Henri Faraud witnessed many developments in the New World, and was a successful missionary of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, an order known for their work in the early West through diplomacy, language and the establishment of schools, hospitals and missions.
Born at Vaucluse in the south of France, Faraud took his perpetual vows in 1844, after receiving a classical education at the minor seminary at Notre-Dames-de-Lumières at Goult, France. He had not yet finished his theological studies when Charles-Joseph-Eugène de Mazenod, bishop of Marseilles and founder of the Oblate order, sent Faraud to the missions in Canada to assist Bishop Joseph-Norbert Provencher. He arrived at St. Boniface, Manitoba in 1846 where he continued his studies and worked with Abbé George-Antoine Bellecourt to familiarize himself with the customs and language of the Ojibwa and other Aboriginals.
In the spring of 1847, Faraud took his vows as a priest. That summer he ministered to the Ojibwa at Wabassimong, Manitoba and Prairie-du-Cheval-Blanc, Manitoba, but eventually returned to St. Boniface.
The following year, Faraud was sent to Île-à-la-Crosse, Saskatchewan where he met Father Alexandre-Antonin Taché. In 1849, upon being appointed to direct the missions of the vast Lake Athabasca district, Faraud made the 1,200km journey to Fort Chipewyan. He was the first Catholic missionary to visit Great Slave Lake, and founded La Nativité, the first Catholic mission in the region.
After 10 months of solo ministering, Faraud returned for a short while to Île-à-la-Crosse to seek out his compatriot Father Taché. He soon returned north and established a permanent mission at Fort Resolution in the North-West Territories, as well as a mission at Peace River. When Taché was appointed bishop of St. Boniface in 1853, Faraud was chosen as one of his councillors.
In 1855, urged by Bishop Taché, Lac La Biche became the staging area for the transfer of freight carried across the prairies and down the Athabasca River to supply the flourishing Northern missions. The Athabasca River had not been used for shipping since the Hudson’s Bay Company lost several canoes and men in the Grand Rapids in the 1830s, and each trip was perilous. Nonetheless, Taché had descended the river in a canoe and was satisfied that the river was navigable. Faraud took a few trips by canoe, but eventually switched to the sturdier and roomier York boats which were built at the mission. Several Oblates were dispatched to help Faraud establish the mission at a better location. The men began to construct suitable dwellings and cleared a cart track from Fort Pitt to Lac La Biche for the freight, and set up a large farm which would help supply the isolated Northern missions with essentials.
Faraud had a number of administrators from the ranks of the Oblates who managed the shipping operation and took many long trips to visit the burgeoning missions of the Peace, Athabasca and Mackenzie basin, as well as spending many years at the Lac La Biche mission. An advocate of homeopathy, he was considered a very good doctor by the Aboriginal population, and he dispensed minuscule pills for all sorts of ills. With the help of Father Vital-Justin Grandin, Brother Patrick Bows, Brother Alexis Reynard and many others, Faraud extended the gospel’s reach by establishing 20 missions during his lifetime.
Faraud, with some engineering from Taché and Grandin, was consecrated. Ill health caused him to move to Notre-Dame-des-Victoires at Lac La Biche. At Lac La Biche he oversaw the printing of prayer and hymn books in Dene and other Aboriginal languages, and saw to shipping supplies to the missions of his vicariate. In 1889, Taché met with Faraud at the first provincial council of the Oblates held in Western Canada, and upon seeing his old friend who had suffered from liver disease for 40, persuaded Faraud to resign. Faraud died soon after, and was buried in the crypt of the Cathedral of St. Boniface alongside Bishop Provencher.
Champagne, Juliette. La Mission Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, Lac-la-Biche, 1853-1963, entrepôt et couvent-pensionnat, Narrative history and interpretative matrix for the historic site, Alberta Culture and Historic Sites Services and Lac La Biche Mission Historical Society, 1993.