ELMA – When Rachel Torres knelt in front of a silver rose at St. Joseph Parish, it was a powerful experience.
“What touched me the most was when we got to hold the rose” that honors Mary, Torres said. “We were praying together as a family and the tears just started rolling down my face.”
St. Joseph is among the Western Washington parishes that, since 2015, have offered the opportunity to venerate Our Lady of Guadalupe through the annual Silver Rose program of the Knights of Columbus.
The rose is a reminder of Mary’s appearance to St. Juan Diego as a pregnant woman, “bringing Jesus to the Americas at a time of considerable unrest and turmoil,” according to Scott Hulse, who coordinates the program for the Knights’ Washington State Council.
Each March, six silver roses make their way from Canada to Mexico, arriving at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Monterrey, Mexico, for the December 12 feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Hulse explained.
This year, the rose arrived in Washington state May 7; it continued on to Oregon June 16, Hulse said. The eight Western Washington parishes that hosted the rose and prayer services this year included St. Jerome in Ocean Shores.
“We basically looked at the meaning and saw it as an opportunity to promote the culture of the sanctity of life,” said Bob Hakanson of the parish’s Knights of Columbus Council 15689.
At St. Jerome, Knights dressed in full regalia processed into the church with the silver rose and set it on a small table near the altar, Hakanson said. After the Knights explained the significance of the rose, all present recited the rosary.
Ed Blomquist, Knights of Columbus Assembly 3565, stands guard over the Silver Rose at St. Jerome Parish in Ocean Shores June 8. The parish was one of several stops for the rose as it made its way through Washington state on its journey from Canada to Mexico to honor Mary. Photo courtesy Bob Hakanson
Hosting the rose was an opportunity to engage the wider Catholic community by inviting other parishes in Grays Harbor to attend, Hakanson said.
Although Our Lady of Guadalupe has a special significance for Hispanic Catholics, Hulse said, the Silver Rose prayer services at each parish are opportunities for all Catholics to honor Mary.
“We venerate Mary as the patroness of the Americas,” Hulse said. “In Washington, we are trying to emphasize Mary's role in all of our lives using the silver rose as a symbol to focus on.”
Symbol of life, unity
The Silver Rose pilgrimage has been a Knights tradition for years, but in Western Washington it has spread beyond Seattle parishes only recently, according to Hulse.
Mike Calderon of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Vancouver, who was Hispanic membership chairman for the state Knights in 2011, “was the one to really emphasize the veneration of Mary as the patroness of the unborn and underprivileged,” Hulse said.
“She didn’t show herself to a government official or someone in power,” Hulse said, “but to an Aztec slave, Juan Diego.”
Since 2015, Hulse and his wife Jo, members of Church of the Assumption Parish in Bellingham, have personally taken the rose to as many parishes in the state as possible.
The Silver Rose program is also a sign of unity. “Through the silver roses, we link the three North American communities together,” Hakanson said. “When we say the rosary, we pray for the spiritual renewal for each of the nations.”
Rachel Torres kneels with her children in front of the silver rose at St. Joseph Parish in Elma in 2018. Each year from March to December, the Knights of Columbus carry the Silver Rose from Canada to Mexico to honor Mary, the patroness of the Americas, in order to promote spiritual renewal and honor the sanctity of life. Photo: Dana Smith
While praying in front of the rose, Rachel Torres said, she was reminded of the importance of Mary to her own faith and to being a parent.
“As the mother of Jesus, she’s a role model in the way I have to live through my faith,” Torres said. “She was a loving mother. Everything she did was for her son.”
Anyone who has the chance should participate in the Silver Rose Program, Torres said. “Our Lady of Guadalupe touches everyone in a different way,” she said.