Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 28, 2003
Our Lady of La Salette Shrine
Worshippers make pligrimages to the quiet church
By TED FITZGERALD
Special to the WCR
Visit Forget at noon on a sunny, early summer weekday to experience a complete escape from the noisy, busy 21st century world. The little town in southeastern Saskatchewan never did grow large and is now almost deserted. Roadways of broad tree-lined avenues, domain of a lone killdeer, are untracked and grass-covered.
The brick church, whose tall, silver steeple had been visible for many kilometres back on Highway 13, is open, inviting a visitor to spend a few prayerful moments in its quiet, pastel interior. This is the church of Our Lady of La Salette, a shrine to the Virgin Mary.
The Prairie provinces are noted for their variety of pilgrimage destinations honouring Mary as mother, not to mention the many churches named for appellations of Our Lady. She of course is the most perfect human and the mother of God. Little Forget is dominated by her shrine here.
Inside, the parish church presents a simple nave with pillared side aisles and a small sanctuary/apse. Little ornamentation interrupts the spotless, white-trimmed, beige walls and barrel-vault ceiling. An exception is the graceful arch that defines the sanctuary. It bears the golden words "Hail Mary full of grace the Lord is with thee." The altar, set off by a large, wooden crucifix, is flanked by two simple, dark brown wooden branches that match the church's no-nonsense pews.
The statues in the church sometimes puzzle first-time visitors. Three niches, above and behind the altar in the apse wall hold uncoloured effigies of a woman (Our Lady surely!) wearing an unusual headdress and accompanied by two children. These represent participants in a story from 1846 Europe.
On Sept. 19, the Virgin appeared to two young cattle herders near La Salette in France's alpine Isere Department. In a brilliant halo of light, they saw a seated, weeping lady. Mary's message, delivered from a visage sad but beautiful, was a motherly plea for all her children to reform, to avoid common sinful habits and to adopt more prayerful and penitential lives.
In the Forget church, Our Lady of La Salette is portrayed seated, face buried in her hands, in the left-hand niche. The central alcove shows her standing and addressing the children, 14-year-old Melanie Mathieu and Maximin Giraud, age 11. Mary stands alone, arms folded, to the right of the altar.
In 1899, shortly after the Forget area was settled, La Salette fathers arrived, dedicated the church to Our Lady of La Salette and later initiated pilgrimages to the site. These annual one-day events attract devotees mainly from the Weyburn to Stoughton area and alternate between the first and second Sundays in June.
This year, because Pentecost falls on June 8, the pilgrimage will take place on Sunday, June 15. Traditionally, a 3 p.m. Marian Hour of Prayer is followed by Mass at 4 p.m.
In addition to the parish church, built in 1923 to replace one destroyed by fire, a number of votive sites occupy the extensive grounds at La Salette. Noteworthy is a tiny chapel honouring Our Lady Queen of Heaven and containing an exquisite statue of the Blessed Virgin.
In the absence of a resident priest, Forget is now served by clergy from Lampman. Mass is celebrated at La Salette church three Sundays each month with a lay service on the other weekend.