Photo: Felix Carroll
Brother Michael Opalacz, MIC (left), and Fr. Michael Callea, MIC, take a look at the latest work on the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine.
A Dream Takes Form on Eden Hill
From the soft snow of a Berkshire winter, a hard challenge is being fulfilled on Eden Hill.
Steel beams are cropping up out of the earth. The beams — the skeletal framework of the new Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine — stand as a sign of the Marians' commitment to spreading the message of Divine Mercy and of the Marian Helpers' dedication to assist the Marians in fulfilling this mission of mercy.
Realizing the dream
"Every morning, I go downstairs and look out the window and pray to Our Blessed Mother for her intercession that this project gets completed," says Br. Donald Schaefer, MIC, Treasurer of the Marians' Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy Province, based on Eden Hill in Stockbridge, Mass.
"She's helped us get this far," Br. Donald says, pointing out his office window to the south lawn of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, where the new outdoor shrine is taking shape.
It was only last April, on Divine Mercy Sunday, when Shrine Rector Fr. Anthony Gramlich, MIC, posed a challenge during the live broadcast on EWTN. While rain, sleet, and high winds threatened the annual outdoor celebration of the liturgy on Eden Hill, Fr. Anthony pleaded for financial help to replace the 18-year-old field altar with a larger outdoor shrine that would provide better protection from the elements for the celebrant, concelebrants, servers, choirs, and others.
And help began to arrive. So much so that construction began in September and has continued through the snowfall of early winter. With the generous gifts of Marian Helpers around the world, more than $775,000 of the $1.3-million project has been raised, including a contribution of $250,000 by the construction company and suppliers involved when the construction is completed.
The Marians expect the new structure will be "usable" for Divine Mercy Sunday on March 30. "It will not be totally complete," says Br. Donald, "but it will serve as a proper shelter for a respectful celebration of the liturgy."
Meeting the need
The outdoor shrine will not only provide for the needs of the annual Divine Mercy Sunday celebration, which typically draws between 10,000 and 20,000 pilgrims, it will also be used throughout the year during special ethnic days or feast days that draw more pilgrims than the National Shrine can accommodate. The National Shrine, dedicated in 1960, can only accommodate 185 people.
As designed, the outdoor shrine will provide the Marians with two options when dealing with large crowds. Since it will seat more than twice as many pilgrims as the National Shrine, on some occasions Holy Mass will be celebrated within the outdoor shine, with pilgrims being invited to sit within one of its two wings. And for even larger celebrations, such as Divine Mercy Sunday or the annual Encuentro Latino day in August, the glass doors that line the front of the outdoor shrine could be opened and the altar moved forward to provide good visibility for congregants who will be invited to take seats on the lawn.
First and foremost, the outdoor shrine will meet the needs for Divine Mercy Sunday, which Pope John Paul II established as a universal feast day in 2000 when he canonized St. Faustina.
"In Jesus' revelations to St. Faustina, He asked on numerous occasions that a feast day be dedicated to The Divine Mercy and that this feast be celebrated on the Sunday after Easter," says Br. Donald. "With the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine, we believe we will be able to honor more reverentially our Lord's request and the Church's recognition of the day.
"Moreover," he said, "this outdoor shrine will serve as a visible bond between the Marians and the many thousands of pilgrims who come here seeking comfort in God and who seek the Marians' help in drawing closer to Christ and Our Lady."
Indeed, without Marian Helpers, this project could not be completed.
Following Divine Mercy Sunday, a great deal of work will remain on the outdoor shrine, says Br. Donald. "In order to continue the construction, we rely on the generosity of donors to give whatever they can," he said.
Ways to help
Please consider helping the Marians complete the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine by sending a financial gift.
As a way of celebrating the project, we are giving away a wonderful trip for two to one lucky winner.
With your financial help and prayers, the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine will live up to its namesake. It is Our Mother of Mercy, after all, who shelters us in our need and who leads us to her Son, our merciful Savior.