Sampling of Shrines


Marytown, the National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe, in Libertyville, Ill., is dedicated to the life and work of the Polish Conventual Franciscan priest, publisher, theologian and evangelist who gave his life in exchange for another condemned man at Auschwitz. Pilgrims can venerate the relics of Maximilian Kolbe, who died at the hands of the Nazis in 1941. His life of charity and heroic death is commemorated at Marytown’s Kolbe/Holocaust Exhibit, which includes photographs and original artwork chronicling the life of the saint, as well as a history of the Holocaust. 

In addition, the shrine, located about 40 miles north of Chicago and 50 miles south of Milwaukee, includes a full schedule of liturgical celebrations and devotions — daily Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, Divine Mercy Chaplet and more; an adoration chapel; a conference center and retreat house; and a gift shop and bookstore. The shrine is also home to the National Center for the Militia of the Immaculata, a worldwide evangelization movement founded by St. Maximilian Kolbe in 1917 to encourage total consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary as a means of spiritual renewal. For more information:


Nestled in the mountainous countryside of Barto, Pa., the National Centre for Padre Pio had its humble beginnings in the personal efforts of Vera Calandra, a local woman who traveled to Italy with her children in 1968 to meet Padre Pio. Her daughter’s miraculous recovery from a serious illness prompted Calandra to start spreading the word about the Italian friar. What began as a monthly holy hour at her parish grew into what is now home to a 21,000-square-foot museum and spirituality center on 106 acres reminiscent of San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy.  

The shrine features the Our Lady of Grace Chapel, a replica of the 16th-century Capuchin Franciscan Friary Chapel in Italy and a replica of the crypt of Padre Pio, who was canonized in 2002. The museum contains the largest collection of personal items belonging to St. Pio outside Italy. For more information:


The site of Mother Cabrini Shrine in Golden, Colo., was selected by the saint herself, who discovered the property while in the region in 1902 to visit Italian immigrants working in area mines. She thought the property would be perfect as a summer camp for the children living at the orphanage she had established in Denver. The only problem: no water. But in 1912, she instructed the sisters working there to “lift that rock” and start digging. A spring was discovered, and it has never stopped running, making it one of the centerpieces of this shrine, which is open daily. 

On her last visit to Colorado in 1912, Mother Cabrini took several sisters and a few of the children from the orphanage to the foot of the highest hill. They climbed to the top where they gathered white stones and arranged them on the mountain in the shape of a heart topped by a cross. Mother Cabrini dedicated the hill to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, naming it the “Mount of the Sacred Heart.” The stones are still present beneath a glass case and preserved for all to see. 

A 22-foot statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus stands above the Heart of Stones. Pilgrims can climb 373 steps — the “stairway to heaven” — which follow the path Mother Cabrini took to the top of the mountain. The stairway includes mosaic Stations of the Cross. In addition, the shrine has a chapel, which is open seven days a week, and a grotto, where pilgrims can get water from the spring. For more information:


The National Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass., sits on 350 acres of land known as Eden Hill and is operated by the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The shrine was dedicated in 1960, long before many Americans knew much about the Divine Mercy and Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska, the Polish nun who was canonized in 2000. The location became a national shrine in 1996. 

Pilgrims can participate in a full schedule of devotions and liturgies, from daily Mass and confession to the 3 p.m. daily Chaplet of the Divine Mercy and adoration of the Eucharist. The grounds include a Lourdes Candle Grotto and Holy Family Shrine, “groves” for contemplative prayer dedicated to St. Thérèse of Lisieux and St. Francis of Assisi; the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine and the Shrine of the Holy Innocents, devoted to deceased children; and a bookstore and gift shop. The shrine is also the geographic and spiritual home of the Association of Marian Helpers.  

For more information:


Since the building of the shrine chapel in 1929, the church of St. Mary’s of the Barrens in Perryville, Mo., has served as the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. Located about 80 miles south of St. Louis, the shrine includes numerous chapels, some with stunning frescoes. In addition to Sacred Heart Chapel and Miraculous Medal Shrine, smaller chapels are dedicated to St. Vincent de Paul — the shrine is run by the Vincentians; St. Louise de Marillac; St. Bernadette; St. Thérèse of Lisieux; and others. In the Votive Light Room, to the right of the altar in the Miraculous Medal Shrine, thousands of lights burn, representing the prayer intentions of pilgrims sent to the shrine from across the country and around the world. 

The grounds include an outdoor Grotto of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, built by seminarians during World War I. 

For more information:


In the Rio Grande Valley, 1 million pilgrims make their way annually to the shrine dedicated to Our Lady of San Juan Del Valle in San Juan, Texas. The shrine dates back to 1920, when Father Alfonso Jalbert, a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate, built a small wooden chapel there as a mission church. In the 1940s, the church was dedicated to Our Lady of San Juan, popular among the Mexican population for a miracle said to have occurred in 1623 in Guadalajara. Eventually, a church, convent, school, retreat house, pilgrim house and nursing home were built on the site. But 16 years later, during a freak accident, when a small plane flew into the roof of the shrine while Mass was being celebrated, the entire shrine was destroyed. It was rebuilt into a parish church and shrine, which can seat 3,500 people. The landscaped grounds feature the Stations of the Cross and a 45-foot mosaic, visible from the nearby expressway, of Jesus presenting his mother to the Valley. 

Our Lady of San Juan del Valle became a national shrine in 1998, and the following year was designated as a minor basilica by Pope John Paul II. It has a full schedule of Masses and devotions, many of them in Spanish and English. 

For more information:

Beloved journeys


Elizabeth Scalia blogs as The Anchoress ( ) and is managing editor of the Catholic portal at 

I love to pray before the tabernacle of the Blessed Sacrament in the Crypt Church in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception [in Washington, D.C.]. The shrine is enormous and beautiful, but the Crypt Church has a sense of agelessness and intimacy that brings to mind the caves of the contemplatives of the early Church. The low ceilings and lights and the mosaic icons add to that sense of quietening separation from the era and the world “outside.” It is a place that restores the soul and very much connects you with everything that has come before.  

For more information:


Tony Rossi is a radio host and producer for The Christophers: 

Last year, I discovered the Shrine of Our Lady of the Island in Manorville, N.Y. [a ministry of the Montfort Missionaries on Long Island]. For a city boy like me, the grounds were a peaceful escape into nature-filled, spiritual surroundings. The site includes an 18-foot statue of Mary and the Christ Child, outdoor Stations of the Cross, a Rosary walk, a prayer garden, a chapel, and numerous other sites and statues, and a bookstore. ... Though I’ve only been there once, it was nice realizing that someplace like this exists within a relatively short driving distance.  

For more information:


Gus Lloyd, host of “Seize the Day” on The Catholic Channel, Sirius 159/XM 117: 

One of my favorite places is right in my own part of the world. It is St. Leo Abbey in St. Leo, Fla. It is a beautiful old Benedictine monastery. I have been there for many a retreat. One thing I recommend all Catholics do at some point in their lives is to chant with monks. Go and spend a couple of days if you can. The beautiful rhythm of their prayer life always helps me get back in tune with God.  

For more information:


Kathryn Jean Lopez, writer, blogger and editor-at-large for National Review Online

I love to spend time at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Ala. If a shrine can make it easy to pray, they’ve got the blueprint down there; the prominence of the Blessed Sacrament says it all. All we really need to know. And that’s not a bad way to start a pilgrimage. And in the Nativity Chapel on the grounds there is a statue of Mary that so beautifully captures why the Blessed Mother said yes and will do all she can to bring us each closer to her son. Pure love. Pure joy. Whatever else it is we have distracting us, it seems so small and manageable knowing we’re that loved. As she adores him, you just want to get back on your knees in the main church and do the same.  

About an hour’s drive is the Casa Maria Convent and Retreat House in Birmingham, Ala., run by the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word. The sisters are beautiful and have some wonderful retreat leaders coming in and out. Signing up for a retreat, beginning or ending with a day in Hanceville is a wonderful way to retreat.  

For more information on the shrine: 

For information on Casa Maria:


Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle is a blogger and author of numerous books, including “A Catholic Woman’s Book of Prayers” (OSV, $7.95) and “Catholic Saints Prayer Book” (OSV, $7.95): 

I was introduced to Our Lady of Czestochowa by my devout grandmother, who had a small copy of the image of the Black Madonna hanging in her home. It now hangs in mine. My grandmother, being Polish, also fostered a great love of Pope John Paul II in my heart. Since they both loved Our Lady of Czestochowa, I decided to make a pilgrimage to the shrine [in Doylestown, Pa.] many years ago seeking the Blessed Mother’s help with making a major decision as well as her peace. Indeed, I did receive her help and peace. It’s a lovely shrine, great to visit either individually or with your family.  

For more information:

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