacDonald p.3 Priests would hitch a stoneboat to a team of horses to maneuver the winter snow drifts. “Sparsity of settlement meant long treks to church for many people and lengthy trips for the clergy when visiting parishioners.” ~ MacDonald p.69 At permanently established mission sites, the missionary now constructed chapel, home, established a garden and put in a crop for homestead duties.
- In all matters one must act as if success depended on our skill and to put in God all our confidence as if all our efforts could produce nothing. ~(Saint Eugene de Mazenod founded the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. )
- Allan / Curzon.
- Battleford / Telegraph Flat.
- Brochet (Manitoba).
- Cantal – Alida.
- Chamberlain, Indian Head, Liberty, Lumsden, Rouleau.
- Cumberland House.
- Forget – Alma.
- Arat – Zehner – Frankslake.
- Grayson / Nieven – Killaly.
- Green Lake.
- Indian Head, Chamberlain, Liberty, Lumsden, Rouleau.
- Ituna – Jasmin – Lestock.
- Kamsack – Fort Pelly.
- La Loche.
- Lebret / Denomie Point.
- Lestock / Mostyn.
- Liberty, Lumsden, Rouleau, Indian Head, Chamberlain,.
- Moose Jaw.
- Moosomin – Wapella.
- Onion Lake.
- Pelican Narrows.
- Prince Albert.
- Prud’homme / Howell.
- Rouleau, Indian Head, Chamberlain, Liberty, Lumsden.
- Table: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints online Church Parish Registers.
- Table: Roman Catholic Churches Preserved Heritage Sites.
- Willow Bunch.
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Table of Contents Church Parish Localities