This week I went out to the Lac Ste. Anne pilgrimage site, about an hour west of Edmonton. For those unfamiliar with this place, it is the site where for generations Indigenous peoples have come on pilgrimage. It is held to be a sacred site, dedicated to the honour of Ste. Anne. Around the time of the saint’s feast day, July 26th, pilgrims come in great numbers, easily 20,000 to 30,000 people over the course of a few days.
To everyone’s disappointment, the pilgrimage had to be cancelled this year due to the pandemic. It was decided by the trustees, who exercise oversight of the land, that we would hold the pilgrimage virtually. Accordingly, I went out to the site this week to record the celebration of the opening mass with just a handful of people, following which I gave the customary blessing of the lake. These events will be broadcast around the time when the pilgrimage would normally open, so that pilgrims can participate remotely.
The people who honour this pilgrimage have deep faith. I found this expressed simply and wonderfully by a woman who walked with me to the mess hall for lunch following the lake blessing. She spoke with deep conviction of the importance of the faith that had been handed down to her by her ancestors, in particular her grandfather. It was from him, she told me, that she learned about Christianity. She went on to tell me that, as she continued to learn about it and live it, everything made sense.