The first Slavic settlers in Alberta worked hard as farmers and labourers, relying on the support of fellow immigrants who shared their language and religion. In spite of the strength of their own religious communities and the presence of the Catholic Church throughout central Alberta, the inability to worship in their own language was a frustration. In 1898, Stanisław Banack, a Polish man from Round Hill decided to take action.
Stanisław travelled to St. Albert with his wife’s parents to visit Bishop Grandin so that they could confess to him. During the visit, he requested that the Bishop bring a Polish priest to the area. Within weeks, the first Polish priest arrived in St. Albert. He was Father Wojciech (Adelbert) Kulawy, a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate (OMI).
Other Polish Oblates followed, including Father Adelbert’s own brother, Father Jan Wilhelm Kulawy, OMI. These first priests only made short visits to the region, but over the following decades many Polish Oblates would greatly influence the lives of the Slavic settlers. They helped found and build chapels, churches and schools (particularly Polish language schools), ministered to the people, and represented them as an official voice for various political causes. In 1902, not long after the arrival of the Polish Oblates, a small group of Ukrainian Basilian missionaries arrived in the Mundare area. They went on to serve the Ukrainian communities of East Central Alberta.