This article was updated April 28.
Since Portland’s Rose Festival began more than 100 years ago, the city’s Catholic archbishop has never been granted the honor of blessing the festival. That is, until this year.
“I want you to know how humbled I am by the honor that you have extended to me,” said Archbishop Alexander Sample during his message to the crowd. “It’s an honor for me personally, but I also take it an as honor for the Catholic community here in Portland which is also a very vibrant and important part of our wider community.”
The ceremony took place this year at St. John Fisher Parish in Southwest Portland and is one of the inaugural events for the festival. It is the first time that the new court was presented to the public. It was also a time for festival organizers to remember those involved in the festival who have died.
The pews at St. John Fisher were filled with men and women in their signature cream uniforms, bearing the emblem of the Royal Rosarian club. And sitting in the front of the altar were the court’s princesses, wearing floral tea-length dresses and rose-red cardigan sweaters.
Presenters from a number of participating organizations, including the Rose Festival Foundation, the Portland Rose Society, the Blueback Submarine Council Navy League of the United States and the Royal Rosarians were given the opportunity to recall their members who have died since last year’s festival. After the poem “Rose Beyond the Wall” by A.L. Frink was read to the crowd, the presenters spoke to attendees about the year’s theme and the significance of the Rose Festival for the city of Portland.
For the festival, roses are a central and ongoing theme. The slogan “For you a rose in Portland grows” was asserted numerous times during the Saturday morning ceremony. But it was in Archbishop Sample’s message to the crowd that the Catholic leader explained the significance of the rose in the Catholic faith, with reference to the mother of God as the mystical rose and the archdiocese being under the patronage of Mary.
“The Rose Festival really exemplifies all that is best in our community,” the archbishop continued in his message. “It’s about a community spirit and a celebration of who we are and the best of what we represent: tradition, hospitality and charity.”
The archbishop went on to thank the Royal Rosarians for their hospitality ministry work in Portland and at other festivals around the country.
“We live in an era, it seems, of individualism. And, of course, that is part of the great Oregonian spirit, isn’t it? A rugged individualism. But, taken to an extreme, it is not healthy for a community. Rather, for us to come together in a spirit of community, in working together, in sharing with one another, in caring for one another — this is what really exemplifies the best of an Oregonian and a Portlander.
"May this year’s celebration of the Rose Festival honor our diversity but celebrate our unity as a wonderful community of love, respect and peace. That will be my prayer for the days ahead during this wonderful festival.”
After the archbishop led the crowd in prayer asking for blessings from God upon the festival, a rose planting ceremony was held in the rose gardens of St. John Fisher. Two rose bushes were planted by the Rosarians in honor of Archbishop Sample and Father Richard Thompson, pastor of the parish.