This year is one of particular importance for Marian devotion. It is the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady to the children at Fatima. May is especially recognized as a time for Marian piety, and this is sure to be on full display in the Archdiocese of Portland.

The Archdiocese of Portland seems to have a particular devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Our patroness, as seen in the name of the cathedral and seat of the archdiocese, is the Immaculate Conception. (Contrary to an all-too-common misconception, this does not refer to the virgin birth of Jesus, but, rather, Mary being conceived in her mother’s womb without the stain of original sin.) This September, Archbishop Alexander Sample is leading a pilgrimage to Fatima for the apparitions’ centennial.

There are a number of Marian parishes throughout the archdiocese. My own home parish growing up was Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Verboort, one of the oldest parishes in the archdiocese. Established in 1875, the parish has always infused the whole community of Verboort with a potent Marian piety.

I knew there were many parishes in the archdiocese with Mary as their patron, but in looking through the Oregon Catholic Directory, I discovered far more than I expected. Holy Rosary Church, a Dominican parish in NE Portland; Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in North Portland; Our Lady of Lavang Church in NE Portland; Our Lady of Sorrows Church in SE Portland; Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Albany; Our Lady of the Mountain in Ashland; St. Mary, Star of the Sea in Astoria; Star of the Sea in Brookings; St. Mary Church in Corvallis; Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Cottage Grove; St. Mary Church in Eugene; St. Mary, Our Lady of the Dunes in Florence; Our Lady of the River Church in Rogue River; Our Lady of Lourdes in Jordan; Our Lady of the Lake in Lake Oswego; St. Mary Church in Mt. Angel; Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Rainier; St. Mary by the Sea in Rockaway; Queen of Peace in Salem; Our Lady of Victory in Seaside; Our Lady of Fatima in Shady Cove; St. Mary Church in Shaw; Nativity of the Mother of God Ukrainian Catholic Church in Springfield; Immaculate Conception in Stayton; and St. Mary Church in Vernonia; and Visitation in Verboort. Including the Cathedral, that’s about one-fifth of the churches in the archdiocese, with our Blessed Mother as their patron.

Perhaps the most prominent sign of Marian devotion in the Archdiocese of Portland is the only national shrine in western Oregon: the National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother – commonly known as The Grotto.  This shrine is a popular destination of devotion, spiritual retreat, and recreation.

It is true that many people feel uneasy about Marian devotions. It is important to remember why we have such love for Our Blessed Mother: she points us to Christ. The rosary is the prayer of the gospels, with Mary as our guide; the reason Mary is so renowned and beloved is because she said yes to God, and bore our savior. She brought Jesus to us, and now she continues to bring us to Jesus. Let us pray that this May will bring us closer to her, and thus closer to Our Blessed Lord.