Western Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan: 1899-1990
First La Salettes in Saskatuan
Father J. Morard, was the first to bring the message of La Salette to Western Canada. In a shack, twelve by eighteen feet, in a place called Alma, he set up a one-room rectory. This room, built in Indian fashion of boards and sod, became his study, kitchen, sleeping quarters, reception room and chapel. Soon Father was joined by Fathers Sorrel, Dupraz, Trapeau, Michel, Kuonen, Gerboud, Gerard, and Stephen X. Cruveiller, who later was Superior General from 1932-1945. La Salette was soon established in the town of Forget, in the Province of Saskatchewan. There were about 500 people there with nearly 400 Catholics.
|La Salette Mission in
In 1924 the Provincial Superior of the American Province in Hartford, CT, responded to the needs of a bi-lingual congregation in Beausejour and sent Father John Zimmermann, who was serving in Saskatchewan at the time, as pastor. Other La Salette Missionaries followed, serving in Beausejour and the surrounding areas of Eastdale, Cloverleaf, Brightstone, Stead, Molson, Gull Lake and Elma.
|Sanctuary in Church in Beausejour, Manitoba|
In 1954, the first La Salette Missionary arrived in the District of Red Lake, Ontario. The primary industry of this area was gold mining and its inhabitants were from varied cultures and backgrounds. There were Germans, Italians, Poles, Ukrainians, Irish, Hungarians, Portuguese and native Indians. Within the next 25 years, history was once again to repeat itself. Many new parishes and mission churches and mission stations sprang up through the zealous ministry of dedicated La Salette Fathers and Brothers. In the latter part of the 1970's, these were returned to the diocese. Here again, witness to gospel values, the La Salette message and religious life bore fruit. Father Jeremy Morais, a missionary in Antsalova, Madagascar, is from Red Lake.
|Picture taken in 1905 in Forget, Saskatchuan, with
Fr. Gerboud on left and Fr. Morard on right
Missionaries from the Province of Our Lady of Seven Dolors labored in the parishes of the great Northwest to build and reconcile in the name of the Lord. Within forty years – 1899 to 1939 – six parishes and over twenty-five missions in Saskatchewan were established through the efforts of the La Salette Missionaries and then transferred to the secular clergy.
In the fifty years between 1940 to 1990, more than twenty-seven priests and brothers of the Province of Mary, Queen of Peace served in Manitoba and Western Ontario. They served in eight different parishes and numerous missions, some of which have eventually been transferred to secular clergy. They served where they were sent with the words “make this known to all (her) people.”
|La Salettes in a Provincial gathering in
Thunder Bay, Ontario in late 1980’s
What has not been written are the hardships endured by the Priests and Brothers who went to Western Canada. The cold and snow, the lack of roads and transportation, the prejudice encountered from people who were committed to Communism and Fascism, from others who were anticlerical, the time spent in jail by some of our men for reasons mentioned above and the distance from their communities of origin are but a few of the difficulties that we have personally heard from some of the older members of our Provinces. Yet what spoke loudest to us was their enthusiasm and zest for life, their absolute dedication to the people, their own humility, prayer life, deep love of and sincere belief in the stirring message of Mary at La Salette. We are to make this known to ALL HER PEOPLE!