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In the News: Stockbridge, Massachusetts
Help "America's Mercy Shrine."

by Patrick Novecosky

At the end of a long day, after serving hundreds of pilgrims, Fr. Dan Papineau, MIC, often finds himself praying in the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy. There, he takes in the intricate wood carvings and beautiful images that grace the Shrine's walls and ceiling. His eyes rest on the painting of Jesus, The Divine Mercy, which is framed in gold above the altar.

After serving as the Shrine's Rector for a couple of years, Fr. Dan says he continues to be moved by the splendor of the Shrine and its grounds on Eden Hill in Stockbridge, MA.

"The beautiful imagery really inspires me to seek God's mercy," he says. "When I walk the grounds and talk to pilgrims, I'm moved by their desire to receive this mercy. I realize how privileged we are to offer it to them right here in this scenic setting in the Berkshires."

Ministry to pilgrims

The National Shrine was built during the 1950s with offerings from the grandparents and parents of today's Marian Helpers. Father Dan's Congregation, the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, has been spreading the message of Divine Mercy on Eden Hill since the early 1940s.

The Shrine was dedicated as the Mercy of God Shrine in 1960. It was elevated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to the status of a National Shrine in 1996. The Divine Mercy image, which is venerated in the Shrine, is patterned after the original image described by St. Faustina Kowalska, the Great Apostle of Divine Mercy.

Since St. Faustina's canonization and the Great Jubilee of the Incarnation in 2000, more pilgrims than ever have flocked to Eden Hill. The Shrine's ministry team reports that around 50,000 pilgrims came in both 2000 and 2001. And this past year saw more pilgrims come by car.

"Last year was a very busy year for us," Fr. Dan explains. "We're living in troubled times. People want answers to life's tough questions -- and they're finding answers here through prayer and in the Sacraments. We celebrate Holy Mass with great reverence, we offer Confessions a couple of hours daily, and the Hour of Great Mercy devotions include Benediction, so our pilgrims can adore the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament as they pray. Through this ministry, we are truly America's Mercy Shrine."

Environmental challenges

"When pilgrims come to the Shrine, we desire that they experience holy hospitality," he says. "But the liturgical environment presents us with some challenges."

The Shrine is not air conditioned, so when it is filled to capacity during the summer pilgrimage season, it gets very hot and stuffy, Fr. Dan explains. "Quite often during the summer, we have to call 911 because someone has passed out."

Since its completion, the Shrine has changed very little. It still contains the original wiring and lighting, some of it more than 50 years old. "Because of the poor lighting, it is very difficult for lectors and for the priests to read during Mass," says Fr. Dan, "and it's hard for pilgrims to see the original beauty of the Shrine's interior."

Decades of incense and candle smoke have also accumulated on the artwork. Some paintings have already been cleaned, but more detailed restoration is needed.

"When it comes right down to it," Fr. Dan says, "we simply must make some improvements to update our house of worship for the comfort and convenience of the pilgrims. With better ventilation, better lighting, and the restoration of the Shrine's paintings, pilgrims will be offered a more conducive environment in which to pray and receive the Sacraments." The updating and restoration work is estimated at approximately $300,000.

Helpers share in ministry

Over the past two years, some improvements have been made to the Shrine and the grounds of Eden Hill in order to better serve pilgrims. In large part through the generosity of some special Marian Helpers, the Marians were able to purchase a new altar and pulpit, as well as renovate the confessionals. On the grounds, a parking plaza has been built to accommodate the buses and the growing number of cars. A bronze Divine Mercy statue at the main entrance to the grounds now welcomes pilgrims.

"What we've been able to accomplish over the past few years is truly remarkable," Fr. Dan says, "Now we really need to focus on updating the original construction of the Shrine itself and restoring the beautiful artwork."

Commenting on the role of the Marian Helpers in the history of the Shrine, he emphasizes, "Our Association members helped us to build the Shrine in the first place. It serves as the spiritual home of the Association. All of the Novenas the Helpers participate in are remembered right here at the Shrine. That's why I feel confident in asking for their help."

A special invitation

If you would like to support the Shrine's ministry to pilgrims in a special way, Fr. Dan invites you to consider becoming a "Pillar of the Shrine." "We need benefactors who feel called to support us as pillars in this vital ministry at the Shrine," says Fr. Dan.

As a "Pillar," you will be remembered in Holy Mass and at the Hour of Great Mercy at the Shrine. The Marians will also recognize your gift by inscribing your name or that of a loved one on a permanent plaque in Memorial Hall at the National Shrine.

In making this invitation, Fr. Dan says, "I want our Marian Helper family to share with my staff and me in this wonderful ministry at America's Mercy Shrine."

Patrick Novecosky writes from Ann Arbor, MI. He is the communications director for Ave Maria School of Law in Ann Arbor and a former assistant editor of Marian Helper.

How you can help

To help Fr. Dan in his ministry to pilgrims, please send your offering to us quoting code ZW.
Association of Marian Helpers
Eden Hill
Stockbridge MA 01263

For details on becoming a "Pillar of the Shrine," please call Ellen Volkman at 1-800-462-7426.

©2002 Marians of the Immaculate Conception. All rights reserved.