Although Jesuits and other Roman Catholic priests sometimes accompanied early explorers and fur traders in their travels though the western prairies, the first Roman Catholic religious order to establish missions in the Canadian North-West was the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), founded in 1822 by Eugène de Mazenod in France. Oblate priests had came from France to Red River in 1841; later, in 1846, Fathers Alexandre Taché, OMI and Louis-François Laflèche had established the first Roman Catholic mission in what is now Saskatchewan at Ile-à-la-Crosse. During the settlement period in the west in the latter part of the 19th century, with the coming of the railroad and the opening up of agricultural land for homesteads, other religious congregations of priests and brothers arrived to serve the pastoral needs of the new communities. Members of religious orders engaged in parish work in rural areas and cities, and established educational institutions, both secondary and post-secondary. Later, other works were undertaken, including the publication of Catholic newspapers and catechetical materials, as well as the establishment of retreat houses and seminaries.
In addition to the French Oblates, who served primarily as missionaries to the Native peoples and as pastors to the French Catholics, other members of that order came to Saskatchewan to serve the Catholics of German and Polish descent; eventually, these Oblates were separated from the French and English Oblates into separate Oblate provinces. The Benedictines came to the Muenster area from Collegeville, Minnesota, and set up St. Peter’s Abbey in 1903. They established parishes for the German people who had come to form St. Peter’s Colony, and in 1904 began publication of St. Peter’s Bote, the forerunner of the present-day Catholic newspaper, the Prairie Messenger. In 1927, they established St. Peter’s College.
The Franciscans (Order of Friars Minor, OFM), who had opened their first western Canadian friary in Edmonton in 1909, began to travel from there to the Sedley-Kendal area to preach retreats in 1926. In 1930, they were invited by Archbishop McGuigan to establish a friary in Regina, and in 1932 they founded Regina Cleri Seminary for the training of young men for the priesthood. Over the years, the Franciscans also engaged in parish work, established a Franciscan Third Order, and in 1963 founded St. Michael’s Retreat House (Lumsden), a work which continues today.
The Basilians (Congregation of St. Basil, CSB) came to Saskatoon from Toronto in 1936 to found St. Thomas More College as a federated Arts college on the campus of the university, and they continue to be involved in this work to the present time. Basilian priests also taught at St. Paul’s High School and engaged in parish work in Saskatoon for many years.
The Jesuits (Society of Jesus, SJ) established Campion High School/College in Regina in 1917– 18, and continue to serve on faculty at Campion College, a federated college of the University of Regina.
The Redemptorists (Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, CSsR) came to Yorkton in 1904, and later became involved in parish and mission work in Regina and Moose Jaw (1914), Prince Albert (1930), and Saskatoon (1934).Some Redemptorists transferred to the Ukrainian Catholic rite in order to better serve the pastoral needs of the Ukrainian Catholics of Saskatchewan.
A number of other religious congregations of men served in Saskatchewan over the years, including Missionaries of La Salette, the Premonstratension Fathers, Les Fils de Marie Immaculée, Brothers of Christian Schools (who founded the Ukrainian St. Joseph’s College in Yorkton), Prêtres de Sainte-Marie, Brothers of the Sacred Heart, the Canons of the Immaculate Conception, Prêtres de Ste-Marie de Tenchebray, the Dominicans, Prêtres des Missions Etrangères, Society of Christ, Frères St-Gabriel, and Missionaries of the Holy Family.
At the present time, men’s religious congregations continue to serve in the province of Saskatchewan. In the Regina Archdiocese we find Franciscans, Jesuits, Missionaries of the Holy Family, Oblates of Mary Immaculate, and Society of Christ; in Prince Albert Diocese there are Missionaries of the Holy Family and Oblates of Mary Immaculate; in Saskatoon, Basilians, Benedictines, Missionaries of the Holy Family, Oblates of Mary Immaculate, and Redemptorists; and in the northern dioceses, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.