The staff, friars, and volunteers want each person to feel welcome. Whether you are a tourist coming to appreciate the beauty of the outdoors, or seek to be uplifted in viewing original and traditional sacred art and architecture, or you are just a bit curious about what this Shrine is all about, the Staff personnel is ready to assist and answer questions, so that your visit is a wonderful experience.
It all started in 1995 with a dream to build a Marian Shrine on the western side of Wisconsin. Then came a 70-acre donation from the Robert and Lucille Swing family, and with $29 million, the Church was completed in 2008. The Shrine now encompasses about 100 acres with a Meditation Trail, Rosary Walk, Way of the Cross, Church and several outdoor devotional areas, in addition to the Pilgrim Center which houses a restaurant and gift shop.
There are plenty of reasons to plan a trip to this holy ground honoring Jesus’ Mother Mary. Here are the top five:
1) Come see inspired history.
Whether Catholic or of another Christian affiliation, or even non-Christian, we all can admire the goodness in someone like now-Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who was recently canonized by Pope Francis. The Shrine was gifted with two relics of Saint Mother Teresa which were on display: a lock of her hair and a handkerchief. The Shrine has many relics of saints, both well-known such as Saint Luke the Evangelist, and lesser-known. Honoring the physical remains or personal effects of a saint is an important aspect of some forms of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Shamanism and other religions. The saints have made the journey before us – the example of their life in the historical time in which they lived gives us inspiration in our own life journey. The Shrine shares the relics of the saints on particular feast days.
2) The beauty of the place.
Those familiar with the loveliness of the hilly woodlands and meandering trout streams of La Crosse County can attest to the spiritual musings that come about when visiting places like this. You have to admit, the scenery is wonderful at the Shrine. And don’t worry about accessibility. The Shrine literally has a fleet of golf carts and many volunteers who can transport people with mobility challenges around the site without delay. Be inspired by walking the trail up to the Rosary Walk area and the Way of the Cross. Get in touch with God and nature.
3) The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated December 12.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, a.k.a. the Virgin of Guadalupe, is a Roman Catholic title of the Blessed Virgin Mary associated with an image that appeared in 1531 on a cloak that is enshrined in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City (hails itself as the most-visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world, and the world’s third most-visited sacred site). There will be special events at the Shrine in La Crosse that day, such as the Hispanic celebration known as Las Mananitas, followed by Pan Dulce, and then a Spanish Mass. The Shrine Mass, celebrated in English, is usually celebrated by the Founder of the Shrine, Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke. Shrines across the world that honor Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrate the Feast Day of December 12th as well. Closer to La Crosse is the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Chicago area and the the Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe in Dallas, Texas, and the English-language seminary of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter in Denton, Nebraska. Be part of an international movement by participating locally.
4) Get twinges listening during the Guadalupe Festival of Sacred Music
Yes, you can get shivers when you listen to talented people singing sacred music. This past year, the High School Chamber Choirs from both Sparta and Rice Lake, Wis., were joined by several other choirs from schools in Minnesota and Illinois to perform at the Shrine Church for this free festival. Throughout the day, they sang at other outdoor areas of the Shrine and inside the Votive Candle Chapel, in addition to their scheduled performances in the Church. Seems like it would be moving to hear these choirs as one walked down the wooded Meditation Trail. Join them April 29, 2017. If you enjoy listening to really good pipe organ music, it has been a tradition at the Shrine to have guest organists from around the country come and perform on the Shrine’s Church Organ. The Shrine offers a Summer Organ Recital Series every year!
5) Mass can give you culture.
Here’s a quick way to show you how much or little Spanish you actually retained from high school and/or college – attend a Spanish Mass. The Shrine offers the Spanish Mass on Sundays in the Shrine Church. Also on Sundays, the celebration of the traditional Latin Mass is offered, if you are into that. The Spanish Mass might be an interesting discussion starter with kids, especially if they have already been attending Mass in English. See what it’s like to attend an event without language fluency.