Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists)

The Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, commonly called Redemptorists and indicated by the Latin acronym “CSSR,” is a religious community of Catholic priests and brothers founded by Saint Alphonsus Liguori in Naples in 1732 to preach to the destitute. The first Redemptorists arrived in North America from Austria in 1832 and in Canada soon after. In 1904, Belgian Redemptorist Achille Delaere, a Roman Catholic priest working in St. Augustine’s, Brandon, Manitoba, established St. Gerard’s monastery in Yorkton to care for the large Galician (Polish and Ukrainian) population in Saskatchewan’s and Manitoba’s prairie parkland. In 1906, convinced that Greek Catholics, Ruthenians and, later, Ukrainian Catholics required services in their own language and rite, he persuaded his superiors to allow him to adopt the Byzantine rite, to preach in Ukrainian, and to use Old Church Slavonic instead of Latin as the liturgical language.

When the French Canadian, Belgian, and Ukrainian-speaking Redemptorists transferred the care of St. Gerard’s to the English Canadian Redemptorists (1913–91), the latter, under the influence of Father George Daly, CSSR, expanded their activities to care for Holy Rosary Cathedral in Regina (1915–27) and then St. Joseph’s in Moose Jaw (1927–2001). A Montreal-born Redemptorist, Gerald Murray, became the first Roman Catholic bishop of Saskatoon and invited the Redemptorists to take over St. Mary’s there (1935). At present, the Roman Catholic Redemptorists maintain their monastery in Saskatoon, and give religious and spiritual missions, retreats, and conferences on moral theology and medical ethics throughout the prairies.

Other Belgian Roman Catholic Redemptorists had joined Delaere, and together they left St. Gerard’s to establish St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Yorkton (1913). They invited other religious communities to Yorkton to help in building the church. The identification of Yorkton with the Eastern-rite Redemptorists was completed by the establishment in 1961 of the Yorkton Province, a distinct unit within the world-wide Redemptorist Congregation. The Yorkton Redemptorists also founded monasteries in Ituna (1919), Saskatoon (1954), and Wynyard (1966), and cared for other parishes when needed. While the number of Ukrainian Catholic Redemptorists has always been low—now no more than two dozen members—several priests have been appointed to exarchates and eparchies (bishoprics) in the Ukrainian Catholic Church in England, France, Germany, Australia, the United States, as well as Canada.

The Eastern-rite Redemptorists’ influence on Ukrainian Catholic life and thought in Saskatchewan was strengthened by the hundreds of thousands of items of religious literature published by the Redemptorist-owned Redeemer’s Voice Press in Yorkton from 1922. The Roman Catholic Redemptorists had their own press in eastern Canada (1928-68), but now support their American Redemptorist confreres at Liguori Publications in Missouri. Saskatoon and Yorkton have become the two main centres of Redemptorist activity in Saskatchewan.

Paul Laverdure