A number of Catholic laymen
from Minnesota formed in 1902 the plan of investing in Canadian railway
lands and sell this land to German Catholic farmers. The lands in the
Canadian North-West are laid out in Townships of six miles each way.
These are again divided into thirty-six Sections, each one mile square.
Finally each section is subdivided into for quarter sections called
homesteads or farms, comprising 160 acres. Every even numbered section
was free for homesteading, costing only the ten dollars filing fee, and
requiring six months residence there on every year for a period of three
years, and putting a certain number of acres under cultivation, when
after three years, the settler having become a naturalized citizen of
Canada, would have a free title to the land. Every odd number section
was Government, or railway land, selling from three to ten dollars an
Previous to buying up land,
these Catholic laymen interviewed the Benedictines of St. John's Abbey,
Collegeville, Minnesota, and begged them to look after the spiritual
care of the future settler, and thus make the undertaking a success. The
Benedictines enjoyed the utmost confidence of the Minnesota people on
account of their great and successful pioneer labors in that State, and
naturally, new settlers were sure to flock to any colony which was
recommended by these good Benedictine Fathers and of which hey would
have spiritual charge.
Accordingly the Rt. Rev. Abbot
Peter of St. John's Abbey sent one of his Fathers, the Rev.
Bruno Doerfler, with these Catholic laymen on an inspection trip to
the Canadian West in August 1902. Father Bruno was a good judge of soil
suitable for farming, and had otherwise a good practical insight into
business affairs. After an extensive trip through Manitoba, Southern
Saskatchewan and here found the ideal location where farming should
prove a paying proposition. Here was a district well-suited for mixed
farming. his tract of land was entirely uninhabited and offered
unparalleled opportunities for a compact settlement of German Catholics.
The south-western part of the Colony was open, rolling prairie, whilst
the northern and eastern part was partially covered with poplar groves.
Here was material for constructing houses, wood for heating the houses
during the long severe winter, without however having timber of such a
heavy growth as to make the clearing of the land to arduous.
St. John's Abbey having a
sufficiently large field for their labors, Abbot Peter Engel proposed
the Father Mayer,
O.S.B., superior of Cluny Priory near Wetaug, in the State of Illinois,
that his community look after the spiritual wants of the future
settlers. The Cluny Priory was situated in a material district that made
it impossible to conduct a successful college, and as moreover, the Rt.
Rev. Bishop did not have any parishes that he could place in their care,
the community had no future and were compelled to look elsewhere for a
location. They had nearly decided to transfer the priory to beautiful
California, when this new mission field was offered them. This new
mission field a great future, there could be no doubt; but what great
hardships and trials they saw looming in the distance, before a
comfortable home would again be theirs! What a difference between sunny,
smiling California and the cold, icy, Canadian North-West.
Prior Alfred accordingly set
out with Father Bruno on an inspection trip through the proposed Colony
in January 1903. He was well satisfies that the Colony could be made a
success, and therefore went to pay the Rt. Rev. Albert Pascal, O.M.I.
Vicar Apostolic of Saskatchewan, a visit in his episcopal city, Prince
Albert. The dear bishop received the two Benedictine Fathers with open
arms, elated at the prospect of such a large influx of sturdy, german
Catholic farmers as was here promised him. The Rt. Rev. Bishop and Prior
Alfred drew up a written agreement, signed by them with Fathers Bruno
Doerfler O.S.B., and W. Brueck, O.M.I. as witnesses, according to which
the pastoration in perpetuum of fifty Townships, comprising Townships 35
to 40 inclusive in Range 18 to 22 inclusive and Townships 37 to 44
inclusive, in Range 22 to 26 inclusive was assured the Benedictines.
This document was duly ratified by the Holy See under the date of
September 12, 1904. The name of Cluny
was changed to St. Peter's Monastery in honor of the patron Saint of the
abbot of St. John's Abbey who had offered this new field of labor to the
monks of the Cluny Priory. The next step was to find a suitable place
for the monastery in the proposed colony and then the most important of
all - that on which all would defend - the bringing in of a large number
of Catholic settlers in a very short time so as to assure a compact
The site selected for the new
Monastery was about 85 to 90 miles from Rosthern Sask., the nearest
railway station. Near this site flowed a little creek called the
Wolverine, insuring a sufficient supply of good water to a large
community. The monks from Cluny reached their new home on Ascension Day,
shortly before noon, May the twenty-first, 1903. Although weary and worn
out after a trip that had lasted many days through mud, and snow and
rain, a tent was hastily put up and Prior Alfred celebrated the Holy
Sacrifice of the Mass during which the little community received Holy
Communion. (Abbey's first site near Muenter Sask. pictured right)
Many were the difficulties and
hardships the new community as well as the settlers had to contend with.
Generous as the new settlers were that came with them or shortly
thereafter, they could offer the priests very little remuneration for
their arduous labors. Many a new settler, after having paid his ten
dollars required as a fee for filing on a homestead of 160 acres, had
first to earn some more money before he could buy a team of oxen, a
plow, etc., and be in a position to move out on his homestead. Others,
perhaps the majority, had indeed, sufficient to buy all necessaries, but
then their money was gone. The priest had to travel far and be days on
the way to visit his scattered flock, read Holy Mass, catechize,
baptize, etc. Coming home, his bed would be - some hay on the ground
floor, with a pair of shoes wrapped in a coat for a pillow whereon to
rest his weary head. Such like discomforts must be added the inclemency
of the weather, traveling across the trackless, snow-bound prairie,
with the thermometer at 30 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit below zero.
Now that the Benedictines were
in the Colony, settlers poured in from every State of the United States.
Mission Stations or perished from every State of the United States.
Mission Stations or perished sprang up rapidly. Soon there was one every
ten or fifteen miles. Little log churches were built which shortly gave
place to somewhat larger churches built of boards, or lumber. These in
turn made way, or are making way, for real large churches of brick or
Parish, or Parochial Schools,
the only ones of the kind in Saskatchewan, were opened up in those early
days in the little log churches. Gradually separated building were
erected for that purpose, and now every where in the Colony one finds
Parochial Schools. They are not only large schools, but a few even
handsome brick buildings.
As the Colony grew larger, the
need of a good hospital was felt. Rt. Rev. Bruno Doerfler, the Abbot of
St. Peter's Abbey and the spiritual head of the Colony, went to Europe,
and induced the Sister of St. Elizabeth from Klagenfurt, Austria to come
over and open a hospital at Humboldt, six miles of the Monastery. They
erected a large brick structure, with the hearty cooperation and support
of the settlers and of the Benedictine Fathers. This building was
enlarged last Autumn to more than twice its former size. The community
numbering now twenty sisters, is independent of Europe, receiving
candidates and novices.
In a similar manner the
Benedictine Fathers felt the necessity of Sisters for the Parochial
Schools in the Colony. Abbot Bruno applied to various sisterhoods, until
finally he succeeded in obtaining the Ursulines of Haseluene to locate
in the Colony. Last year they completed the erection of an imposing
brick Convent & Boarding School, at Bruno, Sask. in the western part
of the Colony. This community is also independent of Europe and has now
about twenty members. These nuns have charge of four parochial boarding
schools in Muenster, Dead Moose Lake, Bruno, and Leofeld. The Schools in
Muenster and Bruno are fine brick structure. The other parochial schools
in the Colony are in charge of teachers and take no boarders. Brick
churches are found in Humboldt and Pilger, whilst in Dead Moose Lake a
brick church is in course of erection. At Bruno a solid stone foundation
50ft. x 160ft. is used as a church and next year a brick structure will
be reared on this. At Watson plans for a brick church are complete an
the basement is to be built this year.
There are resident priests at
the following places: The Abbey church at Muenster, Humboldt, Annaheim,
Dead Moose Lake, Fulda, St. Benedict, Leofeld, Bruno, Engelfeld, and
Watson. Besides his perish each resident priest has at least one Mission
Station are attended directly from the Abbey. The largest parishes are
those of Humboldt, Bruno, Annaheim, Lake Lenore, Muenster and Pilger.
These parishes number from 400 to 600 souls. The other parishes or
mission stations number fro 150 to 300 souls.
The entire Catholic population
of the Colony is about ten thousand souls. Protestants of various
denominations are to be found only at Watson and Humboldt. Watson is
near the extreme eastern boundary of the Colony and furthest from
Rosthern, the railway station at the time of the influx of settlers. At
Humboldt near the center of the Colony, the railway company located its
repair shops etc., and brought along its English Protestant employees,
so that this town is largely Protestant. All other towns or villages as
well as the rural population are Catholic. There may be perhaps one
protestant every ten or fifteen miles. The Abbey church in Muenster is
classed among the finest in Saskatchewan. Last summer B. Imhoff, an
artist of high standing, decorated the church with most beautiful and
artistic paintings. The painting in the sanctuary are especially admired
by visiting priests and prelates. St. Peter, the patron saint of the
church, is the central figure around which different Benedictine saints
are harmoniously grouped.
In all parishes have been
organized devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, strong branches of the
Confraternity of Christian Mothers, Young Ladies Sodalite, and Altar
Societies. Every year numbers are invested with the scapular of Our Lady
of Mt. Carmel. The men and young men of the Colony have a strong
organization, called the "Volksverein", modeled after the
society of the same name in Germany.
Good parish libraries are to be
found at Annaheim, Bruno, Muenster, Dead Moose Lake and Watson. That at
Bruno is the largest. In these libraries there is a good selection of
books in both the German and the English languages, by standard Catholic
Besides the parishes already
mentioned, The Benedictine Fathers of St. Peter's Abbey have charge of
the following Mission Stations in Pilger, Willmont, St. Leo, Cudworth,
Dana, Peterson, Carmel, Immaculate Conception, St. Scholastica's, Sinnet,
St. Gregor, St. Oswald, Beauchamp and Spalding.
The religious family of St.
Peter's Abbey is composed of thirteen priests, three clerics, and one
lay brother. Two Benedictine Fathers from St. John's Abbey assist in
Missions. One young man will finish his studies this summer and be ready
to enter the Novitiate. There is also a secular priest at the Abbey
intending to become a Benedictine. Another secular priest, Thorcis
Schmidt is acting as chaplain for the hospital in Humboldt.
Great work was accomplished by
the Benedictine Fathers in these seventeen years, but a great deal still
remains to be done. The most pressing need now is the erection of a
large college building. Some college work was always done by the
Benedictines at Muenster. As far back as the fall of 1903 Catholic boys
were taken thereafter, was naturally small. The country was just
beginning to settle up. People as well as the Monastery were poor. But
now that the country is well-settled and beginning to be fairly
prosperous, the need of a larger Catholic college within the Colony is
felt by all. Hence all the Colonists have pledged their hearty
cooperation and support to the Benedictine Fathers towards bearing a
part of the financial burden in the construction of a large and
substantial brick college building. The plans are completed and work is
to commence this summer. The cost is estimated at $120,000.00.
The colony is connected with
the outside world by the main-line of the Canadian National Railway,
from Winnipeg in Manitoba, to Edmonton in Alberta. From there the line
continues to the Pacific coast, with Vancouver in British Columbia as
its terminal. In the western part of the Colony there is a branch line
of the Grand Trunk railway coming in from the south-west and passing
northerly until it reaches the Episcopal City of Prince Albert. In the
center of the Colony is a small branch line of the C.N.R. connecting
Humboldt with Lake Lenore. This line is planned to become the direct
route fro the Canadian West to Hudson Bay. This summer another branch
line (Canadian Pacific) is being constructed through the eastern part of
the Colony, also running north and south.
In order to further the work of
Catholic Colonization, the Benedictine Fathers started a weekly
newspaper, "St. Peter's Bote" in 1904. From the office of this
paper thousands of devotional books, such as Catechisms and Bible
Histories, Bibles, Goffine's Explanation of the Gospels and Epistles and
ceremonies of the Church, Lives of the Saints, of Christ and His Blessed
Mother, of St. Joseph; Church Histories, Prayer books and Books of
Instruction on the Doctrines of the Church, have been sold and sent all
over the Canadian West. Besides these were sold Catholic School books,
candles, holy water fonts, crucifixes, statues, medals, rosaries and
scapulars, holy pictures of all sizes, and many other religious articles
too numerous to mention. The St. Peter's Bote has appeared regularly
every week since 1904. Until Muenster obtained the mail by railway in
1905, the paper was printed in Winnipeg, but after that, until now, at
Muenster. In maintaining this Catholic paper, the Benedictines succeeded
to a great extent in excluding secular, sectarian, yellow press, to
preserve and strengthen the bond which unites all the settlers with the
Abbey. Every issue is like a weekly letter from the Abbey at Muenster to
every settler or resident in the Colony. The Abbey is thus in a position
to warn them of dangers threatening either faith or morals. Shortly
before the signing of the armistice in 1918, the Dominion Government
forbade all papers in an enemy language. Henceforth, until Dec. 31, 1919
the St. Peter's Bote was issued in English. With the New Year it again
appeared in German. Whether English or German, the paper was pronounced
by all, Protestants as well as Catholics, to be a first class
publication, newsy, well-written, and wide-a-wake to Catholic interests.
This issuing of a weekly paper assisted, as has been pointed out above,
in uniting the Colonists closely with St. Peter's Abbey at Muenster. It
has guarded the Colonists from unchristian and sectarian influences,
whilst at the same time it has enabled them to follow closely the trend
of events in the outside world. Each and every one was thus encouraged
and urged on to do his or her "bit" to make this a better
world to live in.
L. J. CH. et M. I.
Form of agreement between
the Rt. Rev. Albert Pascal O. M. I., Ordinary of the Vicariate Apostolic
of Saskatchewan and St. Peter's Monastery of the Order of St. Benedict.
I. The Ordinary Commits to the
St. Peter's Monastery of the Order of St. Benedict located at Muenster,
Saskatchewan, Canada, the pastoral care of all the parishes in the
district comprising the following Townships: 37 to 41 inclusive in Range
23 to 26 inclusive, and Townships 35 to 40 inclusive in Range 18 to 22
inclusive, all west of second Principal Meridian.
2. The said Monastery assumes
in perpetuum the charge of all the parishes within the said district,
with the strict obligation to provide for the spiritual want of the
same, in such a degree as the actual circumstances may require.
3. The Ordinary reserves for
himself and His Successors every right in the said parishes as may be
granted either by canon law or by a lawful custom.
4. The Monastery will be Owner
of all churches, and all other buildings, such as may be erected on the
ground belonging to that same Monastery - either with their own funds of
the offerings of the faithful or both together.
5. The Ordinary assumes no
responsibility whatsoever with regard to any debts or obligations that
may be contracted by the said Monastery; be it that such obligations
have been necessitated by erecting or supporting the buildings, or in
any other way.
6. The said Monastery will be
the sole administrator of all the revenues of the churches and the
offerings of the faithful, and shall dispose of them with full liberty
for the benefit of the parishes.
7. The Ordinary moreover
reserves for Himself the right to ordain the same collections to be
taken up as in the other churches; to receive from the church-revenues
that part to which He may be entitled by ecclesiastical regulations or
special Indult, such as may exist now or be obtained in the future.
8. The said Monastery will
present one of its members to be accepted and approved by the Ordinary
as Rector of each church. Such a rector will be amovable and Nutum
9. To the Priests presented by
their Superiors and accepted by the Ordinary, the Latter shall confer
the faculties required for the administration of the parishes.
10. The priests of the said
Monastery shall have to fulfil all the duties attached to the office of
Pastor curate within the limits of the diocese. The acting pastor of
each church shall, in accordance with the constitution of the Order
enjoy all the rights and privileges granted to any other parish priest.
Hence he will receive all the revenues of the Parish, such as the
offerings of the faithful, priest-dues spontaneous offerings, Jura
Stolae, Christmas Easter collections and the pew-rents.
11. For any point not mentioned
or contained in the present document, the contracting parties agree to
rely upon the constitution - Romanos Pontifices - of Leo XIII, and for
such matters as cannot be clearly defined at present, both parties agree
to abide by mutual agreement such as they many make in the future.
Signed and dated at the
Episcopal Residence at Prince-Albert, N. W.
Bruno Doerfler, O.S.B.
Albert Pascal O.M.I.
W. Brueck, O.M.I.
Alfred Mayer, O.S.B. Prior.
I the undersigned hereby
solemnly affirm to be a true and correct copy of the original document
in the archives of St. Peter's Monastery at Muenster, Sask, this
twenty-fifth day of March, Nineteen Hundred and Twenty.
P. Chrysostom Hoffmann O.S.B.