Provencher, Joseph Norbert
PROVENCHER, JOSEPH NORBERT
First bishop of Saint Boniface and founder of the Catholic hierarchy of the Canadian West; b. Baye-du-Febvre, Quebec, Canada, Feb. 12, 1787; d. Saint Boniface, Canada, June 7, 1853. He was the son of Jean Baptiste and Elizabeth (Proulx) Provencher. After attending the local seminary, he was ordained Dec. 21, 1811. In 1818 he went to Red River and lived temporarily at Fort Douglas of the Selkirk colony while awaiting the building of small lodgings that were to serve as a rectory and
church. A year later he began the construction of a separate church, which was completed in 1825. He was named bishop, with the title of Juliopolis, and vicar apostolic of the Northwest in 1820, and was consecrated May 30, 1822, by Bp. Joseph O. Plessis of Quebec, whose auxiliary for the Northwest he was. In a land where everything was yet to be done, he had to serve as missionary and bishop and concern himself with the religious, intellectual, and even material needs of a local population made up of Canadians, métis, Indians, Scotch colonists, Meuron soldiers, and others. The school he established, where Latin was taught to two pupils, was the foundation of what later became the College of Saint Boniface. He also established a school of household arts directed by two young ladies. In 1833 he began building a stone cathedral, which was completed in 1839 and destroyed by fire Dec. 14, 1860. To help minister to his people, including the native people spread out over his vast territory—Cree, Saulteaux, Chippewayans, and others—he secured the services of Rev. G. A. Belcourt (1831), Rev. J. B. Thibault (1833), four Grey Nuns (of Charity) of Mére D'Youville (1844), and the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (1845). Under his direction missions were established slowly, and the Native American groups were visited in the North, along the Mackenzie River, in the West and Southwest, as far as the Pacific, and along the lower Columbia. There two bishoprics were established through his efforts, one at Vancouver, the other in the American territory then called Oregon. At his request A. A. tache, OMI, was appointed coadjutor in 1851. Provencher's remains lie in the crypt of the cathedral of Saint Boniface.
Bibliography: Archives de l'Archevêché de Saint-Boniface. j. n. provencher, Lettres in Bulletin de la Société historique de St. Boniface 3 (St. Boniface, Manitoba 1913). g. dugas, Mgr. Provencher et les missions de la Rivière-Rouge (Montreal 1889). a. g. morice, History of the Catholic Church in Western Canada … from Lake Superior to the Pacific, 1659–1895, 2 v. (Toronto 1910); Dictionnaire historique des Canadiens et des Métis français de l'Ouest (Quebec 1908). d. frÉmont, Mgr. Provencher et son temps (Winnipeg 1935).