Mount Carmel pilgrimage resumes in its 99th year after a pandemic hiatus

Bishop Mark Hagemoen blesses the pilgrims during Mass at Mount Carmel July 18. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Pilgrims filled the hillside for the return of the Mount Carmel pilgrimage July 18, 2021. (Photos by Kiply Lukan Yaworski)

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

After an interruption last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pilgrimage to Mount Carmel Shrine returned July 18, 2021 – 99 years after it was first established in St. Peter’s Colony.

The shrine is located west of Humboldt, just north of the community of Carmel, SK.

Pilgrims from throughout the region joined Bishop Mark Hagemoen, Abbot Peter Novecosky, OSB, Fr. Joseph Salihu, Fr. Daniel Muyres, OSB, Fr. Cosmas Epifano, OSB, and monks from St. Peter’s Abbey to again pray for good weather and a bountiful harvest, and to celebrate the Eucharist at the outdoor altar on the hill topped with a statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel holding the infant Jesus.

Music ministry was provided by the Mount Carmel Choir.

Video of Mass:

 

The Sunday morning pilgrimage started with hymns and praying of the Rosary, along with opportunities to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, followed by celebration of Sunday Eucharist.

This year, with the province just coming out of COVID-19 restrictions, there was no concession for lunch, and no afternoon program, but those in attendance were encouraged to pray the outdoor stations of the cross around the base of the hill in small family groups.

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 ascetics or hermits who lived at Mount Carmel in the Holy Land.

The name Mount Carmel also recalls the Old Testament event 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. “In the account Elijah announced the end of a long drought, the clouds gathered and the skies turned black and it rained heavily,” recounted Bishop Hagemoen, noting that hot dry weather this year has the faithful of Saskatchewan again praying for rain.

Just as in the time of the prophet Elijah, today we also face a time of conflict, surrounded by a “lot of noise,” noted the bishop. “We continue to be in a state and a place where we are surrounded by temptations to what is not truly of God.”

He added: “We have to depend on the Lord Jesus Christ and the Gospel, his Good News even more, so that what is true, what is live-giving, what is sustaining, will be steadfast.”

In particular Hagemoen reflected on recent weeks focused on relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous brothers and sisters in light of the rediscovery of graves near residential schools. “Where do we need to admit the failing in our history? And where do we need to say sorry, where do we need to be people of contrition, of contrite heart?” the bishop queried. “The way of penance, ongoing conversion of life and heart must be the way of the disciple.”

Hagemoen reflected on leadership as modelled by Jesus Christ, with the word shepherd coming up over and over in the Sunday scripture readings. “If there is any way in which we have a heart of stone, we pray that the Lord will give us a heart of flesh, and it is the Good Shepherd that does this… the Good Shepherd is with us always.”

In the Church there can be no such thing as authority linked to power, stressed the bishop. “Authority must be linked to responsible service of your brothers and sisters,” he said, again pointing to Jesus Christ as the model.

“Today on this wonderful mountaintop we celebrate the true way of leadership of blessing and of service to the world,” he said, stressing that holiness leads to joy, as expressed by Pope Francis: “To depend on God sets us free from every form of enslavement and leads us to recognize our great dignity.”

Bishop Hagemoen also recalled the words of Saint Pope John Paul II at World Youth Day in Toronto, when he assured his listeners: “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures, we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son Jesus.”

In conclusion, Bishop Hagemoen prayed that in spite of the noise and challenge around us, that God’s blessing will take us to “an absolute future… an absolute hope” and that Christians will take up their call to be true missionaries.

“Do not underestimate the grace and blessing that comes when a people come to a holy place like this seeking a new heart and a new spirit. And with God’s grace and help – and our trust – He will do that.”

At the end of Mass, the bishop carried the Blessed Sacrament to the top of the hill, blessing the fields and the people gathered for the pilgrimage. Individual blessings were also given to pilgrims after the celebration of the Eucharist.

Photo gallery:

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History of the pilgrimage site:

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.

Plans are underway for celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Mount Carmel pilgrimage on Sunday, July 17, 2022.

Dedication of Mount Carmel on Sept. 10, 1922. (Archival photo courtesy of St. Peter’s Abbey)

 

Abbot Peter Novecosky, OSB, recently shared the history of the first pilgrimage to Mount Carmel, held in 1922. This account was prepared for the shrine’s 75th anniversary:

The following is an account of the first pilgrimage made at Mount Carmel on Sept. 10, 1922.

The article, entitled “Mount Carmel now a holy hill,” appeared in the St. Peter’s Bote (the German-language newspaper published by St. Peter’s Abbey) and was translated by the late Sr. Celine Graf, OSU.

The first pilgrimage to the Mount Carmel site was attended by about 3,500 people, on a bare hill, and with a makeshift chapel.

Mount Carmel now a holy hill

“Last Sunday, Sept. 10, 1922, nearly all the priests of St. Peter’s Colony and thousands of people from all areas of the diocese took part in a most imposing celebrating on Mount Carmel, the heart of St. Peter’s Colony.

“The weather was favourable. The hill was blessed and dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God, under the title ‘Our Lady of Mount Carmel.’ At the same time, Mary, Queen of heaven, was openly acknowledged by all present as patron and protectress of St. Peter’s Colony.

“From now on, on the Sunday after the feast of Our Lady of the Scapular which the church celebrates on July 16, a festive Mass will be celebrated annually on Mount Carmel to express publicly our appreciation and thanks to our dear Mother of God for her great intercession for us before the throne of God. Next year this feast will be held on July 22, 1923.

“The day before, the men and women of the Carmel parish prepared the Mount for this beautiful celebration. Under the leadership of their zealous pastor, Fr. Matthew Michel, they erected a temporary chapel and altar and decorated the hill with trees.

“On Sunday morning in the various churches of the colony an early Mass was celebrated to make it possible for the people to attend the 11:00 celebration of Mass on the hill. Thus, the good people came in throngs to show their love and attachment to our Mother of Mount Carmel and to receive from her hands blessings for themselves and their loved ones.

“From all directions came hundreds of cars: from Muenster and St. Gregor, from Annaheim and Lake Lenore, from Dead Moose Lake and Pilger, from Fulda and Willmont, from Humboldt and parishes from the south, from Bruno and Dana, from Leofeld, Bremen, Cudworth, St. Benedict and St. Leo. From everywhere they came feeling themselves fortunate to be able to take part in this memorable celebration.

“Already long before the opening of the festive celebration the hill began filling with people who were enthralled at the view from the summit. Everyone wanted to spot their church, their elevator or this or that village. At the foot of the hill, in all directions, were parked the cars and other means of transport. It was a glorious sight.

“High Mass began at 11:00. Abbot Michael Ott was vested in his pontifical robes, as were all his assistant prelates…. The first action was to bless Mount Carmel. Through this blessing the hill was dedicated to the most blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. Abbot Michael prayed in Latin as he walked around the hill, accompanied by all the priests, and sprinkled it with holy water. The men’s choir of St. Peter’s Church, under the direction of Mr. Pitzel and Mr. Schaeffer of Humboldt, vigorously sang the Magnificat, Mary’s song of praise. This was followed by two Marian hymns in German.

“After the blessing of the hill, Abbot Michael preached the festive sermon in which he reminded the pilgrims of the significance of the feast and admonished them to remain firm in their love for the Mother of God and to follow her example. Mary, among all the creatures who came from the hand of God, is the richest in love and a mighty helper in all our needs and petitions. Here on this hill, he said, we want to greet our Mother annually; we want to thank her for all the blessings she obtains for us; and we want to beg her for continued favors and help. That she will continue always to look graciously upon the people of St. Peter’s Colony, we now want to consecrate ourselves to our heavenly Queen forever and take her as our patron and protectress.

“The abbot then knelt down with the whole assembly ó about 3,500 people and prayed the blessing in German. This was followed by the litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. After this, Abbot Michael gave a short talk in German to complement what he has said previously in English.

“At the end of Mass the Annaheim choir, accompanied by horns and drums, sung the Te Deum with great enthusiasm.”

Dedication of Mount Carmel on Sept. 10, 1922. (Archival photo courtesy of St. Peter’s Abbey)