Vital Justice Grandin (1829-1902) was born February 8, 1829 in France and was ordained in the Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate in 1854 “despite a pronounced lisp, ill health and incomplete studies” all of which found him rejected by other seminaries as these were “deemed too great a handicap.” He arrived in St. Boniface, Manitoba in 1854 and began ministry in a diocese stretching from the Arctic to the United States border, and from Lake Superior to the Rockies. He was made a Bishop at age 28 after serving as a missionary for three years; as Bishop of St. Albert, he was responsible for all lands west of Winnipeg and reaching upwards to the North Pole (an area rivalling the entire size of Europe). He was the first Catholic Bishop of Alberta and possibly the first bishop west of St. Boniface, Manitoba. Never robust, his health deteriorated in the last five years of his life. He died in his residence in St. Albert (now a historical site) June 3, 1902.
He was born in the small village of Saint-Pierre-sur-Orne in France to Marie and Jean Grandin. Called to the priesthood at a very early age, he studied at Precigne and Le Mans (1850) but was rejected by the Foreign Missions because a speech impediment was “deemed too great a handicap”. He was accepted by the Oblate Missionaries a year later, entering the novitiate near Vignay in Isere.
He liked solitude and came to “Little Paris” in 1854, the site of the Metis settlement of St. Boniface, Manitoba. At the age of 28 he was named assistant to Bishop Tache, and on November 30, 1859, he was himself ordained Bishop - now responsible for all lands west of Winnipeg and reaching upwards to the North Pole. During his 43 years as Bishop, he worked with the Oblates to establish schools, hospitals, homes for unwed mothers and orphanages in Western Canada. “One of Grandin's fondest desires was to create an Indigenous clergy.” To do so, he asked the federal government to increase grants for existing schools that had been established at the time. Grandin supported such residential schools in an effort to “civilize and evangelize” believing it important to remove Indigenous children from their “traditional lifestyle.”. For this to happen, “he felt that they would have to be isolated from their environment and given a basic education with an introduction to suitable vocational skills.”
His home was the Diocesan Centre of the Oblates of Western Canada and became a school for young missionaries. The Oblates brought the first printing press to Alberta, helping to develop a script for Indigenous languages, hymnal books and religious materials. “Grandin received no specialized preparation in the seminar for work among Indigenous communities, travelling thousands of miles on foot, baptizing and proclaiming the Gospel; he wrote a letter in 1881 to Honourable John A. MacDonald, deploring the misery of the Indigenous and Metis peoples of the North West Territory. In the late 1850s, Grandin adopted two Indigenous orphans sending them to the College de Saint-Boniface in 1859. He educated other Indigenous and Metis children and was a strong advocate for Metis who'd been involved in the Northwest Rebellion of 1885, believing that ”English-speaking residents had provoked the Metis to rebel by attempting to steal their lands." “After the rebellion Grandin interceded on behalf of the incarcerated and he urged the government to be as lenient as possible.”
A lifelong reader of the writings of Saint Francis de Sales, he wrote this in his own diary, “My dear friend, the one thing you must dread is mediocrity, because it deprives us of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.” Bishop Grandin was venerated by the Roman Catholic Church in 1966.
Bishop Grandin HIgh School features a series of stained glass windows by Rubaiyat Glass depicting his missionary work, a gift to the school of graduating students in the 1990s. In addition, the school also displays the original bell from Bishop Grandin's own church in St. Albert, along with other pictures.
Statement of Philosophy
The role of the school is to share with the students the invitation of Jesus to be engaged in a lifelong relationship with Him and to be a member of His kingdom. The school’s special contribution is to give the student information about Jesus and His kingdom and how that kingdom relates to the world of the student. In its many teachable moments, the school helps students understand themselves and their relationships with others. Students and teachers are in the process of discovering their humanity and their relation to their Creator as person – Father, Son and Spirit.
The love spoken of in Scripture must be visible in the schools as well as the larger Christian community. Rules and structures must be servant to that love, and in love, servant to the student.
Expectations of Bishop Grandin Students
You are expected to assume a great deal of responsibility and demonstrate a high standard of productive behaviour while attending high school. This includes regular attendance which is a requirement of enrollment. It also includes making wise program choices because, once you select a course, you will be expected to complete that course. You assume responsibility for the courses which you choose this year in that these choices may determine which courses you will be able to take next year. Finally, past experience has shown that students who take responsibility for planning a program of related courses tend to be more successful in completing the courses which they start. They are also more successful in preparing for training beyond high school.