The Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in St. Albert, a grotto located behind St. Albert Church, has been designated by Archbishop Richard Smith as an official Archdiocesan Marian shrine.

The Archbishop made the announcement on Sunday, August 19, as he joined hundreds of pilgrims at what is known locally as Mary's Grotto, where he celebrated a Mass marking the 80th anniversary of the annual St. Albert Pilgrimage.

It was the second such designation in a week. On Aug. 14, at the 100th annual Skaro Pilgrimage, the Archbishop designated the grotto at Skaro as the first Archdiocesan Marian shine.

The decision to designate the shrines 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 a shrine to Our Lady as a place of pilgrimage,” Archbishop Smith explained in an interview. “For me it became a rather easy thing to follow up on, because we have had for many, many years in this Archdiocese two 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.”

“By their expression of faith, by their acts of pilgrimage, the people themselves have long acknowledged these sites made holy by their faith, by their prayers, by their visible expression of trust in Mary.”

During his homily, the Archbishop held Mary up as an example for all.

“When we look upon the mother of our Lord, we see all that it means to be a Christian,” he said. “From her we learn that, to be a disciple means accepting that Jesus is, in fact, the One sent from the Father to save the world.

“We also learn from her example that following Christ is no guarantee of an easy life. She who stood at the Cross of her son knew the pain of suffering to an extraordinary degree. Yet we also learn from her that, even in the midst of intense pain and anguish, we can continue to trust in the fidelity of God. When we allow ourselves to be fed by Mary's example, we see clearly to the truth of things, life finds meaning and direction, and we are strengthened by hope.”

"For eighty years now, the people of St. Albert Parish and beyond have given visible expression to their trust in Mary by an annual pilgrimage to this site made holy by their faith and their prayers. The pilgrimage to this grotto, built in 1920 in honour of Our Lady of Lourdes, has thus become a stable and important element in the life of faith of the people of this Archdiocese. For this reason, I have decided to honour this anniversary pilgrimage by formally designating this site an official Archdiocesan Marian shrine."

"The decree that brings this into immediate effect reads as follows:

WHEREAS a grotto was built in 1920 by the Oblate Scholastic Brothers on the grounds of St. Albert Parish, St. Albert, Alberta, 

WHEREAS a new grotto dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes replaced the first grotto and was blessed on August 19th, 1955 by the Archbishop of Edmonton, Most Reverend J. H. MacDonald,

WHEREAS annual pilgrimages to the Grotto began in 1938 and have been encouraged by the Parish and the Archdiocese of Edmonton,

WHEREAS the Grotto continues to be place of special devotion and pilgrimage to many of Christ’s Faithful,

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 St. Albert is to see to the fitting maintenance and embellishment of the Grotto and is to promote it as a place of devotion and pilgrimage.

"Let us all draw deeply from that with which Mary feeds us: her example of discipleship and her maternal love. With the help of her prayers, may we all grow in fidelity to our baptismal dignity and calling to live as followers of Jesus Christ."

Read more about the St. Albert shrine in Grandin Media

Historic St. Albert Parish prepares special celebrations for 80th anniversary pilgrimage