Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
August 20, 2001
Mary draws the devout to Skaro
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
SKARO — They came from all over Alberta to pay homage to the Mother of God. About 4,000 people gathered at the Marian shrine and grotto here Aug. 14-15 to celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The two-day pilgrimage has been an annual event for Polish and other Catholics since an Oblate priest built the shrine, a replica of the grotto at Lourdes, France, in 1919.
Built entirely by hand, the grotto includes a relic of the stone on which Our Lady stood when she appeared at Lourdes in 1858.
As in previous years, the event began with a recitation of the rosary followed by Vespers in Polish and a Mass with Archbishop Thomas Collins and more than 40 priests from the Edmonton Archdiocese.
Following the Mass, candles were lit and devotional hymns were sung as young girls and boys carried a statue of Mary in procession around the grotto followed by hundreds of pilgrims, many of whom left their candles burning on the rocks of the grotto. The archbishop carried the Blessed Sacrament in procession.
Devotion to the Virgin is the main reason pilgrims have been flocking to this shrine some 80 km northeast of Edmonton for the past 83 years.
Joyce Berezanski, a member of St. Basil's Parish in Edmonton, attended for the first time this year to pray for health in her family.
"I just feel spiritually uplifted and satisfied," she said at the end of the Mass. "It would be nice if one could go to something like this once a month."
Tim Dahm and his wife Patricia also attended for the first time after hearing about the event at their parish - Holy Trinity Parish in Morinville. "I feel spiritually fulfilled and thankful of the opportunity to be here in the presence of God," he said. "I think we need more of this."
Rachel Holterhus and her husband Wifred have been coming to Skaro for the past seven years. They come because they enjoy being part of the pilgrimage and to pray for spiritual favours. This year they prayed for health in the family and for an end to abortion.
"This is a special place to be," Rachel said. "I feel very spiritually uplifted when I leave this place."
Albin Zarowny and his wife Audrey stayed for the whole pilgrimage in their motorhome. The Calgary couple learned about the event two years ago through their daughter.
"To me Mary is everything," Albin said. "To her I owe my life and my health."
The 79-year-old said he survived as a tank driver in Italy during the Second World War simply because he entrusted his life to Mary. He carried a picture of Our Lady in his tank and prayed to her often.
While many of his fellow soldiers died in battle he left the war without a scratch. "I came here to give thanks to her and also to pray for my wife's health," he said.
Near the end of the Mass, Collins praised the pilgrims for their devotion and encouraged them to remain faithful. "Know what the Lord is calling you to do, listen attentively to his call and then follow him wherever he leads you."
Local parishioners who each provided 10 to 15 loads of stones built the grotto, similar to that in Lourdes, in 1918. The first pilgrimage was held that year, led by Fathers Anthony Sylla and Paul Kulawy with two visiting priests and hundreds of pilgrims from the area.
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