MILWAUKIE — The Marian Prayer Center opened almost 20 years ago on the feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in March 2000.

Father Gary Zerr and Father Marian Del Monaco from Mount Angel performed the blessing that day. The center was dedicated to Our Lady of the Visitation and is the keeper of a 30-inch-tall statue of the Virgin Mary and Jesus blessed by St. John Paul II.

The ministry fosters devotion and attention to Mary in all the ways she has been experienced.

A weekly prayer group meets Thursdays 1:30 – 3:30 p.m. to pray for peace and unity in the world and offer intercessory prayer for others.

The Archdiocese of Portland gave the center permission to host Masses and rosary sessions for Marian feast days.

At present, the spiritual director is Father Maxy D’Costa of St. John the Apostle Parish in Oregon City.

As weather permits, the center hosts outdoor Masses in front of the center, sometimes with as many as 50 worshippers. There also is a chapel inside. Located in a shopping area, the center is highly visible to the public.

Over the years, the center has taken a lead in many Marian events, including a visit of the pilgrimage statue of Our Lady of Fatima and the missionary image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The center was one of the founding organizations for the annual Rosary Bowl, which takes place at the Oregon State Fairgrounds the first week of October.

The center has been active in prison ministry and in helping people who are homeless. Once per month, volunteers donate and prepare a meal for Dignity Village, a community for homeless people in Northeast Portland.

Volunteers have been active in the pro-life movement and help the Madonna Center, a Milwaukie ministry that helps young mothers.

The Marian Prayer Center includes a bookstore, which like all bookstores has been struggling because of the trend in online orders.

“We are open to all faiths — we pray with them and take their prayer requests,” said Joyce Wells, president of the center. “We are not a church. We just want to promote prayer in this busy and struggling world for peace and unity. Hopefully more people will find us and use our valuable resources.”