It's week 4 and we've hit the plains! Update in a flash: After descending the Rockies into the plains of southern Alberta, we have since jumped north and continued walking east from the Calgary area. We are now in mid-western Saskatchewan heading to Saskatoon.
While BC was incredibly diverse and interesting in its wide-ranging terrain, our experience on the Prairies has not been so plain as one might expect. Yes, while the terrain is largely unchanging, we have had some of our most powerful and varied encounters on the plains of Alberta and Saskatchewan. This week has brought some interesting encounters that I have to share. Firstly, this past weekend in Edmonton proved to be yet another great weekend for our team. Not only was our mission extremely well received at the parishes we visited, but we were fed too well - two barbeques were held for the team, one at one of our host families (Diane Middleton) and the other at the house of last-year walked, Nelson Morris. Thank-you to both, and to our equally generous host family, the Maddens! Also, one religious, (her name escapes me at the moment - my apologies!), bought our entire group lunch on Saturday afternoon. Needless to say, our stomachs were looked after this weekend! I never thought that I might gain weight by going on Crossroads, but if people keep feeding us like this…
This week has also brought some special encounters for our team. On Monday morning, we were hoping to go to Mass at the chancery office in Edmonton before heading out 5 hours south to Drumheller to continue walking. However, because of traffic and our over-reliance on the unreliable GPS, we missed the Mass. However, I figured I would ask the office if there was a later Mass anywhere in the area. I couldn't find the office, but the Western Catholic Reporter newspaper office was there, so I thought I would ask them. They weren't able to find a Mass, so we turned to head out. Just before pulling away, one of the newspaper reporters stopped us and asked us to do an interview. We had a great discussion and some action walking shots. Good to see that some good comes out of these less-than-good situations! I just found out that the article has been printed - check it out here: http://wcr.ab.ca/WCRThisWeek/Stories/tabid/61/entryid/2634/Default.aspx
The following day was even more eventful. The only Mass in the small Albertan prairie towns along Hwy 9 was in Hanna, AB at 7 PM. Hanna also happens to be the hometown of Nickelback, and so I wouldn't be too surprised if this grave misfortune was also responsible for the fact that Mass was cancelled that night, as the priest was on holidays. We were just about to leave the locked church when a dude riding a Harley pulled into the church. This man also happened to be Fr. Ian, the parish priest, just arriving back from his holidays in BC. He was more than happy to offer us a private Mass. He also let us use his facilities to cook and get washed up. But it doesn't end there. Just before we were about to leave, a few of us were hanging outside the church with our PRO-LIFE shirts on. A couple walking a dog were looking at us somewhat curiously, so we started chatting with them. It so happens that the woman, Delia Girard, was adopted and struggling that very day with friends who were being hostile to her pro-life views. We chatted and prayed together, and it strengthened both her spirits and ours to have such a providential encounter on the street.
So far, our experience in this province of Saskatchewan has proven to be most supportive overall, judging by the amount of positive response we are getting from passing cars and those we meet in the towns along the way. We have even got some donations on the road! We were also given a royal treatment last night in Kindersley, SK, from Fr. Cooper at St. Joseph's Parish, who swamped us with food and gave us much-cherished beds and showers to use last night. Such hospitality has really made me appreciate the generosity of others, as there has been so many who have laid down so much to accommodate us, particularly our weekend host families. Thank you to all, and
Now to enjoy the night prairie sky…it really is as phenomenal as they make it out to be.