When Bishop Guy Desrochers C.Ss.R. was consecrated as the Bishop of Pembroke Diocese in Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec, he brought with him a rich legacy of devotion to St. Anne, the grandmother of Jesus.
Since 2011, Bishop Guy had been rector of the Basilica Shrine of St. Anne-de-Beaupre near Quebec City, so renowned as a place of healing and miracles through the intercession of St. Anne. Bishop Guy often recounts marvelous testimonies of healing he has witnessed over the years at the Shrine of St. Anne-de-Beaupre.
So it was fitting that he would take up the torch of this devotion and re-invigorate it in his new diocese in the already well-established Shrine of St. Anne in Cormac, in the Ottawa Valley. Hence, a month ago, Bishop Guy led the Annual Pilgrimage at the shrine including a three-day triduum of Masses leading to the closing Sunday Mass on July 31st, 2022. It was the same week that Pope Francis honoured St. Anne at the Basilica of St. Anne-de-Beaupre and celebrated Holy Mass there on July 26th during his apostolic visit to Canada.
At the Cormac pilgrimage, Bishop Guy gave a beautiful history of devotion to St. Anne over the centuries. In his homily, he told the story of King Charlemagne and how the bones of St. Anne were discovered in the town of Apt in the south of France. After having won a victory over the Lombards, Charlemagne stopped to pray in the Church of St. Anne. It was told that, at that moment, a blind, deaf and dumb child fell into a trance and declared: “Here lie the bones of the mother of the Blessed Virgin”. The piece of bone which is at St. Anne-de-Beaupre was given to the shrine in 1922.
The Indigenous Peoples of Canada honour St. Anne in a special way and hold pilgrimages every year both to St. Anne-de-Beaupre and to Lac St. Anne in Alberta. Deacon Daniel Dauvin, together with his late wife, Mary, were Franciscan Missionaries who devoted years of ministry to the Indigenous Peoples of Saskatchewan, Northern Ontario and beyond.
According to Deacon Daniel, “For the Indigenous Peoples, the grandmother holds a particular place of importance in the family…She can tell the Chief what to do”. Because of the great reverence they have for the grandmother, once they adopted the Christian faith, the place of St. Anne naturally became important in their prayer and devotion. She was able to ask for the graces and favours which they needed from her divine grandson.
Bishop Guy explained in his homily: “Is St. Anne the one doing the miracles? No, Jesus is”. He insisted “that if we want a healing from St. Anne, then we have to promise her something in return…People who receive a special grace from God have to witness to it.”
Once a person receives a healing, they can be a living testimony of the grace they have received through St. Ann’s intercession. Bishop Guy tells the story of a lady from Newfoundland who was healed of a physical malady at St. Anne-de-Beaupre. Then to ensure her healing lasted she committed herself to bringing a group of pilgrims from Newfoundland to the Quebec Shrine every year for a number of years.
Approximately 2000 people attended the Pilgrimage Mass in Cormac this summer. It is hoped that next year there will be many more.
Good St. Anne, pray for us.