Pope Francis at Lac Ste. Anne in Alberta, Canada  (Vatican Media)

By Linda Bordoni

Dec 13 2023

The Church in Canada marks the annual National Day of Prayer in Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Celebrating the National Day of Prayer in Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples, Canadian bishops are asking the faithful to recall Pope Francis’ six-day Pilgrimage of Penance to Canada among the Indigenous Peoples of the nation in July 2022, and in particular, his words of prayer offered at Lac Ste Anne.

The Pope travelled to Lac Ste Anne, the site of one of Canada’s most famous Catholic pilgrimages and a place of spiritual significance for the nation’s Indigenous peoples, on 26 July 2022,  the second day of his apostolic visit to the nation.

Called ‘Lake of God’, by the Nakota Sioux and ‘Lake of the Spirit’ by the Cree people, it was named ‘Lac Ste Anne” by Father Jean-Baptiste Thibault, a missionary and the first priest to establish a permanent Catholic mission, in 1842, in Alberta, in this place already considered sacred for generations and known to the indigenous as a place of healing.

Pope Francis celebrated a Liturgy of the Word at the Shrine of Ste Anne, with a crowd of mostly Indigenous people and blessed a bowl of the lake’s water. In his address, he said, “Dear Indigenous brothers and sisters, I have come here as a pilgrim also to say to you how precious you are to me and to the church.” 

National Day

The National Day of Prayer in Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples has been coordinated since 2002 by the Canadian Catholic Indigenous Council and is celebrated by dioceses across Canada.

The date, Dec 12, is that of the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas, who appeared to a humble native peasant, Juan Diego, in Mexico in 1531. 

Pope Francis’ prayer

This is Pope Francis’ prayer at Lac Ste Anne:

“Lord, as the people on the shores of the Sea of Galilee were not afraid to cry out to you with their needs, so we come to you, Lord … with whatever pain we bear within us. We bring to you our weariness and our struggles, the wounds of the violence suffered by Indigenous brothers and sisters. In this blessed place, where harmony and peace reign, we present to you the disharmony of our experiences, the terrible effects of colonization, the indelible pain of so many families, grandparents and children. Lord, help us to be healed of our wounds. We know, Lord, that this requires effort, care and concrete actions on our part; but we also know that we cannot do this alone. We rely on you and on the intercession of your mother and your grandmother. Yes, Lord, we entrust ourselves to the intercession of your mother and your grandmother, because mothers and grandmothers help to heal the wounds of our hearts.” – Vatican News