Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 17, 2006
Volunteer buoyed by Lac Ste. Anne
Pilgrim gives hope for renewal of Catholic Church
By FELIX Kuehn
Special to the WCR
For several years my wife Linda and I have been invited to the Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage, but it was not until last year that a month's holiday (on doctor's orders) transformed this possibility into reality.
So we set out with our 13-year-old son. I had no idea what to expect, but a week later I was certain that it had been a providential decision to travel from Manitoba to Alberta to help out at this event.
The Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage is an opportunity to experience, for the better part of a week, a series of edifying experiences. Specific examples? Well, where else can one find an event involving thousands of people which is almost entirely staffed by volunteers - volunteers of all ages.
Many designate their vacation time to this ministry; others are seniors who are equally committed to serving the Church and this pilgrimage. At Lac Ste. Anne we found a team of all ages exemplifying true Christian charity - from teenagers to the "not-so-young-anymore."
One afternoon I experienced a level of commitment on the part of a pilgrim that I will never forget. Golf carts provided transportation back and forth between the campground and the shrine.
Driving a lovely older aboriginal lady back to her camper, I asked how long she had been coming to this pilgrimage. "Ever since I was first married," was her reply. "And how long would that be?" I asked. "Sixty-five years. I am 84; my husband is 86." If there is a Catholic Guinness Book of Records, this couple has my vote for a very special entry.
At Lac Ste. Anne it is not just the laity who warm your heart by their good example. Unforgettable is the blessing of the lake, followed by the clergy leading hundreds of the faithful into the water. In an age where the command (at least as far as the Church and its activities are concerned) "the shorter the better" seems to be the supreme governing principle, it is almost beyond belief to see hundreds of people standing thigh-deep in the waters of Lac Ste. Anne for well over an hour.
I have never seen anything like it before, and certainly had no inkling that such realities were to be found in Western Canada. Maybe in Mexico or the Europe of old - but in the Prairie provinces! What faith!
The Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage is a phenomenon. Therefore it must be experienced to be appreciated. What is its significance?
As a first time participant I came away with this question: Is it possible that the Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage - or, more precisely the faith of the Lac Ste. Anne pilgrims - is one of the seeds that will one day grow into the true renewal of Roman Catholicism in Western Canada?
Would it not be a beautiful irony if it were the Metis and Aboriginal people of the Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage who would rekindle the faith of the innumerable indifferent Catholics of Western Canada?
I intend to go back to reconsider this possibility. If I meet you there, you can tell me if you think the start of something great and wonderful is to be found on the shores of Alberta's Lac Ste. Anne.
(Felix and Linda Kuehn volunteered to operate the grocery store during the 2005 Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage.)