Explore the History of

St. Philomena Walking Pilgrimage

St. Philomena


Feastday: August 11

Patron of infants, babies, and youth

Birth: c. January 10, 291

Death: c. August 10, 304

Canonized By: 1837

Little is known about the life of St. Philomena. However, it is believed she was a Greek princess who became a virgin martyr and died at 13-years-old.

Remains of a young lady were discovered in May 1802 at the Catacombs of Priscilla on the Via Salaria Nova with three tiles reading "Peace be to you, Philomena."

All that is known about St. Philomena's life comes from a Neapolitan nun's vision. Sister Maria Luisa di Gesu claims St. Philomena came to her and told her she was the daughter of a Greek king who converted to Christianity. When Philomena was 13-years-old, she took a vow of consecrated virginity.

After her father took his family to Rome to make peace, Emperor Diocletian fell in love with Philomena. When she refused to marry him, she was subjected to torture.

St. Philomena was scourged, drowned with an anchor attached to her, and shot with arrows. Each time she was attacked angels took to her side and healed her through prayer.

History of Radar Base Location

The Royal Canadian Air Force Station, (Orcadia Radar Base near Yorkton) was a Long Range Radar and Ground Air Transmitter Receiver facility. Construction was started in 1961 and the stations were operational in 1963. Radar functions were operated by 46 Radar Squadron under the control of NORAD. The site was renamed Canadian Forces Station or CFS Yorkton in 1967 upon the unification of the three branches of the Canadian military into the Canadian Armed Forces. CFS Yorkton was closed in 1986 as part of the deactivation.

The White Spruce Youth Treatment Centre took over the site as a youth addiction facility until 1998 and then it changed to:

Orcadia Youth Residence as a youth custody facility.

In 2015, the Whitespruce Provincial Training Centre took over the site. It officially opened giving low-risk offenders the opportunity to get education and rehabilitation in preparation for the end of their sentence. This is part of the Corrections and Policing Ministry. It houses up to 39 male offenders in a minimum security environment.

History of the Stone Orkney Church & School

Located six miles northwest of Yorkton, SK. In 1882 the first settlers arrived and settled in this district. They were part of the “York Farmers” who acquired land through the York Farmers Colonization Company and its managing director, James Armstrong. The land was in township 26, ranges 4 & 5 and west of the second meridian, in the district of Assiniboia, North West Territories. This company offered the settlers 160 acres free, the adjoining 160 acres at $2.00 per acre and three years credit without interest and they could obtain money at 6% per annum to improve their homesteads. It was with much faith, courage and vision that the settlers secured their homesteads and named the district “Orkney” after their beloved Orkney Islands of Scotland.

The Orkney Presbyterian Church was built in 1894. The stones were hauled from surrounding farms in wagons and stone boats pulled by oxen. The church took six months to build. This church became the Orkney United Church in 1925. From 1939 to 1958 the Orkney Church was turned into a school for higher grades. Church services were still held occasionally. It remained unused until 1963 when it was repaired. In June 1963 the Orkney Church and School were declared historic sites. Church services were conducted by a lay minister until the early 1970’s when the church closed. Yearly memorial services are conducted by a Westview United Church minister and continue each June to this date.

The Orkney Protestant Public School District was formed June 2, 1887. The original school was built of logs in 1888, and was the first building in York Colony. The settlers officially named it “Orkney School #97”. The stone Orkney School was built in 1897. Classes continued in the stone school until 1958 when it closed and students were transferred to the new Orkney School in Orcadia.

In 1980 the Orkney Historical Society was formed to the purpose of restoring the Orkney Church and School and to record the history of the district. The upkeep of these historical buildings and grounds is through donations and memberships in the Orkney Historical Society. A special celebration and official dedication of the book, “Orkney Stones” was held on July 16, 1989, as a memorial to those pioneers who dedicated their lives to this new homeland and settlement.

Protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church, Whitesand

The parish was founded in 1911. The first church was built in that same year, to care for settlers, chiefly from the village of Lytsivka, district of Dolyna, who had arrived in the area beginning in 1903.

The site, located 10 miles northeast of Springside, was donated by Vasyl Shpyley. From 1911 until 1913, the church was Presbyterian, since 1913 it has been Catholic. In 1937, the church building was dismantled and the present building was erected at the same site. The parish hall (dismantled in 2016) was purchased in 1949 from the Yorkton airport. The total area of the church grounds is 2 acres.

The parish has been served by the Redemptorist Fathers from Yorkton since 1913, on August 1st, 2019 a new Redemptorist order, based in Lviv, Ukraine will take over the administration St Mary's in Yorkton and her affiliated parishes.

Some statistics: At the time of foundation there were 75 parishioners, but in 1985 there were only 20. Presently, there are 12 families and they have Liturgy once a month from May to November. There have been 5 religious vocations from the parish, 3 priests and 2 nuns, Sister Francis who became the Mother Superior in Rome of all Ukrainian Catholic nuns, and Sister Mechtilde, the famous librarian of Sacred Heart Acadamy, Yorkton.

Good Spirit Lake Sand Dunes

As we walk along the south and south east side of Good Spirit Lake, we will be able to observe the older sand dunes, one that were formed hundreds of years ago. These large dunes were formed in periods of drought when the original river became dry and it and the surrounding sandy soil were moved by the prevailing north west winds. So, these largest, oldest dunes were formed before the lake came into being. These dunes are farthest from the lake and are now stable, covered by trees and vegetation. They will be visible as we walk along the trail. Closer to the lake are newer sand dunes, even today, more dunes are being formed. Waves effected by the still prevailing strong north west winds carry sand to the shore, from which it is carried further inland by the same winds.

My devotion to Saint Philomena

by Dc Dave Hudy

People, sometimes, ask why this walking pilgrimage is named after Saint Philomena. The short answer is that Bev and I have a long standing devotion to her, she has been there for us in important matters and she has responded with help for us in relatively minor needs, as well.

Now for the long answer. My devotion to Saint Philomena started, in earnest, in 2005 after I turned to her for help by offering a novena of prayer. A novena is a prayer for a special intention that lasts for nine days and generally ends on the day before the feast day of the saint that the novena is offered to. Saint Philomena's feast day is on August 11th. In 2005 my wife, Bev, and I were operating a grain and cattle farm that was started by my dad and mom, Joe and Jennie Hudy who, by then, had retired and were living in nearby Melville. For a while, after retirement, my dad drove to the farm to help with farming but eventually he had to give this up because of his failing eyesight and poor mobility. Meanwhile, my mom was experiencing problems with memory loss and anxiety. My sister Carol and I were increasingly concerned and both of us felt that a personal care home would be the best place for our parents to live. The problem was that there was no personal care home in Melville, and nearby care homes were full. Asking my parents to move into a personal care home was difficult enough, but, I did not have the heart to ask them to move far away from family and friends, as well.

I knew about Saint Philomena, her life history as told by certain mystics, and her record of obtaining miracles from Heaven for those who invoked her help. Her feast day was approaching, so, I decided to make a novena to her asking for her intercession for help for my dad and mom. I felt that I was, perhaps, being called to help start a care home in Melville, so, this was part of my novena intention. This, although, my wife Bev and I had no experience in such a venture.

Events moved very quickly after the completion of my novena. A real estate agent told me of a house – photo studio that was for sale. The photo studio was closed, but there was still an elderly couple living in the building. I had not realized that it was on the market, even though it was situated next door to our Roman Catholic Church in Melville. On September 17th Bev and I viewed the building and then made an offer which was very low in an already depressed market. To our surprise the offer was accepted! There were a couple reasons why the offer was accepted, one of the reasons was that the owners were a Christian family and they approved of our plans for the building. The other reason was the night after we made our offer, the death occurred of one of the people who lived in the building. Our possession date was set for November 1st, only about 2 ½ months after my novena to Saint Philomena had ended. So, there we were embarking on a completely new venture, without any previous experience in that field! But, we did have Saint Philomena on our side!

Doors were opened and key people were there to help us. We spent the winter preparing and renovating, and were able to open on June 1st, 2006. The care home was called Saint Philomena Manor. Mom got to see the building before we opened and was looking forward to living there, but she died soon after we took possession of the building. Dad moved into the building before we officially opened and lived there for 3 ½ years before he died in 2009. Bev and I ran the care home for 7 ½ years and were partially involved for another 3 1/2 years. Saint Philomena Manor was a very positive experience for both of us, we treasure the friendships made with staff, residents, and their families.

Through the years our confidence in Saint Philomena's intercession increased and she became somewhat of a friend to us. It seemed like she could always be counted on for help, even in little things.

The idea for a walking pilgrimage was inspired by my participation in a similar pilgrimage in Ontario in 2017 and 2018. Bev and talked about organizing a similar pilgrimage in Saskatchewan, and we received a grest deal of help and encouragement from Deacon Dennis and Karen Ziegler. They were and still are a big part of making the dream a reality, as were Warren and Kathy Crossman. As plans began to fall into place it came time to choose a name for the pilgrimage. The pilgrimage was always planned to end at Rama on August 14th, the Feast of the celebration of Mary's assumption into Heaven. At first I had planned for a three day walking pilgrimage, but eventually found that the best plan would be to run a four day pilgrimage that started from Yorkton on August 11th, Of course, August 11th just happens to be Saint Philomena's feast day. So, there was good reason to name the pilgrimage after Saint Philomena, she would lead her pilgrims to a celebration for Mary, who, in turn, always points her followers to Jesus. St Philomena was tremendously loyal to Jesus, she refused to break a vow that she gave to him even though there was intense pressure on her to do so. Still I hesitated in my decision to name the pilgrimage in honour of her! One reason was that Saint Philomena is no longer recognized as an official saint of the Church because there is no actual proof of the events of her life. I was thinking of calling it the Good Spirit Pilgrimage because a good part of our walk would be near Good Spirit Lake and through Good Spirit Park. My final decision, though, was made easy when I began to plan the rest stops for the first day of our route. The first rest stop was to be just past the city limits of Yorkton and asked the owner if it would be okay if we stopped for a break on his property on August 11th. He replied that it would be great to have us and that August 11th was in fact his birthday! A short time later I told this news to the people who provide refreshments for us at both our second and fourth stops. I was told that August 11th was also their daughter's birthday. It seemed that Saint Philomena was telling us something. Her message was, I believe, that she wants to be a major part of the lives of those who make this pilgrim journey. A journey that will lead us closer to our Blessed Mother and then on to Jesus.