E Pluribus Unum. Out of many, one. It’s a statement that defines us both as Americans and as Catholics. As Catholics, we are bound together into the body of Christ through the gift of the Eucharist. As Americans, we live in a nation founded upon a creed that holds sacred our dignity, equality and religious freedom. Our nation’s history, diverse peoples and saints have great lessons to teach us. Our shrines stand as testimonies of God’s work throughout this great land and as “tents of meeting” where we can discern the next steps in our journey and encounter God as our traveling companion. Consider taking a pilgrimage closer to home this summer. Immerse yourself in America, the beautiful.
Mother Cabrini Shrine
A train ride through Colorado’s Rockies inspired Katharine Lee Bates to pen the famous lines that would become the lyrics to “America, the Beautiful.” Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini, an immigrant from Northern Italy, also felt a similar affection for the rugged Colorado landscape. While visiting her orphanage in Denver, Mother Cabrini came across a charming piece of land which she purchased to be a girls’ summer camp. In her maternal care for the orphans, she desired them to have a place where they could relax, explore the outdoors and learn how to care for livestock. The sisters, however, soon discovered a problem. The property didn’t have its own source of water. They had to carry all the water for drinking and cooking uphill from a canyon far below. They were dying of thirst. Bringing the need to Mother Cabrini’s attention, she immediately directed them to lift a rock on the property and start digging. The water flowed. To this day, the spring has never run dry.
The beloved camp is now home to the Mother Cabrini Shrine. Here, visitors can come and taste the miraculous spring water which has been credited with many healings. Visitors are invited to pray and walk the path up the mountain that Mother Cabrini led the sisters and girls on during her final visit to Colorado. The walk culminates with an impressive 22-foot statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus overlooking the city of Denver. Guests can learn more about Mother Cabrini’s life and work at a museum on site, stop for peaceful prayer in the Rosary and meditation gardens and attend daily Mass in the main chapel. More information: www.mothercabrinishrine.org
Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament
A “yes” to found the first American Catholic cable television network, EWTN, in 1980 was only one in a series of major affirmatives given to God throughout the life of Mother Angelica. On a trip to Colombia in the mid-1990s, Mother heard the voice of Jesus as a young boy asking her to dedicate a shrine to honor the Lord’s true presence in the Holy Eucharist. “How in the world?” she must have thought. The voice persisted, “Build me a temple and I will help those who help you.” Returning home, Mother Angelica resolved to grant the Lord’s request. By providence, she found five families willing to cover the cost of the build.
Today, the aptly named Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament draws people of all faiths and backgrounds into an encounter with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. The entirety of the 400-acre property propels visitors to the shrine church. Upon entering the gates, visitors are transported into a picturesque medieval Italian village with a Gothic-Romanesque church, a monastery with intriguing arched porticos and even a castle. Standing in the piazza, the buildings stretch their arms to embrace you. A statue of the Divine Christ Child stands patiently waiting to welcome his beloved guests. Within the shrine church, the Blessed Sacrament is elevated in a 7-foot tall monstrance above the altar surrounded by golden angels. Masses, confessions and tours of the John Paul II Eucharistic Center are offered multiple times daily. More information: www.olamshrine.com
Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe
LA CROSSE, WISCONSIN
The mighty Mississippi River (originally named the River of the Immaculate Conception!) stands at the heart of the nation’s history in terms of geography, agriculture, industry and trade. Americans of diverse backgrounds worked on and gained their livelihood from the river. Therefore, it can be no coincidence that the Blessed Mother, who is patroness of all the Americas, arranged for a spiritual heart of worship to be built into the river’s northern bluffs.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe came to be providentially located in La Crosse, Wisconsin by shrine founder Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke upon an inspiration gained at the canonization of St. Juan Diego. The shrine remains today a profound testimony of Mary’s drawing all peoples together under her mantle, directing us to Christ, her Son.
Pilgrims begin their visit at the bottom, winding slowly upward toward the shrine church. Stop-offs include a votive candle chapel and devotional areas dedicated to St. Kateri Tekakwitha and St. Joseph the Worker.
The interior of the shrine church radiates the True Presence of Christ surrounded by Our Lady, the saints and angels. Holy Mass, the Sacrament of Penance and Eucharistic Adoration are offered at various times each day.
Be sure to check out the Memorial to the Unborn, a poignant place where families can come to pray and receive spiritual relief. The Memorial includes a columbarium holding the remains of miscarried and stillborn babies, as well as aborted children. A commissioned statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe holding three unborn babies of different nationalities overlooks the memorial. More information: www.guadalupeshrine.org
Elizabeth Ann Seton was the first American-born saint. She founded the first congregation of religious sisters in the United States and established the Catholic school system. She was also a mother of five children! At her canonization, Pope St. Paul VI shared, “Elizabeth Ann Seton was wholly American! Rejoice for your glorious daughter. Be proud of her. And know how to preserve her fruitful heritage.” There’s no better place to get to know this powerhouse saint than to visit the place where she lived, prayed and taught.
The expansive Seton Shrine complex includes a basilica, museum and two historic homes in which St. Elizabeth Ann Seton lived. The basilica church, originally built as a chapel for her sisters, is a vision with glittering mosaic tiles, Italian marble and German stained-glass windows depicting saints. People of all walks of life gather at the shrine to ask for favors of healing through St. Elizabeth’s intercession. In one case, a young girl with leukemia was placed upon the altar where St. Elizabeth’s remains were buried. She experienced a complete healing and often returns to the shrine today. In addition to St. Elizabeth’s life, the legacy of her order, both the Sisters and Daughters of Charity are on display. You won’t want to miss the Civil War Sisters exhibit, which shares personal accounts of how the sisters served during the nearby Battle of Gettysburg. One of the newest features of the shrine is the living history tour, as experienced through the eyes of Elizabeth’s daughter, Catherine. Tours are available on Sundays during the summer beginning on June 2. More information: www.setonshrine.org
National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa
The mission of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa is to bring people of different nationalities closer “to Jesus Christ through Mary.” In gazing upon her, we become students in Mary’s school of faith to receive God’s dwelling inside of us. Essentially, she teaches us how to be loved by the Lord. Pope St. John Paul II was especially devoted to this image of Our Lady of Czestochowa, commonly known as the “Black Madonna,” that resided in his homeland. During his first visit back to Poland as pope, he repeated the words he had spoken to Mary under this title many times before, Totus Tuus or “Totally Yours.”
Honoring the millions of Polish immigrants to the United States, the Pauline Fathers brought a replica of the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa to be enshrined here in the 1950s. The shrine includes over 170 acres of property on Beacon Hill overlooking Peace Valley. It is a place of quiet recollection to spend the day and receive Our Lord in the sacraments. If you get hungry during your prayer time, you won’t want to miss the shrine’s cafeteria that serves authentic Polish delights, including babka, sauerkraut and a traditional pierogi. In August, the shrine will be the culmination point of the 32nd Annual Walking Pilgrimage, which stretches 60 miles from New Jersey to Pennsylvania. The pilgrimage is a four-day retreat on the move with open-air Masses and devotions, camping and spiritual refreshment. Over Labor Day weekend, the shrine is also home to the Polish American Festival & County Fair. Come experience entertainment, historical reenactors, Polish food and crafts. More information: www.czestochowa.us