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Alberta Online Encyclopedia
Since the mid-19th century, French-Catholic missionaries from the Oblate order had maintained a strong hold on the spiritual terrain of the prairies. The Roman Catholic Church had as its goal the education and religious instruction of Alberta’s Aboriginal and Métis People.
The first church in St-Paul-des-Métis was a labour of love for the founding Oblate priests. After all, their vision for the colony was one of an agricultural settlement for Alberta’s French-speaking Métis, where they would build lives based on Christian values and Western ideas. At the onset of the colony, services were offered in a tent erected by Father Therein. Services were later moved to a shack, purchased for $10 in 1897, which also served as the home of the resident Oblate priests. Construction on the first Catholic parish church finished in 1905, which remained in use until 1930, when the Roman Catholic Cathedral was erected. When the town’s status as a Métis colony officially came to an end in 1909, the Catholic clergy had already begun recruiting French-Catholic settlers from Québec.
However, while the community did draw a number of French-speaking people as its first settlers, many of the new arrivals to St. Paul came from different backgrounds, and not all of them were French and/or Roman Catholic. The result was the creation of Protestant and other non-Catholic institutions. While Catholic missionaries held the greatest sway with the local French population, Protestant missionaries had also been at work in the St. Paul region at the beginning of the 20th century. The first Presbyterian Church in St. Paul was erected in 1920. In 1940, the town gained a Pentecostal Church, and the first Gospel witnesses arrived shortly after in 1943. Using donated labour and funds gathered from raffles and bake sales, the town’s growing Ukrainian population also built a church to meet the needs of Ukrainian Orthodox community members.
Services in many religious institutions in St. Paul today are offered in both English and French.
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For more on the towns of St. Vincent and St. Paul, visit Peel’s Prairie Provinces.
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