Lac Ste. Anne: A place of worship for different cultures
By Francesca Merlo
Tuesday afternoon, Pope Francis will be travelling to Lac Ste. Anne, where he will participate in the Lac Ste Anne pilgrimage and preside over Vespers.
Lac Ste Anne is a wide and shallow lake about 72km west of Edmonton and has been a Catholic pilgrimage destination since the late 19th century. Thousands of pilgrims come to this lake each year to bathe in its holy waters and pray.
Called 'Lake of God', by the Nakota Sioux and 'Lake of the Spirit' by the Cree people, it was named 'Lac Ste Anne" by Father Jean-Baptiste Thibault, a missionary and the first priest to establish a permanent Catholic mission, in 1842, in Alberta, in this place already considered sacred for generations and known to the natives as a place of healing.
The first annual pilgrimage was organised by the Oblates in July 1889 and 400 people took part. In 1926 5,500 people took part in the pilgrimage. It has since continued each year, during the week of 26 July, the feast of St Anne, mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary and grandmother of Jesus, who is venerated in many indigenous Canadian communities. It has also become one of the most important spiritual gatherings for pilgrims in North America and is particularly dear to the First Nations peoples, who continue to attend annually.
The site was declared a National Historic Site by the Canadian government in 2004.