A crowd of 800 or more listened intently to Bishop Mulhall’s homily at the St. Ann Shrine Pilgrim Mass in Cormac, Ontario on July 31, 2016. He reminded us that consumerism destroys our personal freedom because we want more and more. While it is OK to have things in our life, we must detach from these things so that we remain conscious of God’s presence, love and great mercy in our lives.
We attended this event under brilliant sunshine. In 1891, Fr. James McCormac who had a great devotion to St. Ann, had a church built in this small Opeongo Hills settlement about 150 km NW of Ottawa. The original church burnt down in 1916 and a new cement block one was erected by Fr. J. N. George within 6 months with the help of 55 families. The beautifully decorated church house a statue above the altar as well as a relic of St. Ann.
St. Ann (or St. Anne), the mother of the Virgin Mary, and hence Jesus Grandmother, is not mentioned in the Bible. She is mentioned in the apocryphal Gospel of James written about 145 AD. She has been venerated since c. 550 AD. She is the patroness of unmarried women, housewives, women in labour, grandmothers and the Mi’kmaq people of Canada. A major shrine is at St. Anne de Beaupré, Quebec.
In 1938, Bishop C. L. Nelligan approved of a Shrine of St. Ann in Cormac which is centrally located in the Pembroke Diocese. On her Feast Day July 26, 1938, the first Pilgrimage was hosted which subseuqntly fostered a deep devotion to St. Ann by local people. A Polish lady in her late 60s from Barry’s Bay told me this year that she has attended every year since childhood. “It was mandatory in those days” she said. “There were 9 or more pilgrim buses parked in the field then” vs. the 3 we saw this year.
Fr. Howard Chabot, a retired Pembroke Diocese priest, was the Pilgrimage Leader this year. He led 3 nights of reflection which lead up to the Shrine and Healing Masses on Sunday. Fr.Ken Obrien from St. James the Less Parish in Eganville, our host, thanked all volunteers as well as attending pilgrims. As well as the Masses, there is Adoration in the church, opportunity for Reconciliation, sale of religious articles and good food available. This year 54 adventurous pilgrims hiked the Opeongo Line from Renfrew to Cormac, as a special Year of Mercy Pilgrimage, a distance of some 60 km. Well done folks!
We will surely attend again next year, God willing.