SASKATOON — The 16th annual pilgrimage to the Pro-Life Millennium Cross north of Aberdeen, Sask., on Highway 41 was held Aug. 30, featuring prayers for an end to abortion, speakers, information and displays, as well as the public witness provided by a relay of walkers along the 40 kilometres of highway from Saskatoon.
Constructed as a millennium project by the Knights of Columbus council at Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Parish in Saskatoon on land owned by Joseph and the late Rose Bayda, the cross site began with a 10-metre wooden cross erected in 1999, said master of ceremonies Adrian Olenick. The first pilgrimage to the site was held in October 2000, and in 2006 the current 30-metre steel cross was placed on the hillside.
This year’s event began with Bishop Bryan Bayda of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon blessing those who took part in the pilgrimage walk to the site.
Those assembled for the pilgrimage gathered around a giant rosary that circles the cross. Led by members of the Confraternity of Our Mother of Perpetual Help of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, the living rosary included reflections on the sorrowful mysteries in light of the tragedy of abortion and the damage it causes.
“We pray for the mothers and fathers of aborted children: so many of them suffer deep grief and regret over a step they can never reverse. So many suffer in silence because others tell them that it is no big deal,” said the leader of the reflection during one of the decades.
“Silence always helps the oppressor, never the victims,” noted another reflection. “Let us pray that we may never be silent about abortion; rather, may we clearly speak up to save babies from death.”
Speakers during the afternoon pilgrimage included Shawna Arnold of Fountain of Hope, who gives presentations in Catholic high schools about the realities of abortion. She shared her own experience of growing up, suffering abuse and broken family relationships, and of the trauma of having an abortion at the age of 19, believing she had no choice. “The support I needed wasn’t there.”
The regret, despair, addiction and pain she experienced afterward was “as if I had killed my soul,” she said. Arnold also shared her path to conversion and healing, a long and painful journey to come to a realization of God’s love and forgiveness. A key step was her experience of a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat, she described.
“Before the retreat I could not forgive myself,” she said. “There was huge healing from God.”
Cathy LaFleche of Saskatoon Pregnancy Options Centre also spoke, describing services provided to pregnant women and their families: support, education and acceptance to help meet their emotional, physical and spiritual needs. “We welcome, we embrace, we educate and we empower women who come to us in an unplanned or crisis pregnancy when they don’t know what to do,” La Flèche said.
Pregnancy Options Centre provides pregnancy testing, options counselling, prenatal education, parenting education and practical help by providing maternity clothes, baby clothes and supplies through an Earn While You Learn program, LaFleche described. The centre has developed partnerships with churches around Saskatoon and various community services such as Egadz and Healthy Moms Healthy Babies, she said.
Since January the centre has had 289 visits, with 65 new people. All visits are free and confidential. “In July alone we had 42 visits, and in August we had 39.”
Louis Roth of the Knights of Columbus In Support of Life Committee also spoke, as did Denise Hounjet-Roth of Campaign Life Coalition, who reported on upcoming events. She noted that the 40 Hours For Life prayers will happen outside Saskatoon City Hospital daily from Sept. 23 to Nov. 1 (rather than in Lent). The annual Life Chain public witness will be held on Idylwyld Drive in Saskatoon at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 4, she added. Hounjet-Roth also urged those in attendance to contact candidates running for the federal election Oct 19, to determine where they stand on pro-life issues.
Other speakers included Deb Larmour of the Eparchy Family and Life Office and pilgrimage walker Teresa Hiebert, who gave a report about Cana family camps now being sponsored by the eparchy.