Saturday, August 02, 2008

A man considerably above six feet and proportionally stout

Saturday 14th July, 1827

Monseigneur J N Provenchier, the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Mission, called on me and made a long stay.
The bishop speaks good English but with that broken accent peculiar to foreigners. His companion [Rev Theophilis Harper] speaks English with as much fluency as his native French.

They conversed in the most unreserved affable manner and made many enquiries concerning the different countries I had visited. I have some reason to think well of their visit, being the first ever paid to any individual except the offers of the Hudson’s Bay Company.

I am much delighted with the meek, dignified appearance of the Bishop, a man considerably above six feet and proportionally stout; appears to be a man of the most profound acquirements, seen only through the thick rut of his great modesty.

The Winnipeg Time Machine tells us that "Provencher was head of the Catholic Church in western Canada but Bishop Provencher slept on a block of oak as his pillow to show his self denial. Standing a majestic 6' 4", in his long flowing robes, Provencher was described as a most handsome man of about 300 pounds. Norbert Provencher looked larger than life. Provencher's mission was to convert the Indian nations and to "morally improve" the delinquent Christians who had "adopted the ways of the Indians. Abuse of alcohol was rampant and Provencher tried to discourage the HBC's sale of liquor and beer to natives. He also railed against the conjugal lives of the settlers who took on "wives of convenience."

He is commemorated today in Winnipeg by Provencher Bridge, immediately north of Fort Garry, and Boulevard Provencher.

Sunday 5th July

At church. There being no timepiece for the colony and the habitations widespread, the hour of the day is guessed by the sun. The service being begun half an hour before I got forward, in consequence of missing the proper path, the clergyman seeing me from one of the windows, despatched a boy to fetch me on the proper path. This struck me as the man of the world who, in the parable, was compelled to go to the feast by person stationed on the wayside.

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