The Story of Christian Zionism
There is a spiritual movement in the world today which might well be described as Christian communism or Christian Zionism.
A couple of billion people around the world are singing some astonishingly simple but powerful gospel songs like "We're marching to Zion," and "When the saints go marching in!"
In Alberta, which has just celebrated its one hundredth birthday, this modern Zionist movement began before Alberta was even a province.  
It began primarily as a movement of humble Christian believers, including a good many Indians and Metis people  in the central part of the province, who became the originators of a lovely rural locality bearing the Christian name "Sion."
One of the founders of this global village of Sion was a Roman Catholic Priest known as Father Gustave Simonin.
Gustave was born in Drouville, France on May 16, 1869.  He was only twelve years old when he began studying to be a Catholic Priest in Europe.  During his teen years he studied in a school in Switzerland called "Our Lady of Sion," better known in French as Notre Dame de Sion.
Then Gustave moved to Holland and entered the Mission of St. Gerlach, where he professed his  first priestly vows, followed by his perpetual priestly vows at the Scholasticate St. Francois at Bleiyerheide, Holland in 1890.  
He came to Canada in the early 1890s, continuing his studies at the Scholasticate St. Joseph in Ottawa, where he was ordained as a priest in 1894, three days before his 25th birthday.
Father Gustave Simonin
Photo courtesy Missionary Oblates,
Grandin Archives
He moved west to Alberta and pursued his career as a priest.  He was a prominent spiritual leader throughout the province, based for much of the time in St. Albert, and working in communities which included Riviere-qui-Barre, Lac La Biche, Stony Plain, Winterburn, Egg Lake, Lac Ste. Anne and Hobbema.  One of his most important missions over the years was at Lac La Nonne, where he started building a chapel in 1905.
In later years this mission, south and east of Lac La Nonne, was dedicated in the name of Our Lady of Sion.  It was reminiscent of Gustave Simonin's early studies at Notre Dame de Sion in Switzerland.  
Father Simonin died at Hobbema on New Year's Day, 1941.  He was 72 years old when he went home to be with Jesus and was buried in the Oblate cemetery at St. Albert.
It should be noted that Gustave's Alma Mater country of Switzerland also has a town which is called Sion.  It is quite likely that his mission at Lac La Nonne in Alberta, dedicated to Our Lady of Sion, gave rise to naming the post office of this locality "Sion" as well.
Our thanks to Diane Lamoureux, archivist for the Missionary Oblates in St. Albert, for sharing with us the history of Father Simonin and the Mission of Our Lady of Sion at Lac La Nonne.
The Missionary Oblates have been active in Alberta for many years, since the middle of the 1800s.  
Our thanks also to Ken Kowalski, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta and MLA for the Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock Constituency, and his staff in the Legislature Building, for photocopies of pages from books in the Legislative Library, with important information on historic community names and post offices throughout the Province.
The Zion post office, according to Place Names of Alberta, Volume III, was located in Section 36, Township 56, Range 2, West of the Fifth Meridian.  This places it just east of Nakamun Lake, in Lac Ste. Anne County.  It was opened in 1904, and operated here for 64 years, through to May 1968.  In Gazetteers the longitude and latitude are given at 54 degrees 09' North and 110 degrees 50' West.
The name Sion is taken from the Holy Bible, where it is sometimes spelled with an "S" for Sion, but more often with a "Z" for Zion.  The meaning appears to be the same whether it is spelled Sion or Zion.
"Zion," notes Place Names in Alberta, Volume III, "symbolizes many things, including Jerusalem, the promised land, and heaven.  The original settlers had high hopes for their community."
Another history book, Community Names of Alberta (page 314), notes that Sion means Jerusalem, taken from the Hebrew word tsiyon, meaning "hill."  
Neil Hughes, author of Post Offices of Alberta, lists the postmasters of the Sion Post Office during its 64 years of operation as A. Langlois, P. Richards, Mrs. Alice Atkins, Mrs. A. Casens, H.R. Diggon, Mrs. E. Diggon, Mrs. M. Collyer, W. Kelly, Mrs. H. Michalchuk, A. Michael, Mrs. N. Brown and Jack Brown.
Yet another history book from which Ken Kowalski's office has sent us a photocopy of page 254, is called Over 2000 place names of Alberta, 3rd edition.  Here is what the author says:  The name originally given to the post office is a biblical one (spelled Zion).  
The name Zion was inspired by high hopes, being symbolic of Jerusalem, of the promised land, and among Christians, of heaven.  The name occurs many times in the Bible, as in Isaiah 40:9, "O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain."
For the origin of the name Sion itself we go back 2,000 years to the time of Jesus Christ.  It was our Lord himself who named Sion!  That is the way it is spelled in the King James version of the Holy Bible.
The King James Version of the Bible has for almost 400 years been the English-speaking world's most popular translation of the Word of God from the Hebrew, Latin, Greek and Aramaic texts in which it was originally written.  This version of the Bible, translated into the language of the common people by a Committee of distinguished religious scholars, was presented to King James by the Committee in 1611, and the University of Cambridge still prints it today as it was presented to the King these many years ago.  
It is interesting to see, in the dedication at the front of this translation, the use of the word "Sion" as a symbol of the King's governmental spot on the world map.  It talks about people "who wished not well unto our Sion," and goes on to say how grateful the Committee was for the way God had established the Government of the United Kingdom firmly in the hands of their King James.  What a beautiful way to single out the name Sion to lend its power and charm to a great historic empire!