|St. Joachim, December 9, 1910, Memories:|
|Contact:Michel Lopez |
On the fourteenth of August we had the pleasure to all meet at Lake Sonnant, the trading ground of the Cree. Father Andre who had come from Carlton to attend the gathering sent a letter describing it to Father Lacombe. This letter was published in our annual chronicle. We had much work during this solemn occasion and did not lack for food. Metis and American friends took good care of us during the eight days of the gathering while they were there trading. The governor himself invited us to his table. We were there during the time when people got married and ordinarily this did not take too long and we had to pull ourselves away by the 22nd of August.
Father Fafard was following a band of Indians in the direction of Elk River and had the great fortune to meet up with Father Scollen and Doucet duriing the gathering of the Blackfeet. When the time came for the Father to return to mission, he found himself very far to the south of Fort Pitt. He risked the journey with only a young Indian as a companion. The first three days everything went according to plan, but on the fourth day there was an adventure. Our two voyagers only had the wagon and mare and they had to cross the badlands. When they woke up the following morning they discovered that they were stranded. The white mare had succumbed to boredom during the cold and stormy night and left behind the wagon and is passengers. So here was the Father and the young Indian, looking for the deserter. To no avail.
The mare had naturally returned to the Elk River toward the places that she knew. This was too far for them to follow. What to do? The cold season was starting and the work at the mission required the prompt return of the Father. By luck, the young Indian who had been wandering around looking for the mare stumbled upon a camp of Cree. As he was too far away to return to the priest he decided to spend the night at the camp.
Father Fafard, however, was all alone in his tent and did not know what had become of his young companion. The sky grew dark and menacing. Feariang that it might rain on even snow he thought it best to fill the spaces of his tent with prairie wood (buffalo chips) and after having tried to find any trace of his lost mare, he finished his prayers and tried to sleep under his blankets. How could he sleep in such a situation? Fortunately the good Lord was keeping watch over him.
How happy was the Father the next day when he spotted a man in the distance riding a horse coming towards his tent. It is surely him! "It is my young man!", he thought. It certainly was the Indian. He had loaned a horse and had come to bring the priest back to camp. While thanking Mary Mother of God he did not waste time in packing his tent and few possessions and soon enough the two of them set out for the camp where they would eat their supper.
After spending a few days with these good Indians who treated him the best that they could, Father Fafard realized that my camp was not too far away and sent his man to give me news of his whereabouts. I immediately sent one of my Indians to fetch the Father and we spent a few days together at Mount Nez. On the 29th of October we set out on the road for the mission and arrived on the 9th of November.
All of our people were in good health but unfortunately the work had not progresses as planned and time was pressing. It did not matter for we wanted to accomplish the work together before we separated.
On the first of November I set out to follow a herd of buffalo that were passing by Battleford. I left Father Fafard in charge of the spiritual and physical needs of the mission.
I thought that I would spend the winter at Battleford but upon my arrival I discovered another priest there, Father Hert who was already at work. This was a most pleasant surprise. While passing through Battleford this young priest had learned from Mr. Forget that I was supposed to receive my orders there and decided to wait for me.
I had barely just made the acquaintance of this young priest when the Metis came and asked me to winter with them in the vicinity of Elk River( Riviere Laviche) where they would be gather in great numbers. I hesitated in leaving the young priest alone in such an exceptionally difficult post under all the extenuating circumstance. After having prayed about this matter, the hope of bringing the gospel to a good number of Indians caused me to leave the priest alone at Battleford where there were only whites. I began to make ready for the crossing of La Riviere Labiche where I would be surrounded by Indians. As promptly as I could I gave the young Father necessary instructions and set out with the Metis.
We were on the trail eight days although the weather was fine. I thought that this was a long time as I could not walk and was far from being in the best of health. As always the good Metis took care of me.
There was much joy when I arrived on Elk River. The Metis soon organized and began constructing a church for me and in six or seven days I had housing. I had a church and a place to live. My house, which was twenty feet square, was hardly a monument to architecture but it was sufficient for the need of my parish. Right next to me I had about twenty Metis families, ten or twelve miles lower on the river there were eleven other families. In yet a third village there were maybe three or four families of Metis. Among these Christian families were perhaps fifty families of non-believers. I had difficult field to tend to. The children had grown up far away from a priest and were quite ignorant which made it necessary to spend a lot of time with them on there studies. To make matters more difficult I had to travel from one village to another in order to tend to my flock of believers. This is what I did. I regularly spent three weeks in the biggest village where the church was located and one week among the village of eleven families. As for the third village which was the smallest I only spent five or six days. The whole winter I was fed, housed, and given warmth by the Metis people and I never traveled without their help. This not all. Not content with just providing for my basic needs they also gave me many presents in the form of buffalo robes.
Among the Metis my ministry was quite a consolation. Almost all of them came to the Sacrament during the high holy days. I also baptized a few of the Cree. As for the Santee people who were wintering nearby, they did not want to abandon their pagan beliefs. Occasionally the Metis would speak to them about our faith and told them a good many things, but these Santee have very hard heads and even a good seed cannot prosper if it fall on rocky ground.
In the spring I checked in at Carlton in the hopes of meeting Father Leduc before he went to France for rhe general assembly. Unfortunately we had spent too much time en route and Father Leduc had already left St. Laurent four days earlier by the time I got there on the 24 th of April.
Besides this disappointment, I was quite content during my visit st St. Laurent. Besides Father Fourmond and Andre, I had the pleasure of seeing dear Father Moulin at the mission who was waiting for his summer orders. I was not long before we each received our directives and everyone left for his respective post. Father Moulin departed for his new mission where he exerted much energy in the most devoted way without much effect until the day that he asked me spend a few days with dear Father Hert.
I arrived at Battleford on the 6th of May, 1879 and we savored together the joy of community life. Father Hert and myself, for three wonderful weeks. Once again, however, I took up my journey and arrived at Fort Pitt on the 31st of May.
Before dedication himself with much enthusiasm to his apostolic work, this dear Father Fafard worked like a servant whether it was roofing, tearing down old building,making a stable, cutting wood in the forest, or cutting hay. Our Brother and the young orphan were not capable of helping with the work. After having completed this most necessary physical labor the dear Father visited the Cree village scattered around Fort Pitt, sometime as far away as twenty or thirty miles. I was necessary for a missionary in those parts to travel around a great deal as the population was spread out. One could only hope that soon there would be definite centers where a priest could reside full time.
In the spring Father Fafard took to his plow and cleared a field of four arpents and sewed seed himself. He also planted a very nice garden which supplied him with vegetables. As soon as he was finished planting his fields he left with his oxen and plow to help the Indians for a month.
Here is the man who had done so much to win souls for Jesus Christ. Too of ten the Indians does not comprehend the good that one is doing for his soul, but when one labors for his material well being he is moved.
After my arrival to Fort Pitt Father Fafard had jut returned from this mission and he desperately wanted to follow the Cree on a buffalo hunt. I willingly granted him permission and I left for St. Albert after having given instructions to Father Bourgine and Brother Letourneur.
In one of his letters Monsignor Grandin expressed the wish that I at least visit St. Albert once.
Naturally I wanted to to to St. Albert and visit with my brothers there. I was on the road again!
I arrived in St. Albert on the 18th of June after having been in the company of Mr. Mitchell, an officer from Stobart.
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