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Lac La Biche

Rocky
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Lac Ste. Anne

St. Albert

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Father LacombeIn my travels from Edmonton to Saint Ann [sic], when I'd stop on a hillside to have my dogs rest, I'd gaze towards a certain hill with a lake in the distance, and just opposite a forest. As I'd gaze, I'd murmur to myself: 'what a lovely place for a mission.' So, it was to this site that I led Mgr. Taché. As we stood admiring the view from all sides, all enjoying a bit of pemmican, His Excellency said: 'Father Lacombe, you were right, this is a magnificent site! I choose it for our new mission, and desire that it be named Saint Albert, in honour of your beloved patron.

- Quoted by James G. MacGregor. Father Lacombe. Edmonton: Hurtig Publishers, 1975, p. 112.

The City of St. Albert (located along the northwestern edge of Edmonton) began as a mission that was founded by the most famous Catholic missionary in Alberta, Father Albert Lacombe. Lacombe was an energetic man, at times more interested in overcoming grand obstacles and in creating new developments than in day-to-day affairs. However, it is largely because of Lacombe's energy that St. Albert  grew and prospered.  

St. Albert Mission SketchLacombe began the mission in the early years of the 1860s. He was soon joined by about 20 Métis families from nearby Lac Ste. Anne, who helped construct farm houses and plant gardens. Lacombe arranged for a group of men to build a bridge and he started the church's own freighting system. By 1863 a horse-driven mill was constructed, which was soon replaced by a water-powered mill. Expansion of the mission continued and was bolstered by the arrival of the Grey Nuns, who moved from Lac Ste. Anne to establish an orphanage.

The growing St. Albert mission quickly surpassed that at Lac Ste. Anne. In 1871 St. Albert became the residence of the Bishop for the Saskatchewan Diocese, whichSt. Albert Cathoilc Mission not only reflected the importance of the mission,  but also cleared the way for more funds to be spent on developing the site-the hospital built for the Grey Nuns became the Bishop's residence and a new hospital was built. Nearby agricultural settlements increased and although people of other faiths flowed into the area, Lacombe's mission remained dominant. In fact, it was not until 1954 that a permanent Protestant church was built.

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Father Lacombe Chapel in St. Albert
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St. Albert has preserved much of its missionary past. Still standing are Father Lacombe ChapelFather Lacombe's chapel (the oldest building in Alberta), the old bishop's residence, the Vital Grandin Centre (a residence, museum, grotto and pilgrimage site) and the St. Albert Cathedral, which houses the remain2s of Father Lacombe, Father Leduc and Bishop Grandin as well as a cemetery for the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and the Grey Nuns.


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