Tens of thousands of people travelled to the shores of Lac Ste. Anne this weekend, in search of healing and spiritual renewal.

Each year, thousands of Catholics converge at the lake west of Edmonton and bathe in the water that many believe has the power to heal.

The tradition of the Lac Ste. Anne pilgrimage began more than 100 years ago and has developed into one of the largest gatherings of First Nations people in Canada.

First-timer Marvin Cook said he had always longed to come to the lake. This year he travelled to Edmonton from Manitoba specifically for the pilgrimage.

“I always wanted to see this place,” he said. “I’m getting old, sometimes sick, and it’s been a wonderful adventure coming here.”

lac ste. anne pilgrimage

Each year, thousands of Catholics, both young and old, converge at the lake west of Edmonton and bathe in the water that many believe has the power to heal. (CBC News)

Cook admitted he had doubts about the powers of the lake, but once he arrived, he knew he'd made the right decision.

“It’s just a wonderful feeling to be out here,” he said.

Others, like Doreen Alexis, have been coming to Lac Ste. Anne year after year.

“I was brought up this way,” she said. “Coming here year after year, renewing my faith, healing mentally and emotionally — you’re looking for a deeper faith in life. It’s basically healing.”

Alexis said she has seen many people renew their faith at the lake and go on to lead improved lives. 

"A lot of people are troubled with addictions, and [you see them] bringing their family here and seeking that strength to live a better way."

“It’s a very special place,” said Rodrick Alexis, who has been making the trip with Doreen for years. “Many healings happened at this lake. People go back and  — whether it’s physically, mentally or spiritually — they get healed.”