Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 18, 2004
Our Lady of the Snows sanctuary
Oblates of Mary Immaculate are honoured in this spiritual oasis
Our Lady of the Snows - - August 5
By TED FITZGERALD
Special to the WCR
Despite being visited by more than a million people every year, the pastoral National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows is a serene and idyllic place where devotional sites are spaced across 200 attractively landscaped acres of undulating countryside.
Facilities here cater not only to Catholics, but to all those seeking the peace and nurturing of this spiritual oasis.
The shrine owes its origins to the founder of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Bishop Eugene de Mazenod.
In France, he began the missionary order in 1826 that would eventually encompass the globe.
His first missionaries arrived in Montreal in 1841, were soon serving the people of the Canadian Northwest and within eight years were visiting outlying rancherias in far-off Texas.
In 1995, de Mazenod was elevated to sainthood by Pope John Paul. The Illinois shine was established under the direction of Oblate Father Edwin Guild in 1958 and its name, although taken from a miraculous snowfall in fourth century Rome, was strongly influenced by the history of the Oblates in Canada's far North.
Images of Our Lady feature northern motifs, particularly the aurora borealis, and the devotion was introduced to the U.S. Midwest in 1914 by former Arctic missionary Oblate Father Paul Schulte.
Focal point of the complex is the outdoor main shrine with seating for more than 2,400 people at Eucharistic celebrations in a grassy, natural amphitheatre.
Other sites accessible on foot or on a guided free trolley service include a Lourdes Grotto, the Way of the Cross, the Millennium Spire and separate devotional areas dedicated to mothers, fathers and children.
Entering the Church of Our Lady of the Snows, visitors are drawn to a large tapestry that dominates the building's porch. It shows a fur-clad Oblate missionary bringing the Eucharist to residents of the remote Arctic.
The figures, sled dogs and his bush plane are silhouetted against the blaze of the northern lights that envelopes in the background, Our Lady and the Christ Child.
The Mother of God is portrayed as presenting Jesus to the world, his hand raised in blessing signifying his reaching out to the faithful.
In the body of the spacious church, a number of modern innovations accent the spirituality of the sanctuary. The sound of flowing water from the Living Waters Baptistry and the extensive use of natural lighting add to the serene atmosphere.
Large wall tapestries portray St. Joseph, St. Therese and St. de Mazenod. Oblate Father Joseph Gerard, pioneering African missionary, and Oblate Father Jozef Cebula, executed in 1941 in a Nazi concentration camp, were beatified by Pope John Paul and are also tapestry subjects.
Visitors to the shrine may attend any of three daily and weekend Masses at the Church of Our Lady or may wish to enjoy complimentary coffee while browsing in the extensive bookstore that is part of the central service building.
Here too, meals can be enjoyed in the picture windows of an airy restaurant.
A hotel and apartment community serves short and long-time pilgrims to the site.
The sound of flowing water from the Living Waters Baptistry and the extensive use of natural lighting add to the serene atmosphere.
Year-round activities at the shrine include daily rosary and 17 solemn novenas to coincide with important feast days.
Healing services are available to groups as are an array of workshops and specialized retreats so that the facilities are always well used.
Feast day of the shrine is celebrated each Aug. 5.
Part of the shrine's mission expresses a wish that "- people of all faiths have the opportunity to deepen their relationships with God and one another - at a place of prayer, peace, healing and hope - a place that restores the soul."
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