Saturday, August 2, 2008

A place of pilgrimage: Hundreds gather for Guadalupe Shrine Church dedication


Pointy-headed cheesehead professor objects that shrine was not inspired by a progressive Catholic community committed to the overthrow of the hierarachy and abolishment of the Ten Commandments

A new chapter in the life of the Roman Catholic church in the Coulee Region [south of La Crosse] begins today, the first day the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe is open to the public.

Nine years after Archbishop Raymond Burke, former bishop of the La Crosse Diocese, first announced plans for the shrine, he dedicated the church at a Mass on Thursday that lasted more than three hours.
Archbishop Raymond Burke, former bishop of the diocese of La Crosse, prays during the deposition of the relics portion of Thursday’s Mass of Dedication for the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Now, with the centerpiece of the shrine complex complete, the success of the shrine lies largely in how the public, locally and around the world, receives the site Burke calls a place of pilgrimage.

“What happens here today with the dedication of this church is the reason for everything else that’s happened this week,” Burke said in a Thursday morning interview, referring to a week of events that began Monday and will last through Sunday.

To see photo galleries, videos, a timeline and an interactive tour of the shrine, click here.

On Wednesday, Burke had invited a gathering of people at the shrine to pray the shrine stays true to its mission, and warned them that the best in humans and the church is subject to attack from the “forces of evil.”

Hundreds of people gathered Thursday morning at the shrine’s Pilgrim Center, awaiting a procession up the half-mile meditation trail that leads to the Shrine Church.

At 12:35 p.m., altar boys dressed in blue, knights and ladies of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem — the women in black, the men in white — about 100 priests and 20 bishops and archbishops led the 20-minute procession to the church plaza.

After Mike Swinghamer, project architect for the shrine and co-owner of River Architects, handed over the design plans to Burke, Burke handed the key to the church to the first rector, who opened the doors.

About 450 people filled the church for the dedication Mass, with hundreds more gathered in the basement and around the Shrine grounds, listening to the Mass over loudspeakers and watching on television.

In his sermon, Burke described the church as a place of pilgrimage and told the story of St. Juan Diego’s visions of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1531 in Mexico.

“The mother of God desired that a chapel be built, to which she would invite her children to come on pilgrimage,” he said.

But not all see the shrine the way most who gathered on Thursday do.

Corinne Dempsey, an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, said that for a church leader like Burke to initiate the building of a shrine of pilgrimage is backwards.

Such shrines come from the people, she said, not authorities.

“Pilgrimage sites do not start from the top down, but from the bottom up,” said Dempsey, who has taught a course on popular Catholicism and studied pilgrimages.

Other sites of pilgrimage, like the site where Our Lady of Fatima is said to have appeared in Portugal, grew from a groundswell of popular interest, and the official church later becomes aware of it, Dempsey said.

“Pilgrimage shrines historically have been places that began based on miracles that happen to people, not to popes,” she said. “I don’t know how well central Wisconsin is set up for that kind of thing either. These kinds of pilgrimage sites are not typically a mainstream American phenomenon.”

Many of those gathered for the dedication Mass see things differently.

Robert Moynihan, editor of Inside the Vatican magazine, said Burke represents the bottom flowing to the top of the church and then imposing the piety of the people.

“That’s why the progressives at the top are a little nervous,” he said. “They represent the pointy-headed intellectuals who have lost contact with the base.”

Burke has spurred controversy as archbishop of St. Louis for, among other things, saying he would deny the Eucharist to various abortion-rights proponents.

Earlier this month, he was appointed to lead the Vatican’s supreme court, and Moynihan said Rome is rewarding him for having the “courage of the heartland” and following his path, even when he has to go it alone.

“The strange thing about Burke is he connects up with the Mexican peasants,” Moynihan said. “Far from being the distant, pale, arrogant white church leader, he’s a person who resonates with the beating heart of the simple Catholic.”

At the dedication Mass, Burke sprinkled blessed water through the church and rubbed perfumed oil onto the altar.

Water and oil are elements also used in the baptism of a person into the Roman Catholic church.

Those in attendance included Bishop Jerome Listecki, head of the La Crosse Diocese, Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, Francis Cardinal George of Chicago, and Bishop April Ulring Larson, head of the La Crosse Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

EWTN cameras were located throughout the church, and the Mass was broadcast by the Catholic television network.

While most in attendance were white, some Hispanic people attended, and Burke repeated parts of his homily in Spanish.

In his homily, Burke said Our Lady of Guadalupe continues to exercise her maternal care.

“Millions of infants in the womb have been destroyed through the legalized practice of procured abortion,” he said. “Our Lady of Guadalupe leads us to Christ who reveals to us ... the inviolable dignity of every human life, from the moment of its inception to the moment of natural death.”

An anti-abortion culture is part of the shrine’s milieu.

A devotional area to the unborn is still being completed near the church, and anti-abortion bumper stickers could be seen on cars in the parking lot Thursday.

David Schroeder, 24, a seminarian in the Milwaukee Archdiocese who was at the shrine Thursday, wore a shirt reading, “They have tiny hands and feet, but they need a voice ... Will you be it?”

He said he loves the shrine.

“Whenever I come here I always meet other people who are living their faith (like I do),” he said.

A small protest of 10 people from Pilgrims Covenant Church in Monroe, Wis., stood part of the morning just outside the shrine grounds, carrying signs that commanded Catholics to stop worshipping a pagan goddess.

“The things they’re saying about their lady of Guadalupe are completely unbiblical,” said the Rev. Ralph Ovadal, pastor of the 60-member church. “They give her attributes and power and authority that belong only to God.”

In his homily, Burke talked about Our Lady of Guadalupe as pointing the way to Christ.

“Returning to their homes, her pilgrims will be filled with new enthusiasm and new energy to live in Christ more perfectly,” he said.

No longer archbishop of St. Louis, Burke plans to move to Rome after mid-August, and said he plans to return to the shrine a couple times a year. La Crosse Tribune


Cathy_of_Alex said...

I'm confused by the two naysayers' comments. Why should we care who came up with this great idea first? Is someone upset it wasn't them?

It's built, it's beautiful, I think the two sourpusses need to show more joy. I think the lady is wrong. I think this is going to be a very popular pilgrimage destination. I'm already planning a road trip there myself. If it serves as a lever for increasing the faith, I'm all for it. God bless Archbishop Burke!

Unknown said...

I'd guess that they are totally opposed to the shrine in itself but since it was constructed so well and has been so popular (50,000 pilgrims in the last year) even before its completion, they were hard pressed to find a valid criticism.

And like certain dissidents we both know, I'm sure that they sought out the reporter, not vice versa. They love to see their name in the paper.

The Ironic Catholic said...

Alright folks--here I go, soapbox out.

I went there 6 weeks ago (before the Shrine Church was open).

I think people will appreciate it, and it is all very tasteful. Beautiful, beautiful area too. I'll go again, certainly to see the Church. But I was not "won over."

I honestly think you can tell that this was not a "grass roots" shrine. And the woman from UW-Stevens Point is right on, I have to say: historically, pilgrimage sites have an event occur there that locals acknowledge, do reverence, and spread the word--then others comes--and so it begins.

Does it mean that this was a bad thing to do? No, not really. But unusual, that's all.

Also, it is supposed to be a Shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe. This is my favorite apparition story, so I am perhaps too biased. But while this is certainly a Marian shrine, I didn't see much AT ALL to make this a Shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe. The main entrance structure is vaguely Spanish...there is a large picture of the image in there...and that's it!!!

Wouldn't you think a Shrine like this (reputedly the OLG shrine of North America, although Mexico is technically part of North America) would have signage in English and Spanish? There just felt like something off to me, the whole experience.

Having said that, maybe the Minnesota bloggers jamboree could occur there--I'd still come in a heartbeat and hold my commentary! ;)

Anonymous said...

It looks beautiful to me. . . I guess I can understand about the grass roots thing. . but I have a deep love and devotion to Our Lady. . . . I would seriously consider a trip to this holy place just to see what others who love Her have managed to create.

I am no admirer of Archbishop Burke, not so much for the decisions he has made but for the way he carried them out. But I must say this is one decision he made that I feel god about.

William said...

What's there not to admire about Archbishop Burke? He's the cream of the crop! None of us will be around in two hundred years, but chances are quite good that that beautiful edifice will be still up and running and giving glory to God Almighty through the prayers and intercessions of our dear Lady of Guadalupe. Viva, que viva!

Anonymous said...

I like certain dissidents we both know, I'm sure that they sought out the reporter, not vice versa. They love to see their name in the paper.
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