Châtres-la-Forêt, Mayenne, France, September 17, 1829.
Took the habit: N.-D. de l’Osier, April22, 1850.
Vows: N.-D. de l’Osier, April 23, 1851 (N. 304).
Priestly ordination: Marseilles, March 27, 1852.
Died: Saint-Albert, Canada, July 9, 1903.
Valentin Végréville was born in Châtres-la-Forêt, then in the diocese of Le Mans, France, on September 17, 1829. His parents were Jacques Végréville and Madeleine Ferrand. He studied in Evron College and did two years theology in the major seminary of Le Mans where he met Father Léonard Baveux, o.m.i. On April 22, 1850 he began his novitiate in Notre-Dame de l’Osier and he took vows there on April 23, 1851. After a further year of theology in the major seminary in Marseilles, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop de Mazenod on March 27, 1852. He then received his obedience for Red River. Recommending him for profession in the spring of 1951, he novice master, Father Jacques Santoni, wrote: “This novice behaved very well during his novitiate. Very solid virtue. A good character but somewhat inclined to melancholy… good judgement, ordinary talents.” In April 1852, Father Jean Joseph Marchal, moderator of scholastics, gave this opinion about the young priest: “according to outward appearance he is a joyful character, content, always smiling. He has always behaved perfectly. He is very zealous but he is slow to grasp and to act. I have not been able to teach him how to write a letter properly.”
He sailed from Le Havre on June 8 with his confrere, René Rémas and Brother Alexis Raynard. He spent the winter 1852-1853 in Saint-Boniface and visited the Métis. Then he went to Île-à-la-Crosse, Saskatchewan (1853-1857), spent the winter of 1857-1858 in Saint-Boniface, ministering in Saint-Charles, Manitoba, then returned to Île-à-la-Crosse (1858-1860) and visited Portage-la-Loche (1859-1860) and Lac Caribou (1858, 1860). There he lived from 1861 to 1864 and from there he visited Lac Brochet (1860, 1864). He was superior of the college in Saint-Boniface (1864-1865) and he then left for Lac-la-Biche, Alberta (1865-1874). From there he visited Fort Pitt (1865) and Carlton (1869), and then went to live in Saint-Albert (1874-1875).
He was sent to Lac-Sainte-Anne, Alberta (1875-1877) to minister to the Stony Indians and he founded the parish of Lamoureux (Fort Saskatchewan), Alberta (1877-1878) and then returned to Lac-Sainte-Anne (1878-1880). He was then in Saint Laurent de Grandin (1880-1885) and from there he founded the mission of Saint-Eugène de Carlton (1880) as well as those of Batoche (1881), Sainte-Anne de Prince Albert, Saskatchewan (1882), Saint-Louis de Langevin (1882), and Duck Lake which he visited (1884-1885) together with other missions he had founded.
Father Végréville then went to live in Batoche (1885) where he was made a prisoner during the Métis rebellion, after which he returned to Saint-Albert (1885-1889) and from there he founded the residence of Saint-Christophe (1885). Having been pastor in Saint-Joachim, Edmonton, for a few months (1889-1890), he returned to Saint-Albert (1890-1897) and took charge of Lamoureux (1890-1891). He then went to Lac-Sainte-Anne again (1897-1899) and Stony Plain, Alberta (1899) and Winterburn (1899-1903).
During fifty years of missionary life in the Northwest, Father Végréville travelled a lot and changed residence often. During that time he wrote about ten manu articles in Indian languages. Worthy of special mention are a dictionary and a grammar in the Cree language and also a dictionary and grammar in Montagnais. Father Marcel Bernad has a very precise list of his works in Bibliographie des Missionnaires Oblats de M.I. 1816-1915, Liège, 1922, pp.88-89, but he does not say where these manus are preserved. Father Végréville himself said that it was because of his study that he found the time so short whereas others would have found it long while he was living in those recently founded missions where his workload was very limited. In his necrology note, Father Aristide Philippot wrote: “Without taking the time to trace the moral portrait Father Végréville, we cannot but note his attachment to the Congregation to which gave his life and to which he always remained faithful, in spite of the difficulties which, it seems were for the most part the fruit of his imagination, but which he felt nevertheless. Many of his intimate letters are a proof of that.”
He died in Saint-Albert on July 9, 1903 and is buried in the Oblate cemetery there. A town in the province of Alberta, Canada, bears his name.
Sources and Bibliography
oblation formula, manu necrology note, written by Father A. Philippot,
about 100 letters.
Missions OMI, 1862-1912, passim.
Carrière, Gaston o.m.i., “Valentin Végréville”, in Dictionnaire biographique des Oblats de M.I. au Canada, Tome III, Ottawa, 1979, pp. 261-262. This text has been completed and used here.