Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of August 25, 2008
Polish souls find peace, traditions at Skaro Pilgrimage
Devotion to Mary brings 3,000 to 90th annual faith filled celebration
By RAMON GONZALEZ
The event began Thursday evening (Aug. 14) with a recitation of the rosary followed by Vespers in Polish and a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton and Bishop David Motiuk, the Ukrainian Catholic eparch of Edmonton. More than 30 priests and deacons assisted at the Mass.
Devotion to the Virgin Mary is the main reason pilgrims flock to this shrine 80 km northeast of Edmonton.
"My presence here with Bishop Motiuk and my brother priests and deacons is to celebrate with you this most wondrous and important solemnity in the life of the Church - the solemnity of the assumption of Our Lady into heaven (which is celebrated Aug. 15)," Smith told the congregation at the beginning of the Mass.
"This is a great feast of hope for the Church because the assumption of Our Lady's body and soul into heaven stands for us as a sign to the Church of the destiny that the Lord has prepared for each and every one of us and has made possible through the gift of his Son Jesus, our risen Lord."
Added Smith: "Our celebration tonight, of course, marks the 90th year in which the people of God in this local area have gathered for this pilgrimage.
"Such a gathering is a wonderful testimony and a wonderful witness to your faith and to the faith of our ancestors, particularly those who worked so hard and gave of themselves and of their gifts and resources to make this shrine possible."
Motiuk, who gave the homily, said although the feast of the Assumption reminds us of the sad occasion of the death of the Virgin Mary, it is nevertheless a feast of joy.
"On this day, the Church rejoices because the Mother of God was transferred body and soul from this earthly life to join her son in eternal glory," he said. "And because of her assumption we have a powerful intercessor and protectress in heaven."
Motiuk urged the congregation to continue venerating the Virgin Mary.
"Let us renew our profound veneration for the Mother of God, who leads us to Jesus, her son, our Lord and Saviour," he said.
"Let us follow her example saying 'yes' to our Lord that his will be done in all things.
"Let us continue to call on the Mother of God to protect us from all harm and to intercede on our behalf in heaven before God the Father."
Immediately after the Mass, candles were lit and devotional hymns sung as young people carried a statue of Mary in procession around the grotto followed by priests and hundreds of pilgrims, many of whom left their candles burning on the rocks of the grotto. Smith carried the Blessed Sacrament in procession.
- WCR photo by Ramon Gonzalez
Joseph Zubek, who emigrated from Poland in 1974, and his wife Barbara and grandson Rudy came to Skaro to nurture their souls and experience peace.
As he does every year, Staszko returned to the grotto the following morning for the 10 a.m. Mass and to take part in the prayers and blessing of the sick.
He feels the pilgrimage keeps him connected to his Polish background, which goes back beyond 1906, the year in which his parents arrived from Poland to the Round Hill area.
"For me, it is a blessing to be here," Staszko said. "Taking part in this pilgrimage makes me feel at peace in my heart, more closely connected to God and to my tradition and to my Church."
Joseph Zubek, who emigrated from Poland in 1974, has been attending the pilgrimage with his wife Barbara since 1981.
In past years they brought their two adult children. This year they brought along their 18-month-old grandson Rudy.
"We come to celebrate Mary's Day," Joseph said. "She is very special to us. She is the Queen of Poland."
For the Zubeks, the pilgrimage is like a holiday. In fact Joseph took Friday off from work to be able to spend the night at the shrine.
"Back home (in Poland) Aug. 15 is a big thing," explained Barbara. "People gather by the thousands to pray to Mary and we want to continue the tradition.
"We have to nurture our soul and this is the place to do it," added Joseph, 54.
"I feel totally refreshed and at peace after I come here.
"It's like a retreat."
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