August 21, 2018

On Friday, August 17 2018, six pilgrims from across the province came together near the outskirts of Winnipeg to begin what has become an annual tradition; a Walking Pilgrimage to Cooks Creek, Manitoba. While this is not a new idea per se, it is a new opportunity for our faithful to join in prayer as they prepare for a weekend of spiritual renewal.

With intentions of prayer being brought on the pilgrimage, pilgrims set foot toward Bird's Hill Park. On the way, hymns to the Mother of God were sung, the Jesus Prayer ("Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner") was recited, and an abundant opportunity for fellowship was had. Keeping to a healthy pace, the pilgrims arrived to Pope's Hill where they rested after completing two and a half hours of their pilgrimage.

In 1984, Pope's Hill was the site where St. John Paul II celebrated Mass for the Catholic faithful in Manitoba. Seeing the holiness of this site, and in a spirit of thanksgiving, the pilgrims prayed Moleben to the Mother of God. Following Moleben, a brief reflection was given by Fr. Mykhaylo Khomitskyy of the Rossburn Pastoral District. Fr. Mykhaylo spoke of the importance of making a spiritual pilgrimage, and in doing so, we ask the Mother of God for her prayers and intercession.

Feeling the effects of the long pilgrimage, it would have been easy to complain or maybe even quit. But with perseverance in their hearts and prayers on their lips, the pilgrims continued, determined to arrive at Immaculate Conception Parish and Grotto in Cooks Creek. While many of the pilgrims were feeling tired, the youngest pilgrim who was only 11 years of age, had plenty of energy! This served as great encouragement for the group.

After 21.5 kilometres, and some six hours of walking, the pilgrims joyfully arrived at Immaculate Conception Parish. Upon their arrival, they entered the church and prayed once more to the Mother of God, thanking her for her intercession and for protecting the pilgrims over the course of their pilgrimage.

For some who were already at the church, they commented, feeling inspired after seeing a group make a pilgrimage to Immaculate Conception Parish. For others, it brought tears to their eyes as they fondly remembered the years when they too made a walking pilgrimage to Cooks Creek. Even over the course of the pilgrimage, drivers would stop and ask the pilgrims what they were doing. This walking pilgrimage served as a testament of faith, and an opportunity for many to witness great devotion to our Lord and His Mother.

Alex Pankiw

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