The Blessing of the Lake at the annual Lac Ste. Anne pilgrimage west of Edmonton. Steve Simon

Extreme weather forces Lac Ste. Anne pilgrimage cancellation

  • July 26, 2023

The second half of the 2023 Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage in Alberta, which was scheduled from July 21-27, has been cancelled due to “extreme weather.”

On July 25, one day after a ferocious summer storm devastated the campsites of many of the estimated 10,000 religious pilgrims, organizers, under the advice of the RCMP, shut down the last three days of perhaps the most popular First Nations and Catholic gathering in Western Canada.

"It was really extreme last night," Andrew Papenbrock of the Archdiocese of Edmonton told local media. "We had portapotties blown over and camps that were blown over and soaked out."

Papenbrock, the archdiocese’s facilities lead, added that there were several tornado warnings in the area that evening, including one that actually touched down in Wildwood, a community 60 kilometres west of Lac Ste. Anne.

The Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage Association stated in a press release that “this is the first time in modern history that the pilgrimage has been cancelled, but the safety of all pilgrims is paramount.”

Emergency protocols were swiftly implemented in the aftermath of the storm. The pilgrimage staff collaborated with the Alexis Nakota Sioux First Nation and Lac Ste. Anne County to ensure everyone was provided with food, warm clothing and shelter.

Though the damage from the storm is still being assessed, none of the attendees have reported any injuries.

While some visitors did vacate immediately, many attendees stayed in the concession, parish hall and shrine where they were offered coffee and food.

Some of the cancelled events on the pilgrimage itinerary included a commemoration of Pope Francis’ penitential pilgrimage of one year ago, a Dene Mass, a Cree Mass, healing prayers in the teepee and the Way of the Cross.

The association asked for everyone to “please continue to pray for the pilgrims and the continued success of the Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage in the future.”

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