#BreakingNews WATCH Live Pope Francis at Lac St. Anne Pilgrimage Site in Canada with Prayer Service - VIDEO

  • Welcome of the Holy Father by Clergy and Indigenous representatives
  • Pilgrimage to the statue of  Ste. Anne and the lake
  • Blessing of Lac Ste. Anne
  • Sprinkling of blessed water by the Holy Father enroute to the Shrine
  • Liturgy of the Word (Prayer Service) at the Shrine
  • Blessing of statue - Our Lady Undoer of Knots (Read more below video)
  • SEE ALSO : FULL TEXT - Pope Francis says " All of us, as Church, now need healing...." in Canada on Pilgrimage
  • PRESS Play on Video Below to See the Prayer Service:
Lac. St. Anne Pilgrimage Website:
Pastor of Lac Ste Anne - Fr. Leszek Kwiatkowski
Background on Lac Ste. Anne - courtesy of Lac Ste. Anne pilgrimage website
  • First called Wakamne (or “God’s Lake”) by the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation who live on the west end of the lake and Manito Sahkahigan (or “Spirit Lake”) by the Cree, the lake was called “Lac Ste Anne” by Rev. Jean-Baptiste Thibault, the first Catholic priest to establish a mission on the site.
  • The pilgrimage grounds have been sacred for generations of peoples and have become widely known as a place of healing.  According to Alexis’ oral history, a charismatic Nakota chief from the south-east followed his vision and led his people to the shores of the sacred lake Wakamne (God’s Lake – Lac Ste Anne).  Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation people lived on the site long before the arrival of European fur traders and settlers. The lake and the surrounding area is rich in natural resources and during the early fur trade it used to supply Fort Edmonton with fish. To this day, it remains a spiritual centre celebrated during each annual pilgrimage. 
  • Father Joseph Lestanc organized the first annual pilgrimage to Ste. Anne in July, 1889 after an inspirational visit to Ste. Anne d’Aurey shrine in French Brittany the previous year.  Over the years the Lac Ste. Anne pilgrimage has continued on an annual basis and always during the week of July 26 (the feast day of Ste. Anne, mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the grandmother of Jesus).  The grandmother figure has a very strong importance within Indigenous culture. 
  • The annual Pilgrimage in honour of Saint Anne is one of the most unique and popular spiritual gatherings in North America.  Founded in 1887 by missionaries of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, this historic event today draws as many as 40,000 pilgrims each year. The pilgrimage is especially close to the hearts of many Indigenous Peoples who attend faithfully each year. 
  • Today, over 4,000 individuals camp on the site and up to 40,000 pilgrims attend the weekly events. The program includes three daily Eucharistic Services, Rosary and spiritual talks each hosted by different Communities.
  • These communities usually include: The Lac Ste Anne parish, the Alexis and Paul First Nations, Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples (the National Indigenous parish in Edmonton), the Métis Nation of Alberta, Blackfoot, Cree of Northern Alberta (e.g. Wabasca), Dogrib from the Northwest Territory and often an Indigenous community from Northern Saskatchewan.
  • (From Parks Canada) Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage was designated a national historic site of Canada in 2004 because as early as 1889, Indigenous people, including Cree, Dene, Blackfoot and Métis, have been coming to Lac Ste. Anne to celebrate the Feast of Saint Anne. Saint Anne embodies, for many Indigenous people, the traditional importance of the grandmother figure; for the Indigenous people of Western and Northwestern Canada, it is an important place of social, cultural and spiritual rejuvenation, which are important aspects of the traditional summer gathering.
Commentary on Program at Lac Ste Anne
This site is a place of great significance, which has for generations been visited by many different Indigenous peoples.
The waters of this Lake are considered to have sacred healing properties and so it has attracted many people to its shores through the ages.
Prior to the arrival of Pope Francis, a programme will be offered for those who will be at the site earlier in the day. The programme will include the Nakota story of the lake and song (Chief Tony Alexis), Traditional Healing Dances (Alexis Community Dancers, Alexis/Tkitcho Drums), a presentation on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, performances by the Buffalo Singers, Métis fiddling and jigging and Inuit Throat Singers.
(In Private) The Holy Father will arrive and be brought into the Church, where there will be a brief encounter between him and the local parish priest, Fr. Les Kwiatkowski OMI, along with special guests including: Grand Chief George Arcand, Chief Tony Alexis, Audrey Poitras (President of Metis Nation of Alberta), Elder Mary Alexis Espeseth, Elizabeth Letendre and Veronica Kennedy.
After leaving the Church, and entering the Popemobile (or golf cart), the Holy Father will follow in the footsteps of those arriving on pilgrimage. The pope will stop briefly in front of the statue of Saint Anne. It is customary that pilgrims, who in some cases who have walked for dozens, if not hundreds of kilometers in order to make their way to the site, stop and pay homage to the intercession of Saint Anne by simply touching the statue or placing rosary beads or flowers at the statue. Pope Francis will pause to acknowledge the statue and to also give thanks for the intercession of Saint Anne, which he assuredly believes has helped bring him safely to this day.
As the Pope continues on this path he will make his way down towards the waters of the lake, passing a traditional Métis cabin, symbolic of Métis life and culture. We will also hear as we have so often in other places since his arrival, the traditional sound of the drums, welcoming the pope to their traditional lands.
The drumming and singing is of particular significance, offered by a lone drummer, Eugene Alexis, of this nation who will sing a song that is believed to have been heard by their ancestors. The Stoney Nakoda peoples, having moved up from the Dakotas to this very remote area in the middle of the eventual province of Alberta, came because their Chief received in a dream or a vision an image of this lake, the place where he was to bring his people and they knew they had arrived at this place because they believe they could hear these words of this song being whispered on the treetops surrounding this lake.
They immediately gave the lake the name ‘Wakamne (wah-kam-nay)’, which we hear him repeatedly saying in this song. Wakamne in their language means God's Lake and so we see that even before there was ever a Christian or Catholic significance attached to these waters, there was already a culturally religious significance to this sacred spot.
The Holy Father will make a simple gesture, but one that is no doubt  understood by many of the Indigenous people that are gathered here. He will turn himself in the direction of the East. We will see him perform a blessing in the direction of the East, then turn to the South then to the West, each time doing the same. Last of all, facing the North, he will overlook the lake.
This is regarded as the manner in which Indigenous people have traditionally prayed by orienting themselves in the four directions, beginning in the East and following the way of the sun.
The Holy Father, now facing the North, with his hands extended over the water, will offer a blessing that has been used almost every year for decades by the different bishops who have come to pray here and lead the pilgrimage.
Over the next several days, the people who continue to remain in this place on pilgrimage will look to the waters of the lake as a source of healing and refreshment. They will do so this year with special attention to the fact that the lake has been blessed by the Holy Father himself.
Water will be drawn from the lake and, after being blessed, will be placed in the Popemobile with him. He will make his way towards the large structure that is more commonly referred to as the Shrine. Passing close to the people, the Pope will perform a traditional Catholic ritual of the sprinkling of blessed water.
This has often served as a reminder to us of our baptism. But in this instance, in addition to that symbol surely also having a place, due to  the security limitations that his visit requires, he will  bring the water to those who cannot get closer to the lake and bless them as he passes through their midst. Then in the backstage area behind the shrine, the Holy Father will exit the Popemobile and will be helped to enter into the Shrine onto the stage platform itself.
At this point, we will see the Pope conduct a simple format of prayer referred to in the Catholic tradition as a Liturgy of the Word. This consists only of the reading of Scripture, and his homily, along with prayers of intercession, the Lord's Prayer and a blessing. We anticipate the prayers at the lake and in the Shrine will be proclaimed in english. The Holy Father will then give his homily, likely  in Spanish with captions on screens.
The Readings have been carefully chosen to identify with the theme that is referred to as ‘living water’.
The vestment that was prepared for Mass at Commonwealth Stadium, was decorated with a sign of water flowing from the Cross of Christ as a symbol of the life that is meant to come to us through our participation in the life of Christ. The Holy Father will seek in this place of sacred waters to instill in the people here a similar sentiment.
In the first reading we will hear the description of a vision - like that of the ancient Stoney Chief who first came here- from the prophet Ezechiel who describes water flowing out from the gates of the temple to the East and West, South and North, which is anotherreference to the four directions which Indigenous peoples hold so dear. First Reading will be being proclaimed by an annual participant in the pilgrimage who has traveled all the way here from the Northwest Territories, Ms. Cecilia Babesca who represents the Tlicho (‘klee-cho’) community in Bechoko, near Yellowknife.
The Responsorial Psalm will be sung by a woman, Ms. Shannon Emery-Gunn, who is a parishioner of the local community. Although non-Indigenous, she’s very involved with her Indigenous brothers and sisters who are also part of this parish community, which in itself is a testament to the good relations that can so often and do exist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike.
The Gospel will be  proclaimed  by the Deacon Steven Callaghan who has come from the Diocese of Sault St. Marie. He is a man of Métis background. This place is also traditionally held sacred by the Métis people, which is also close to several Métis settlements. And it is within Métis Territorial Region Three.
The Métis people who have come here in large numbers for many generations continue to show great love and devotion to the care of this Shrine. Their traditional clothing, predominantly aMétis sash whose tightly woven variety of colors are a sign of the unity that is meant to be shared among the Métis people.
As is customary in this part of the liturgy, several individuals will make their way to the ambo (lectern) for the offering of the general intercessory prayers which are commonly known as the “Prayers of the Faithful”. These people are all also typical participants in the annual pilgrimage.
Having prayed the Our Father, the pope will conclude the ceremony by offering his blessing. We will see that, again, similar to the Mass where he took a moment to greet an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a very special and handcrafted sculpture will be placed immediately to the right of the Pope. The artist of this sculpture has done other works that were specially commissioned at the request of Pope Francis, Timothy Schmaltz. The sculpture is a gift from the Holy Father to the people.
He has prepared this image we refer to under the traditional title of “Our Lady, Undoer of Knots” which is a title that many people use to invoke the Blessed Virgin Mary. We understand this is a particular title that Pope Francis especially loves and invokes the Blessed Virgin Mary under. In this depiction, the Mother of Christ is depicted standing over the globe with a rope consisting of many knots which she is meant to be seen as untying. It is customary through this particular devotion to entrust to our Lady’s intercession any of the ‘knots’ in our lives and asking for her assistance in ‘untying’ them. There are slots fashioned into the sculpture which will allow for ribbons to be tied into the statue for people to symbolically untie, making it an interactive sculpture. The Holy Father will offer a prayer of blessing over this sculpture which will remain here as an enduring legacy of his visit.
Returning through the crowd again by Popemobile to the church, the Pope will depart to the joyful sounds of the Métis fiddlers accompanying the movement of the Holy Father.
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