Catholic Sentinel photo by Gerry Lewin
Crowd passes Holy Rosary Church, Crooked Finger in 2004.
Catholic Sentinel photo by Gerry Lewin
Crowd passes Holy Rosary Church, Crooked Finger in 2004.
CROOKED FINGER — In 1954, around 5,000 Willamette Valley Catholics made a Marian pilgrimage to Holy Rosary Church here to pray for world peace and the conversion of Russia.

On Aug. 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven, the members of Holy Rosary, are celebrating 60 years of the annual event.

In 1954, Pope Pius XII declared the year a “Marian Year." The commemoration was in honor of 100th anniversary of defining the Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, Mother of Jesus. During the Marian Year, those visiting churches dedicated to Mary received a plenary indulgence.

Benedictine Father Hildebrand Melchior, administrator of Holy Rosary, was the organizer of the first pilgrimage. Inspired by pilgrims at Lourdes and elsewhere in Europe, in July 1954, he gathered parishioners after Mass and asked them about their knowledge of pilgrimages, especially at smaller European shrines. Many parishioners had heard their parents talk of pilgrimages in ‘the old country.’ 

Johanna Schonbachler, born in Germany and married to a Swiss, related how pilgrimages were made at Our Lady of Kleinenberg in Germany near her home town of Gehrden. After she moved to Switzerland she made a pilgrimage from Willerzell to Einsiedeln, Switzerland, in honor of Our Lady of Einsiedeln (Our Lady of Hermits).

Father Melchoir felt although the little parish was small in number, enthusiasm for the event would help them do "something big for Our Lady."

The Feast of the Assumption was chosen as the date for Holy Rosary’s first pilgrimage.
Those who attended the first pilgrimage still remember the devotion felt that day when thousands of pilgrims came to Crooked Finger to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Holy Rosary was fortunate to have Rosa Pauli Bach, an artist, as a member of their church community. Bach carved a statue of Our Lady of Crooked Finger for the celebration. The  small shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Crooked Finger is now located in the southeast corner of the church property.
In honor of the 60th Anniversary, Archbishop Alexander Sample will serve as the main celebrant and homilist for the Mass of the Assumption. The pilgrimage will begin at 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 15,, with the Rosary recited in procession. Pilgrims will walk along a path in the nearby woods where parishioners have erected small shrines in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Benedictine Father Philip Waibel, pastor, will lead the Rosary.  Mass of the Assumption Of Mary will follow immediately. Refreshments will be available in the church basement after the Mass.

Holy Rosary Church is located in the Cascade Foothills, five miles Southeast of Scotts Mills, off Crooked Finger Road. Turn left onto Ettlin Loop Road to reach the church. Mass will be celebrated outside. Please bring a blanket or chairs to sit on.

For information or directions, please contact Father Waibel at 503-845-2296 or Margaret Gersch at 503-873-6596 or Pat Schonbachler at 503-873-6405.