When Brother Anthony Kowalczyk arrived at Saint-Paul- des-Métis, in 1897, this small place in Alberta had just been born. It numbered about fifty families at most. The “Blacksmith of God”, as Fr. Paul-Emile Breton so aptly called him, was far from being a robust missionary. Small in stature, shy and timid, this Polish Brother spoke French with difficulty and, furthermore, had only one arm. The previous year, while working a sawmill in Lake La Biche, the belt of the mill had grabbed his right arm and crushed all the bones of his hand. To avoid the worst, it had been necessary to amputate his forearm. On the moral and religious plane, however, the acquisition of Brother Anthony was invaluable for this young colony of Métis. His reputation of holiness had preceded him. He had been given the nickname of “Brother Ave”, because he had the custom of kneeling and reciting an Ave to obtain success before undertaking a difficult task. On several occasions he had been seen doing extraordinary things.
In spite of his unfortunate handicap, the little Oblate Brother set himself resolutely to the task. For ten years he served the Cris and the Métis of the area. Engineer, mechanic, gardener, blacksmith, he helped one and all. Thanks to his clever work, the mission progressed. Soon the Sisters of the Assumption arrived and opened a boarding school-school for a hundred children. Fr. Adeodat Therien, the superior, felt responsible for these newcomers. In order to provide them with abundant and cheap food he decided to raise pigs. The pig-keeper was soon found: the humble Brother Anthony.

Our one-armed brother accepted gracefully these new boarders. When necessary, he would sacrifice even some of his sleep to care for the pigsty. The superior also counted on the farm to supplement the food of his four-footed gluttons. Unfortunately, hail destroyed part of the seeds that year. Summer was ending and there was no more grain for the pigs. The poor animals barely got by. There was a turnip field nearby, excellent food for animals, which was ready to be eaten. But to reach it, one had to pass through a field of oats that was not yet ripe enough to be cut. What to do? To wait would be to condemn the pigs to die of famine. Release them in the turnip field? Yes, but how to get there without destroying the oats harvest?

After deep consideration, Fr. Therien decided to take the risk. He called Brother Anthony and told him to lead the pigs to the turnip field. “Be careful, he added, I don’t want to see your animals stop on the way to touch the oats.” “But, Father, it is impossible.” “Impossible? The word does not exist in French. Go!” “Very well, my Father, you want, I take pigs.”

The brother went to the pigsty. Before entering, he knelt and recited his Ave. He got up, opened the barrier: “Kiou, Kiou, Kiou! follow me, come to eat.” The pigs rushed out of the enclosure. There were approximately a hundred and fifty of them moving towards the almost ripe oats field. “Kiou, Kiou! I forbid you to touch these oats. Let us go, we must go further; follow me.” Then the superior, the Sisters and the Métis who watched this procession of famished piglets from a distance, witnessed a quasi miraculous spectacle. Brother Anthony turned into a narrow path between two rows of oats. For a moment, the piglets hesitated, as if consulting each other. Then one after the other they followed submissively behind their master. They didn’t even touch one stalk of oats. All of them followed into the turnip field where they happily gorged themselves like pigs!