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Alberta's Francophone Heritage
Background, People, Culture, Heritage Community Foundation, Albertasource and Alberta Lottery Fund


Francophone Edukit

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Roman Catholic




The Catholic Church has a very ancient tradition of pilgrimages, and the custom was brought to North America by both the clergy and the faithful. Many parishes have shrines and special activities that they hold within each year, but since the Vatican Council II there have been many changes.

Probably the most well-known pilgrimage in Alberta is that held at Lac Ste Anne which is frequented yearly by thousands of Aboriginal peoples. The lake was originally known as Manito Sakahigan, Spirit Lake (it was also called Devil’s Lake by some Caucasian people). The area was home to a large group of Métis people, and when the Father Jean-Baptiste Thibault first came there to establish a mission in 1844, he renamed the lake in honour of Saint Anne. In 1887, the Oblate missionary Jean-Marie Lestanc, on a visit to his homeland of Brittany, attended the great Breton pilgrimage at Sainte-Anne d’Auray. There he was inspired to establish a similar event at Lac Ste Anne on 26 July, the feast day of the saint.

The pilgrimage caught on very quickly and the Aboriginal peoples from near and far attended. Due to the long distances travelled, and the limited means of transportation at the time, the pilgrimage was soon extended to last a complete week, and visitors were invited to camp by the lake during their stay. To recognize the many different Aboriginal languages, a particular day was reserved for each one. One such day includes French, as it was the first language of many of the Métis visitors. For a long time, French-Canadians also attended the pilgrimage and, even today, the sacrament of confession is available in French, Cree, Blackfoot, Inuit, Déné, and others.


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