National News

Shrines to Mary for Masses, Pilgrimages, and Adoration Abound Across the Country

Three crosses appear at the entrance to the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville, N.Y., in July. One of the most visited Catholic pilgrimage places in the U.S., the shrine pays homage to St. Isaac Jogues, a French Jesuit priest, and his companions Sts. Rene Goupil and John Lalande, all of whom were martyred in the 1640s by Mohawk Indians. Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, who was born nearby, is also honored at the shrine. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec) (Aug. 3, 2010)

WASHINGTON — Churches around the world are dedicated to Mary using many of the hundreds of titles attributed to her. The most famous shrines of Mary are often apparition sites such as Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal, and Our Lady of Lourdes in France. 

But one doesn’t have to travel across the world to visit a shrine dedicated to Mary as there are many here in the United States in both cities and rural areas. No two shrines are alike; some are old and small in size while some are modern and quite large. What they share is a devotion to Mary that draws pilgrims not just for Mass but also for prayer and reflection. 

The National Association of Shrine and Pilgrimage Apostolate has a list of all the shrines in the country. The association, formed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops works to promote interest in pilgrimages to shrines in this country. 

A starting point for any U.S. Marian shrine visit would be the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, a Catholic church in Washington dedicated to Mary as the patroness of the United States. 

The basilica, the largest Catholic church in North America and one of the 10 largest churches in the world, has more than 80 chapels and oratories honoring Mary and representing peoples from every corner of the globe. 

These chapels relate to the shrines of the regions they represent such as Our Mother of Africa, Our Lady of Czestochowa, and Our Lady of Guadalupe, and each chapel has its own statue, painting, or stained-glass window image of Mary.

Every year more than 1 million people visit the basilica, often on pilgrimages, including pilgrimages by the Diocese of Brooklyn. 

The National Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was founded to encourage and perpetuate devotion to Mary and her scapular under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Located on 60 acres in the mid-Hudson region of New York, the shrine is open daily. (Photo: Courtesy of Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel)

But New York Catholics also have Marian shrines and churches right in their own state, including the National Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Middletown. The shrine was established in the parish of Our Lady of the Scapular of Mount Carmel in Manhattan and volunteers there made scapulars for the armed forces in World War II, sending millions of scapulars overseas. 

The Manhattan shrine grew with requests for Masses, novenas, study, and reflection days with devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Carmelite saints, and Carmelite spirituality. 

In 1991, with the approval of New York Cardinal John O’Connor, the National Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was transferred to Middletown as a more suitable and beautiful spot for prayer and reflection. 

Another Marian shrine in New York is the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville. The shrine is a highly popular Catholic pilgrimage site on the grounds of the 17th-century Mohawk village of Ossernenon where three Jesuit missionaries were killed during the 1640s for their faith. It is also where St. Kateri Tekakwitha was born in 1656. 

The shrine was established in the late 1800s when the pastor of nearby St. Joseph’s Church in Troy purchased 10 acres on the site of the former village and erected a cross and a small chapel on a hill. 

The shrine’s website says the priest gave the chapel the name “Our Lady of Martyrs” in honor of the “Blessed Mother who stood at the cross of Jesus and has ever since consoled those who give their lives for her divine Son.” 

The interior of the Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal is pictured in an undated photo in Philadelphia. The Vatican designated the Marian shrine in the Philadelphia Archdiocese as a minor basilica Jan. 25, 2023. It is a ministry of the Vincentians in their congregation’s Eastern province. (OSV News photo/courtesy Central Association of the Miraculous Medal)

In Philadelphia, the Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal similarly draws many pilgrims. The shrine started with the idea of being a small chapel, the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, but it grew into something bigger when the Vincentian priest charged with raising funds for it placed a small Miraculous Medal in appeal letters he sent out. 

The response was overwhelming, all while a national devotion to this medal was also burgeoning, so the priest commissioned the building of a shrine to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal within the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, which was dedicated in 1927. 

Across the country, the National Shrine of Our Lady of Campion, in Campion, Wisconsin, is the only Marian apparition site in the United States. The site is where Mary is said to have appeared to Adele Brise in 1859. 

Worshippers are pictured in a file photo praying during adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wis. The shrine, where Mary is said to have appeared to Adele Brise in 1859, is the only Marian apparition site in the United States. (Photo: OSV News/Sam Lucero)

Pilgrims frequently visit these grounds, but this summer they will attract a special group of visitors: the pilgrims on the Northern Marian Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. 

On June 16, those taking part in the national pilgrimage en route to the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis in July, will stop at the Wisconsin shrine for Mass and a 1.7-mile-long Eucharistic procession around the shrine and nearby roads.