April 29, 2013

Perhaps booking flights or taking an expensive excursion to distant locales is not in your summer budget. Or maybe you just want to enjoy a more faith-filled holiday.

To celebrate the Edmonton Archdiocese's 100th anniversary, you might contemplate the notion of taking a summer tour of its key locations.

Vacationers can get an overview of what the archdiocese is all about by visiting such sites as St. Joseph's Basilica, rural parishes and various retreat houses, helping prepare meals for the homeless at the Marian Centre, or taking a pilgrimage to Lac Ste. Anne or Skaro.

Here are some possible stops on a centennial tour of the archdiocese:


In the Gospel of St. Mark, a deaf-mute was able to hear and speak after Jesus uttered the word, "Ephphatha," which means "be opened" in Aramaic. Visitors to Ephphatha House have had their eyes opened to great beauty.

Ephphatha House, located off the beaten path on 40 acres of forest in the Glory Hills, northeast of Stony Plain, is a quiet centre for prayer and retreat. There are about 30 cabins with room for 75 overnight guests. It is an ideal gathering place for prayer groups, youth groups and personal retreats.

Its mission is to provide a place for the faithful to get away from the business of life, and have a special encounter with God.

Guests can attend Mass in the chapel, eat meals in the dining hall, swim in the lake and visit the outdoor Stations of the Cross and Rosary Path.

Summer programs at Living Water unite faith and the arts.

Summer programs at Living Water unite faith and the arts.


Living Water College of the Arts is for those people wanting to make their works a reflection of their faith. It's also for people committed to making a difference in the secular world through the arts.

Now in its fifth year of summer programs, the arts college near Derwent provides an integrated program of art, faith and reason. The long-range goal of the post-secondary institution is to facilitate the synthesis of mind, body and spirit.

At Living Water, students can study the arts without compromising their morals or faith.

Two-week adult summer programs this year include iconography (June 4-19) and sacred choral music (July 7-21). As well, the college is offering its first youth program, providing focused instruction on sacred choral music (July 14-21), which presents a vibrant and rewarding experience for young people to delve into the rich tradition of Church choral music.


Blessed John Paul II visited St. Joseph's Basilica in 1984.

Blessed John Paul II visited St. Joseph's Basilica in 1984.

St. Joseph's Basilica is just west of Edmonton's downtown core on Jasper Avenue. The cathedral of the archdiocese, it can seat about 1,100, making it one of the city's largest churches and Alberta's only basilica.

The grand cathedral opened in 1963. Of architectural note are the 60 stained glass windows depicting Bible scenes.

For many years the basilica was open 24/7, and became known as the church without locks. But in the early 1980s the church closed at night. The number of people attending Perpetual Adoration of the Eucharist declined, and an arsonist set the altar and crucifix on fire in 1980, causing smoke and water damage.

Still, it remains a magnificent place to visit, whether for daily Mass or a casual stopover.

The basilica hosted Blessed John Paul II in September 1984 for an interfaith prayer service. In 1988, it was the site of the wedding ceremony of hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky and actress Janet Jones.


Those in search of a working vacation might want to check out the Marian Centre in inner-city Edmonton, known for its service to the poor.

The Marian Centre welcomes men and women in good health to stay as guests for at least a week. Volunteers participate in work, prayer, study and recreation. They take part in the life of a loving Christian family that lives in voluntary poverty, celibate chastity and obedience.

Visitors can stop by and chop veggies for the meals, served to the people who drop in. In the centre's dining room, the needy are welcomed five days a week for hearty stews served by the staff and volunteers. As well, once a week the clothing room is opened so clothes and small household items can be made available to their friends.

Guests can go for a poustinia – praying and fasting alone in the presence of God.


The search for meaning and purpose in one's life is an ongoing journey. Providence Renewal Centre in southwest Edmonton offers a sacred space for people who are interested in growing in this journey. They strive to provide Christian hospitality and a welcoming environment that is conducive for spiritual growth.

Walking the labyrinth quiets the busy mind and inspires creative thinking. The winding path becomes a metaphor, a mirror for one's life.

In July, Providence offers a centering prayer retreat with Father Raymond Sevigny, a pilgrimage retreat with Debbie Doornbos, and an iconography workshop with Gisele Bauche.

Aug. 9-11 is Prayer of Heart and Body. Father Thomas Ryan instructs people on the clear links between Christian faith and the practice of yoga.

Aug. 11-18 is a session called Becoming More Fully Alive: Spiritual Practice as a Way of Life. Participants will enjoy nature walks, poetry, mindful eating and music.

Aboriginal people come from across the West and the North to attend the Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage in late July.

Aboriginal people come from across the West and the North to attend the Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage in late July.


Lac Ste. Anne is a place for healing, renewal, fellowship and miracles.

Lac Ste. Anne as a pilgrimage site dates back to 1844 when Father Jean-Baptiste Thibault blessed the lake – then called Manito Sakahigan or Spirit Lake – and renamed it in honour of St. Anne, the mother of Mary.

The Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage, a blend of Catholicism and traditional native spirituality, is a major pilgrimage destination, the largest of its kind in North America, with more than 50,000 people, mostly of First Nations and Metis descent, attending every summer.

The pilgrimage site is west of Edmonton, near Gunn and Alberta Beach.

Many volunteers give their vacation time to this ministry, from youth taking older people to the shrine on golf carts to seniors helping out at the information booth, food kiosks or gift shop.

In early July, the site also hosts the annual Catholic Family Life Conference.


The Aug. 14 vigil Mass at the Skaro Shrine is one of the most beautiful liturgies of the year.

The Aug. 14 vigil Mass at the Skaro Shrine is one of the most beautiful liturgies of the year.

The annual pilgrimage to Skaro has continued since 1919, attracting thousands of visitors every summer. The main pilgrimage Mass is always held Aug. 14, the vigil of the feast of Mary's Assumption into heaven.

Skaro was a small Polish agricultural settlement, about 80 km northeast of Edmonton. Settled at the turn of the 20th century, its residents built a small chapel of Our Lady of Good Counsel in 1904, then a larger church in 1918.

In 1919, parishioners constructed a small replica of the famous Grotto of Lourdes in France. The construction was done mostly by Polish parishioners from Skaro, although neighbouring Ukrainians and Poles from other settlements helped. The grotto still stands today.

The large crowd, outdoor setting, candlelight procession atop the grotto and the strong focus on Mary make it a unique experience.


Star of the North Retreat Centre in St. Albert is a peaceful oasis in the midst of a busy world. For those seeking time out from a hectic work schedule, nurturing during a time of crisis or simply a place to meet with others, Star of the North is the place to be.

It strives to be a place where people can go to be refreshed, gain a fresh perspective on things and rediscover the sacred dimensions of life.

The Star is known for its yoga workshops, journal writing retreats and sessions on contemplative living.

Scheduled for July 11 is Melodies in the Garden. This is a chance to experience a summer evening of magic and melodies in The Star's beautiful back garden. Musicians will perform on the gazebo, while hors d'oeuvres and beverages are served.


The Way of Holiness Retreat Centre is situated in Hinton, the Gateway to the Rockies. A place of prayer and retreat, Way of Holiness has blessed countless lives since it was founded in 1981 by Mary-Jo Cassidy, a former Precious Blood sister.

The Way of Holiness offers a wide variety of retreat options from personal retreats to holiday retreats.

Personal retreats are a wonderful opportunity to listen to what God has to say to you in your life. Holiday retreats are a great way to bring God into your vacation.

The facility is close to many wonderful spots, including Jasper National Park, Pocahontas and Maligne Canyon and such activities as biking, boating, fishing, horseback riding and swimming.


There is plenty to see at St. Joseph Seminary, from the bronze doors leading into the elegant chapel interior to the refectory, private courtyard and Father Michael McGivney Bell Tower.

The new seminary can be characterized as both a classic yet very modern building. Its chapel is modeled on the shape of the ancient Roman basilica.

Many elements from the old St. Albert Trail seminary have made the journey to the new campus as tangible connections with the past. These include the stained glass windows, the altar table, the exterior statue of St. Joseph, and many other components.

Next door to the seminary is Newman Theological College, which carries out its mission for the Church in an ongoing partnership with the seminary. Both institutions remain distinct, interdependent and complementary.

Mariette and Kristoph Franz Dobrowolski enhance Sanctum Retreat Centre with their theology and musical backgrounds.

Mariette and Kristoph Franz Dobrowolski enhance Sanctum Retreat Centre with their theology and musical backgrounds.


Are you weary? Come find peace at Sanctum Retreat. No phones, no TV, no distractions . . . it is a gift for the soul.

Mariette and Kristoph Franz Dobrowolski are trained lay Catholic theologians, teachers, Franciscans and musicians. Together, they have over 20 years of experience in retreat ministry.

Nestled in 100 acres of rolling foothills near the town of Caroline, Sanctum Retreat, established in July 2004, is a blend of groomed trails and mature forest inviting exploration.

The Stations of the Cross mark a path up the hillside, with a mountain view a short walk further along a country road. A series of four loops provide a meditative reflection, while a winding path lingers along the bank of the Raven River.


Anyone in search of tradition and hospitality might want to visit rural parishes. Whether in Calmar, Hobbema or Villeneuve, every parish has its own individual charms, where local Catholics have immense enthusiasm for their faith.

In small communities one is unlikely to find swanky cafes or major retail outlets. A necessity for the Catholics in these small towns is the local parish.

Travelers might be surprised to learn that in a village of fewer than 1,000 residents, such as Thorsby, between 100 and 135 people attend Sunday Mass. Likewise, Consort is a farming community of about 40 families, and about 25 of them are active in Corpus Christi Parish.

The ease of meeting new people is evident in these rural areas too. At St. Margaret's Parish in Rimbey, a small farming community northwest of Red Deer, the Catholic families know each other by name and often socialize after Mass.