Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of August 25, 2003
Skaro draws the faithful
Candles on grotto are 'gifts for Mary'
By RENATO GANDIA
WCR Staff Writer
Maria Reis would love to visit the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal, where she was born and grew up. Distance is a hindrance.
For the last 10 years, the pilgrimage to Skaro marking the feast of Mary's Assumption is the closest that she has come.
"Here is not very far," said the parishioner from Edmonton's Portuguese parish, Our Lady of Fatima. "It gives us joy and happiness. We pray for the world, for the sick, for everybody."
Her friend Natalina Lorenzo came with her for the first time this year. "It's beautiful. I will come back next year, because I love the Virgin Mary," she said.
The Aug. 14-15 pilgrimage has been an annual event for Polish and other Catholics since the shrine, a replica of the grotto at Lourdes, France, was built in 1919.
The event began with a recitation of the rosary followed by Vespers in Polish and a Mass with St. Paul's Bishop Luc Bouchard and 38 priests from the Edmonton Archdiocese.
Immediately after the Mass, candles were lit and devotional hymns 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 bishop 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 85 years.
Unlike previous years, this year's Skaro pilgrimage, attended by close to 3,000 people, was not threatened by rain or cold winds. People reverently relaxed on their folding lawn chairs and blankets as they gathered to celebrate their faith.
Mary Geneblazo, a fervent pilgrim, said, "We missed the short shower of rain that comes like a blessing."
However, the solemn celebration was not free from distractions. Trucks kept passing by and some people had to cover their noses. The stench of manure used to fertilize nearby fields permeated the air.
Geneblazo prayed that people wouldn't get distracted from the Mass. "I asked the Virgin Mary to replace the stench with her smell."
Some people noticed a change of smell from that of manure to the sweet smell of roses, while others did not.
Peter Ordynec of St. Andrew's Parish said the pleasant smell could have been caused by somebody who sprayed a bottle of perfume to offset the stench.
"Whether it happened in that form or not," Ordynec believes it's a small miracle.
Bouchard preached on the relevance of Mary to people's lives.
People have to meditate and see the mysteries of the rosary through the eyes of Mary, the bishop said. "It is better to discover God with (Mary's) help . . . and be united better with her Son, who calls us to his side."
Following the Mass hundreds of people left their candles burning on the rocks of the grotto while others joined in the procession.
Ernestene Sterr of St. Boniface Parish, a veteran of the pilgrimage, said, "They are gifts to the Virgin Mary."
"You don't have to leave your candle here. You can bring it with you, but it's better to leave it for Our Lady. I will leave mine," she told the WCR as she watched people process around the grotto.
Stella Matoga of St. Matthew's Parish has been attending the pilgrimage for more than 20 years. "It's very special. It's so peaceful."
She and her husband come every year to experience "peace, . . . quietness and the lovely Mass."