Places We Love: Lady of the Parkway

With cars and trucks whizzing by below, stand for a few moments at the Shrine of the Blessed Mother to ponder why it graces this unlikely hillside.

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I’m not Catholic, but I respect and admire the Shrine of the Blessed Mother — despite the fact that it’s placed in one of the most unusual locations in Pittsburgh. For many women, the shrine represents the ultimate symbol of motherhood and is a fitting pilgrimage to make each May on Mother’s Day.

Built in 1956 and also known as Our Lady of the Parkway or the Queen of Peace Shrine, it’s found at the bottom of a steep, dead-end street covered in cobblestones. A short walk on an uneven brick path leads to the entrance; the shrine is perched on the edge of a cliff, right above the busy — and noisy — Parkway East. Yet it’s surprisingly peaceful and serene.

Pittsburgh City Council in October 2020 designated the shrine as a historic landmark. On the well-tended grounds, you’ll find a marble altar to Jesus, a statue of the Queen of Peace in an arched concrete structure, a natural spring and other memorials.

So: Of all places, why is it here? There are three origin stories — all involving visions of the Virgin Mary.

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A Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph article from September 1956 identified Anna Cybak of Ambridge as founding the shrine after Mary visited her in a dream; the shrine was meant to honor her Army infantry sergeant son, who died while fighting in Saipan in 1944. Another newspaper account also credits Cybak while also naming several others, including Oakland resident Sophie Toma, who saw visions of Mary; the group joined to create the shrine, according to this account.

Still another involved Philip Marraway, a steelworker at the then-nearby Jones & Laughlin plant. On his walk home one night, he followed a light coming from the hillside above the parkway and found that it emanated from the Virgin Mary. He returned there the next day and encountered Toma; they agreed their meeting was “divinely inspired.”

Whatever the inspiration, the shrine is now preserved for years to come.

Insider’s Tip.
Wear sturdy shoes to navigate the uneven footpaths. Part of the visit is just finding the place — but it’s clearly identified via GPS at 6 Wakefield St., Pittsburgh 15213. (It’s close to Dan Marino Field.)

While You’re Here:
If it’s a nice day, there are few prettier spots for brunch in Oakland than the outdoor seating at The Porch at Schenley. The meal is served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; tables are set up overlooking Schenley Plaza and on the front patio with the Cathedral of Learning as a backdrop. The family-friendly menu also includes a full bar and cocktail list.

Categories: Places We Love