Saturday, August 9, 2008

Just in case you wondered, Archbishop Burke paid cash for the Shrine in La Crosse

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And it didn't come from the collection plates; dedicated donations were gratefully received.

The Shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse was dedicated Thursday. The shrine is the vision of former La Crosse Bishop Raymond Burke, from almost the time he was named bishop in 1994, he saw a need for a place of pilgrimage, where people could go anytime to be renewed in their faith.

For Archbishop Burke, this week's dedication of the church at the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is beyond words.

"There's just a tremendous sense of gratitude for the blessing that God has given to the work and for all those who've helped to make it possible. It has just turned out to be something much more than I ever imagined but I can see how the hand of God has been at work in it throughout," Burke said in an interview.

Archbishop Burke first expressed his desire for a shrine in the mid 1990's. He says he had been thinking of it for quite some time because of his concern for families and the increasing violence in our culture.

"Why our lady of Guadalupe? Because our Blessed Mother, this is her appearance on our continent, in Mexico City, but she made it very clear when she appeared to St. Juan Diego, that she was coming for all the children of America," he said. "I'm deeply convinced that she will draw all of America together and integrate or unity, help us to overcome any kind of racial prejudice or hatred there might be and to form a stronger American continent."

Archbishop Burke envisions the shrine attracting people from all over the world.

"I believe it will become a major shrine in the U.S. with time. I just think because of the attraction of Our Lady of Guadalupe and because of the very beauty of this area and the very shrine itself that many will come here on pilgrimage," he said.

But the shrine hasn't gone up without controversy. Its $25 million price tag, which has grown a bit with additions to the original plans, has some still questioning whether that money could've been better spent.

"Could the $25 million better spent? It's very typical of shrines to inspire in pilgrims a deeper devotion to the church's works of charity and to our educational mission so to those who somehow believe that this shrine has somehow taken away something from those missions, I would just ask them to look again and see no in fact, it will inspire those missions very much more," he said. "All I can say is the shrine has no debt, it has a firm principal, it doesn't borrow money, it only does what it can through the donations of those who are devoted to the work so we'll continue to develop as we have, the gifts to do it."

As Archbishop Burke reflects on what has become a labor of love for him, he also looks ahead to a new chapter in his life. He'll head to Rome within the next few weeks to start his new position as head of the Vatican's high court. In many ways his life is coming full circle.

"I managed a book store in a seminary in the Vatican, I was a seminarian at the time studying, preparing for ordination, but I also served in the Vatican from Sept. 1989 to Feb. 1995 and I'm going back to serve in the same office."

"I'm very humbled and grateful for the Holy Father's confidence in me and I will do my best to serve him," Archbishop Burke concluded. WKBT La Crosse
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