By Thandiwe Konguavi
Staff Writer

This year’s Canada Day was historic in more than one way for Catholics across the country.

Dressed in red and white, Sister Germaine Chalifoux joined hundreds at St. Joseph's Basilica on Saturday evening, where Archbishop Richard Smith joined bishops across Canada in consecrating their respective dioceses to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

"In this solemn act, we entrust Canada, our beloved country, to Mary's eternal grace and protection," Smith said during a special prayer at the July 1st Mass.

"We just made it a priority that after our Canada Day celebrations we would conclude it with this special Mass," said Chalifoux, of the Sisters of Providence. "We went to City Hall and took in celebrations there, because for me it's an opportunity to give thanks for the beautiful land that we're in and for the freedom that we have.

"This year had the special element of our personal consecration to Mary and we know that this was happening in all the dioceses so that made it more special."

Canada's religious heritage, political freedom, natural beauty and openness to immigrants and refugees are among the "wonderful blessings" that characterize our country, said Smith.

At the same time, he said, changes to the civil definition of marriage, gender identity, the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia, unfettered access to abortion, homelessness on our streets, and domestic violence show that Canada is in need of help and healing that can be found in the assistance and protection of Mary.

"We know from our human experience that mothers never give up on their children," the Archbishop said. "She holds us in her heart.

"Mary can be trusted to bring us back to Christ  ̶  individually, as families, as a nation  ̶  if we entrust ourselves to her and that's exactly what the act of consecration is, an act of entrustment at all times, especially in moments of need such as we experience now in our beloved country."

Devin Gobert, a member of Corpus Christi Parish in Edmonton, said he felt hopeful for the nation after the act of consecration.

"There are so many wonderful things about this country, but there are many things happening now that are contrary to the Christian faith that have kind of taken a stronghold, so we're in very much need of Mary's help right now,” Gobert said. “I feel very strongly that Our Lady, through her intercession, can stop these dark things from coming."

"Our Lady is looking after us, I think, in a more special way now. I think there will be lots of good things that will happen in Canada."

As Smith consecrated the Archdiocese to Mary, he knelt before the same statue of the Blessed Virgin which Bishop Vital Grandin, the first bishop of the former Diocese of St. Albert, honoured in 1871 when he consecrated the diocese to Mary at that time.

"Gathered in the communion of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, 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," the Archbishop prayed.

The prayer of consecration was followed by the recital of a litany for Canada led by the Basilica choir, featuring many of the names for Mary, including Our Lady of the Snows, Our Lady of the Prairies, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Our Lady of Canada.

The bishops of Canada will also gather together in Ottawa in September to make the act of consecration collectively.