Chateau St. Jean...Black Robes and Grey Dresses
Today, the growing goes on. Times for rejoicing and weeping continue to arrive and depart. Today, a school gives memory to Father Rossignol who died in 1961 and lies buried here. A hall bears the name of Tache, the co-founder of the mission. The stories survive and will continue to be made. Such is the tenacity of the "Black Robes" and the "Grey Dresses." Such is their devotion to duty.
Mission Church 1940.
The Black Robes (left) -- The Grey Dresses (right)
(Photo Courtesy, Ile-a-la-Crosse Mission)
Father Poirier O.M.I.
Father Poirier is the town pastor in Ile-a-la-Crosse.
"I am an Oblate's Father and I have recently been assigned to be pastor in Ile-a-la-Crosse. This is my third time in Ile-a-la-Crosse as a working priest. It is 45 years ago this summer, that is, in the year 1931, that I first came to this area of the country. I went to Beauval to prepare for the priesthood. I had come fresh from Montreal. It was quite a change from the pavements of the big city. But, I enjoyed every step of it".
"From Big River, we were to travel in two canoes. Bishop Charlebois was going to Beauval, then to Ile-a-la-Crosse. It was evening when we left. The weather was threatening, but the Bishop was in a hurry and he asked to leave anyway. We were wind-bound and properly soaked while on the lake. We had to stop and make a fire to dry ourselves before going on when the storm stopped. We made it to the end of the lake that night, and stopped at the dam which is the head of the Cowan River".
"In the morning, Bishop Charlebois started ahead with the faster canoe because he wanted to make it to Beauval that day, which was a Saturday. We were left behind with the slower outfit and we were to arrive one day after them".
"From Beauval, where I spent four years, I had a few opportunities to go to Ile-a-la-Crosse for short visits. In fact, I made one visit the first summer I was there. There I met Father Rossignol for the first time. The sisters were in a convent not far from the old house which the Fathers lived in. There was also a small hospital of which the sisters were in charge. The hospital was quite new. There were a small number of houses scattered over the point going north. The picture was exactly the same picture below from "Capital D'une Solitude".
The Mission: Rectory, Church, Convent and Hospital-1930's
(Photo Courtesy: Ile-a-la-Crosse Mission)
"In 1935, after finishing my studies with Father Penard in Beauval, I was sent to Manitoba. I came back here in the year 1946, the year of the centennial celebrations. That time, I flew direct from Sturgeon Landing and The Pas to Ile-a-la-Crosse in company with Bishop La Jeanesse. The place was alive with people. Many, Many people had come from surrounding places and were preparing for the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the mission in Ile-a-la-Crosse".
When Lafleche and Tache, the first oblates to set up the mission, came in 1846, there was a trading post already here. The trading posts at the time were the only places where you could meet the Indians and Metis inhabitants of the country. Most would come at certain periods during the year to exchange their furs. It should be no surprise that the missions were all built close to the trading posts. That was the only place where we could meet the people on a more or less regular basis.".
"At the 100th anniversary, there were many dignitaries invited. We had among them, his eminence Cardinal Villeneuve from Quebec and several Bishops. There were also people representing the government. At that time the CCF party was the government of the province".
"The CCF party was very active in the North, and I remember particularly their interest in education. There has definitely been a surge in the development of educational facilities after the CCF came to power. It provided a contrast to the "mission schools" which we had been operating on a "shoestring" budget. That year of 1946, I slept in the new building, the boy's residence which since then, burned down. I was just a curious and interested visitor in that year".
Centennial of Mission (left)
Courtesy of Ile-a-la-Crosse Mission
Father Rossignol's Grave (right)
Courtesy Robert Longpre
"In February 1952, I was stationed in Ile-a-la-Crosse. I stayed here until the fall of 1954. I worked here in company with Father Rossignol, Father Gignot who was still active notwithstanding his age, and old Brother August-an institution in himself. Now in 1952 I was able to drive to the village from Meadow Lake, in a jeep. There was a winter truck road. Traveling in the winter was usually by Bombardier and trucks. Horses and dogs, however were still in use. A new feature at the time for me, was the mink ranch. They were numerous around the lake. The place was definitely progressing. One facility that was here in 1952 and has since disappeared, was the hotel under the ownership of a Mr. Benoit".
"My second posting to Ile-a-la-Crosse was from 1963 to 1966. The setting had changed quite a lot. The hospital was new. I spent those three years guiding construction. First of all, due to a fire at the boy's residence, reconstruction seemed to be necessary and urgent. A new town hall was built, Tache Hall, immediately after the reconstruction of the boy's residence. Tache Hall was in turn used as a church on Sundays during the time the church was demolished and rebuilt. The architect and builder was Brother Edward Boucher. And now, I am back after ten years for the third time, in 1976. I am pastor of the parish. The changes since then have not only been material. There is also that new thing called "local government. The Catholic Church came here in the first place, and is still here, for the sake of religion".