Vital-Justin Grandin was born at Saint-Pierre-la-Cour [today Saint-Pierre-sur-Orthe], Mayenne, France on February 8th, 1829. His parents were Jean Grandin, a hotelier and agriculturalist, and Marie Veillard. He died in Saint-Albert, Alberta on June 3rd, 1902.
Vital was a small child when his family located at Aron and he was placed in the Small Seminary at Mans in 1850. After a brief time at the Seminary of the Foreign Missions of Paris (1851), he entered the nNvitiate of Notre-Dame de l’Osier on December 28th, 1851 and made his perpetual vows on January 1st, 1853. He was then ordained a priest in Marseille on April 23rd, 1854 by Mgr Charle-Joseph-Eugène de Mazenod, Bishop of Marseille, and founder of the Oblates.
Fr Grandin left the same year for the missions at Red River from which he went to l’Île-à-la-Crosse, Saskatchewan, then to winter at Fort Chipewyan (1855), where he remained until 1857. He also visted the missions of Fond-du-Lac [Athabasca], Saskatchewan in 1857, and Fort Resolution (1856-57).
Returning to l’Île-à-la-Crosse in 1857, he was named Bishop of Satala and Coadjutor of Mgr Alexandre Taché, o.m.i., Bishop of Saint-Boniface, Manitoba, on December 21st, 1857, but did not receive the news until February, 1859. He returned to France and was consecrated at Marseille on November 30th, 1859, par Mgr de Mazenod.
On his return to the Canadian West, he lived at l’Île-à-la-Crosse, (1860-69), where he undertook a long voyage to the missions in the Mackenzie (1860-64), residing at Fort Providence (1861-63) and visiting the missions at Fort Liard (1861), Fort Norman (1861-62), Fort Good Hope (winter 1861-62), Fort Rae (1862) and Fort Simpson (1861-63).
In 1869, he established himself at Saint-Albert and worked among the Cree and the Blackfoot. The Bishop was Vicar of missions [provincial] (1868-97) and was the first Bishop of Saint-Albert, appointed on September 22nd, 1871. He frequently visited his immense Diocese and his actions during the Insurrection of 1885 for the defence of the Catholic schools was energetic and effective.
Having chosen for his Episcopal emblem Infirma mundi eligit Deus, he demonstrated his loyalty to those in his care. He was buried in the crypt of the parish church of Saint-Albert.
Louis Veuillot named him the “flea-ridden, that is, shabby, bishop,” because of his poverty and sufferings. The proposal for his beatification [the first step towards sainthood] was sent to Rome on February 23rd, 1937 and his heroic virtues were acknowledged in 1966.
Many lakes, villages and districts in the Canadian West and Province of Quebec have been named for him. A plaque has been erected in the parish church in his birth village of Saint-Pierre-sur-Orthe, France.1
Reprinted with the permission of Les Archives Deschâtelets and the publisher from Gaston Carriere, o.m.i., Dictionnaire de Marie Immaculée au Canada, tome II (Ottawa: Éditions de l’Université d’Ottawa, 1979), pp 106-07.
1. Paul-Emile BRETON, o.m.i., Le serviteur de Dieu Mgr Vital Grandin... , Edmonton, Editions de l'Ermitage, 1958, 16 p.; Paul-Emile BRETON, o.m.i., Vital Grandin. La merveilleuse aventure de «l'Evêque sauvage» des Prairies et du Grand·Nord, Paris, Arthème Fayard, 1960, 368 p.; Paul-Emile BRETON, o.m.i., Mgr Grandin vous parle... , Edmonton, Editions de l'Ermitage, 1958, 176 p.; Emile JONQUET, o.m.i., Mgr Grandin, premier évêque de Saint-Albert, Montréal, [s.é.], 1903, v, 531 p.; Léon HERMANT, o.m.i., Le serviteur de Dieu Vital-Justin Grandin, Bruxelles, Messager de Marie-Immaculée, 1937, 176 p.; Vital J. Grandin, dans John J. DELANEY-James Edward TOBIN, Dictionary of Catholic Biography, p. 512; Luigi BERRA, Vitale Justino Grandin, dans Dizionario cattolico, vol. 2, p. 245; Louis LE JEUNE, o.m.i., Grandin, Vital, dans Dictionnaire général ... du Canada, vol. l, p. 173; Grandin, Vital, dans Encyc/opedia canadiana, vol. 5, p. 18; Grandin, Vitale, dans Enciclopedia cattolica, vol. 4, p. 212; Yves GUÉGUEN, o.m.i., Grandin, Vital, dans Catholicisme aujourd'hui, vol. 5, p. 187; Gaston CARRIÈRE, o.m.i., Grandin, Vital, dans The New Catholic Encyc/opedia, vol. 6, p. 694; Vincenzo ANZALONE, o.m.i., Nel'Inferno bianco... , Roma, Propaganda missionaria O.M.I., , 176 p.; Gaston ZANIRI, o.p., Figures missionnaires, [Tournai], Casterman, 1963, 296 p.; Gaston CARRIÈRE, o.m.i., L'élévation du père Vital Grandin, o.m.i., à l'épiscopat (lI décembre 1857), dans Etudes oblates, 32 (1973), p. 100-134; 160-191; Francesco TRUSSO, o.m.i., Il venerabile Mons. Vitale Grandin Q.M.I., Roma, Editrice missioni Q.M.I., 1971,238 p.; archives de l'évêché de Marseille, Registre des insinuations, vol. 6, n. 471.
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