Emile Joseph Legal, OMI, was born in Saint-Jean de Boiseau, France in 1849. A man of remarkable creative talent and missionary zeal, five years after his ordination he joined the Oblates and arrived in the St. Albert Diocese in 1881. Just six years after his arrival he was appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Saint Albert and in 1902 he succeeded Bishop Vital Justin Grandin as the second bishop of Saint Albert.
On 30 November, 1912 he was appointed the first Archbishop of the newly erected Archdiocese of Edmonton. He wrote The History of the Catholic Church in Central Alberta and authored several important manuscripts relating to the Blackfoot people and their language. He designed and constructed numerous church and school buildings; he was an avid amateur photographer; he was known as a forthright communicator; to develop more lay leaders he encouraged the establishment of the Knights of Columbus in 1907, and the Catholic Women’s League in 1912.
As Bishop of St. Albert and later Archbishop of Edmonton, he travelled extensively to remote missions across the region and opened new parishes in nearly every year of his episcopate. In putting his stamp on the Diocese, he gained a reputation as “The Organizer.”
The Archbishop's Coat of Arms
Heraldry originated about a thousand years ago in Europe, where it was used by the warrior classes as a means of differentiating combatants on the field of battle. As Europe developed and the feudal warrior class disappeared, the practice of identifying one's possessions with personal emblems flourished. Ecclesiastical heraldry grew out of this practice, initially to differentiate between the various degrees of the clerical estate. The Pope and most bishops adopt a personal coat of arms, which today is used primarily to identify communications from their particular office.
The upper section of the shield with the white fur of emine dotted with stylized lilies, represents Brittany, the homeland of Archbishop Emile Legal, OMI. In the central portion of the shield, on a red background-color of hope-a cathedral is shown on the right-hand side, to represent the Cathedral that he began to build in Saint Albert, the seat of his Diocese in 1902. On the left side, a tent represents his work among the aboriginal tribes of Southern Alberta. In the centre, the Coat of Arms of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, an Order of Missionary Priests to which he belonged. The lower portion of the shield shows a golden lion on a green background. This symbolizes his zeal and determination to serve the Church as Head of his ecclesiastical province.
NOS AUTEM IN NOMINE DOMINI – (But we (want to accomplish the work of God) solely in the name of the Lord)
Taken from Psalm XIX, 8.