Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 17, 2006
Bishop returns as Lac Ste. Anne celebrant
Newly ordained Bishop Gary Gordon will celebrate Mass at renowned pilgrimage
- photo supplied
A faithful pilgrim takes her ailing body and trusting soul into the healing waters of Lac Ste. Anne.
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Lac Ste. Anne
It has been 14 years since Bishop Gary Gordon led a caravan of Fraser Valley Aboriginal people to the shores of Lac Ste. Anne. And he is hoping to see some of those very same faces soon.
With his faithful dog Celty by his side, the recently ordained bishop of Whitehorse will drive to the Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage to preside at Masses for the first time at the pilgrimage.
"The Coast Salish people have been asked to organize and lead one of the liturgies of the Eucharist during the pilgrimage. I was contacted because I had been in their territory for so many years as a priest in Chilliwack," Gordon said.
The pilgrimage organizers select several aboriginal communities from across Western Canada to lead Eucharistic liturgies.
Gordon is looking forward to his return visit when he will celebrate Mass on July 25.
"The pilgrimage was huge, massive. I couldn't believe it - three liturgies of the Eucharist every day and confessions all morning. My goodness, it was incredible," he said. "Other than celebrating the one Mass, I don't know what I will be doing but I'll find out when I get there."
The pilgrimage runs July 22-27, with daily Eucharist, children's catechism and evening candlelight celebrations. This year's theme is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And there is a special event scheduled. In 2004, the pilgrimage grounds were declared a national historic site of Canada. A plaque unveiling ceremony will be held July 23 at 1 p.m. It will be mounted in a permanent location in 2007.
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.
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 during the annual buffalo hunt.
Feast of St. Anne
Since the pilgrimage was founded in 1889 by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, First Nations and Metis have travelled to the site in late July to celebrate the feast of St. Anne - widely revered as the mother of the Virgin Mary and grandmother of Jesus. This embodies the grandmother figure honoured in many Canadian Aboriginal societies.
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. It remains an important place of spiritual, cultural and social rejuvenation, drawing thousands of pilgrims every year.
Gordon plans to visit family in Edmonton and share a moment with Archbishop Thomas Collins. The outdoor enthusiast wants to also drop in and see some of the retired Oblates in St. Albert who once served in the North before heading out to Lac Ste. Anne.
"I really hope there is a great turnout of folks from the coastal area. It's a long way from the Fraser Valley and the Vancouver area. But I know there have been people who have made the trip for years," he said. "I'm looking forward to seeing my old friends and perhaps there will be people from the Yukon. Who knows? It will be another adventure."
Volunteers for the pilgrimage are urgently needed. Please call (780) 445-7986 if you are able to assist.