ABERDEEN, Sask. — The 18th annual pilgrimage to the Pro-Life Millennium Cross northeast of Saskatoon was held Aug. 27.
The hot summer afternoon event brought some 70 pilgrims to the hill, with an additional 60 joining through the Eparchy of Saskatoon’s Facebook livestream feed.
The celebration commenced with a living rosary encircling the 100-foot steel Millennium Cross. Pilgrims responded in a variety of languages as the rosary procession was led.
Bishop Bryan Bayda, CSsR, of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon, carried an Our Lady of Guadalupe tilma print, further reinforcing the message of enculturated evangelization in the miraculous image of the Blessed Mother as a pregnant indigenous woman.
John Starosta, president of the Pro-Life Millennium Cross foundation, spoke after the rosary, bringing forward the bishop to share the prayer for the consecration of Canada to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary: “We place ourselves completely in the sanctuary of your heart and commit the past, the present and the future of Canada to your maternal care.”
“Today you are a human bead for Our Lady’s rosary,” Starosta stated. “I wonder how often you realize that you are that living bead, asking for her maternal intercession?” He encouraged all to reflect on the physical surroundings of the pilgrimage site and of being in the shadow of the Millennium Cross.
Starosta challenged those in attendance to connect their spiritual experience with their physical experience. “Christianity does not demonize the body; it divinizes the body.”
Starosta referred to Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body as a rich treasury of works that help us understand that God’s mystery has been revealed in human flesh. He encouraged pilgrims to utilize resources available and to continue to learn and gain a deeper understanding. We are created for the infinite, reminded Starosta.
Gerald Wiegers, State Culture of Life director for the Knights of Columbus Saskatchewan, brought greetings on behalf of State Deputy Brian Schatz and 10,000- plus members of the K of C in the province.
Cathy LaFleche, executive director of the Saskatoon Pregnancy Options Centre, also spoke. “We can open our arms like Jesus did for us on the cross and we can offer a message of hope to all those in need,” she said. “That is what we do at the Pregnancy Options Centre.” She encouraged people to come and see, and to volunteer.
Keynote speaker Brad Trost, MP for Saskatoon-University, shared a message of practical applied discipleship and leadership. Citing 1 Corinthians 13:13, “faith, hope and love abide; these three, and the greatest of these is love.” Trost stated, “That describes where we are in the pro-life movement; what motivates us, who we are, why we get involved. It’s hard to sometimes have faith that Canada will do the right thing.”
Trost explained that abortion has been legal since 1969, and even if the law changed now, all the innocent human lives lost since then are still gone. He referred to Scripture in which the Pharaoh commanded that the male babies born to the people of Israel were to be killed; and the Gospel passage about King Herod commanding baby boys to be killed after the birth of Christ. “God intervened. He protected and he preserved. It did not mean that everything evil stopped, but that in the end, his sovereign will came through.”
Trost pointed to crisis pregnancy centres as a means of hope, especially for young women feeling pressured. He offered encouragement, telling his listeners that if they can make a difference with just one, they have done the right thing.
To illustrate love, Trost shared a story by Leo Tolstoy about a shoemaker who had a dream that Christ was going to visit him the next day (from the short story “Where Love Is, there God Is Also,” or in the video, Martin the Cobbler.) The shoemaker keeps waiting and looking for Christ as the day passes, helping people in need as he continues to wait throughout the day. Then that night, as the shoemaker sits and meditates about why Christ did not visit, he reads the verse, “For as much as you have done it unto the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it unto me.” He realizes that Christ was there in every person he had helped.
This is also love at work in the pro-life movement. “We do it for the least. We don’t always do it in the most direct ways. Sometimes we do it by standing in front of clinics. Sometimes we do it by contributing. For most of us it’s the love of Christ that compels us to help.”
The Millennium Cross site was established in 1999 north of Aberdeen, Sask., as a project of Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Knights of Columbus Council 11775, on land donated by Joe Bayda. The first 33-foot wooden cross was built on the hill near Highway 41 in October 1999. The annual pilgrimage to pray for victims of abortion began Oct. 15, 2000, and in July 2006, the larger steel cross was erected.
For more information about the pilgrimage site and the Millennium Cross, see www.prolifemillenniumcross.ca.