Father Lacombe refocused his efforts and began a new mission closer to
Fort Edmonton. A number of the Lac Ste. Anne residents accompanied him to
the new site-St. Albert-and within two years the Grey Nuns also
relocated. The Lac Ste. Anne mission, consequently, declined in importance.
Lac Ste. Anne continued to function as a base for area missionaries, by
1886 the church was in disrepair and the mission's future uncertain. It
was only when Oblate Joseph Lestanc was inspired by a vision to
build a shrine and a new church
at the site that the destiny of Lac Ste. Anne changed. On
June 6, 1889, the first pilgrimage to the shrine was held on June 6, 1889
and attended by 170 people. By the time of the second pilgrimage only
weeks later, participation had grown to roughly 400.
The annual pilgrimage continued to grow. At the turn of the
20th century more than 1000 attended, a figure that rose to 4,500 in 1925. The
Aboriginal community was and continues to have a significant presence in
this pilgrimage, the event happening during a gathering traditional time. Today as many as
40,000 devotees visit the shrine on the feast day of Ste Anne (July 26)
for spiritual healing and an affirmation of faith, bathing in the lake,
which is believed to hold curative powers.