In a gesture that “formally declares our collective reliance on the Blessed Mother for her protection and her love,” Archbishop Richard Smith has designated Skaro as an official Marian shine of the Archdiocese of Edmonton.

The Archbishop made the announcement as the 100th annual Skaro Pilgrimage began on Aug. 14, at the Vigil Mass for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The pilgrimage has taken place every year since Polish settlers hand-built a stone grotto modelled after the Our Lady of Lourdes shrine in France. The shrine sits on the grounds of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, about an hour’s drive northeast of Edmonton.

The decision to make the designation stems from last year’s celebration of Canada's 150th birthday, when bishops across the country consecrated their dioceses on July 1 to the protection of the Blessed Virgin.

“And the idea surfaced, maybe, we could be establishing here an archdiocesan shrine, formally, to designate to Our Lady as a place of pilgrimage,” said Archbishop Smith.

“For me it became a rather easy thing to follow up on, because we have had for many, many years in this Archdiocese ... places that, by the desire of the people and by their own acts of pilgrimage over the years, have become places of pilgrimage, of prayer to Our Lady.”

In his homily, Archbishop Smith paid tribute to the area pioneers who built the shrine.

“Nothing was more precious to them than their faith, nothing more important than remaining faithful to the Lord and the teachings of the Church,” he said. “To help them in their life of faith they knew that they could always turn to Mary for the help of her prayers and rest assured in her maternal love. 

“Wanting a way to give visible expression to their reliance upon the Mother of God, they built this grotto, constructed by hand with 600 wagonloads of stone! Ever since then, their ancestors, together with the people of this Archdiocese and beyond, have been coming to what has become a place of pilgrimage. This year the pilgrimage is made for the 100th time.

“Because of Mary's indispensable role in our life of faith, and in recognition of the history of this particular place, I have decided to honour this special anniversary by designating this grotto at Skaro an official Marian shrine of the Archdiocese. The decree reads as follows:

WHEREAS a grotto dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes at Skaro, Alberta, was completed in August 1919 on the grounds of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, whose first church was blessed on July 5th, 1904 by Bishop Émile Legal, OMI, later Archbishop of Edmonton,

WHEREAS a first pilgrimage to the Grotto took place on August 14th and 15th, 1919 and an annual pilgrimage to the Grotto has been encouraged by the Parish and the Archdiocese of Edmonton,

WHEREAS for 100 years pilgrimages have been made on August 14th and August 15th of each year to the Grotto at Skaro, Alberta in honour of Our Lady of Lourdes,

IN ORDER that the means of salvation be more abundantly made available to the faithful who attend this long-standing place of pilgrimage and veneration, to encourage the liturgical life there and especially the celebration of the Eucharist and penance, and to foster suitable and approved forms of popular devotion (can. 1234, §1),

IT IS HEREBY DECREED that the lands of the Parish on which has been erected by popular devotion a Grotto in honour of Our Lady of Lourdes, be established as a Shrine of the Archdiocese of Edmonton (can. 1230) for the purposes of special devotion and pilgrimage.

The Parish of Our Lady of Good Counsel is to see to the fitting maintenance and embellishment of the Grotto under the administration of Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Fort Saskatchewan, and is to promote it as a place of devotion and pilgrimage.

“Tonight, we give special thanks to Almighty God for the gift and example of Our Lady, and particularly for the hope we derive from her glorious Assumption into heaven. We thank God also for the pioneers who 100 years ago constructed this shrine. May their example, too, inspire us to be faithful to our Lord and his Church under the guidance and inspiration of Mary, the Mother of God.”

Learn more about the Skaro Pilgrimage on Grandin Media:

After 100 years, Skaro Shrine still draws thousands of pilgrims and visitors