Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 6, 2003
Rosary offers serene sanctuary
85-year-old Prairie church sponsors weddings, Oblate pilgrimages
Our Lady of the Rosary -- Feast Day -- October 7
By TED FITZGERALD
Special to the WCR
Many kilometers ahead, it resembles a fuzzy spruce tree by the side of rural gravel road 675. With closer approach; however, a slender spire slowly takes form as the apex of an attractive white church. Once there, this hilltop shrine to Our Lady of the Rosary is seen to dominate the rolling landscape.
It's four km south of the tiny hamlet of Reward and 16 km south of provincial highway 14, which connects Unity, Sask., with Provost, Alta.
Entering through the ornate gateway, the pristine grounds, not so quiet during the annual pilgrimage in honour of Our Lady, are at other times an oasis of serenity. The shrine is open from mid-June to mid-September each year.
One of the oldest of the sacramentals of the Church, the rosary is thought to have been a means of counting prayers on a knotted cord. The feast of the Holy Rosary was established by Pope St. Pius V to recall the victory at the battle of Lepanto in 1571, believed to have been the result of the intercession of Mary through her great prayer.
This month marks the end of the Year of the Rosary as designated by Pope John Paul in his apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae. He encouraged the praying of the rosary for the intentions of families and for world peace. At the same time, five new Mysteries of Light were added to the earlier 15. They are the Baptism in the Jordan, the Wedding at Cana, the Proclamation of the Kingdom of God, the Transfiguration and the Institution of the Eucharist.
During this year's pilgrimage on July 13, devotions took place at a small grotto with a statue of Mary and an enormous, several metre-long rosary, arranged on supports nearby. Under the trees, a stage is also used for outdoor celebrations. A small, hilltop cemetery where crafted wrought-iron crosses identify the final resting places of some of the German-Canadian parishioners of Holy Rosary, overlooks the grounds.
The Reward church was built in 1918 to replace an earlier, smaller sanctuary as a shrine for settlers in the 1905 German St. Joseph's Colony.
Pilgimages sponsored by Oblate clergy have been held here annually since 1932. The holy year of 1975 saw the building renovated before being designated a provincial historic site.
Inside, a statue of Our Lady of the Rosary holding the Christ Child dominates the old reredos and is flanked by statues of the Sacred Heart and the Sacred Heart of Mary. Side aisles, separated from the nave by ornamented square pillars end at altars with angel statues.
Immediately evident to people entering the church is the array of three-metre high paintings that grace the flanks of the barrel vault ceiling. They are the powerful creations of Count Berthold Imhoff, originally from Germany, who painted dozens of church interiors in Western Canada.
He was named a Knight of St. Gregory the Great in 1937 by the pope for his contribution to church art.
Here, in 1920, he portrayed the original 15 mysteries of the rosary - the Glorious along the east flank of the vault and the Joyful mysteries on the west side, providing an excellent perspective for viewing from the nave floor.
The Sorrowful mysteries are grouped around the sanctuary centred on the crucifixion behind the main altar.
Pilgrimages at Holy Rosary take place each year on the Sunday nearest the July 16 Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (July 18 in 2004). Otherwise, the church is now used only to celebrate occasional weddings and anniversaries.