Surrounding parishes and visitors celebrate 87th annual pilgrimage to Reward site (2019)

A parade of banners representing parishes from throughout St. Joseph's Colony led presiders from the historic church building to the outdoor altar during the 2019 Reward pilgrimage. (Photo by Kiply Yaworski)

Children prepare to scatter flower petals to lead the procession for Mass at the 2019 Reward pilgrimage. (Photo by Kiply Yaworski)

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Beneath a prairie sky on a beautiful Sunday in July, hundreds gathered for the 87th annual pilgrimage at Holy Rosary Church and shrine at Reward, Saskatchewan, following in the footsteps of ancestors who have worshipped on the sacred site for more than 100 years.

The 2019 pilgrimage was preceded by a 34-km walk from Unity, SK to the Reward site the day before (July 6), undertaken by a number of pilgrims, who were joined by Bishop Mark Hagemoen.

Bishop Mark Hagemoen joined a group of young adults who walked from Unity to the pilgrimage site at Reward on July 6, 2019.

Pilgrimage events on July 7, 2019 included exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the shrine church, opportunities to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, praying of the rosary, a procession of parish banners, celebration of Sunday Eucharist, blessing of the cemetery, and a supper.


Fr. Gregory Roth, pastor at St. Peter Parish, Unity, and St. Michael, Tramping Lake, blesses a scale model of historic Holy Rosary Church during the annual Reward pilgrimage. (Photo by Kiply Yaworski)

Another special feature of the 2019 pilgrimage was the blessing of a model of Holy Rosary Church, built by Roy Kappel. Originally donated to the heritage museum in Lloydminster, the detailed 12:1 scale model (one inch = one foot) took him some 1,500 hours to complete. The museum has now donated the model back to the Holy Rosary pilgrimage site.



With the original in the background, Roy Kappel poses with his scale model of Holy Rosary Church, which was blessed and welcomed at the historic church site during the annual Reward pilgrimage. (Photo by Tim Yaworski)

In his homily, Bishop Mark reflected on the motivation behind using one’s God given gifts in the building of a model, a church or a pilgrimage site, as well as what prompts the kind of missionary service that the Oblates of Mary Immaculate have dedicated to St. Joseph’s Colony and to the north.

Such efforts are grounded in intimacy with God, and an understanding of eternity as our goal, the bishop said, pointing to the final words of the Gospel reading for the day: “Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.”

“The Christian realizes that he or she is in this world, but not of this world,” said Bishop Hagemoen. “But nonetheless, we value this place where God has put us … and we thank God for the people who had the vision to put a lot of time and effort into this place.”

God asks us to be faithful in the small and the mundane, said Bishop Hagemoen. “That is where we touch people’s lives.” The bishop added: “We are called to stand firmly on the ground, the blessed place where God has put us, to thank him for this, to have a real sense that God calls me here today, to loving faithfulness to him.”

The bishop also stressed the importance of pilgrimage and of sacred rest.

“Pilgrimage is important for many reasons. Number one, pilgrimage is important because we need to be intimate with God. We can’t live without intimacy with the Lord, and whether we are young or old, married or single, religious or lay, we need intimacy with the Lord. It is our life source,” he said. “We can get on a treadmill more than ever, if we just allow work and productivity by our standards to pave the way.”

Pilgrimage is also an opportunity to live the great commandments, and to enter into the beatitudes, he continued. “We hunger and thirst for what is right, what will really fill us. We mourn, because we are not there yet, but our mourning keeps us on the journey to that time of ultimate comfort. We are a people of mercy, because we are only here because God is merciful, and we receive his mercy so we can share and live that with each other.”

And finally: “In a very special way, pilgrimage is a time of renewal… whether the pilgrimage is one as obvious and blessed as this, or the little pilgrimages on weekends, or quality time with family, let us take advantage of them, they are God-given. We stop with each other, and we notice and receive the blessing. Thank God for the blessing.”

Next pilgrimage opportunity in our diocese 

The pilgrimage at Reward is one of several summer pilgrimages held throughout the province. In the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, the next pilgrimage will be celebrated at Mount Carmel, west of Humboldt, on Sunday, July 21, 2019. Bishop Mark Hagemoen will preside at Sunday Eucharist at 10:45 a.m., and other Mount Carmel events on July 21 include Marian devotions and confession starting at 9:30 a.m., lunch, and at 1:30 p.m. Stations of the Cross and blessing with the Blessed Sacrament. (Bring along a picnic lunch, and lawn chair or blanket to sit on, if you wish.) The Mount Carmel pilgrimage site is located about 5.2 km north of Carmel, SK.

History of the Reward Pilgrimage

The Roman Catholic parish at Reward has its beginnings in the heart of Saint Joseph’s Colony, which was established by German-Russian settlers in 1905. The historic Holy Rosary Church building was constructed on ten acres of donated land in 1918 for $12,000, replacing a smaller structure. The “church on the hill” is a designated historic site, and features 15 large paintings completed in 1928 by Count Berthold Von Imhoff, depicting the Mysteries of the Rosary.

In 1932 the annual pilgrimage in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary was initiated for St. Joseph’s Colony, with the Holy Rosary Church at Reward chosen as the colony’s pilgrimage site because of its central location. A wooden outdoor grotto was built as the shrine in 1936, with the present shrine altar built in 1966.

Although the parish is now closed, volunteers continue to care for the building and pilgrimage site – with the help of  donations. Parishes throughout the colony continue to assist in holding the annual pilgrimage. In addition to being open to visitors and to school visits on occasion, weekend Mass is also celebrated at the site on select dates in the summer – including this year at 7:30 p.m. every second Saturday, on July 13, Aug. 3, Aug. 17, Aug. 31, and Sept. 14.

Parishes and missions of St. Joseph Colony (many of which are now closed) include: St. Pascal, Leipzig (1905); St. Charles, Revenue (1905); Our Lady of Assumption, Kerrobert (1906); St. Henry, Salvador (1906); Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, Handel (1906); St. Michael, Tramping Lake (1906); St. Anthony, Grosswerder (1907); St. James, Wilkie (1909); Sacred Heart, Denzil (1909); St. Joseph, Scott (1909); Our Lady of Holy Rosary, Reward (1910); St. Francis/Sacred Heart, Broadacres (1910); St. John, Salt Lake (1910); St. Mary, Macklin (1910); Holy Family, Ermine (1910); Our Lady of Fatima, Landis (1910); St. Peter, Cosine (1914); St. Donatus, St. Donatus (1914); St. Peter, Unity (1914); Immaculate Conception, Major (1914); St. Eugene de Mazenod, Luseland (1915) and St. Elizabeth, Primate (1916).