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
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.
Lacombe 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, which
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.
Roots: Francophones Oblate Missionaries
Father Lacombe Chapel in St. Albert
St. Albert has preserved much of its missionary past. Still standing
Father 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