Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 17, 2004
Lac Ste. Anne made national historical site
Major pilgrimage destination to be protected by government
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Lac Ste. Anne
Preserving the Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage site for the future has taken a large step forward with the federal government's decision to declare it a national historic site.
While there was worry the pilgrimage, held annually since 1889, might be lost through litigation over Oblate-run residential schools, the faithful who attend this year can expect an air of celebration, says Father Camille Piche, provincial administrator of OMI Lacombe Canada.
The historic designation ensures the pilgrimage site will not be threatened by the possibility of future major alterations.
"This is good news," Piche said, who serves as co-chairman and trustee of the Lac Ste. Anne board. "This is something we pursued quite actively for three or four years."
Piche said someone was appointed by the federal government to come to Lac Ste. Anne and learn about its history and sustained relevance and importance to thousands of people. He was told that there needed to be a reference to find any other shrines dedicated to St. Anne.
"Apparently, there is another one in the Maritimes where the aboriginal people do have a shrine and it is recognized as an historic site," Piche said.
The history of the pilgrimage dates back to 1844 when Father Jean-Baptiste Thibault, a Catholic priest, blessed the lake and renamed it in honour of St. Anne, the mother of Mary.
Before 1844, families, clans and tribes were originally drawn to the shores of the lake, then called Manito Sakahigan, or Spirit Lake, for ceremonial summer gatherings usually around the annual buffalo hunt.
While 400 people attended the first pilgrimage in 1889, Lac Ste. Anne is now a major pilgrimage destination in Western Canada, the largest event of its kind in North America.
The 2004 pilgrimage will be July 24-29.
"It is way too soon to have a formal celebration at the pilgrimage this summer," Piche continued.
"There will likely be an election (federal) and we would like to have the Church dignitaries there as well as government representatives. And the pilgrims themselves, of course.
"Our intent is to hold the ceremony during the Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage in 2005."
There is also the question of designing a plaque written and translated into many languages. It has to be passed by the board and by the pilgrims themselves. There is a lot of work to be done, Piche says.
"We definitely will announce it this summer at the pilgrimage, but we want to celebrate such a special event very well.
"The pilgrims can then look forward to it in 2005."