by Pauline Ford, previously a Diocesan Archivist
With the arrival at Red River of Reverend Joseph-Norbert Provencher, July 16, 1818, the tiny seed of the Roman Catholic faith was sown in Western Canada.
Within the present limits of the Diocese of Prince Albert, the first missionaries to say Mass and offer the sacraments to the people were Fathers Norbert Blanchet and Modeste Demers, missionaries, on their way to Oregon. They stopped at Fort Carlton on August 18, 1838, and a few days later at Fort Pitt.
In 1869, Métis from Red River arrived on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River and set up a camp called Petite Ville. The following summer the Oblate priest Father Alexis André, arrived and persuaded the newcomers to settle at a permanent mission at Saint-Laurent. The geographical area of Saskatchewan at the time was under the jurisdiction of Bishop Vital Grandin, coadjutor bishop of St. Boniface from 1857 to 1870; he subsequently became Bishop of St. Albert, Alberta, from 1871 to 1891.
Gradually, as more missions were founded and immigration brought more settlers into this area, it was decided by the Council Fathers at St. Boniface to erect an Apostolic Vicariate of Saskatchewan, a decision subsequently approved by Rome in 1890. Bishop Albert Pascal, o.m.i., the first bishop of the Vicariate of Saskatchewan, was consecrated June 29, 1891. Later on be became the first bishop of the Diocese of Prince Albert formed December 3, 1907.
Meanwhile the geographical boundaries of the diocese began to shrink with the formation of the Vicariate of Keewatin, July 12, 1910, in the north, and the Diocese of Regina, March 4, 1910, in the south. The Abbey Nullius of St. Peter with its parishes was detached from the diocese in 1921 and in later years joined with the Diocese of Saskatoon.
With Bishop Pascal’s death in France in 1920, Bishop Joseph Henri Prud’homme from Manitoba took over the helm. He encouraged more immigration than ever before, established new parishes and found priests who spoke the new Canadians’ languages. He was to endure the severe financial hardships of the Great Depression. When he resigned in 1937, Reverend Reginald Duprat, a Dominican, became diocesan administrator for a year until he in turn was consecrated bishop in 1938, a post he held until 1952. Bishop Duprat piloted the diocese through the later years of the Depression era and through the troubled years of World War II. Father Peyton’s Rosary Crusade in 1947 was a highlight during his tenure.
Bishop Duprat’s successor was Bishop Leo Blais who served from 1952 to 1959. He brought representatives from the national church together at the great Eucharistic Congress held in Prince Albert in 1957. He also encouraged the participation of the laity in the great Catholic Action Movement. In 1959, he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Montreal.
Bishop Laurent Morin, then an auxiliary bishop of Montreal, was appointed Bishop of Prince Albert Diocese from 1959 to 1983. He helped place the diocese on a sound financial footing. He also attended sessions in Rome of Vatican Council II held October 11, 1962 to December 8, 1965. He subsequently encouraged changes in the liturgy and the celebration of Mass in the vernacular of the people.
Ordained bishop June 29, 1981, Most Reverend Blaise Morand became coadjutor bishop of this diocese assisting Bishop Morin until he retired in 1983. Subsequently, Bishop Morand was installed as Local Ordinary, June 10, 1983. During his tenure he has invited seminarians from around the world, from Poland, Ghana, the Philippines and Vietnam, as well as from Canada. Under his leadership the diocese has increased its mission to address the spiritual, cultural, and financial needs of an ever-expanding apostolate of the Church on the prairies.
On August 5, Bishop Albert Thévenot, M. Afr. was ordained at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in a beautiful ceremony celebrated by the Nuncio, with many faithful of the diocese. His vision of "So that they may have life" continues to blossom and grow.