|St. Joachim, December 9, 1910, Memories:|
|Contact:Michel Lopez |
... and spent several days at Elk lake. There was much joy at the mission and a celebration of the highest class for the feast of St. John the Baptist.
But I do not want to forget my mission. On the 30th of June the opportunity arose for me to go down to Battleford. I was certain Mr. Beaupre (Louis) who was going down with eighty bulls to trade with the Indians. We were on the road twenty days. Finally we arrived at Battleford. There were about a hundred tipis there. I let Father Hert have the house and I pitched my ten among the Cree. This was the only way to reach them. During the two weeks that I spent there among the newly converted and the catechisms I baptized six or seven children and a sick woman who died shortly thereafter. All of this compensated for the small sacrifices we had made. When my work there was done the camp dispersed, my tent was taken down and I returned to the shelter of community life, but not for long.
On the 14th day of August I left with Mr.Louis Marion and returned to Fort Pitt to help Father Fafard while some Indians were assembled at this post. I did not arrive until the 19th. Father Fafard had been back from the plains for a long time since the Indians had found nothing to hunt or to eat and had consumed all of the provender of their missionary and they had to return to camp. The valiant Father did not remain idle. He took up his scythe and began making hay for the oxen and cows. One should not forget that the winter here last six months. This year haying was especially difficult and slow. All of the hay fields had gotten wet and the hay had to be cut and then dried.
Our poor Father and Brother had to do this difficult work for five weeks. This was really a test and for those with a delicate constitution there was no place.
Today the haying if finally done and Father Fafard wants to ride among, the Indians quarens quem salvet during which time I will write this report and give catechism to all those who come to us.
This has been a general description of our work during the founding of the mission of St. Jean Francois Regis at Fort Pitt.
We have had over 300 baptisms.
On the third of January, 1878 I made a contract for $125.00 with Norbert Nauricette in Battleford to construct a house 30X20 feet which will serve as a temporary church after the spring.
Next to this edifice we had a cabin which was twenty feet long and eight or nine feet wide. Were we given this cabin or did we buy it? I cannot remember. This is where the fathers resided for several years.
In the last half of November, 1879 after having completed my work with the two Fathers of Fort Pitt I returned to Battleford and spent the winter there with the good Father Hert. Father Hert was responsible for the school of the Catholic children and I was busy ministering to the whites, the Metis and Indians. We did not have a hard time finding work.
In the spring was with the band of Cree under chief Poundmaker which was about twenty-five miles up the Bataille River. They were a good band of Indians who had been given food by the government. Some of them had cabins and the rest lived in tipis. There were very few Catholics amongst them but they all seemed content that a priest was on the reservation.
I lived in a tent there myself for a month or two. As soon as Monsignor Grandin knew about my condition he did not waste time in sending me Brother Bonn and this good Brother immediately began constructing a primitive cabin for me. As long as the weather was nice I was quite comfortable in this little cabin, but as soon as it began to rain I had to put all of my things udder a tarp and if it rained a lot I had to huddle under the tarp myself with all my covers. In the autumn I procured a better cabin. This is where the tragic news reached me that Father Hert had died. It was an Indian who brought me this sad message, a terrible surprise. What a loss! Such a young Father with so many talents and devotion; a young missionary who could already speak English with ease and was beginning to learn Cree and he had only been at Battleford for scarcely two years.
What could have caused this untimely death? He had heart problems.
As he had school everyday with the Catholic boys in Battleford except for Thursday and Sunday, the Father asked Monsignor permission to go on a hunt, on Thursday, so that he could get some fresh air which he needed for his health as well as some exercise which he needed. Monsignor agreed with this idea and granted him permission under the condition that he would not go hunting by himself. The dear Father promised everything. On Thursday (the 14th or 15th of October) he got ready to go hunting after breakfast. He only wanted to go three or four miles away from the village and took with him one of his pupils, a young boy was not hunting, he was cold as it snowed that night before and he was hungry and bored. Around two o'clock he cried out to the priest. "Father, I am cold and I want to go home."
"That is fine", responded the priest. "Go home and make yourself lunch. I want to shoot a few more ducks and then I am going home myself".
The good Sayer boy returned and made lunch. He got overeating ready and sat down by the stove to wait for the Father. He quickly fell asleep and didn't wake up until the next day. When he awoke he was so surprised that he has slept so long without being disturbed and ran to the priest's bedroom where he found the bed still made and empty.
He realized that something had happened to him and ran to tell his mother who did not live too far from the church.. Mrs. Sayer told him to go to Mr. Forget was used to going hunting with Father .
Unfortunately he had not been able to go with him on that Thursday. He knew the place where he and Father liked to go hunting and this is where he found him stretched out by the side of the lake dead.
They tried shaking his body for a long time, but to no avail. The Father did not have any signs of life. AS a last resort, they put him on a horse to see if this would not revive him from the stupor.
A vain attempt. Father Hert was quite dead. They deposited his body at Mr. Forget's who took it upon himself to take care of the burial and to have the wake in his parlor. It was also Mr. Forget who had this tragic news sent to me.
A young Indian was the messenger. I could not believe my ears. I demanded answers. Finally he made me realize that my young friend was dead. Having neither horse nor wagon, I put the young Indian in charge of finding me a way to get to Battleford as soon as possible. This Indian did not take long in finding me a wagon and I left with him. We were not far along when I recognized the wagon of Mr. Scott, the registrar, who was coming to get me. I got on his wagon and within a few hours I was at the side of my dear dead friend. One could almost say that he was sleeping, he seemed to be smiling and his face was not pale with death and his body was still supple as if he were still alive. The Father must have died on Thursday night. It was Friday when I got to Battleford and we did not have the funeral until the following Monday. As someone had put him in my good cassock, I took this off and put him back in his own before the burial. It was really quite surprising; this was as easy to do as if he had still been alive, his limbs were not stiff at all.
Father Hert had often told one of his neighbors that he would not live long.
These were his words. "I laugh and take things lightly, but I have to force myself to be happy, I am never really doing that well. My heart is always giving me trouble."
In such a condition he should have never been out in the cold looking for game in the cold water.
It is too much for his heart. The poor Father, how sorrowful I was! He was such a good man, so devoted and full of talent! I hope that the Lord has given him peace.
The good Lord also had pity on me. He sent me another companion, Father Bigonesse. I left him in charge of Battleford and returned to my Cree and my little cabin. From time to time I went to Battleford for spiritual or material needs. On the reservation I did not have any structure where we could come together in prayer and so I went to their lodges and to their homes to visit them and give them instruction. I visited all of the Indians and taught them in good faith, especially the children, some of whom had already been baptized. I also took care of the sick.
As I only had people who were interested in the faith and a few catechists on the reservation I did not bother with saying mass
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