Skaro was a small Polish agricultural settlement, situated some 80km northeast of Edmonton. It was settled at the turn of the 20th Century, and its residents built a small chapel of Our Lady of Good Counsel in 1904. One of the first Priests in the region, Fr. Pawel Kulawy, offered services at this early chapel. Later on, Fr. Kulawy began planning for the building of a larger church to replace the chapel.
When Fr. Antoni Sylla took over for Fr. Kulawy in 1917, he maintained the idea of building a larger church. The church was completed in 1918, and blessed by Archbishop Emile J. Legal, OMI. Fr. Sylla, however, wanted to also create a place of devotion close to the church, preferably to the mother Mary. In 1918, he suggested the building of a small replica of the famous Grotto of Lourdes in France. The parishioners responded well to the proposal, and began construction the following year.
The grotto was designed by Fr. Philip Roux, a Greek Catholic Oblate who also served in the region. The construction was done largely by Polish parishioners from Skaro, although neighbouring Ukrainians and Poles from other settlements regularly came to help. The labour was done mostly by hand and with the help of a horse-drawn cart. At one point when morale was low, Fr. Sylla had to encourage his parishioners to continue the work they had started. The parishioners were re-invigorated by this, and completed the main construction by August of 1919.
The first pilgrimage to the Shrine happened on August 15, 1919. This day was particularly appropriate as it marked the Feast of the Assumption of Mary – a very important feast day in Poland. Over 4,000 pilgrims came from Edmonton, Leduc, and the Polish settlements of Round Hill, Kopernik, Wostok, Mundare, Chipman, Krakow, and Opal. Some pilgrims even made the long journey from Calgary. Fr. Sylla continued taking care of the shrine and oversaw its annual pilgrimage until 1926, when he was transferred to Winnipeg. By that time, the tradition was firmly established.
To this day, thousands of pilgrims come to Skaro on August 15th to show their devotion to Mary.