Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


This pilgrimage is the most famous and the most popular of the Roman Catholic pilgrimages in western Canada. It is held annually at Lac Ste. Anne, about forty miles west of Edmonton, Alberta, in the third week of July, to coincide with the feast day of Saint Anne (July 26). Saint Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary, is also the patron saint of childless women and miners, as well as the miracle worker of Canada. The pilgrimage was inaugurated in 1889 by Joseph Lestanc, a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate, who, while visiting the shrine of Saint Anne of Auray in his native Brittany, felt the need to work ardently to revive the cult of Saint Anne and to institute pilgrimages in her honor. Upon Lestanc's return to Canada, a new chapel was built at the Lac Ste. Anne Mission, and he obtained a statue of the saint that had touched the famous relics at Sainte Anne de Beaupré in Quebec.

Religious services associated with the pilgrimage include penitential rites, mass and Holy Communion, recitation of the rosary, the blessing of the sick, the stations of the cross, benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and the blessing of the lake. First Nations languages such as Cree and Blackfoot are used extensively in these services. Today the annual pilgrimage attracts thousands of Indians and Métis from the western provinces and the Northwest Territories, and it reflects a blend of traditional Catholic practices implanted long ago by French-speaking Oblate missionaries and traditional Native ceremonies and rituals.

Raymond J. A. Huel University of Lethbridge

Provincial Archives of Alberta, Fonds Oblat de la province Alberta-Saskatchewan, Lac Ste Anne, 6, Codex historicus, Edmonton, Alberta: Provincial Archives of Alberta, 1889–1964.

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