Prairie pilgrimage at Reward, SK, marks 90th year: many return for annual celebration

The annual Reward Pilgrimage was again celebrated July 10, 2022, 90 years after it started in historic St. Joseph Colony. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski)

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Walter Zunti was only eight years old when he attended the very first pilgrimage held at the Holy Rosary Shrine site at Reward, SK, in 1932 — and he was at the pilgrimage again at the age of 98 years to celebrate the 90th anniversary event on July 10, 2022.

Walter Zunti was only eight years old when he attended the very first Reward pilgrimage held in 1932. He and many others from the surrounding area attended the 90th anniversary celebration July 10, 2022. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski)

“I remember the white sheets they placed around the altar,” he said of that first outdoor celebration held in 1932, in the midst of the Great Depression, established to pray for the intercession of Our Lady of the Rosary for the people, parishes and communities of the historic St. Joseph Colony.

This year, pilgrims from area parishes and beyond continued the Reward pilgrimage tradition, gathering for the Rosary, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Mass and supper at the Holy Rosary Shrine site, located next to the historic Holy Rosary Church, which opened in 1918.

The church is well-known and loved for its beautiful interior, which features large Imhoff paintings of the mysteries of the Rosary surrounding the worship space.

The interior of historic Holy Rosary Church at Reward includes paintings by Baron von Imhoff. (Photos by Kiply Lukan Yaworski)

The outdoor shrine was constructed a few years after the church was built, with the tradition of annual pilgrimages to the site beginning in 1932. The 2022 Reward Pilgrimage 90 years later included Mass celebrated by Bishop Mark Hagemoen and priests from parishes throughout the area.


As the sound of the bell tolled in the historic church building and rang across the fields, banners representing parish communities from throughout St. Joseph Colony were carried in the entrance procession, followed by children scattering flower petals from the church steps to the outdoor shrine altar.

Procession of parish banners from the church building to the outdoor altar is one of the annual traditions at the Reward Pilgrimage, highlighting faith communities located across the surrounding historic St. Joseph Colony. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

In his homily, Bishop Mark Hagemoen reflected on the many events, challenges and issues facing the Church and God’s people right now, including the upcoming papal visit and the ongoing call to reconciliation and healing in a journey with Indigenous people. “What is God’s plan for all Nations?” the bishop challenged.

He stressed the importance of living like the Good Samaritan in responding to those in need, and always taking the long view of gaining eternal life. “Eternal life is a longing of our hearts and lives that God has placed in us,” he added.

Related: “New concerns for church’s longevity” – Article in the Unity-Wilkie Press-Herald – LINK

Upcoming event: 100th anniversary of Mount Carmel Pilgrimage will be celebrated Sunday July 17 – INFO

The work of volunteers and donors was recognized during the celebration, and volunteer and committee member Leanne Clarke also described the need to continue fund-raising to make much-needed repairs to the church, ensuring ongoing upkeep of the historic shrine site. Donations to assist with the preservation efforts can be forwarded to: Holy Rosary Shrine, Box 1536, Unity SOK 4L0 (tax receipts available).

Once again the scale model of Holy Rosary Church built by the late Roy Kappel was on display, and a silent auction of artwork in support of the ongoing upkeep and restoration project was also featured.

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).

Next pilgrimage opportunity in our diocese – Mount Carmel

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 17, 2022 — the 100th anniversary of that event in St. Peter’s Colony.

Bishop Mark Hagemoen will preside at Sunday Eucharist at 10:45 a.m. July 17, at Mount Carmel with other events on July 17 including Marian devotions and confession starting at 9:45 a.m., lunch, and then after lunch, Stations of the Cross and blessing with the Blessed Sacrament. The Mount Carmel pilgrimage site is located on a high point of land about 5.2 km north of Carmel, SK (west of Humboldt).

Reward Pilgrimage 2022 Photo Gallery:

Video of Mass – Reward Pilgrimage 2022: