Monday, October 19, 2009

What's with St. Peregrines and the Upper Midwest?

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A reader provided a link to this article from The Compass, the newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay (you know Green Bay, don't you, former home of the Vikings' Quarterback?), in which 14th century priest, St. Peregrine Laziosi, has a couple of shrines. One in Chilton and the other in Marion. Don't believe I've been there. St. Peregrine is the patron saint of cancer victims and those with HIV/AIDS.

What's unusual about this is that there is a shrine for another St. Peregrine, one who died in the year 192 A.D., is that his bones lie in the St. John's Abbey church in Collegeville, just west of St. Cloud. See the earlier Stella Borealis article on the second century saint here.


When you or someone you know is struggling with cancer, you sometimes need a place to go and pray. Or a place to write your name and know that someone else will pray for you.

That's the idea behind two shrines honoring St. Peregrine located in our diocese: Good Shepherd Parish in Chilton and St. Mary Parish in Marion. Peregrine is the patron of cancer patients and those with AIDS/HIV.

Norman "Butch" Nenning, 77, has visited the Chilton shrine since it was dedicated in 2001. Twelve years ago, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He credits St. Peregrine with helping him through all these years.

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Butch Nenning prays the rosary at the St. Peregrine Shrine located inside Good Shepherd Church in Chilton. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer 12 years ago. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

"I had a miracle from God and from St. Peregrine," he said. "Plus the blessings of our pastor, Fr. Bob (Kollath), and Deacon Dennis (Bennin), and the wonderful prayers from my wife and all of my children and friends."

Nenning keeps a candle lit at the shrine and visits every day to pray the rosary and recite prayers.

"I've been a cancer survivor and I still continue to go every day," he said.

St. Peregrine suffered cancer

St. Peregrine Laziosi was a 14th century Servite (Servants of Mary). He was diagnosed with ulcerative cancer of the leg and amputation was scheduled. The night before surgery, Peregrine prayed before a crucifix. He fell asleep and dreamt that Jesus came down from the cross to touch his leg. In the morning, doctors found Peregrine's leg healed. He died in 1345 in Forli, Italy, where his main shrine is located today. In this country, there are national St. Peregrine shrines in Portland, Ore., and Chicago.

The Chilton shrine is located in a renovated confessional near the front of the church. In Marion, the shrine is located in a separate alcove, locked off from the rest of the church, so it can be accessible all day.

When Fr. John Girrotti became pastor at St. Mary (and St. Anthony Parish in Tigerton and Holy Family and St. William Parish in Wittenberg) in 2004, he wanted a way to bring more people to the Marion site. The church is on U.S. Highway 45 in northern Waupaca County, but is often closed because the parishes' central offices are located in Tigerton.

"I wanted to find a way to have the church open, to have people pray," Fr. Girotti said. "I came across the idea of a St. Peregrine shrine. My mother had breast cancer and so many people in our parishes have had cancer. I presented it to the parish council and they approved it and the money flowed in (to build it)."

Bishop Zubik dedicated shrine

St. Peregrine Shrines

in Green Bay Diocese

Chilton: Good Shepherd Church, 62 E. Main St.
Hours: Sundays: 7:30 to 11:15 a.m.; Monday through Friday: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturday: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Mass at 4 p.m.) The shrine closes when there is a funeral. Names to be added to the prayer book can be directed to the parish at (920)849-9363.

Marion: St. Mary Church, U.S. Hwy. 45 (corner of NE 7th St.).
Hours: Monday through Friday: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Prayer requests for the Peregrine Shrine can be directed to the parish at (715) 754-2116 or St. Anthony, Tigerton at (715) 535-2571.

St. Peregrine Shrines
in the Midwest

Chicago: National Shrine of St. Peregrine, 3121 W. Jackson Blvd. (Located inside Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica.) Next monthly St. Peregrine Mass and blessing at 11 a.m., March 21.

Milwaukee: Inside Blessed Sacrament Church, at S. 41st and W. Oklahoma Ave. Special Mass at noon on first Fridays.

Iron River, Mich.: Chapel located at the National Shrine of The Cross in the Woods, 7078 (Hwy) M-68 (two minutes west of I-75, exit 310).

The St. Peregrine shrine at Marion was dedicated by Bishop David Zubik on Easter Sunday in 2007. Debby Nolan, a parish member for 35 years, was one of the people at the dedication.

"My dad died in 1998 from lung cancer," she said. "As you probably know, every time you have someone in your family die from cancer, it's traumatic. The suffering is hard to watch."

She was still dealing with the loss when Fr. Girotti suggested the shrine project.

"I thought, ‘Oh, this is terrific. This is what I need to do to start with my healing,'" Nolan said.

The shrine became a parish project. Parishioners built the cabinets, designed walls to separate the shrine from the rest of the church, plastered, painted and donated funds for the statue.

"I was worried about where we'd get the money to get this renovation done," said Nolan. "The statue (from Italy) alone was about $4,000. Then there were the exterior doors, the timer (which automatically unlocks and locks the shrine doors each day), dry walling and cabinetry. But it just came in and we never had to do any fund-raising. As soon as people knew what we were doing, the money just came in."

Support remains strong.

"We felt that we would need money to continue this - for the candles, the prayer cards and medallions (all of which are free for the taking)," said Nolan. "But donations take care of that - we won't have to pay to buy candles for a long time. It's like, ‘If you build it, the money will be there.'"

Not only Catholics come to the shrine.

"This is a predominately Lutheran area," said Fr. Girotti. "So we told the Lutheran churches about it and they have advertised it. They call it a prayer chapel (rather than a shrine), of course."

Nolan has also visited local churches to speak about the shrine. She said one Lutheran pastor came to visit the shrine and "gave me the biggest compliment we've had. She said, ‘This is truly a holy place.'"

Any names placed in the shrine's book of prayer are read at every weekend Mass at the parish.

"Every weekend, we have new names," said Fr. Girotti, "so people are coming."

Shrine has St. Peregrine relic

People also visit the Chilton shrine. That shrine also has prayer cards, holy oil, medals and a prayer book for names. Since the shrine also contains a first-class relic of St. Peregrine, items may be touched to the relic to make them third class relics. Many cancer patients are especially comforted by this, and prayer requests come from throughout the diocese.

When the Chilton shrine was dedicated in 2001, Marian Graney had just had surgery to remove 20 cancerous lymph nodes. She prayed at the shrine from the start.

"It all turned out well," she says today. "I'm in remission."

Graney still visits the shrine regularly, whenever she attends Mass. And she sees many others visiting.

"It's helped a lot of people," she said. "You see a lot of people going to pray and spend time in there."

Dealing with loss

At Marion, Fr. Girotti said, "there's been many who have come to me, even some who have experienced healings and enormous blessing from the Lord. At least once a month, we receive letters from people (who have visited the shrine)."

Nolan said the Peregrine shrine has helped her deal with loss. There is a memory tree on the shrine wall; its leaves bear the names of parish members who have died from cancer.

"My dad's name is up on the tree, along with really close friends that I have lost," said Nolan. "When I go up there, there's a closeness there, a sense that we're all affected by this terrible disease."

At Chilton, Butch Nenning wants others to be aware of the Peregrine shrine there.

"If anybody would want information," he said, "tell them to call Butch at (920)418-4090; that's my cell phone." The Compass


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