Hundreds gather on the hillside of Mount Carmel to celebrate 97th annual pilgrimage

Bishop Mark Hagemoen carries the Blessed Sacrament in procession to the top of the hill. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News.)

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel at the top of the hill north of Carmel, SK. (Photo by Tim Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

[Carmel, SK – Catholic Saskatoon News] – For almost 100 years, pilgrims from the St. Peter’s Abbey area and beyond have climbed the hill at Mount Carmel, to ask for the intercession of Our Lady, to pray for good weather and a bountiful harvest, and to celebrate the Eucharist under prairie skies.

The tradition continued July 21, 2019 as the 97th annual Mount Carmel pilgrimage was again held on the hillside, with prayers, hymns, confession, praying of the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross, and celebration of Sunday Eucharist, with Bishop Mark Hagemoen presiding with Abbot Peter Novecosky, OSB, and a number of Benedictine priests from St. Peter’s Abbey.

Music ministry was provided by the newly-formed Mount Carmel Choir, with leadership from representatives of St. Scholastica parish in Burr, SK.

“This is a place that is a testimony to the faith,” said Bishop Mark Hagemoen during his homily. The placement and intricate design and attention to detail of the stone chapel and the pilgrimage site itself demonstrate an intimacy with the natural world that witnesses to the fact that “Our Lord is not only the author of our lives, but the author of all creation and all the universe.”


Opening procession:

It was a beautiful day on Mount Carmel for the 97th annual pilgrimage July 21. Bishop Mark Hagemoen presided at Sunday…

Posted by Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon on Sunday, July 21, 2019


Our Lady of Mount Carmel was the title given to the Blessed Virgin Mary in her role as patroness of the Carmelite order, and of the first Carmelites, who were Christian aesthetics or hermits who lived at Mount Carmel in the Holy Land, noted the bishop in his homily.

It also recalls the great event in the Old Testament in 1 Kings 18: 19-40, in which the prophet Elijah battled the pagan priests of Baal in a public spiritual contest which led to the defeat of their deities to the one Lord of the Hebrew peoples. “Calling on the one true God of all the earth, we see the great prophet Elijah announces the end of a long drought on the land, where finally at this place, and through this event, the clouds gathered and the skies turned black and it rained heavily,” recounted Bishop Hagemoen, noting the fruitful prayers for rain and harvest among the faithful of Saskatchewan during this year’s dry spring.

Bishop Mark Hagemoen gave the homily during the 97th annual pilgrimage at Mount Carmel. (Photo by Tim Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

This Old Testament event is “a symbol of how we continue to deal with a spiritual battle between the gods that we like to make in our own image and likeness, versus the one, true God,” he said.

“If we are a people who truly seek the narrow gate, the way of Christ… it is so important (more than ever) to get away to a place like this, physically, but also, spiritually in our daily lives, so that we may allow that intimacy with the Lord to find a greater place in our lives,” the bishop added. “If the intimate Lord of all the universe is allowed to find a deepening place in our hearts, we will – as the great Ireneus said – finally and truly discover what it really means to be ‘fully human, fully alive,’ versus at best, just a replica of what God intended for our humanity, personally and communally.”

The bishop quoted from Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation to the youth and to the People of God throughout the world, entitled Christus Vivit: “Let us ask the Lord to free the Church from those who would make her grow old, encase her in the past, hold her back or keep her at a standstill. But let us also ask him to free her from another temptation: that of thinking she is young because she accepts everything the world offers her, thinking that she is renewed because she sets her message aside and acts like everybody else. No! The Church is young when she is herself, when she receives ever anew the strength born of God’s word, the Eucharist, and the daily presence of Christ and the power of his Spirit in our lives. The Church is young when she shows herself capable of constantly returning to her source (CV, #35).”


Bishop Mark Hagemoen carried the Blessed Sacrament to the top of the hill to bless the people and the surrounding fields. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News.)


Returning to the source of an intimate relationship with Our Lord, Jesus Christ calls young people and the Church to dare to “allow the God of the universe, to find a place in our hearts, so that we can navigate the difficult journey through the narrow gate,” said Bishop Hagemoen, describing the need to navigate through the status quo on one hand and making ourselves the centre of the universe on the other.

He related this also to the need and the challenge of “moving from maintenance to mission.”

“This message is coming up from you, the people, who are saying: ‘Bishop, we can’t just be maintaining our buildings, (although we need to do that, of course), but we must focus on how Christ calls us to an important, vital, and renewing mission.’ And what does that look like in our communities today?” No matter what size the parish community, the challenge is fundamentally the same, Bishop Hagemoen asserted. “The starting point is that intimate relationship with the Lord in our own lives, and in the lives of our families and in communities, and from that intimate relationship with the Lord will come our plan.”

The Eucharistic celebration continued, before concluding with the bishop carrying the Blessed Sacrament to the top of the hill, blessing the fields and the people gathered for the pilgrimage.

Support for the pilgrimage site

The collection during the pilgrimage will go toward maintenance and repairs at the Mount Carmel site. During earlier words of welcome, pilgrims heard about the work of volunteers who maintain the site, and also news about recent acts of vandalism. There is a need to replace lightning rods that were stolen from the top of the hill, where for years they have stood alongside the statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. As well, a donated bench was destroyed, with plans for replacing it in the near future. Security cameras and lighting are also in the process of being installed.

The pilgrimage was established in St. Peter’s Colony under the leadership of the Benedictines at St. Peter’s Abbey (Muenster, SK), who continue to oversee care for the site.

Gallery of photos:

Statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, holding the infant Jesus, that stands on the top of the hill. (Photo by Tim Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)