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Saint Boniface

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Archdiocese ; the chief ecclesiastical division of the Canadian West, so-called after the patron saint of the German soldiers who were among its first settlers.


It commenced its official existence as the vicariate-apostolic of the north-west in 1844, though Bishop Provencher, its titular, had been there with episcopal rank since 1822. At that time it comprised the entire territory west of the Great Lakes and as far north as the Pole. The same circumscription became a diocese without changing name on 4 June, 1847, but received in 1852 the title of Diocese of St. Boniface. In May, 1862, all the territory tributary to the Arctic Sea was detached therefrom and made into the Vicariate-Apostolic of Athabasca-Mackenzie . On 22 Sept., 1871, the See of St. Boniface was raised to the rank of an archbishopric, while, out of the north-western portion of its territory, a new diocese was being carved, with headquarters at St. Albert, near Edmonton. The northeastern part of this area further became in 1890 the Vicariate-Apostolic of the Saskatchewan, and this arrangement left to the Archdiocese of St. Boniface 109° W. long. for its western boundary, while in the north this ran along 52° N. lat. as far as the eastern limit of Manitoba, following afterwards the northern end of Lake Manitoba and the Nelson River to Fort York. The eastern boundary was 91° W. long. With the formation of the Diocese of Regina (4 March, 1910) new delimitations became necessary. They are the following: in the south the international boundary as far as 91° W. long.; thence north to a line continuous with the northern limits of Manitoba, as far as the line dividing this province from Saskatchewan, which now becomes the western limit of the archdiocese.

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The Catholic population within the present area is 87,816. Though partaking of the cosmopolitan character proper to the Canadian West, the various groups in this population are more compact. Thus the 29,595 diocesans of French extraction control four counties absolutely. The nationality most numerously represented is that of the Galicians, who number 32,637. The English speaking Catholics live mostly in towns, and are estimated at 9485. The same might almost be said of the Poles, who number 9369. The Germans count 2062 souls, and the Indians about 2000. In 1853, when Mgr Taché succeeded Bishop Provencher, the entire diocese, vast as it then was, counted but two parishes with as many unorganized annexes, and three Indian missions with resident priests, Besides the bishop, 4 secular and 7 Oblate priests attended to the spiritual needs of the Catholic population. At the time of the accession of the present archbishop the number of parishes had grown to thirty-five, though the area of the diocese had in the meantime been considerably diminished. There were then 85 churches or chapels, with 67 priests, of whom 31 belonged to the secular clergy. To-day, with a still more reduced territory, the archdiocese counts 1 archbishop, 1 Roman prelate, and 162 priests, of whom 95 are members of the regular clergy. Apart from the two dignitaries, 138 of the priests have French for their mother-tongue; 9 are English-speaking; 6 are Poles, 5 Germans, 2 Dutch, 2 Galicians, and 1 Italian. The religious orders of men in the archdiocese are the following: Oblates of Mary Immaculate , 47 priests ; Jesuits, 12; Canons Regular of the Immaculate Conception , 11; Trappists, 10.; Sons of Mary Immaculate, 9; Redemptorists, 4; Clerics of St. Viator, 2; Basllians of the Ruthenian Rite, 2. Independently of these two last, the Galician population is ministered to by 2 French priests who have adopted the Ruthenian Rite, as well as by a few Redemptorists and some Oblates, while 3 more French priests are in Austria preparing for the same ministry.


The institutions of the archdiocese are: 1 college under the Jesuits, with 350 pupils; 1 lower seminary (founded 1909) with 45 pupils; 1 Oblate juniorate; 2 general hospitals ; 1 maternity hospital ; 1 house of refuge for girls; 3 orphan asylums ; 1 asylum for old people; and 6 Indian boarding schools. The State-supported Catholic schools having been officially abolished in 1890 (see M ANITOBA ), the two cities of Winnipeg and Brandon, where the majority of the population is Protestant, force the Catholics to pay double taxes, since the latter have to maintain their own schools as well as those of the Protestants. But, in virtue of an agreement between the present archbishop and the Government, the country schools continue to be conducted along Catholic lines. The American Brothers of the Society of Mary direct the English parochial schools of Winnipeg and St. Boniface, while French Brothers of the Cross of Jesus render the same services at St. Pierre. As to the Orders of women within the archdiocese, they are: Grey Nuns (first arrived in 1844); Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary ; Sisters of Notre Dame des Missions; Sisters of xxyyyk.htm">Providence; Sisters of St. Joseph ; Sisters of Our Lady of the Cross; Sisters of the Five Wounds of Our Saviour; Sisters of Mercy ; the Franciscan Missionaries Of Mary, and the Oblate Sisters of the Sacred Heart and Mary Immaculate, founded by the present archbishop.


The principal events in the history of the archdiocese are intimately connected with the lives of its bishops, which will be found under the heads PROVENCHER and TACHÉ. In addition to these and to the data already furnished in the course of the article are to be mentioned the burning (14 Dec., 1860) of the first stone cathedral, whose "turrets twain" have been sung by the poet Whittier. A new and somewhat more modest edifice was soon after put up, which had to be razed to make room for the monumental cathedral erected by Taché's successor, Archbishop Adélard L. P. Langevin, O.M.I. The new temple is a massive stone building of Byzantine style, with a reproduction of the "turrets twain) if the poet. With its sacristy it measures 312 feet in length and 280 feel along, inside with a proportionate width. Its first stone was laid on 15 Aug., 1906, and the edifice was solemnly blessed 4 Oct. 1908. In the modest church which it replaced the First Provincial Council of St. Boniface took place in 1889, with six bishops in attendance. The present incumbent of the see was b. at St. Isidore de Laprairie, Diocese of Montreal, 24 Aug., 1855, he became an oblate 25 July, 1882, and was consecrated at St. Boniface 19 March, 1895.

Quite a galaxy of brilliant public men have shed lustre on the still young Diocese of St. Boniface. Without mentioning several French half-breeds who occupied high posts on the bench or in the provincial legislature, we may name M. A. Girard, who was successively Member of Parliament, speaker of the Assembly and Premier of Manitoba ; Joseph Royal, a writer of note, who, after having been a member of the Manitoba Government was appointed Governor of the North-West Territories; James McKay, a convert, who filled the role of President of the Council in the Girard Cabinet; Joseph Dubuc, who was successively legislator, Crown minister, and speaker of the legislature, and ended his public career as Chief Justice of his adoptive province.

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