Cormac – It is difficult to estimate the number of people who attended Sunday’s annual pilgrimage to the Shrine of St. Ann on Sunday but estimates by those who have been making the spiritual journey for years put the number at about 4,000.

Roman Catholics from across the Diocese of Pembroke and beyond converged on the tiny hamlet early Sunday morning, most of them there seeking favours of one kind or another from the grandmother of Jesus who is the patron saint of unmarried women, housewives, women in labour, grandmothers, mothers and educators. She is also a patroness of horseback riders, cabinetmakers and miners and is known as healer of the sick, helper of the poor.

Although the number of participating clergy has dwindled over the years as there are fewer priests to fulfill parish duties, 10 members of the clergy joined His Excellency, Guy Desrochers, Bishop of Pembroke, for the outdoor 11 o’clock mass which was followed by benediction in the afternoon.

It was also the first and last time many Catholics got to see and hear their bishop as he was recently named Archbishop of Bishop of Moncton, New Brunswick after being appointed Bishop of Pembroke about three years ago.

In his homily on Sunday, he spoke of St. Ann’s intersession and how she has responded to prayers from people seeking her help.

“Some people think she does the miracles, but she doesn’t,” he noted. “All she does is look at her grandson Jesus and Jesus can’t refuse anything to his grandmother.”

The relationship with a grandmother is special, he said. There is something very special about being at the Shrine of St. Ann, he added.

“Whatever you ask today, you have faith and you will receive a special grace today,” he said. “Hopefully perhaps a cure you are asking for.”

This is an act of faith in the presence of God, who stated “I’m there in your midst where two or three are gathered.”

The gospel reading talked about a treasure hidden in a field, he noted.
“Here we are in a field and I can tell you there is a treasure hidden. Did you know that? The treasure is in your hearts,” Bishop Desroshers said. “It is the gift to love God you have received when you were baptized.”

It comes with a consequence that if an individual is faithful, the gifts of the spirits will blossom and give you eternal life, he said.

“The gift to love God is the gift of eternal life,” he said. “And there is no treasure on earth that is comparable to the gift of eternal life.”

St. Ann knows the value of this treasure, he added. That is why Jesus blessed his grandmother in a special way and made her known around the world.

“The first miracles started in Canada in St. Anne-de-Beaupre in 1658,” he reminded the faithful. “With a little chapel, just a little chapel was going to honour her.”

A statue was placed there and the first miracle began right away. During construction, a crippled man walking with a crutch came by.

“He gave three little stones to the mason and said, ‘I would like you to put them in for me in honour of the grandmother of Jesus’ and instantly this man was cured,” he said.

A second miracle occurred a few weeks later with an epileptic young man who was instantly cured when he walked into the chapel.

“Those were the first of millions of miracles that happened,” he said, noting many miracles still occur in places where St. Ann is honoured.

“Like Cormac, places where people gather in faith and say ‘we love you St. Ann and we ask for your powerful intercession to heal us. Talk to your grandson’,” he said.

There are miracles listed in the archives and testimonies of priests and individuals, he said.

Bishop Desrochers was a priest for many years and pointed out when he preached, people remembered the stories, so he wanted to tell the stories of healing.
“Stories that strike us in our hearts and minds and we remember them years later,” he said.

He told the story of a woman who was subject to frequent attacks of epilepsy with violent and painful convulsions. In 1841, she was conveyed to the Shrine of Saint-Anne-de-Beaupre.
“Her pious entreaties were heard because she went home completely cured,” he said, noting the facts were attested to by the local priest, physicians and others in the community.

In 1699, a young man was injured by an axe blow to his knee. The surgeons who tried to fix the wounds were unable to unite the severed tendon to the knee but closed the wound. He was then crippled and he could not stand. He also had much pain.

In 1700, he was carried to the church of Saint-Anne-de-Beaupre. He began his novena on the first day of Lent and continued to come and pray with great perseverance.

“He found he could walk without crutches and without a stick,” he said.

His crutches hang in the church in testimony, Bishop Desroshers.

“This is one of only two beautiful favours that were entertained due to the intercession of St. Ann but aren’t they remarkable?” he asked. “And there are thousands and thousands of stories of people who were cured because of the intercession of St. Ann.”

His own father was cured when he was a child, he recalled.

“My grandmother said to her seven boys and two girls, ‘the doctors can’t do anything for your brother. Everybody, kneel down we are starting the novena to St. Ann’,” he said.

They finished the novena and then thanked St. Ann, he said.
“That is why so many people come to the shrine, year after year,” he said. “They want to thank St. Ann.”

In his homily, Bishop Desrochers also thanked Father Real Ouellette as the preacher of the Triduum in the three days preceding the pilgrimage and other priests who worked during the pilgrimage.

Father Ken O’Brien, pastor at St. James Church in Eganville, is also responsible for St. Ann’s parish and once again he was appreciative of the efforts of so many people who contribute their time and talents in preparing for the annual spiritual event.

“As we take leave from this sacred place after benediction, we ask St. Ann to answer our particular needs. To all, thank you. By your presence and prayers, this day has been made very special for each person,” he said. “This faith event is the combined effort of many people – St. Ann’s faith community together with former parishioners, parishioners from surrounding parishes, family and friends. To all who return to help we are so pleased and thankful for your being here.’

He expressed his gratitude to the organist, T.J. O’Grady of Eganville and the choir made up of people from several parishes, members of the Fourth Degree of the Knights of Columbus, and the many other individuals who participated in the Mass as well as the many volunteers who helped prepare the grounds.

“As each of us depart from this holy ground, let us implore St. Ann to watch over us, keep us safe as we travel and make us aware of our responsibility to pray for one another and be Christ’s witnesses in the world as we come.”